Sermon by: Robert Austell; July 5, 2015
Text: Matthew 4:12-17; Luke 17:20-21; Psalm 145:8-13
:: Sermon Audio (link)
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:: Some Music Used
Song of Praise: "Build Your Kingdom Here" (Rend Collective)
Song of Praise: "We Fall Down" (Chris Tomlin)
Offering of Music: "Let Your Kingdom Come" (Sovereign Grace; Kauflin)
Communion Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Hymn of Sending: "Jesus shall Reign" (DUKE STREET)
Postlude: Kelsey Gilsdorf
:: Affirmation of Faith ::
from the Westminster Longer Catechism
Q.191 – What do we pray for in the second petition, ‘Thy Kingdom come’?-1
Acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan-2, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed-3, the gospel propagated throughout the world-4, the Jews called-5, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in-6; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances-7, purged from corruption-8, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate-9: and the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted-10: that Christ would rule in our hearts here-11, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever-12: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.-13
1-Matt. 6:10; 2-Eph. 2:2-3; 3-Ps. 68:1,18, Rev. 12:10-11; 4-2 Thess. 3:1; 5-Rom. 10:1; 6-John 17:9,20, Rom. 11:25-26, Ps. 67; 7-Matt. 9:38, 2 Thess. 3:1; 8-Mal. 1:11, Zeph. 3:9; 9-1 Tim. 2:1-2; 10-Acts 4:29-30, Eph. 6:18-20, Rom. 15:29-30,32, 2 Thess. 1:11, 2:16-17; 11-Eph. 3:14-20; 12-Rev. 22:20; 13-Isa. 64:1-2, Rev. 4:8-11
:: Video - "Lord's Prayer Series"
:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf):
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
Today we continue our summer series on the Lord’s Prayer as we look at the phrase, “Thy Kingdom come.” God’s Kingdom is a natural thing to address right after “Our Father who art in Heaven; Hallowed be your name” because it is the fact of God’s great power and rule of Heaven and earth that lead us to next consider what it might mean for God to rule over all that as King and Lord.
I’d like to briefly summarize what the three scriptures you’ve heard today have to say about God’s Kingdom. Then, I’d like to offer an extended analogy to try to explain what might be a confusing part of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom. Finally, I’d like to end with the challenge Jesus gives as well as the prayer he taught us.
The Scriptures Say…
Psalm 145 – In the call to worship this morning we heard that the Lord is gracious, merciful, and good. God’s works (the things God does in history) demonstrate (“speak of”) God’s power to rule… that is, God’s Kingdom. In addition to His other traits, God is powerful, and (like God) the kingdom is everlasting and amazing. One of the tasks of God’s people is to bear witness to God’s glorious reign.
Matthew 4:12-17 – In Matthew 4, Jesus is just arriving on the public scene. John the Baptist had been preaching and announcing the coming of God’s Messiah, and this passage highlights the transition and the fulfillment of prophecies like Isaiah about the Messiah, understood here to be Jesus. As Jesus starts speaking publicly, he teaches often about the Kingdom; in fact, he talked more about that than just about anything else. He told parables and illustrated time and again what God’s Kingdom is like. Here he picks up John’s theme of repentance and Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy about a light in the darkness and announces “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The time is now!
Luke 17:20-21 – Matthew 4 was at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, but Luke 17 comes much later. Jesus has taught frequently about the Kingdom, such that we find the Pharisees here asking him about the Kingdom. They want to know when and how it is coming and Jesus replies that it is not off in the future with signs to be observed, but is already “in your midst.”
It’s one thing to read that God’s Kingdom reflects God’s authority, power, and reign over creation. It’s another to understand what Jesus means by saying it is already here among us. It gets even more confusing when Jesus indicates it is also not yet fully realized here; there is still more to come. We get a short illustration in the Isaiah quotation: like the dawning of the light, the day of the Kingdom has dawned, but there is still more to come.
But let me offer a more extended analogy to see if it can help us understand how God’s Kingdom is at once here among us, but also not yet fully here.
An Extended Analogy
How could Jesus say (again and again) that God’s Kingdom was “at hand” and “in your midst” when there is still more to be done? Revelation tells us that there is still a future day when God will set all things right, when there will be no more sorrow or suffering or tears or death. Revelation describes Jesus sitting on the throne, not the Jesus hanging on the cross of the Gospels. How can we make sense of that?
I’d like to suggest the analogy of acceptance into college.
Sometime during the senior year of high school, a student makes an application to college. If all goes well, at some point usually in the spring, a college will send an acceptance letter more or less guaranteeing a spot in the freshman class the following August or September. While there are some exceptions (analogies aren’t perfect!), a senior who has received that acceptance letter can count on a place the coming fall. They are already accepted as a freshman, but not yet in their new college home.
Do you see how that explains the Kingdom? Everything leading up to Jesus was just getting ready, but when Jesus came and lived and died, he secured our acceptance by the Father into the Kingdom of Heaven. We are not yet with God in our heavenly home, but our place with God is secure in Christ. We are living in that between time, with the assurance of what is already reality, but also awaiting the new life that is to come.
And there are other helpful parallels with this analogy. Often, the senior who has been accepted starts to wear the colors and letters of the school to which they have been accepted. They start living as one with this newly declared identity, though they still have to finish out their senior year and summer.
And while this is a little off our path this morning, I couldn’t help but think of baptism as a promise that your acceptance in Christ has already been provided. It’s like the college fund set up for a child; they didn’t earn it, it is theirs if they accept it, it represents a family and household committed to college education. But there are others who don’t have that privilege who nonetheless seek and are accepted into college, just as there are those who do not grow up with the privilege of hearing the good news of Christ in the midst of the community of faith. Their acceptance is no less real or effective and often more deeply appreciated.
All this really is to offer an everyday explanation for how God’s Kingdom can be both here and in our midst now, but also out in the future as not yet fully realized.
A Challenge and a Prayer
So here in Matthew 4, Jesus has one challenge to offer regarding the Kingdom. It’s in verse 17, where he says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent means to turn around or completely change one’s mind and direction. To stick with the analogy, it’s like the talk with the student starting their junior or senior year in high school who is heading the wrong direction: “College is a good thing and an important thing, but if you don’t turn things around and take your studies seriously, you are going to miss out on something really important.” Similarly, Jesus was preaching, “There is nothing more important than God’s Kingdom; some of you are heading the wrong direction and need to turn around so you can see and participate in what God is doing.” That’s what ‘repent’ means.
Finally, back to the Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” there is a bit of that now and not yet in those three simple words. Does he mean us to pray it as an acknowledgement that the Kingdom is here: like “Thy Kingdom (is) come.” Or does he mean us to pray it as a petition for that future day to arrive, “(Let your) Kingdom come?” Since he regularly taught both – the Kingdom is come and is yet to come – I think he must have both in view. So when we pray, let us not miss the presence of God’s rule and reign in our midst like the Pharisees did. God’s Kingdom IS come. But let us also long for the Day when God brings all things to completion and rules in perfect peace. On the cross Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil; but we are in the in-between time waiting for that dawning victory to come to completion. So we repent and we pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” Amen.