Kingdoms in Conflict
October 6, 2009
“Your kingdom come.” Matthew 6:10
Before we begin: What is the kingdom of God? In what sense is it a present reality? In what sense is it yet to come? How would things be different if you had a “God invasion” in your life? Your family? Your workplace? Your neighborhood?
Sometimes our prayers are too small. For seven years I met with 8-10 men in a Promise Keepers group. I remember one week when we began by sharing various prayer requests. One man was going on a business trip soon, another had a son with problems in his English class, another mentioned a health issue in his family, and another asked us to pray about a troublesome situation at work. All the requests were very legitimate. All were shared with a sense of honesty and openness. As we began to pray, everything proceeded normally until one man prayed something like this: “Lord, teach us to pray big prayers. So much of what we pray is just details.” I found that a helpful and challenging thought. It’s not that the details don’t matter. They do, but sometimes our prayers suffer because our vision is so small. If we truly want to honor God, we will believe what he says and then act on that belief by praying large prayers that require an Almighty God to answer them.
When we come to the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, it is as if God himself says, “Ask me for something hard. Ask me to send my kingdom to the earth.” Now that’s big. It’s a lot bigger than asking God to give you a good time on your vacation to Florida or asking God for the right Christmas present for your cousin Sherrie. As we will see later in our journey through the Lord’s Prayer, it’s perfectly appropriate to bring even the tiniest concerns of life to our Heavenly Father. But if all we do is pray about small things, we have missed the world-changing power of the Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes our prayers suffer because our vision is so small.
Your Kingdom come. That’s serious business. On one level, you are asking God to send Jesus back and bring down the curtain on human history as we have known it. On another level, you are inviting God to invade your world and transform it. If that’s of interest to you, then let’s spend a few minutes thinking about what it means to pray this way.
I begin with two simple observations:
1. This is the shortest petition. In English, it is 3 words; in Greek, only 4 words. Don’t be misled by that fact. Length does not indicate importance. In this case, it indicates the opposite.
2. This in an imperative. That means it is given in the form of a command. More than that, the verb is placed first for emphasis. You could rightfully translate it, “Come, Kingdom of God.” The same is true of the following petition, e.g. “Be Done, will of God.” When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” there is an atmosphere of calm, steady faith about those words, as if we mean to say, “I know your kingdom is coming someday and I pray that you will help me be patient until that day finally come.” And that sort of prayer is entirely biblical. We are called to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord. But when we pray, “Come, Kingdom of God,” there is a note of urgency about those words, as if we are praying, “Lord, let your kingdom right here, right now, today!” To pray this way means that we are not satisfied with the status quo. We are praying because we know things could be–and should be–better than they are.
God’s Great Society
But what is this kingdom of God for which we are to pray? It’s clearly a crucial topic, or Jesus wouldn’t have mentioned it. A quick perusal of the gospels-especially the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) reveals that the phrases “kingdom of God” and kingdom of heaven” are repeated over and over again. A quick check through a concordance reveals that the word “kingdom” comes up over and over again. Not just a few times, but dozens and dozens of time. It is clear that Jesus talked to his disciples about the “kingdom of God” almost every day. It’s no small subject. And Jesus said that when we pray, we are to petition God that the “kingdom” might “come.”
You could rightfully translate it, “Come, Kingdom of God.”
What is the kingdom of God? Ask 10 different theologians and you will receive 10 different answers. For one thing, the term is never precisely defined. In our thinking, a “kingdom” requires a king and a realm in which he will rule. For a kingdom to be operative, the king must have people who are subject to his rule. And in the earthly sense, a “kingdom” is more than a vague, undefined realm; it’s also a literal piece of real estate. It always includes land, dirt, some sort of property with measurable boundaries. William Barclay offers this helpful definition: The kingdom of God is “a society upon earth in which God’s will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is first of all a society, an organized group of men and women. It is second of all “on earth.” It is thirdly a place where the will of God is done.
But why is the kingdom of God so important? Why would Jesus speak of it over and over again? Most importantly, why is the kingdom of God so important that we should make it the subject of our daily prayers?
That’s a very good question and in this message I would like to offer four different answers.
# 1 The kingdom of God is important because it was the central issue of Jesus’ ministry.
The kingdom of God is what he came to establish. He said that in various ways over and over again. Consider the following verses:
Matthew 4:17 “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee . . . preaching the good news of the kingdom.”
Luke 4:43 “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God . . . for that is why I was sent.”
Jesus came to establish a new society on the earth.
Luke 17:21 “The kingdom of God is in your midst.”
John 18:36-37 “My kingdom is not of this world . . . my kingdom is from another place . . . You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
When Jesus began his ministry, he announced that the kingdom of God was “at hand” and “in your midst.” He said that preaching the kingdom of God was the reason he had been sent to the earth. At the end of his ministry, he told Pontius Pilate that his kingdom was “not of this world” but was “from another place.”
Not Politics, But Persuasion
Jesus came to establish a new society on the earth. This society would be made up of men and women who are fully dedicated to doing the will of God. When he was here, the kingdom of God was “at hand” because the King himself was “in the midst” of the people. But the kingdom he would establish would be fundamentally different from the kingdoms of this world because it would call for a moral commitment from those who follow him. That’s a crucial point that forever separates the kingdom of God from every earthly kingdom. Being in an earthly kingdom is merely a matter of geography. It is, so to speak, just an accident of birth. Not so with Jesus’ kingdom. As he said to Pilate, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” The kingdom of God is reserved for those who recognize and follow the truth as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. That’s the moral commitment that Jesus demands of his followers. “You want to be in my kingdom? Fine. But you have to become a follower of the truth. You can’t remain neutral about me or about the things I am saying. You have to get off the fence and make a commitment or you’ll never be in the kingdom of God.”
And that explains why the people of the world will never understand the people of the kingdom. We have made a moral commitment to the truth and that commitment guides everything we do. We start from a different place, we look at life a different way, we make our decisions on a different basis, and therefore we end up in a different place. That fact applies all the way across the board, whether we are talking about how to raise our children, or how to spend our money, or how to vote in an election. Our commitment to truth forever separates us from the people of the world, which is why they don’t understand us and think we’re a little bit crazy. We aren’t crazy, but we are different. The kingdom of God is reserved for people who are fundamentally different from the people of the world.
Our commitment to truth forever separates us from the people of the world, which is why they don’t understand us and think we’re a little bit crazy.</h6 class=”pullquote”>
Let’s take that one step farther. The kingdom comes first in the hearts of men and women as they surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. That’s where it all begins. But since that is true, we also know that kingdom spreads not through political power, but through gentle persuasion as one by one people choose to follow Jesus Christ. As good and right and important as political action is, it can never by itself bring in the kingdom of God. We ought to register to vote, we ought to write letters to our congressmen, we ought to speak out on moral issues, and we ought to run for office. But as good as those things are, they will never bring in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God must come in human hearts before it will ever effect society at large. Conversion comes before character and personal change before social change. In the great debate concerning evangelism and social action, the answer must be that while both are needed, evangelism takes priority because it is only through the spreading of the gospel that human hearts are changed.
There is much more that might be said on this point, but to say this much at least makes clear why the kingdom of God was central to Jesus. It is the reason he came to earth. What was important to him must become important to us. And that’s one reason Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come.”
But there is a second reason why Jesus taught us to pray this way:
# 2 The kingdom of God is the only thing that will last forever.
When was the last time you thought about Zachary Taylor? It’s probably been a long time. Until a few years ago, the last time I thought about Zachary Taylor was back in Mrs. Alexander’s 8th grade American history class-and I didn’t think too much about him then. We were on vacation out in Arizona and Utah when I happened to hear on the radio that they were digging up Zachary Taylor. It had been so long since I thought about him that I had to stop and remember who he was. When the announcer called him “President Taylor,” it sounded odd to me. I had never heard that expression before. It didn’t sound right. The scientists dug up his remains to see if he had been poisoned with arsenic by his enemies. (It turns out the answer was no. He apparently died after eating some chilled cherries and cold buttermilk-a deadly combination.) Do you know what they found when they opened the casket? It had been 140 years since he died and there wasn’t much left. They found his hair, his bones, and his fingernails. Everything else had disintegrated.
As good and right and important as political action is, it can never by itself bring in the kingdom of God.
“Old Rough And Ready”
One newspaper said, “We now know more about Zachary Taylor than we ever knew before-and more than we ever wanted to know.” Another story called him the most obscure president in American history because he was succeeded by a man whose name has become a sort of running Trivial Pursuit joke-Millard Fillmore. Here’s the oddity of it all. When he died Zachary Taylor was considered a very great man. One writer put things in perspective by calling him “the Norman Schwarzkopf of his day.” He was a great military leader who later became president. He was the hero of the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War. His nickname was “Old Rough and Ready,” an appellation not much different from calling George Patton “Old Blood and Guts.” Until they dug him up, we had forgotten Zachary Taylor altogether. One of our old hymns puts it this way: “Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away, they fly forgotten as the night dies at the opening day.” Solomon added these words of wisdom in Ecclesiastes 9:5, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten“ (emphasis added).
Sooner or later, you’ll be just another name on a tombstone.
What a sobering thought-“even the memory of them is forgotten.” It’s true. Zachary Taylor had been forgotten-and he was once the president of the United States. After 150 years, “Old Rough and Ready” is nothing more than a the answer to trivia question-“What president died after eating chilled cherries and cold buttermilk?” It is true of all human endeavors-“they fly forgotten as the night dies at the opening day.” What a lesson this is for all of us. If you are counting on somebody remembering you after you are gone, forget it. Sooner or later, you’ll be just another name on a tombstone. Let me tell you what will happen after you die. Your family will call up the funeral home and arrange a real nice service. Someone will stand up and say some nice things about you and then they will bury you in the ground. Do you know what happens then? Your friends will go over to your house and have a party and eat your food. Then they will get in our cars, go back home, and get on with their lives. Somebody may say, “That’s depressing.” No, it’s not. That’s reality. And if I happen to die before you do, you’ll do the same thing for me. And before long, I’ll just be a dim memory and then I’ll be forgotten altogether.
If you are looking for significance and permanence in this world, you are wasting your time. By definition, this world forgets the past, lives in the present, and dreams about the future. And all those things we do to give ourselves significance-the degrees after our names, the houses we buy, the money we save, the cars we drive, the empires we build, the relationships we seek, the clothes we wear, the networks we create-in the end, those things will amount to nothing. If you are living for this world, you are of all people most to be pitied.
Why? Because nothing in this world lasts forever. Just ask Zachary Taylor.
The Unshakable Kingdom
That’s why Hebrews 12:28 says that God is going to give “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Everything that is of this world is shakable. The buildings crumble into dust, the companies go into bankruptcy, our degrees fade into illegibility, our houses age and creak and crumble, our cars rust out, and worst of all, our bodies eventually wear out. But the kingdom of God lasts forever. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he predicted that she would give birth to a Son who would “rule over the house of his father Jacob, and of his kingdom there will be no end“ (Luke 1:33, emphasis added). God desires to establish a kingdom on earth that will last forever. That kingdom will be made up of men and women who have decided to live by God’s eternal values. Therefore, the whole human race may be divided into two groups-those who live by earthly values and those live by kingdom values. If you decide to live by earthly values, you will receive an earthly reward. If you decide to live by kingdom values, you will receive a kingdom reward. The difference is this. Living by earthly values produces earthly rewards that pay off quicker and disappear faster; living by kingdom values produces kingdom rewards. They don’t usually come as quickly, but they last forever.
By definition, this world forgets the past, lives in the present, and dreams about the future.
You can live for this world or you can live for the kingdom of God. The choice is yours.
That’s the second reason the kingdom of God is so important. It’s the only thing that will last forever.
# 3 The kingdom of God gives a purpose, meaning and goal to history.
Where is history going? Philosophers have pondered that question for thousands of years. Is history nothing more than “a tale told by an idiot, scribbled on the walls of an insane asylum?” Or is history, as Edward Gibbon suggested, “little more than the register of crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” Should we accept the Hindu view that history is an endless cycle of reincarnation? Or should we adopt a vague evolutionary view that we came up from the slime over the course of billions and billions of years? Where would that lead us? To some positive thinking nirvana where “everyday in every way things are getting better or better? Or should we conclude with the cynics that life is meaningless, an eternal cul de sac that leads to nothing at all?
If you decide to live by earthly values, you will receive an earthly reward. If you decide to live by kingdom values, you will receive a kingdom reward
No question is more important because the way you view history ultimately shapes the way you view your own life. If you believe that history is going nowhere, then your life is just a momentary blip on the radar screen of the universe-you pop up, you fly across the screen, you disappear, never to be heard from again. If history has no goal, then life has no meaning and every man is left to his own devices. When pornographer Larry Flynt was interviewed by Larry King, he said he believed we are like bottles on a conveyor belt. We pop up, ride the belt for a while, then something knocks us off the belt, and we disappear, and our place is taken by someone else. It would be hard to imagine a more hopeless view of human life.
History Is His Story
But the Bible teaches history is his story, the record of God’s dealings with the human race. It teaches that the universe had a definite beginning at a definite point in time. And it teaches that man didn’t come up from the slime in some crazy accident of evolution. God created man with a purpose, and history is the story of the slow unfolding of God’s purpose on the earth. The Old Testament prophets spoke again and again of a coming kingdom on the earth. Abraham caught a glimpse of it, Moses saw it from afar, David learned about it directly from God, and the major and minor prophets filled in the details. The Old Testament writers foresaw a time when God’s Messiah would rule the world from David’s throne in Jerusalem. If you put the pieces together, they speak of a coming golden age for the earth, a utopia if you will, a paradise on the earth itself. In that day, the lion will lie down with the lamb, and all nations will stream into Jerusalem. The law of God will be written in the human heart and “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). The New Testament writers add two very significant details:
1. The promised Messiah is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The kingdom of God will not be ultimately established until Jesus the King returns to the earth in person.
And that is where history is going. The kingdom of God is what history is all about. It’s the goal toward which everything else is moving. It’s the last chapter in a story that started in the Garden of Eden.
Praying “Your kingdom comes” links us with the faithful of all ages who have surveyed the wreckage of a fallen world and concluded that there must be something better than this. We are looking through the haze of history to a time when the Lord Jesus Christ will reign on the earth in person. In a deep sense, we are asking God to hasten the day when the Lord himself will descend from heaven and reclaim his rightful place as the ruler of the earth. That’s why the angels declared to the startled apostles that “this same Jesus” who had ascended to heaven would one day return to the earth (Acts 1:11). In many ways this is a shocking thought, one that runs against the grain of modern thinking. We believe that a man who once walked on the earth 2000 years ago, and who disappeared from the earth, is one day coming back to the earth. Who is he? “This same Jesus.” The same one who walked the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee. The same one who healed the woman who touched the hem of his garment. The same one who divided the loaves and the fish and fed 5000 people. The same one who told a man named Nicodemus that he must be born again. The same one who caused the lame to walk and the blind to see. The same one who walked on the water. This same Jesus is one day returning to the earth. I could on but you get the idea.
Praying “Your kingdom comes” joins us with the faithful of all ages who have surveyed the wreckage of a fallen world and concluded that there must be something better than this.
Most of us have spent many years reading the Bible and looking at pictures of Jesus performing miracles and speaking to great multitudes. I can recall standing in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, just a foot or so from Rembrandt’s powerful painting of Christ being taken from the cross. We believe that the Jesus who is the subject of that painting, the one who died on the cross and rose form the dead, is actually, literally, bodily, physically and personally returning to the earth one day. And he’s not sending a representative. He’s coming back in person. That’s a mind-blowing fact. No wonder the skeptics think that Christians believe in fantasies. If you stop and ponder what we believe, it is truly an out-of-this-world truth.
Ten Thousand Points Of Light
Let me give you a Reader’s Digest version of what history is all about. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He then placed Adam and Eve on the earth and made them stewards over the whole planet. But when they disobeyed, they surrendered their stewardship into the hands of Satan, God’s arch-enemy. From that day until this, the whole world has been the domain of Satan. It is still God’s world by creation. But Satan has usurped God’s authority and set up a counter-kingdom to the kingdom of God. And from that day until this, the earth has been the central battlefield in a war between those two competing kingdoms.
But that’s not the whole story. Once the world fell into enemy hands, God determined to win it back at any costs. That meant sending his message through kings and prophets and priests and poets. It meant raising up an entire nation through whom he would bless the earth. But ultimately it meant that he himself had to enter the conflict. In order to reclaim the world from Satan, God entered the human race in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That story is very familiar to you, but perhaps you are not used to thinking of it as God’s ultimate blow against Satan. Even then it appeared that Satan might win, indeed for 36 hours it seemed certain that he had won, that the battle was over and God had been decisively defeated. Then Sunday came and with it, the empty tomb and the risen Savior. Suddenly it became clear to everyone-even to Satan-that Jesus was the victor in the great battle to reclaim the earth. Since that first Easter Sunday Satan has been like a squatter on planet earth. Jesus reclaimed the title deed but Satan refused to give up his territory.
In order to reclaim the world from Satan, God entered the human race in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, please mark very carefully four sub-facts on Satan’s side. First, he refuses to acknowledge his defeat. Second, he refuses to surrender his dominion until he must. . . . Third, he is supported in his ambitions by man. He has man’s consent to his control. The majority of men on the earth today, and in every day, have assented to his control. . . . Fourth, he hopes yet to make his possession of the earth permanent (S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Prayer, p. 46).
The world is still in darkness but here and there the followers of Jesus have established outposts of the kingdom, little pinpoints of light that promise better things to come. Meanwhile the battle rages on between the two kingdoms-King Jesus on one side and Satan on the other. In these last 20 centuries, the light has spread until it seems like there are ten thousand points of light chasing away the darkness. In many other places, however, things look darker than ever. That’s the history of the world up until this present moment. But it is not the end of the story. All over the world, in those little outposts of the kingdom, the followers of Jesus are praying “Your kingdom come,” and as they do, they set their gaze toward the Eastern sky and wait for the Son of God to personally and visibly return to the earth. When he at last comes, he will trample Satan under his feet, judge the workers of iniquity, set right the wrongs in the world, and reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem. That day has not yet come, but it will come, and indeed it is coming, and we believe the “signs of the times” tell us that the coming of Christ is not far away. But whether near or far, the kingdom Jesus will establish on the earth forms the goal of all human history. It is the last and greatest chapter in the “Battle of the Ages.”
The battle rages on between the two kingdoms-King Jesus on one side and Satan on the other.
That’s why the kingdom of God is all-important and that is why “Your kingdom come” is the central petition of the Lord’s Prayer. You are praying that God’s whole program for human history might succeed and that Satan’s counter-kingdom might be destroyed.
# 4 The kingdom of God is the only possible explanation why some people live the way they do.
This is the final reason why the kingdom of God is so important. It’s also the reason that strikes the closest to home. Without the kingdom of God it is simply impossible to explain the way some people choose to live. There are men and women all around us who, although they seem perfectly normal as the world counts normal-ness, in some ways seem to behave very differently. I submit to you that when you examine their lives, the one great factor that makes a difference is that they have been gripped with the concept of the kingdom of God. They have decided to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and that has made all the difference in the world. Should that surprise us? No, because Jesus predicted that some people would choose to live that way. These are his words in Luke 18:29-30, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Jesus is teaching us that the kingdom of God changes the values of life. It leads to unusual and otherwise unexplainable behavior. When you sign up for Christ’s kingdom, you parachute directly into a war zone. You are leaving a life that makes sense (from the world’s point of view) for a life governed by eternal realities. People will do things because of the kingdom of God that they would not do otherwise. In some cases, they will choose to set aside a life of ease and comfort; in other cases they will set aside the closest human relationships; in still other cases they will give up a promising career; still others will spend their money in ways that make no earthly sense.
Without the kingdom of God it is simply impossible to explain the way some people choose to live.
I have some friends who spent several terms as medical missionaries in Nigeria. Both are doctors who had well-established practices in America. A few years ago they felt God calling them to put their careers on hold and go serve in a hospital in Jos, Nigeria. They have four children who went with them. My wife and I (along with my bother Alan) visited them during their first term. It is hard for those of us who are used to advanced medical care to comprehend the working conditions in Africa. It happened that the day we arrived, the hospital ran out of sutures. Does that ever happen in America? I can’t imagine a major medical facility in the States where they suddenly said, “We can’t do surgery because we don’t have any sutures to sew up the patient.” But Greg and Carolyn Kirschner weren’t surprised. That sort of thing happens all the time in Africa. They had two x-ray machines, but one of them was not working. Everything was primitive by American standards. The Kirschners also weren’t surprised to learn that my brother Alan had brought with him a large supply of sutures donated by a hospital in Tupelo, Mississippi. To them, it was no coincidence that a visitor brought what they needed on the very day they ran out of supplies. That’s what life is like on the mission field. It’s not just George Muller of Bristol who lived day by day, praying in whatever those orphans needed. That’s how they operate at the Evangel Hospital in Jos, Nigeria. And that’s how it is on mission stations all over the world.
But couldn’t Greg and Carolyn make more money by staying in America? Yes, and they could spend that money in support of other missionaries. And their children would be closer to their grandparents, too. They were been back in the States for almost two years, then they went back to Nigeria again. Going back the second time in some ways is harder because all the romance has been washed away by the hard reality of life in Nigeria. It’s not that it’s a bad place to live or that they don’t like it there. Not at all. They love the opportunity of using their considerable gifts to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. But it is different, and as Greg pointed out to me, in Nigeria you are always reminded that you are a resident alien. So why go back a second time? Because Greg and Carolyn Kirschner decided to live by Kingdom values and those values led them to Nigeria. It’s really as simple as that. They left the States for Nigeria, came back, went back to Nigeria, came back, and as I write this, they are in Nigeria for a five-month stint. They have been captured by a higher calling. That’s why they went in the first place. And that’s why they are there now.
When you sign up for Christ’s kingdom, you parachute directly into a war zone.
Let me take this a step further. Jesus laid down the challenge in even starker terms in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple.” You can check the word “hate” in the Greek and you’ll discover that “hate” is exactly what it means. But the “hate” of this verse doesn’t refer to personal animosity. Being faithful to Jesus Christ and following his call on your life may mean that from time to time you will do things that seem to your loved ones as if you hate them. You don’t hate them at all, but your obedience to Christ may cause them to think that you hate them. Such is the price we all must pay to be a disciple of Christ.
You’ll Never Know ‘Til You Pray The Prayer
Am I suggesting that living for kingdom values means going to the mission field? Not really. But that does stand as a particularly good example. It throws into bold relief what seeking first the kingdom of God is all about. If you ever decide to make the kingdom of God the first priority in your life, you may not become a missionary, but you will become fundamentally different from the world around you. And the choices you make in your own life will be continually misunderstood because you will be living for values that the people of the world don’t comprehend. Perhaps that seems too intimidating. I hope not. Even though you decide to make the kingdom of God your first priority, your life may seem mundane. That’s all right. You don’t need to go to Nepal or Swaziland or Bulgaria to live for the kingdom of God. You don’t even have to move to another country. The kingdom of God is not a matter of geography; it’s a matter of the heart. You become a kingdom man or a kingdom woman when you decide to live by the values that matter to God-righteousness, holiness, humility, compassion, zeal, sacrifice, charity, joy and forgiveness.
If you ever decide to make the kingdom of God the first priority in your life, you may not become a missionary, but you will become fundamentally different from the world around you
Consider the matter this way. Every time you pray, you must say one of two things. Either you pray “My kingdom come” or you pray “Your kingdom come.” Those are the only two possibilities. But note carefully: When you pray “Your kingdom come,” you must of necessity also pray “My kingdom go.” God’s kingdom cannot “come” unless your kingdom is going to “go.” They both can’t co-exist at the same time and place. The bottom line is this: Those who pray “Your kingdom come” will never be sorry. We have the words of Jesus on that. Whatever they lose will be amply repaid in this life and in the life to come. But you’ll never know until you pray that prayer.
Four Ways to Pray
Let me wrap this up by suggesting four ways to pray “Your kingdom come.”
1. In your own life. It all begins here. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17) You enter the kingdom of God by having the simple faith of a child. You enter the kingdom by asking the Lord Jesus to become King in your life. So, we must ask a crucial question. Are you in the kingdom of God? The answer must always be yes or no. You enter the kingdom through simple faith in King Jesus. But-and note this carefully!-you enter individually and personally. No one else can enter for you. It requires a definite decision on your part. Without that definite decision, you will not even “see” the kingdom of God (John 3:5). So, we begin there. Are you in the kingdom of God? If the answer is yes, then you pray a prayer like this every day: “Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come in my life today. May your values predominate my thinking and my decision-making. May your cause in the world be advanced by the things I say and do. Help me to do your will all through this day.” There’s no magic in that prayer, but properly understood, it is a revolutionary way to pray. Make no mistake. If you mean those words, God will take you up on your offer to become a “kingdom person.” Don’t pray like this if you intend to stay the way you are.
Are you in the kingdom of God?
2. In your family. That means praying for your wife, your husband and your children that they too would become kingdom people. This includes praying for your extended family and even for the spouses that your children and grandchildren will one day marry.
3. In your church. The church is to be a model of that “great society” God is building. Even the best church will fall far short of the ideal. But why not pray for your pastor, for the staff, for elders and deacons, and for the various committees, that they will be completely committed to kingdom values? And then pray for the congregation, that men and women would set aside their own agendas. The church can become as political as any political party. Differences of opinion are good and healthy, but sometimes we can get so fixated on our own ideas, that we destroy the unity of the Spirit in our desire to get our own plans implemented. Pray that your church will become an attractive community of kingdom people-an outpost of light in an ever-darkening world.
The church can become as political as any political party.
4. In the world. It’s true that the kingdom will never come until the King himself returns to the earth. Yet the kingdom of God “comes” in a spiritual sense as men and women surrender their lives to King Jesus. So we are praying “May your kingdom come in hearts and lives today and may the King himself quickly return.” While you are at it, pray for the kingdom to come in your community, your state, your nation, and finally throughout the world. “O God, give us leaders who fear your name and respect your Law.” As you pray, remember the words of Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
“Begin, I Pray Thee, With Me”
I conclude with this final observation: “Your kingdom come” is not a passive prayer. It’s not a placebo for someone who wants to stand by and watch the action from the grandstands. No, this is a prayer for someone who wants to get in the game. That’s why the verb is an imperative-“Come, kingdom of God!”
Do you really want the kingdom of God to come? If you do, I leave you to ponder the words of this ancient Chinese prayer: “O Lord, change the world. Begin, I pray thee, with me.”
Father, we thank you that Satan will not have the last word. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly and establish your visible kingdom on the earth. Between now and then help us to live as Kingdom People whose values are not of this world. May we not grow accustomed to second-best living when you have called us to higher ground. Grant us wisdom to be citizens of heaven while we sojourn as pilgrims on the earth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A Truth to Remember: . If you ever decide to make the kingdom of God your first priority, you will become fundamentally different from the world around you.
1. When we pray, “Come, Kingdom of God!” what are we really praying for? How will we know when our prayer has been answered?
2. Why did Jesus talk so much about the kingdom of God?
3. What does this petition suggest about the attempt to improve the world through legislation and political pressure? How can we strive for what is right while at the same time praying “Your Kingdom Come?” How does this petition impart a sense of humility to our efforts to make the world a better place?
4. Describe the difference between a life lived by worldly values and a life lived by kingdom values.
5. How does Satan try to stop God’s kingdom from spreading in the world today? How does he attack you personally?
6. Memorize Luke 18:29-30. Ask God to help you live for the sake of his kingdom this week.
An Action Step
This message ends with four ways to pray “Your kingdom come.” Use that as a guide in your personal prayer time for the next seven days.