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Your Kingdom Come

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Text: Heidelberg Catechism LD 48; Romans 8:18-27

Theme: pray for the kingdom

Doctrine: already, not yet

Image: Jesus coming into his kingdom

Need: comfort and encouragement

Message: the kingdom is coming, and it is here

Preached

Wayland CRC – ???, 2006

Kellogsville CRC – Apr 1, 2007

Your Kingdom Come

Intro

As we look around ourselves at this world, it would seem as though we are losing the spiritual battle. Think about the major shows which are gaining popularity on TV. Shows like Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, even seemingly harmless shows like Bones and House flaunt and even promote lifestyles which are in direct contradiction to the way in which God calls us to live. Many people claim that the Unites States is a Christian nation. If that is so, then why are we, as a country, producing all this trash? And why are Christians sitting idly by and allowing the name Christian be attached to a country which supports a multibillion dollar pornography industry, for example? When we pray this request in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come”, what is it we are asking for? What does it mean to sit in the twenty first century and ask this? The Christian community has been praying this request for almost two thousand years, what is our role in this request?

Let us read together the explanation given by the Heidelberg Catechism found in Lord's Day 48, found in the PH p 920. I will read the question, please respond with the answer.

Notice that the catechism splits this request into four parts. In praying this request we ask that (1) God rule us in such a way that we submit to him more and more, we ask that (2) God keep his church strong and add to it, we ask (3) that God destroy the work of the devil and those who oppose him, and we ask that (4) God do this until his kingdom is complete and he is all in all.

Personally we do not evidence to kingdom.

Why do we pray this request? What does it mean to sit here in the 21st century and ask God's kingdom to come. We have to pray this request because things are not how they are meant to be. In our reading from Romans, Paul reminds us that the whole world has been subjected to frustration, to futility, to purposelessness, because Adam and Eve rebelled against God. The curse of our sin and disobedience spread to the whole world. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. Well, we are the children of God. The creation is waiting for release through us. We are called out of the entire human race, and given the job of being a light to the nations; yet we seem to be smouldering softly, rather than burning brightly. When you let a fire die down to the ashes, it does not give off much light, does it? When you let things go for so long, and do not maintain the fire, it begins to die out. Those who follow Christ are citizens of God's kingdom. We pray that his kingdom come, yet often we do not work to bring it. We do not live our lives as God's subjects, completely following his will. Our lives should evidence God’s grace to the world, yet often they evidence vindictiveness, spite, hate, jealously, and envy. In this passage Paul is looking forward to the future, when Christ will come back and reveal in us his glory, when creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay, when all will be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

But we know that the kingdom of God is right here, right now, though not fully. Part of the reason it is not here fully, says the Catechism, is because we are not fully loyal to God. The first request in the catechism asks God to rule us by his Word and Spirit so that we submit to him more and more. Too often we follow our own wills rather than looking to God's Word, for direction. We live for ourselves, for our own goals, for our own pleasure and glory, rather than God’s. We serve ourselves, rather than serving our saviour. The 10 commandments are still rules for our lives. They give us guidelines on how we are to live as God’s people. How many of us follow them completely? No one has. We have not submitted our wills enough to our Father to let the Spirit guide us to obey his will. Our own wills are strong in our lives, and they push us to do things which we know we should not do. We struggle daily with temptation, and all too often, we lose. Men, we may pride ourselves that we have not slept with a person other than our wives, but then we remember that Christ said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully had already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Men, you know we struggle with this temptation, whether we are married or not. We are bombarded with images daily which are designed to make us lust, designed to make us break this commandment, and they are hard to avoid.

Perhaps this temptation is not as strong for women, but you have your own weaknesses. Remember the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”? It means that God has to be first in our lives. Is God truly first in your life, or is your family? Perhaps you make having the perfect family into your idol. Everything you do is directed toward this goal, toward serving your family, but you forget that you are to serve God in everything. Your life should not revolve around your family, but around God.

Whether man or woman, boy or girl, as God’s chosen people, we have been brought into his kingdom, but we do not fully submit to his rule in our lives.

We do not fully evidence your kingdom in our lives, God. The creation is waiting for your glory to be revealed through us. O Lord, rule us by your word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Lord, your kingdom come.

The Church does not fully evidence the kingdom of God

Now, we as individuals do not fully evidence God’s good kingdom, but neither does the Church. The second request in the catechism asks God to keep his church strong and add to it, yet the Church seems to be weak; she is broken by schisms, she is broken by distrust, she seems to be elderly and disabled, she does not seem to be growing. In fact, in our so-called “advanced” Western society, the Church seems to be shrinking. She does not have the power she once did. She does not speak with the same clarity she once did. Her scriptural voice has been garbled by economics and politics. The Church today seems to be less grounded in scripture, and more grounded in sociology, or economics, or politics. There is more emphasis on making people feel welcome, than bringing people to repentance and conversion. Our emphasis on being seeker sensitive is good, do not misunderstand me, but I think it may go overboard. There is, and should be, something controversial about the gospel. Paul calls it a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles. If a sinner walks into a Church, and feels comfortable, there is something wrong. The sinner is not a part of the people of God. He is not a loyal subject of the King. The sinner walks into enemy territory when she walks into a Church. She should not feel comfortable, she should feel challenged. Should he be welcomed? Absolutely! Should she feel loved? Most definitely! Should he feel comfortable? I think not. The gospel message is powerful, but controversial. When we drain it of controversy, we drain it of power.

Your Church is weak, God, she is broken, she does not fully evidence your kingdom. O Lord, keep your Church strong and add to it. Lord, thy Kingdom come

The World does not fully evidence the kingdom of God.

But, as you know, the Church exists in a sinful world. She is surrounded by a fallen creation; a creation which has come under the influence of the Devil. The Devil prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. He is working hard to stop the kingdom of God. The third request of the catechism is for God to destroy the devil's work; destroy every force which revolts against him and every conspiracy against his Word.

To be honest, there are times when I think the devil is succeeding. The world seems to be under his control. The prince of darkness reigns over those still in darkness. Creation has been placed in bondage to decay, destruction, death, because of him. France, for example, has thoroughly embraced secularism as a national religion. They have declared that there is no God. They have passed laws to enforce the keeping of this national religion. A number of years ago they passed a law which made it a crime to wear any outward symbol of religion, whether it be the dress of an orthodox Jew, the turban of a Muslim, or the cross of a Christian, it does not matter, they are all illegal. But France is not alone in thumbing its nose at God. We have already seen how the US is full of the influence of the Devil. As is the rest of the Americas, and the whole world, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia.

Watching the film, “Hotel Rwanda” brings this evidence to the fore. The film documents the work of a hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, who is dragged into helping those persecuted in the country. The Hutus gained power over the government, and began a systematic genocide of the Tutsis. There is one scene which is particularly powerful. Paul has just been to a Hutu compound, trying to get supplies for all the people who are holed up in his hotel, and is sent down a road by the owner of the compound. The road is veiled in deep, thick fog, and the two men in the van cannot see past the hood. As they are going on down the road, the van begins to rock, and to bump, as if the road is covered in speed bumps, or filled with potholes. They stop the van and step out, trying to find out why the road is so rough. As they step out of the van, they trip over things lying on the road. Paul falls directly on top of one of the things, and is horrified to realise it is a body, a cold, lifeless body, brutally hacked apart by a machete. As he scrambles to get up from the victim the fog begins to lift and body after body is revealed on the road; thousands of people brutally murdered for being slightly different than others. The road is covered with murdered men, women, and children, and the ditches are running with the blood of the victims.

This shows us that the world does not emphasise your kingdom fully, God. O Lord destroy the devil's work and every force which revolts against you. Lord, thy Kingdom come.

The World does evidence Christ's rule.

Though it seems as though the devil is winning, we know he is not. We know that the kingdom of God is here, it is now! We know that the Great King has ridden into his city. We know that God has given Christ authority over everything. It is he who upholds the universe. Nothing happens outside of his will. Though it is sometimes hard to accept, we know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. Our present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, waiting for its redemption through us. It is sitting up on the delivery table, racked with pain, pushing with all its might, screaming against the injury inflicted upon it, waiting for the kingdom of God to come through us. And though the world is screaming out in pain on the delivery table, it is on the downward side of the delivery. Looking at the world we see the pain of childbirth, but we also see its progress. We have God's promise that the child will be borne. Christ's death on the cross was the crowning of the head and its all downhill from here.

Just before Christ was crucified he went to the Garden of Gethsemane, to pray. You know what he prayed. He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” He felt the pressure of the world on his shoulders. He felt the pain of creation so intensely that his sweat became as drops of blood. He did God's will. Jesus was the perfect human. Jesus was a true subject of the kingdom of God, and he fought the ultimate battle against the Devil. This was the deciding clash between the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of Satan. You can imagine Satan dancing and celebrating when Jesus breathed his last on the cross. You can imagine him saying, “Ha, thought you had me, did you? Well, looks like I've won.” But then, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. He was killed on the cross, and on that cross he carried the sin of the entire universe. But death could not hold him. He fought the deciding battle against the powers of evil and won! The war still rages, but the deciding battle has been won. He has broken into the stronghold of the Devil, and is now working to clear it out. When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” we are asking God to continue the work he has begun in Christ. We are asking him to “Destroy the devil's work; to destroy every force which revolts against him and every conspiracy against his word.”

Almighty God, thy Kingdom come.

The Church does evidence Christ's rule in the world.

Though the Church is not perfect, it is the primary agency through which Christ is doing his work. The keeper of the Word of God is the Church, and faithful proclamation of the Word is the first line of offence against the powers of the devil. Throughout history, Satan has tried to stomp out the Church. He has used people like Emperor Nero, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong to try to crush the Church. Under these rulers, and others, Christianity was illegal, and was punished ruthlessly. Even today, throughout the world, persecution is heavy on the Church which is faithful to Christ. The Voice of the Martyrs, which can be found at persecution.com, has hundreds of stories of heavy persecution, but also the strength of the Church in spite of the persecution.

In China there was a major crackdown on Christians at a house Church leader’s retreat in Hebei Province on October 20, police arrested nearly 50 key leaders of different independent underground fellowships representing over 20 provinces. Some were beaten and interrogated while in custody. Many of the leaders taken into custody saw the event as an open door to share the Word of God. Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, the first Chinese person to have the title “evangelist” printed on a business card, preached the gospel to interrogators without ceasing. At the end of the questioning, one of Zhang’s exhausted interrogators was quoted telling him, “Man, you preach too hard!” Zhang ran a nursing home in Beijing with two other Christians earlier in his ministry. Nearly 60 PSB/Religious Affairs Bureau officials, along with their hired local guards and 30 police vehicles, reluctantly and shamefully left the scene after releasing the pastors. The bold Christian witnesses joyfully said farewell to the guards with songs of praise and worship to the Lord! They had plenty to be thankful for; the work of the church won.

The Church is not just working overseas. We still hear stories which evidence the strength of the Church in this country. Rick Warren has touched thousands of lives through his Church, Saddleback. The Church was started in his home in 1980 and now there are over 22, 000 in attendance every Sunday, and over 80, 000 names on the roles. Saddleback has been bringing people to Christ. Over 9, 200 believers in the past seven years have been baptised at the Church. No matter what you might think of the methods of the mega Churches, it is obvious they are reaching people for Christ, they are adding to the body of believers and strengthening the Church. But God's kingdom is not only evident in these movements. It is evident in this Church in Kellogsville. It has been able to survive through ups and downs. It has faithfully proclaimed God's word through the generations and has also built up God's Church. You have been fed by God's Word. Your children have been raised in the knowledge of God, and have been fed the gospel from a young age. You are reaching out to people in the community through various groups. God has been extremely faithful to you. Looking forward with hope into the future, we can heartily pray, “Lord, keep your church strong and add to it. Lord, thy Kingdom come.”

We, personally evidence God's kingdom.

The Church is made up of people as one body, but also as individuals. We are all one body because we have been baptised into Christ, but we are also individuals; given specific jobs to do. Though we do not follow God's will completely, we do try to follow God's will. We are here this evening to hear God's Word. We are here because we have committed our lives to Christ. We are here to hear the address from the King. Though we are fighting constantly with the remnants of our sinful nature, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. It intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. It intercedes for us in accordance with God's will. Though we are not God's perfectly loyal subjects, we are his subjects. Christ's death on the cross has paid the debt we could not pay. His cross has bridged the chasm between us and God. We are now reconciled to God. We are his people. We have been given the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and it is working within us to mould us more and more into Christ's image, into the image of the perfect subject. We groan inwardly for the redemption of our bodies, for release from our sinfulness, for the subjection of our wills so that more and more we submit to God. We, as God's people, called out of the entire human race, are being made into a light for the nations. The Spirit is fanning into flame the fire of our faith. It is making us more and more God's people. It joins our hearts with all the saints, those of the past, those around the world now, and those yet to come. It helps us to pray, “Lord, rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.”

Conclusion

We know that God's kingdom is not fully here. We are constantly faced with the brokenness of the world. We hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently, for that which is still coming, the full kingdom of God. Even though God's kingdom will not be fully revealed until Christ comes back to make all things new, we can see glimpses of God's kingdom right now; in the world, in the Church, and in us. Even though it seems as though we are losing the spiritual battle, we know we are not. We stand in awe at the work of God in this world, the work of Christ on the cross, the work of the Spirit in our lives. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, it gives us the strength to pray, “Lord, thy kingdom come.”

Amen

Let us Pray

 

Lord God,

Jesus taught us to trust you in all things, we hold to his Word and share his plea:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where nations budget for war, while Christ says, “Put up your sword”:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where countries waste food and covet fashion, while Christ says, “I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink.”:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where powerful governments claim their policies are heaven blessed, while Scripture states that God helps the powerless:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where Christians seek the kingdom in the shape of their own church, as if Christ had come to build and not to break barriers:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where women who speak up for their dignity are treated with scorn or contempt:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where men try hard to be tough, because they are afraid to be tender:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where we, obsessed with being adults, forget to become like children:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Where our prayers falter, our faith weakens, and our light grows dim:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Wherever  Jesus Christ calls us:

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Lord God, you have declared that your kingdom is among us. Open our ears to hear it, our hands to serve it, our hearts to hold it.

This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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