************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 49 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 6, 2019
Lord's Day 49
"The Third Petition - Praying God's Will be Done"
The Bible is preoccupied with prayer. In its opening chapters we are told "At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD" (Gen 4:26). Shortly thereafter we meet Abraham pleading with God about Sodom & Gomorrah. Then we come across Jacob wrestling with God. We see David calling upon God with all his heart. On the mountain we see Elijah. Daniel got down on his knees and three times a day engaged in prayer. In the dungeon we see Paul & Silas. We have multitudes of examples of prayer.
What does this teach us? It teaches us the importance and necessity of prayer. We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word should be conspicuous in our lives. The fact that God has said so much about prayer means we have much need for prayer. So deep is our need for prayer that until we are in glory we must never cease to pray.
You need prayer. Do you believe you need nothing? Then, I fear, you do not know your poverty. Do you not seek mercy from God? Then, I fear, you do not know the depths of your sin.
Pray, congregation, pray that this year you seek the Father's face and live in His love. Pray that you have closer, dearer communion with Christ. Your motto for this year must be, "pray continually" (1 Th 5:17).
Using the sound doctrine of the Catechism as a guide, we continue our study of the Lord's Prayer this morning. I say "sound doctrine" because what the Catechism teaches is based upon the Bible and comes from the Bible. Today, we look at the third petition.
I The Difficulty of Doing this Petition
A "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We begin our study by admitting something about ourselves. We begin our study by humbly admitting that even the holiest among us have but a small beginning of the obedience God requires of us. Pick the holiest person you know -- a family member, a friend -- they make but a small beginning in doing the will of God. Pick the holiest person in history -- Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa -- they make but a small beginning in doing the will of God. I hope you realize this petition is impossible for us sinners to meet. So we pray it as sinners. We pray it as we prepare for the Lord's Supper this week.
B "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Look at this petition in terms of the unregenerate. This does not mean and cannot mean that we are praying that all men, as they are now, regardless of their spiritual condition, will renounce their own will and obey God's will. That is simply impossible for the unregenerate sinner.
C "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In heaven, the will of God is done without fail. It is done by the angels. It is done by the saints in heaven. In heaven, the will of God is done perfectly. There is no struggle to do the will of God in heaven. It requires no suffering, no trials, no opposition, no affliction, no death to do the will of God in heaven. But here, in this life and in this body and on this earth, doing the will of God meets with all kind of opposition -- opposition from within and opposition from without. The devil, the world, our very own flesh all fight against doing the will of God. In the face of all this opposition we need to pray this petition. As we prepare for the Lord's Supper we pray this petition.
D "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In the whole history of the world, Jesus is the only one Who perfectly lived up to this petition. Jesus' will -- as a man -- is that the cup of suffering be taken from Him. Jesus knew what the cup meant: rejecting, jeering, hitting, spitting, whipping, crucifying, forsaking, dying, burying. He knew this. He didn't want to undergo this. "Yet," He said, "not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26:39). He was willing to submit to the plan of God for our salvation.
II The Will of God
A "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Tonight, we look at the certainties of the Christian faith; one of the certainties is that God hears us when "we ask anything according to his will" (1 Jn 5:14). James instructs us to say, "If it is the Lord's will" (James 4:15). So, throughout the ages, wise Christians have added "the Lord willing, if God wills" to their prayers.
It is not necessary to say this when we already know God's will. For instance, it is not necessary to say "if God wills" when we pray for forgiveness because God has promised to forgive all the sins of those who believe in Jesus Christ. Nor is it necessary to say "if God wills" when we pray for the preservation of the church because God has promised to preserve, strengthen, and grow His church. Likewise, it is not necessary to say "if God wills" (in fact it is a great evil to say this) when we pray for something which God has revealed He does NOT give.
But there are also times when we do not know what God's will is. For example, at the bed of a loved one who is sick, where we do not know if God intends to heal or to take in death. Or, when praying for the salvation of an unconverted person, where we do not know if God's plan includes their salvation. Then we must add, "the Lord willing, if God wills" to our prayers. Or, we must come with a submissive and humble attitude.
B "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When we speak of God's will, we need to make distinctions. There is God's will of decree and there is God's will of command.
What is God's will of decree? God's will of decree is what God has determined ahead of time, what God has decreed from eternity to eternity. For instance, God decreed to create time and space. God decreed what would happen in time and space from the first to the last moment of history. God decreed the birth, life, development, death, and eternal destiny of every person. God decreed His plan for our salvation -- including that awful cup of suffering Jesus prayed about.
Opposed to the teaching of God's will of decree is open theism. Open theism teaches that God has left history open and dependent upon man's actions so that not even God knows what will happen. Open theism is in conflict with Scripture and therefore not part of sound doctrine.
God's will of decree always happens, both in heaven and on earth. No man, no angel, no devil, can change, prevent, or thwart God's will of decree. No prayer can change God's will of decree. God's will of decree has to happen. It has to happen or God is no longer sovereign and supreme and in control. It has to happen or God is no longer God. God's will of decree has to happen both in heaven and on earth. In heaven, God's will of decree is fulfilled willingly and faithfully. But on earth, God's will of decree is fulfilled unconsciously and even reluctantly.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When it comes to His will of decree, we are praying that God's will, not our will, be done. We are praying that God do what He has ordained. We are praying that God carry out His eternal plan and that we on earth not resist and fight this plan.
C "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When we speak of God's will, there is also God's will of command. God's will of command is what we find in Scripture. Its clearest expression is found in the Law and the Sermon on the Mount.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Sometimes people ask, "What is God's will for me?" The answer is quite simple: Keep God's commandments! God's will for a husband is to leave his father and mother and love his wife. God's will for a wife is to submit to the spiritual leadership of her husband. God's will for a child is to obey her parents. God's will for a young man is to be self-controlled and alert. But, today, people's itching ears don't want to hear any of this sound doctrine. Instead, they want to hear what feels good or what the world applauds or what political correctness demands -- even if the Bible forbids it.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." God's will of command is rarely performed on earth. That's the whole point of Paul's quotes from the Psalms in Romans 3:
(Rom 3:10-18) As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; (11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (13) "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." (14) "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." (15) "Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery mark their ways, (17) and the way of peace they do not know." (18) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."Paul concludes by saying, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). We need to keep this in mind as we prepare for the Lord's Supper this week. None of us keep this will of command. That's why we need the Savior. That's why Christ suffered and died.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." God's will of command is rarely performed on earth. But it is always performed in heaven.
(Ps 103:20) Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.There are no disobedient angels in heaven. The angels in heaven are God's ministers or servants, always doing exactly what He tells them to do. They worship when He tells them to worship. They go where He tells them to go. They come when He tells them to come. They do all this without question. This is the kind of obedience we are praying for in the third petition.
III A Necessary Petition
A "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In our last point we see this is a necessary petition.
First, this petition is necessary when it comes to God's will of decree. God's will of decree is unstoppable. So we need to pray for the grace to willingly submit to God's will of decree for our lives. There are times when this is easy. When God's will of decree for us is prosperity and health, we are happy to submit. But this is not always the case. When God's will of decree is sickness, loss, death, or poverty, it becomes much harder to submit. The Catechism speaks to this when it says, "Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk." Or, instead of "back talk" we can say "without complaining, without murmuring, without grumbling." The children of Israel were known for this. They were known for their complaining, murmuring, grumbling. There was no water and they complained. There was no meat and they complained. Moses was too long on the mountain and they complained. The people and cities of Canaan scared them and they complained. They didn't like the leadership of Moses and Aaron and they complained. They had problems submitting to God's will of decree.
In contrast to them is God's servant Job. According to God's will of decree, Job lost his oxen and donkeys, his sheep, his camels, his servants, even his sons and daughters. Do you remember his response?
(Job 1:21) "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."Job, we would say, submitted to God's will of decree. In doing this he was a type of Christ.
If we are honest, we need to admit that more often we are like the children of Israel than God's servant Job. We murmur when things don't go according to our plan, when things are not to our liking. We need to pray, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We need to pray that we be like Job and not Israel. We need to pray that we be like Jesus.
B "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Second, this petition is also necessary when it comes to God's will of command. Living in obedience to God's commandments is not easy in this life and on this earth and in this flesh. It is not easy because our flesh hates the commandments of God. It is not easy because the world mocks us for keeping the commandments. It is not easy because the devil keeps tempting us to lead us astray.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Our calling is to renounce and reject our own wills. Our calling is to obey God's will instead. Our calling is to be as willing and faithful and obedient as the angels in heaven. This means that in this petition we are asking for the grace and Spirit of Christ. In this petition we are asking for help and strength. In this petition we are asking for the strength of Christ Himself. The result: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13).
C "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Yes, the world may mock us. Our own flesh may rebel. But remember, remember, what we suffer for submitting to God's will of decree and God's will of command is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- when compared to the suffering of Christ on our behalf. His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. The soldiers whipped Him until His flesh was a bloody mess. He suffered the most inhumane form of death the Romans could inflict. And, on top of this, the Father forsook Him and left Him alone during the 3 awful hours of darkness.
As you prepare for the Lord's Table this week examine your life. See you failure to submit to and to obey the will of God. See your need for the Savior and His grace. And pray. Pray, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
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