************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 124 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 12, 2012
Q & A 124
"Your Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven"
Students of history know that President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev went eyeball to eyeball during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The world watched nervously to see who would blink first. During this crisis, the world came closer to nuclear war than at any other time in history.
Think also of the showdown in Washington or Sacramento during the last budget crisis. On the one side were the Democrats asking for higher taxes. On the other side were the Republicans asking for spending cuts.
Why do I mention these two incidents? Because both involved a contest, a battle, of wills. Who will get their way? Who will come out on top?
In the Catechism today we also find a battle of the wills. There are two wills in opposition to each other: God's and man's. Because man has fallen into sin, he opposes and contests the will of God at every turn. Those who have been saved by God's grace in Christ, however, have been taught to pray for submission to God's will.
I The Difference Between God's and Man's Will
A When you think about it, you realize there is a great difference between man's will and God's will.
The basic difference is that man often does things against his will or even without his will. God, however, never does anything against His will or apart from His will.
Look at the struggle we all have with sin. I want to believe that none of us – like Paul – want to sin. Yet, we sin anyway. As Christians, we sin against our will. We cannot help ourselves and we cannot stop ourselves.
Think, also, of the struggle many people have in the morning. The alarm rings and many people hit the snooze button. The alarm rings again and again they hit the snooze button. When they finally get up they have to race like mad so they aren't late for work.
Many of our most basic bodily functions are done without thinking: breathing, swallowing, blinking, the beating of our heart.
B God's will is completely different. His will is supreme and absolute. There are no involuntary actions on God's part. There are no things He does against His will. Everything God does, He wills. And everything God wills, He does. There is perfect symmetry between the will and actions of God.
(Ps 115:3) Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
(Rom 12:2) ... God's will is ... good, pleasing and perfect ...
God's will is completely sovereign over both good and evil. And whatever His will brings – whether it is life or death, health or sickness, riches or poverty, good years or bad – His will remains good, all-wise, just, holy, pleasing, and perfect.
II Reject Our Will and Obey God's Will
A I heard something, again, this past week that I have heard hundreds of times before: that most people are basically good. The implication is that most people deserve salvation and eternal life. And, the implication is that most people do not deserve hell's fire and damnation. It is one thing if unbelievers say this; it is entirely different when a believer says this. Ruth and I know someone who claims that Christians are not liars. This elderly man wants to believe he, as a Christian, is basically good and that he should be treated as someone basically good.
In his foolishness, this man forgets something. He forgets that Christians are deeply divided persons. On the one side there exists evil, great evil, within even the holiest of saints. Think of David committing adultery and murder and then covering this up with a series of lies. Think of Peter denying the Lord. On the other hand, Christians begin to live according to all, not only some, of God's commandments.
Think of what was said by the Apostle Paul. He knew he was a deeply divided man – torn between good and evil.
(Rom 7:15-19) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. (17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.
B Jesus comes to us as deeply divided persons. In teaching us how to pray, He says we need to pray about this. When you pray, He says, you need to pray that you do God's will and not follow your own stubborn, sinful will.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Listen to how the Catechism explains this petition: "Help us and all people to reject our own wills ..." In the battle of the wills we are asking God that we surrender. In the battle of the wills we are asking God that we quickly raise the white flag. In the battle of the wills we are asking God that we quit the battle.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And, I don't just pray this for myself. I pray this for all men: "Help every person to reject their own will." After all, everyone contests the will of God.
C "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Negatively, then, this prayer asks that we reject our own stubborn, fallen, sinful will. Positively, this prayer asks that we obey God's will.
There are those who love to talk about God's secret will. Like the Gnostics of old, they think there is something secret and hidden about the will of God. And, they want to believe only some attain to this hidden or secret knowledge.
Baloney. That's what I call this kind of thinking. There is nothing secret or hidden about the will of God for our lives. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Turn to the Ten Commandments. There we have the will of God. Turn to the Sermon on the Mount. There we have the will of God. Turn to the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. There we have the will of God. Nothing secret there. God lays it out for all to see. God lays it out what He expects of us.
Think of our Scripture reading for this evening. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21). "Help me to live out my faith. Help me to be a doer of God's will."
D "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Says the Catechism, "Help us to reject our own wills and to obey Your will without any back talk." Let me emphasize that last phrase: "without any back talk." Don't be like teenagers, says the Catechism. Every teen comes to the point where they talk back to their parents. Every teen comes to the point where they no longer want to go automatically with what their parents say.
Think of Abraham. In the most crucial test of his life, he followed God's will rather than his own will, and without any back talk. God told him to sacrifice his son, his only son, the son he loved, the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed without any back talk. "Yes sir," he said. And went to the mountain to offer up his son.
Think of the Apostle Paul. Paul went to Jerusalem according to the plan of God. He knew this was going to mean imprisonment, affliction, suffering, and death. But he went anyway. Without complaint. Without back talk. Because he knew it was the will of God.
We may not like what God has in store for us. Nevertheless, we must learn to submit.
(Rom 9:20) But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"He is the potter and we are the clay.
E "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Says the Catechism, "Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven."
What work? First of all, our work as Christians. Let's start with those who are in church office. Whether you are a deacon, elder, or pastor, you are called to faithfully do the duties of your office. You are to be faithful in visiting, faithful in prayer, faithful in supporting and encouraging, faithful in hospitality. We are to faithfully carry out our work as youth leaders, as GEMS and Cadet counselors, and as Sunday School and Catechism teachers; we don't show up Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings without being properly prepared. We are to faithfully carry out our duties as members of the choir or as a church organist or pianist; we don't make the choir director play a guessing game of whether or not we will show up. We are to faithfully carry out our duties as ushers, nursery attendants, sound technicians, and committee membership. This also goes for our work in the Kingdom. Whether we are serving on the Christian School board, volunteering for Love INC or Used Treasures, or helping at Visalia Rescue Mission, we are to faithfully carry out the work we are called to do. And this also applies to our job or career. It makes no difference if you hate your work or don't really like the people you are working with. God's will is that you strive to do the best you can in everything. Finally, this also applies to your role as a Christian husband, wife, father, mother, or child. For the sake of the Lord, you strive to be the best father and the most loving mother possible. You strive to be a loving, obedient, and respectful child.
F "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." "Help us to be like the angels of heaven." What are the angels like?
(Ps 103:20-21) Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. (21) Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
The angels of heaven have only one goal in life: to please God, to do the Father's bidding, to be His servants. Unlike us, they are never once distracted in this calling.
Have you ever experienced something like this? A couple of months ago I was working in the garage. I was changing the oil in my lawn mower and edger and roto-tiller. However, the phone rang and I went to answer it. Then I turned on the computer and entered receipts into Quicken. Then I remembered I needed to test the pool. On the way to the pool I noticed a hanging palm branch that needed to be cut down. I went back to the garage for the ladder and clippers and noticed I had not yet finished changing the oil. We are so easily distracted from what needs to be done. But not the angels. They know what they need to do and they don't let anything or anyone distract them from their calling. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to be like the angels. Help us to not be distracted from our duties."
III The Example of Jesus
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The Catechism mentions the angels. It could also have mentioned Jesus.
Jesus is the perfect example of someone doing the will of God. Consider these words from Hebrews:
(Heb 10:7) Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.'These words, taken from Psalm 40, are said by Jesus before He was born in Bethlehem.
The eternal Son of God saw our planet winging its way through space. He saw you and me bowed down and wounded and full of sin. He saw our inability to come to God. He saw we are unable to do the will of God.
When He saw all this He made His decision and announced His goal: "I have come to do your will, O God." He came to keep the Law we cannot keep and will not keep. He came to fulfil the requirements of the Law. He came to perfectly obey the Father. In our place, as our substitute. He was righteous for us.
Think also of what is written in the Gospel of John. Jesus said to His disciples,
(John 4:34) "My food ... is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.""My food." Just like a horse needs hay in order to work, just like a tractor needs gas or diesel in order to run, so Jesus needs to do the will of God in order to live.
In this light, consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did not look forward to His arrest and whipping and crucifixion and death. Everything within Him rebelled against the suffering that soon would be His. So, what did He do? He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26:42). Do you hear His prayer? "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Not my will. But Your will. For this reason, Jesus was obedient to death, even death on the cross. He submitted, He fully submitted, to the will of the Father.
I received an unusual email this week. Its title: The Résumé of Jesus Christ.
My Address: Ephesians 1:20
My Phone: Romans 10:13
My Website: The Bible,
Keywords: Christ, Lord, Savior and Jesus
My name is Jesus - The Christ. Many call me Lord! I've sent you my résumé because I'm seeking the top management position in your heart. Please consider my accomplishments as set forth in my résumé.
I founded the earth and established the heavens (Prov 3:19).
I formed man from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7).
I breathed into man the breath of life (Gen 2:7).
I redeemed man from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13).
The blessings of the covenant comes upon your life through me (Gal 3:14).
I've only had one employer (Lk 2:49).
I've never been tardy, absent, disobedient, slothful or disrespectful. My employer has nothing but rave reviews for me (Mt 3:15-17).
This is followed by the usual categories of Skills and Work Experience, Educational Background, Major Accomplishments, References, and Summary.
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We are asking to be like Jesus. We are asking to be like Jesus and do the will of God. We are asking to be like Jesus and do the will of God – even if it means pain, suffering, persecution, and agony. Like Jesus, we would rather die than go against the will of God in any way.
I would like to end by asking everyone to open the grey Psalter Hymnal to Q & A 124. I will pray the first line of the answer. And, together we say the rest of the answer ...
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