************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 123 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 22, 2012
Q & A 123
"Your Kingdom Come"
A big party was planned for the year A.D. 250. It was the 1000 year birthday of the Roman Empire. However, even as the celebrations were being planned everything was falling apart. Barbarians were at the border and even coming in. The city of Rome was full of unrest. There was corruption, evil, and disruption everywhere.
Before World War I the British Empire made the boast that the sun never set on its flag. Britannica ruled the waves and most of the world. The world map was colored a British red.
Hitler established in Germany what he called the 1000 year Reich.
There was time when the industrial giants of America had names like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Kennedy, Chrysler.
Where are all these empires today? Gone, everyone of them. According to some, after the economic meltdown of a few years ago, we need to also talk in the past sense about the late, great American Empire.
Today, empires seem to come and go at the blink of an eye. Think of the rulers who were removed from power in the Arab Spring of 2011. Think of industrial empires that have come and gone. A few years ago, GM was at the top of the heap; this was followed by IBM, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and YouTube.
There is only one kingdom that will always endure: the kingdom of heaven.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray for the kingdom: "Your kingdom come."
I What is the Kingdom
A Before looking at the petition about the kingdom we need to backup for a moment and answer a fundamental question: What is the kingdom?
The most basic point about the kingdom is what we see in Psalm 47: namely, that God rules, that He is the King of the universe. Listen, again, to selected verses:
(Psalm 47:2) How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth! (6) Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. (7) For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. (8) God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.Do you hear the message of the Psalm? Our God reigns!
Therefore, when we pray "Your kingdom come" we are praying something about the rule or reign of God.
B Do you remember the first sermon of both Jesus and John the Baptist? "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Mt 3:3; 4:17).
And it was near. The New Testament declares the message that the kingdom came because of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Do you remember how Paul explains this in his spirit-inspired letter to Philippi? Because Jesus died, arose, and ascended, says Paul,
(Phil 2:9-11) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Do you hear the message? God has given to Jesus His rule, kingdom, power, and authority. As we read in the book of Revelation:
(Rev 5:12) "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
Therefore, when we pray, "Your kingdom come" we are praying something about God's rule in and through Christ.
C "Your kingdom come." With this in mind, it should not surprise us that the Catechism adopts a military tone in its explanation of this petition. We hear words like "rule, submit, strong, destroy, revolt, conspiracy." The Catechism recognizes that we are in a fight, a battle, a war. It recognizes that we are in a deadly struggle against sin, evil, our flesh, the world, and the devil. So, it is a petition asking for victory. It asks that the enemy be defeated and that God be victorious.
More specifically, this petition asks for four things: first, that we submit to God's rule; second, that the church be strong; third, that Satan be defeated; and, fourth, that God's kingdom be complete and perfect.
II Submit to God's rule
A "Your kingdom come." First of all, this asks something about ourselves. As the Catechism puts it:
Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.
There are two kinds of people in this world: there are those who acknowledge God's rule in Christ and there are those who contest God's rule in Christ. Christians, of all people, should acknowledge God's rule in Christ. However, the truth remains that we who are Christians often fail to subject ourselves to what Christ, our Lord and King, demands. But, don't forget, we – with the rest of mankind – are sinners and in a state of rebellion against God. So, we don't perfectly submit to God's rule in Christ.
"Your kingdom come." "Help us to submit to you." "Help us to put aside our own self and our own desires so that we obey you." "Rule us." "Control us."
Isn't this a hard request? Doesn't this go against our sinful nature? We don't want to submit! Because we want to be in charge. We see that from a very young age already. A little boy or girl insists on feeding themselves and won't eat if you try to feed them. Or, they insist on dressing themselves even if the pants or shirt ends up backwards. As for teenagers, they are worse than little children because the last thing they want is rules. The first thing they want to do is move out of the parental home by attending college or finding their own place to live.
B "Your kingdom come." "Rule us and control us." How is this even possible for sinful, fallen, rebellious, and self-centered people? Obviously, we need God's help. And, God's strength. And, God's Spirit. And, God's Word. "Rule us by your Word and Spirit."
In democracies, like America and Canada, the government rules by law and order; it uses the police and the courts and public opinion. In dictatorships, like China and Myanmar and North Korea, the government rules by fear; it uses the army, secret police, torture, and persecution. In Islamic theocracies, like Iran and Northern Sudan, the government rules by religious coercion and severe punishment. In the kingdom, God and Christ rule by the Word and Spirit.
C "Your kingdom come." There is a strand of thought among Reformed Christians that says we are to bring in the kingdom and establish it for God. This strand says we are to extend the Lordship of Christ to every area of life: banking, commerce, agriculture, home and marriage, education, recreation, and so on. "Not so," says the Catechism. Instead, what we are to do is submit.
Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.That is our calling as individual Christians. We don't establish the kingdom. Because that is something God does in Christ. All that we are called to do is submit.
"Your kingdom come." "Let us submit to God's rule in every area of life."
And, notice, we ask for progress. "Your kingdom come." "Rule us ... in such a way that more and more we submit to you." This asks that the Christian life be uphill and not downhill. This asks that the Christian life not be stagnant and easy.
III Keep the Church Strong
A "Your kingdom come." Second, this petition asks something about the church. As the Catechism puts it,
Keep your church strong, and add to it.
What is the relationship of church and kingdom? The church is part of the kingdom but she is not the same as the kingdom. Unlike the world, the church acknowledges and submits to the rule of God in Christ. And, the church is the engine, the work-horse, of the kingdom on this earth. Like the worker bees in the hive whose only purpose is to serve the Queen bee, those in the church are the workers of King Jesus.
B "Your kingdom come." What does petition mean, then, for the church as the work-horse of the kingdom? We are asking, "Keep your church strong." The church, you know, is under attack by Satan because she is the body and bride of Christ. Satan hates Jesus but Jesus is untouchable; Jesus is safe and sound in heaven at God's right hand. So, Satan turns his attention to the church (Rev 12:12, 17). He attacks the church by the persecution of the first beast (Rev 13:1-10) and by the deception of the second beast (Rev 13:11-18). The church is under attack, I say. What is our response? "Our Father in heaven ... Your kingdom come." "Our Father in heaven ... Keep your church strong."
C "Your kingdom come." What else does this petition mean as far as the church is concerned? "Keep your church strong, and add to it." Did you hear this? This is a prayer for missions, for outreach, for evangelism, for church planting. "Your kingdom come. Add to your church. Let her grow. Let those from every tribe, people, language, and nation come to her. Let people flock to church every Sunday. Let church buildings in Visalia and Hanford and Fresno and Washington and Papua New Guinea and around the world run out of room."
"Your kingdom come." "Make your church grow." We are asking for mission-minded members. We are asking for members who witness to unbelieving friends and neighbors and family. We are asking for workers to go out into the Lord's harvest-field.
IV Destroy the Devil's Work
A "Your kingdom come." Third, this petition asks something about the devil and all the ungodly forces of evil. As the Catechism puts it,
Destroy the devil's work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word.
Just as Christians and the church acknowledge and submit to God's rule in Christ, so Satan and all that is evil fight and contest this rule.
Every day, all around us, we see evidence of Satan's rebellion against God's rule in Christ: war, poverty, racism, discrimination, pornography, abortion, greed, corruption, crime, pollution, and everything else that is wrong with our world.
This past Friday the Obama administration announced it would not change the new healthcare law's requirement that most religious groups provide their employees with coverage for abortion drugs. This is evidence of Satan's rebellion against God's rule in Christ.
Last Sunday night I mentioned how New York City banned the use of public schools for public worship. Police arrested 43 New York City pastors and lay people who protested this ban. This is evidence of Satan's rebellion against God's rule in Christ.
I read this past week that Iowa State University canceled an independent study course designed to teach students about how biblical principles can be applied to business management. School officials, who initially approved the course, canceled it after several professors, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, complained. This is evidence of Satan's rebellion against God's rule in Christ.
Muslim and Hindu persecution of Christians in Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, India, and elsewhere is evidence of Satan's rebellion against God's rule in Christ.
"Your kingdom come." "Destroy the devil's work." "Destroy all the devil's work world-wide."
B Do you know what God promised to do in the Garden of Eden already? God promised to destroy the devil and his work. God said to the serpent and, through him, to the devil:
(Gen 3:15) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head ...Here, God promises the crushing defeat of Satan. God promises the crushing defeat of Satan through the promised seed of the woman.
We see this defeat of Satan in the ministry of Jesus. For instance, at the start of His ministry Jesus defeated the devil when He refused to fall for his temptations. Jesus defeated the devil every time He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, and restored hearing to the deaf. And, Jesus' disciples participated in this victory. Jesus sent them out in groups of two and they reported back, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Lk 10:17). Do you remember Jesus' response? He said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Lk 10:18).
Especially, though, we see the defeat of Satan at the empty grave of Christ. When Jesus was crucified, killed, and buried, Satan must have thought this a great victory. Just to make sure, a guard was put at the tomb to keep Jesus' body locked inside. But, then, Jesus arose. The grave could not keep Him. Death could not hold Him. And, Satan's destruction and doom was sure.
"Your kingdom come." This is a prayer that what began with Jesus will continue until Satan and his work is totally destroyed.
V A Complete and Perfect Kingdom
A "Your kingdom come." Lastly, we pray something about the future of the kingdom. As the Catechism puts this,
Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.
Jesus commands us to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Mt 6:33). But we have a hard time doing this because we are a people divided. We are distracted by the things of this world, by life, by responsibilities, by work. We are distracted by the evil that surrounds us and lives within us. But someday none of this other stuff will distract us anymore. Someday, our one and only goal will be God and His glory.
"Your kingdom come." "May that time come when God will be all in all." "May that time come when God will be our one and only focus."
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with Margaret Lynd. We were talking about the sin and evil of this world and the glory of our future life. Margaret blurted out, "I can hardly wait."
B "Your kingdom come." "May God be all in all."
When will this happen? This happens when the devil gets thrown into the lake of burning sulfur. This happens when the unbelieving are thrown into the lake of fire. This happens when Jesus comes again. This happens when God makes a new heaven and new earth. This happens when all the redeemed are raised to glory.
"Your kingdom come." "Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly" (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20). But, then, isn't this what Jesus promised? He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon" (Rev 22:20).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. "Your kingdom come."
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