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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Praying for the coming of God's kingdom
Text:LD 48 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Added:2015-03-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps. 34: 1, 3

Ps. 18: 1, 9

Ps. 104: 1, 8

Ps. 2: 1 – 4

Ps. 145: 3, 5

 

Scripture reading:       Mt. 13: 44 – 52; 1 Cor.15: 20 – 28

Text:                          LD 48

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Thy Kingdom come                                             

Ps. 34: 1, 3

Ps. 18: 1, 9

Ps. 104: 1, 8

Ps. 2: 1 – 4

Ps. 145: 3, 5

 

Scripture reading:       Mt. 13: 44 – 52; 1 Cor.15: 20 – 28

Text:                          LD 48

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom?

We often find in evangelical circles that churches promote special “kingdom projects”.

It is very popular, especially among young people, to join a youth group with a certain kingdom project.   There are youth groups who travel around the country making music, and say that they are doing a service year for Jesus.  

And there are various youth organisations each with its own kingdom project.

 

Often they will quote to you the command of Christ that we have to seek first His kingdom.

But what does it mean?

Does it mean that we must each chose for ourselves a special kingdom project, something to which we may devote a full year, or maybe every day after hours?

 

Dear congregation, seeking God’s kingdom is not a special project apart from the normal Christian life.

We either seek God’s kingdom in all we do, or we do not seek His kingdom at all.

 

The second petition, “Your kingdom come”, is not limited to a certain religious sphere of our life, to a certain time or to a special project for Jesus.

Neither must each of us seek to have his own special vision for the kingdom.

Dear congregation, God has given us His holy law, and there is no service to God apart from obedience to His law.   Here in Lord’s Day 48 our petition for the coming of God’s kingdom, and our seeking after the kingdom, is described, first of all, with this petition: “Our Father in heaven…so rule us by Thy Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to Thee.”

Father, make us obedient to You.

 

And from this petition flows the next: Your will be done!

The first three petitions – hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done – are in essence one petition: seeking God’s glory only, submitting our whole life to Him alone, seeking to do only His will.

 

Now, God’s heavenly and spiritual kingdom becomes very concrete and visible in the gathering of the church, and in the daily life of its members.   Seeking God’s kingdom is, therefore, at the same time, seeking the wellbeing and increase of the church.

Thus we confess here in Lord’s Day 48 that with this petition, “Thy kingdom come”, we also pray for the church:

 

            “Preserve and increase Thy church.”

Seeking the kingdom also involves fighting against church deformation, and seeking to subject all things to God’s Word only:

            “Destroy…every conspiracy against Thy holy Word.”

Seeking God’s kingdom is also a constant fight for the truth, and guarding against deviation from God’s Word.

So then, what did our Lord Jesus command us when He commanded us to pray for the coming of His kingdom?    What is the kingdom?    And how does it come?

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

Praying for the coming of God’s kingdom

 

We will note...

  1. Which kingdom is meant
  2. How the kingdom comes
  3. That we are to seek the kingdom

In the first place we note...                                                         

Which kingdom is meant

 

The expression “the kingdom of God” has a very specific meaning in Scripture.   While God, as Lord and King, rules over all of creation, not all of creation is part of this kingdom.   Although God has authority and power over all of creation, not all of creation is included in His kingdom.    The kingdom of God does not include the sinful and unbelieving world.   No, the kingdom of God is His new creation in Christ.

 

The unbeliever does not belong to the kingdom of God, or to the kingdom of heaven.   Only through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ do we enter this kingdom.  

Whenever Scripture speaks of the kingdom of God it deals with the gospel.    The gospel of the kingdom is that we, who by nature does not belong to the kingdom of God, may enter this kingdom through faith in Christ.   

 

Christ Himself is the King of this kingdom.   And therefore the coming of the kingdom is identified with the coming of the Lord in His office as the Christ, the anointed King.

 

It means that “the kingdom of God” comes only through God’s salvation in Christ.   Through Christ God gathers a church for Himself in the midst of a hostile world.  

The coming of the kingdom is therefore a conquest in which the kingdom of God stands over against the kingdom of darkness.    In the coming of the kingdom, Christ is portrayed as a warrior conquering the enemy and destroying the works of the devil.

 

Through the saving power of Christ His kingdom expands over all the earth, till finally – at His second coming – the whole earth will indeed be cleansed and restored to be His kingdom when all who are in Christ will joyfully serve and obey Him as their King. 

 

Yes, in this the Kingship of Christ becomes manifest in our own lives, when we hear and do His commandments.    As our priestly King He saves us unto a new life of obedience, that we may serve Him as King.   Therefore, seeking God’s kingdom is at the same time seeking His righteousness, seeking to do His holy will.

 

Now, to enter the kingdom of God is to enter eternal life.   But although we are now already, through faith, heirs of this kingdom, it will only be on the day of Christ’s coming that we will inherit this kingdom in all its glory.  

 

In the history of this world the coming of the kingdom can be distinguished in two stages: the old covenant and the new covenant.   In the old covenant Christ was promised; in the new covenant He has come.    And when He – the Messiah, the anointed King – has come, it may righty be said that His kingdom has come.  

But it has not yet come in its final glory.  

We look forward to His second coming which will be the final consummation of the coming of His kingdom.   God’s kingdom is not yet present in its final glory.   It is yet to come.   And therefore, with great desire and longing, we pray:  Your kingdom come.

 

God’s kingdom has come with the coming of Christ, and through the preaching of the gospel it is expanding over all the earth until Christ will return on the clouds of heaven in great power and glory.  

Thus the kingdom has come, is presently coming, and will come. 
And thus we pray for two things.   First of all we pray for the growth and expansion of His kingdom in this world.   Secondly we pray for the world to come – the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells, where all will obey God’s will with perfect obedience.  

We pray for the coming of that day when God, in one moment, in the twinkling of an eye, will make all things new and holy and perfect.   With longing eyes we press forward towards that day when we will see Christ as He is, and will be like unto His image, when God will be all in all.

 

Now, all of this is called: the gospel of the kingdom.

 

John the Baptist announces that the kingdom of heaven is near.   And when Christ starts His preaching on earth He announces the same: the kingdom of heaven is near.  

All His preaching is summarised as: “the gospel of the kingdom”.  

 

But did you note how this gospel of the kingdom was introduced?    Neither John the Baptist nor our Lord Jesus introduces the gospel of the kingdom as if it is a new teaching.   No, without any introductory explanation the expression “kingdom” and “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” is used as if everyone knew the meaning of this expression.   And never does anyone ask Him: Lord, what do you mean when you say that the kingdom is near?  Or: What is this kingdom?  

They knew!

They knew what He was talking about because He was simply announcing the fulfilment of what God’s people have been waiting for!   For many ages they have been waiting for this kingdom to come; and now it has come!   They were expecting the Messiah and His kingdom.   For the believing Jew this was all his expectation!   When the Messiah comes then Israel will be delivered and restored!   And how they longed for this kingdom to come!

 

Dear congregation, the gospel, the good news, is that this kingdom has come, is coming, and will come!   For Christ has come, His Word is proclaimed, and His return is at hand!

 

It is the well-known kingdom that has been promised long before.     The Son of David has come, the Messiah who will reign on the throne of David forever over the house of Jacob.

This kingdom was already described by Moses.   Although God rules over all creation, He became in a special, redemptive sense the King of Israel.    He became their King by virtue of the covenant, and thus He made Israel for Himself a kingdom of priests.

The LORD spoke to Israel and said:

“...if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be...to Me a kingdom of priests...” – Ex. 19: 5, 6.

Right from the start of Israel’s history God is called their King – Deut. 33: 5.   (When Israel, many years later, asked Samuel to anoint a king over them, the Lord told Samuel that with this request for an earthly king, Israel was rejecting God’s reign over them – 1 Sam.8: 7)

The LORD exercised His kingship in Israel by the giving and administration of His law.   Yet, Israel transgressed the law, and so – because of their sin – went into slavery again.   They had to serve their enemies and even went into captivity.   But the LORD remained faithful to His covenant.   He would again deliver and restore Israel.   And so He promised them an eternal King who will reign on the throne of David forever: the Messiah.  In this King all the promises of the covenant will find its fulfilment!  

When this King comes God will create new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells, and God will make His dwelling among men.

 

It starts with a promise to David that one of his sons will be an everlasting king:

“...I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and His throne shall be established forever” – 1 Chron.17: 14.

In that text Israel is called God’s house and God’s kingdom, and the promised Messiah will reign in God’s kingdom forever.

In the language of the New Testament: Christ will be King of the church forever.

The LORD revealed this promise further through Isaiah, saying:

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.   And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever...” – Isaiah 9: 6, 7.

This King will be the Prince of Peace.   When He comes…

“The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child shall put his hand into the viper’s nest.   They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” – Isaiah 11: 8, 9.

When this Prince of Peace comes, Paradise will be restored.

This everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace would be given to the Son of Man.   The prophet Daniel saw the coming of this King, and said:

“...behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!   He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.   Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him.   His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” – Dan. 7: 13, 14.

And not only will the Son of Man receive the kingdom, but His kingdom will also be a gift to His people:

“...the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever...” – Dan.7: 18

And thus the promise of the Messiah and His kingdom continued until, finally, the angel could announce His birth to Mary:

“...behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.   He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.   And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” – Luke 1: 31 – 33.

Dear congregation, when Christ started His preaching on earth, He proclaimed the gospel of this kingdom.   He is the Christ, the King of Israel; King of Zion, King of His church.

After His ascension into heaven to take His seat on the throne of God, the apostle Peter preaches and says:

“...let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” – Acts 2: 36.

“...Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come...” – Rev.12: 10.

So then, the coming of Christ was indeed the coming of God’s kingdom.

But while the Messiah was said to be King of Israel, it becomes clear in the New Testament that the true Israel includes all nations.   Christ will be King of His church.    And those who will enter His kingdom will come from east and west, from every tribe and tongue and nation.   And in the New Testament it becomes even more clear that this is no earthly kingdom, but: the kingdom of heaven.

Dear congregation, we understand then that the kingdom of God will be the ultimate fulfilment of both the old and the new covenant.   When Christ commands us to pray for the coming of the kingdom, He commands us to pray for the fulfilment of all God’s promises.

But how will the promise of the covenant be fulfilled?   How does the kingdom of God come?   What exactly should we pray for when we pray “Your kingdom come”?

We note that in the second place…

How the kingdom comes

 

We saw already that the kingdom is coming in two stages.   The coming of the kingdom is a present reality, and a future event.   

As a present reality the kingdom is now gradually growing and expanding.   

As a future event, the coming of the kingdom will be no gradual event, but a sudden renewal of all things on the day of Christ’s coming.  

 

Both the present reality and the future event are called by Scripture the coming of the kingdom.

These two aspects of the coming of the kingdom – present and future – are described  in the kingdom parables of our Lord.

 “…The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.   For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.   But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” – Mark 4: 26 – 29.

There, as in many of the parables, both the present and the future coming of the kingdom are described.   The gradual growth of the kingdom is compared to vegetable life: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head, and then it starts to ripen.

Then there is also the future aspect: the day of the harvest.   But the gradual growth and the day of the harvest belong together as part of the same process.   And thus we may speak of the organic coming of the kingdom and the eschatological coming of the kingdom.   The organic coming of the kingdom is a gradual process, here and now in this life, as we pray and work for the coming of God’s kingdom.   The eschatological coming of the kingdom is the day when Christ will appear on the clouds of heaven.

First of all we are praying for the growth of God’s kingdom here and now in this world, and at the same time we are praying for Christ’s return on the clouds of heaven.

Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! (Rev.22: 20).

Now, the kingdom of God is sometimes also called the kingdom of heaven.   This expression, “kingdom of heaven,” makes clear that it is no earthly kingdom; it is not of this world.   Its origin and power is from God in heaven.   And therefore, since the kingdom comes through the power of God’s Spirit, its coming has also an invisible spiritual aspect.

            “...unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jh.3: 3)

“...My kingdom is not of this world...My kingdom is not from here...Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” – John 18: 36, 37.

Jesus also said:

 “...The kingdom of God does not come with visible signs...the kingdom of God is within you” – Luke 17: 20, 21.

However, the kingdom of God is not altogether invisible.   The kingdom of God becomes visible in this world in the gathering of His church, and in the life of each member.    The growth of the church is not only an invisible working of the Spirit in the hearts of individuals; it becomes manifest in a church submitted to Christ and His word.   It is visible when her members gather at a certain address, and it is visible when they, as citizens of the kingdom, renewed unto a life of obedience, live a new life unto God, serving and glorifying Him. 

There is therefore a visible and an invisible aspect to the kingdom, but it is one and the same kingdom.   When we pray “Your kingdom come”, we pray for the work of God in the hearts of men, but we also pray for the fruit which becomes visible in a new life of obedience.   We also pray for the gathering of the church, and that the Lord may sustain and preserve His church in this world.   

And, finally, the eschatological coming of the kingdom will indeed be visible to all when Christ will appear on the clouds of heaven in great power and glory.

Brothers and sisters, when we pray for the coming of the kingdom, now in this world and also for its consummation on the day of Christ’s coming, our prayer includes positively the petition that the gospel may be preached unhindered and with boldness, that God will continue to gather His church, and help us to submit our lives to Him alone; but also negatively: to destroy the work of the devil, as we confess here in LD 48:

“(Our Father in heaven) ...Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against Thee, and every conspiracy against Thy holy Word...”

Together with the apostle Paul we say:

“...even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” – Gal.1: 8.

And together with David we pray:

“Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?   And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?   I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies” – Ps.139: 21, 22.

When we pray for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, we pray that He may destroy His enemies and crush them as a potter’s vessel.

Yes, the coming of the kingdom is a conquest; a war between Christ and Satan – a war in which we are also involved as soldiers of Christ.

The victory belongs to Christ, and to those who are His.   But although the outcome is sure, the battle is not over yet.   We have not yet arrived.

And therefore we pray with many tears, and in the midst of many struggles, with great longing: Our Father in heaven…Your kingdom come!

 

Dear congregation, the coming of the kingdom is the coming of God Himself.   He is the King of the kingdom, and the consummation of His kingdom will be when He will be all in all.

The kingdom is centered in God Himself, even in the glory of His being.   To seek the kingdom of God is to seek God Himself.   We note this in the third place...

That we are to seek the kingdom

 

Because the kingdom is centered in God Himself and in His glory, it is presented by our Lord Jesus as the highest purpose of our life to seek God’s kingdom.

Now, if the coming of the kingdom was anything less than the coming of the fullness of God’s glory, yes, if the coming of the kingdom was anything less than the coming of God Himself, it would have been idolatry to seek it with all our heart and soul as the highest purpose of our life.   But since the kingdom of God is about God Himself, His dominion and His glory, therefore we are commanded to seek it with all our heart and with all our strength.  

When the scribe said to Jesus that to love God with all our heart and with all our understanding, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and to love ones neighbour as oneself, is more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices, Jesus said to him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God” – Mark 12: 33.

Because: that is the heart of the kingdom!   That is the summary of the law and the prophets.

In this kingdom, God stands in the centre, and all things are directed to the hallowing of His name.   And therefore, when Christ speaks of the task which the Father has given Him to do, He summarises His entire ministry on earth with the words:

“I have glorified You on the earth...” – John 17: 4.

When the Lord instructs His disciples to seek first of all the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt.6: 33), then He does not add righteousness as something that has to be sought in addition to the kingdom.   No, with the word “righteousness” He gives a more precise specification of what the kingdom of God consist in.   God, and His righteousness, is the norm to which all must conform.   God must reign supremely, not only by the submission of all things to Himself, but also by filling all with the glory of His own holiness.   That will be the consummation of the kingdom when He will be all in all.   It means that He will so completely rule us, and fill us with His Spirit, that His dominion will be complete in everyone. 

Brothers and sisters, are you partaking in this kingdom and in this conquest?   Do you cause the coming of the kingdom by your prayers?   Has the coming of the kingdom become the sole purpose of your life?   Are you seeking God’s dominion with all your heart and soul and mind and with all your strength?   Are all your actions directed to this end?

Or has the coming of the kingdom become to us nothing more than a special project on which we spend our spare time?

Through Christ our only desire has become: to glorify God.   That was the first petition: “Hallowed be Your name”.    From this one desire to seek the glory of God in all that we do flows also the second petition: “Your kingdom come”.

This heavenly and spiritual kingdom becomes very concrete and visible in the gathering of the church, and in the daily life of each member, when more and more we submit ourselves to God in obedience to His Word only.  

Seeking God’s kingdom is at the same time seeking the wellbeing of the church and the increase of the church by the preaching of God’s Word, and therefore in the first place supporting the ministry of the Word in every way.   Seeking the kingdom also involves fighting against church deformation, and seeking to subject all things to God’s Word.  

Seeking God’s kingdom happens first of all in your own home, praying, and doing your daily task.   You seek the kingdom of God by having children, and by raising them for the Lord.   And you seek the kingdom when you do their washing and cook their meals.

Yes, it is very real and concrete in all our doings, for it has become all our desire.

We seek God’s kingdom not each one in his own way as private individuals, but as one people united in Christ, united in His Word, a visible gathering, in whom God’s kingdom finds visible expression, as He fills us with His Spirit and sanctifies His own special people, to serve and obey and honour Him as our God and King.    And thus we pray:

 “Our Father in heaven...So rule us by Your Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to You.   Preserve and increase Your church.   Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against You, and every conspiracy against Your holy Word.   Do all this until the fullness of Your kingdom comes, wherein You shall be all in all” (LD 48).   Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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