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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Thy Will be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven (Romans 12, Philippians 2, John 17)

Sermon by: Mariah Woodbury; July 12, 2015
Text: Romans 12:1-5; Philippians 2:12-13; John 17:13-21)

:: Sermon Audio (link) 
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Song of Praise: "Let Your Kingdome Come" (Sovereign Grace; Kauflin)
Song of Praise: "Thy Word" (Grant/Smith)
Offering of Music: "Go to the World" (piano and arr. Bobby White)
Hymn of Sending: "Joy to the World" (ANTIOCH)
Postlude: Kelsey Gilsdorf

:: Affirmation of Faith ::
from the Westminster Longer Catechism
What do we pray for in the third petition, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven"?

Acknowledging that by nature we all are unable and unwilling to know and do the will of God1, we pray that God would by his grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to his will in all things.-1

1-Rom. 7:18, Job 21:14, 1 Cor. 2:14; 2Ps. 67, Ps. 119:36, Matt. 26:39, 2 Sam. 15:25, Job 1:21; Ps. 103:20-21

:: 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.

We are continuing to talk about the Lord’s prayer that Jesus has given his disciples, and today we are focusing on the phrase “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Last week Robert discussed what the phrase “Thy kingdom come” means and how God’s kingdom is here now. He explained that even though God’s kingdom is not yet here in all of its fullness and glory, it is still here now and we must seek it. In the same way that we ask for God’s kingdom to be here now, we also ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We often say this prayer without thinking about what we are really asking, or at least I most certainly do. I usually pray this line because it is the next one in the Lord’s Prayer, not because I want God to continually do his Will in my life. When you look at this phrase by itself it is actually a pretty bold prayer.

What is God’s Will and how do we find it?

So the first question that naturally comes up when we are thinking about God’s will, is what is God’s will and how do we find it? Oh how nice it would be if there was one simple answer and definition to this question, it would solve so many problems and really ease our worries! God’s will is different for everyone and following it looks different for every person as well. In order to discern what God has told us about his will we must look at what scripture says. In the first scripture reading, which was Romans 12: 1-5, Paul is urging people to seek God’s will and explaining how to do that.  Paul says that the will of God is good, and acceptable and perfect. Not only is it good, acceptable and perfect to God it is also is a blessing to us. In order to know God’s will or plan we must present our bodies as a living sacrifice, as the first verse says, and this means that we have to offer ourselves (both our body and our mind) for the service of God and not for the service of the world. To understand God’s will and find it we must allow God to transform our minds. Even though God is the one doing the transformation, it comes when we renew our minds, which means that we have to continually fill ourselves with God’s word and truth and not the ways of this world. Paul says do not be conformed to the ways of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  So instead of doing what the world says, we are to do what God says, and this happens when we renew our minds and one way of doing that is continually reminding yourself of who you are working for. We are working for God, not the world. He is our king.

God wants us to be set apart in the world and to not conform to its ways. John 17: 15 says “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. Jesus does not want us to be separate from the world. This is an important distinction. Jesus says I do not ask you to take them out of the world, which means that we can live in God’s will even when we are in this world. Jesus wants us to be in the world he just wants us to live for something that is not of this world.

This is not an easy command because following the ways of the world is often easier than following God’s will. It is our natural instinct and inclination to look to the world for direction. I often have trouble not conforming to the ways of the world when it comes to school and working in general. The world would tell me to do whatever I can to make the best grades and preform the very best that I can, even it comes with the price of little sleep, no rest and lots of stress. The world would to tell me to ignore God and his ways so that I can have my ways. I often listen to the world and tend to push myself hard in school so that I can make good grades. While I am doing this I usually hear God saying to slow down and to realize what is important and to take a step back, but often I don’t listen. The thing I needed most during this time was rest and time with God but I choose to believe that I have to conform to the ways of the world. You probably can guess how it turns out for me most times. Most of the time I end up being extremely burnt out after exams and so exhausted that I can barely function. I was not doing God’s will. It can be really hard to listen to God and believe his truths, and the more we fight it that harder it becomes to hear it. In our heart I think we all know that God’s will is best and I am sure we have all had an experience when striving to conform to the ways of the world has not been in our best interest. The best thing is that we always get a choice whether or not we will follow God’s will or the worlds.

God has given us ways to discern what his will is and it happens when we renew our mind and obey his word. Once we have renewed our minds, or refilled ourselves with the truth, we then must humble ourselves and discern what is good and pleasing to God. It is by faith that we are able to have sound judgment and humble ourselves. Likewise, as it says in Philippians we need to take a posture of humility and realize God is king. It says when we work out our fear with salvation and trembling it is God who is at work.  When we are figuring out or realizing what it means to have been saved by Christ we are to have reverence for God and to tremble. Trembling is not really a feeling we like to have but here it is used to highlight the fact that we are human and frail in comparison with God. And I think it is also to make the point that the fact that God is pleased to work in us should cause us to tremble. The fact that God could gain pleasure from working in our lives is amazing and it causes us to stand in awe! It is very humbling to think that the God who reigns over the whole universe is pleased to work in us!!

Obeying God’s Will

Now the question comes up of whether or not we will obey God’s will as scripture tells us to and also how we are able to obey it. When we are praying thy will be done it requires obedience on our part because we don’t always think that God’s will is best, or at least I know I often tend to think that my will might be better than God’s will. But of course that isn’t true and God’s will in the end is what is best for us. As C.S. Lewis says “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done."  We have to ask ourselves which person we want to be here. I want to be the kind of person who says thy will be done and actually mean it; this requires both obedience and humility. We must recognize and admit that God is supreme and that we should obey him because he knows so much more than we do.

We obey because we believe that God’s will is better than ours and that he knows what is best. When Jesus is talking to God in John 17, on the night before his crucifixion, he asks God to sanctify us in the truth, which is his word. In order to be sanctified in the truth we must obey the truth so that we know it. Sanctification is the process of making something holy or set apart. It is a continual process that takes time and it most definitely is not an easy process. If we hope to be set apart for God’s purpose then we have to ask for it and want it. We find God’s will when we align our view with Christ’s and use him as the model of perfect obedience. Christ is the only who is able to obey God perfectly.  I am not saying that we could ever obey God like Christ does but with Christ in us and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can strive to obey God.

I often think of the process in terms of sports. I played field hockey throughout middle school and high school and went to practice pretty much everyday and sometimes I loved practice and found it really fun and other times I hated and prayed that it would thunder and rain and that practice would be canceled. I knew why we practiced and that we needed to if we were going to improve and play well in our next game, but sometimes that motivation just was not enough. Practice was tough and it commonly involved lots of sprints, scrimmages, and corrections from our coach. You would think each practice would get a little bit easier and over time I wouldn’t mind it, but it was always difficult. That is kind of the way sanctification is. The purpose of sanctification is to set us apart for God’s use, I realize this is different than my field hockey practice because I was being set apart to become a better player, but I think you can see how to two are similar. Just like going to practice everyday and running the same drills and plays, we have to continue the set yourself apart. If we stop trying to renew our minds and listen to God we run the risk of not obeying God’s will and it becoming harder each time we try. If I had stopped practicing I most likely would have gotten worse and practice would have been even more difficult. I could not become a great or even good field hockey player overnight just in the same way we cannot become sanctified just by saying we believe in Christ. I also would not have been benefiting my team if I had stopped practicing and trying to improve, so not only would it have had detrimental effects on my performance but also on the teams. In the same way it helps us become stronger as a church and a body of believers when we each are trying to follow God’s will.  Just as I had to obey my coach and go to practice, we have to obey God’s word and truth. My coach was there to help me along the way and continually offer encouragement and Jesus is there to do that for us to. We often think that the “will of God” is just a set of really strict rules, but it is actually God just wanting to help us become the best player we can be.

What are the implications?

What happens when we obey God’s will? First it enhances our lives and it pleases God. In the scripture from John Jesus says “these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves”. Christ wants us to experience a life full of joy and everything that he instructs us to do is for our ultimate good. When we are living in God’s will we are seeking what is good, perfect, and acceptable.

Let's go back to the phrase thy Kingdom come. When we pray that we are asking for God’s kingdom to be here now and for God to reign. Well if God is reining then his Will also reigns. So asking thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven is an extension of God’s kingdom. When God’s will is done and we align ourselves with it and try to live in it then we become one with Christ. At the end of the John 17 it says “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” When God’s will is done we all become one and are connected and the world sees who we are living for. The world sees the image of Christ.  When we are living in God Will it radically changes our life and how we see the world. When says to God Thy Will be done we are declaring that we believe God’s will is better than our own and that we choose for him to have the control in our lives. God has the power to dramatically change each of our lives and the first step is giving him the reigns and asking him for thy will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So I challenge you to think about what you are asking for the next time you say this prayer and ask yourself whose Will you want to be living in, your own or God’s?

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