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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Our love and gratitude leads to our prayer for the hallowing of God's Name
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-06-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 135:1-6
Psalm 8
Hymn 63:1,2
Hymn 1
Psalm 97

Reading:  Jeremiah 32
Text:  Lord's Day 47
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

When unbelievers identify narcissism as a problem in our culture, you know that our culture is way deep into it.  What is narcissism?  It’s been described as “self-love on steroids.”  Narcissism is an obsession with yourself.  Everything revolves around you.  You post everything you do and everything you think on Facebook or Twitter because who wouldn’t be interested in you?  What’s not to be interested in?  You’re the most interesting and intelligent person you know.  Oh, and quite lovable too.  If you were annoying, you might be narcissistic.  But not you.  Everyone loves you and rightly they should.  And no one loves you more than you.       

In their recent book The Narcissism Epidemic, Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell explain how we got here and how this problem manifests itself.  One of the key factors is what they call “princess parenting.”  They write:

A remarkable percentage of clothing for baby girls has ‘Princess’ or “Little Princess’ written on it, which is wishful thinking unless you are the long-lost heir to a throne.  And if your daughter is a princess, does this mean that you are the queen or king?  No – it means you are the loyal subject, and you must do what the princess says (74).     

It may be cute when they’re fourteen months old, but it loses its cuteness when they’re fourteen years old and it becomes downright ugly when they’re twenty-four.  Narcissism leads to failure and relationship problems, according to these authors.  They’ve nailed it.  Even some unbelievers get it that this is not working, that this is destructive thinking.

Narcissism is the way of the world in which we live and it’s affecting us too, probably in ways we don’t even fully recognize.  By nature we are turned in ourselves.  We have a chronic case of spiritual scoliosis.  God’s program is to get us straightened.  His design in Christ is to renew us and get us turned outside of ourselves, to cure us of our pride and narcissism.  His intent is to use his Spirit and Word to have us turned upward and outward.     

This all begins with the law of God.  The law is like the x-ray machine that reveals our problem, our spiritual scoliosis, our crooked priorities and twisted obsessions, including our obsession with self, our narcissism.  As it’s put in the Canons of Dort, the law reveals the greatness of our sin and more and more convicts us of guilt.  This is the part of the reason why the Catechism says (in Lord’s Day 44) that God wants his law to be preached strictly.  Seeing the seriousness of our problem, we will “seek more eagerly the forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ.”

The law cannot save, but the gospel can.  The gospel promises that whoever rests and trusts in Christ will not perish under God’s wrath, but will have eternal life.  Here’s what we (you) need to believe:  the gospel is about what someone else has done for us to save us from a horrible punishment.  Christ died on the cross and thus made satisfaction on our behalf.  He also lived a perfect life of obedience and thus rendered the positive righteousness which we owe to God.  Scripture directs our trust outward to this Saviour and to him only.  We can only be saved by looking to him – the consistent narcissist who can never look outside himself is a lost soul.  We need to look out to Jesus to be saved and to trust him alone.

When we do that, the Holy Spirit is working in that in us.  He takes us further in the redemption purchased by Christ.  He doesn’t leave us the way we are.  God’s plan is not to leave us at a certain stage.  He wants us to grow.  And at the root of that growth is love.  We love God because he first loved us.  At the root of that growth is gratitude.  Having been redeemed with such a great price, we offer living sacrifices of thankfulness to God.

Now we’re speaking about our sanctification, about our growth in the Christian life.  And prayer is an important part of that.  Scripture teaches us that prayer is a way in which God is shaping us in holiness.  We sometimes think that prayer is first of all about us and our needs and wants.  That’s the inner narcissist thinking and speaking.  For that inner narcissist, prayer is our tool to manipulate God and to get him to do what we want.  We punch in the right formula, use the right words, pray with the right intensity, and then God will be our butler, at our beck and call.  He’ll do what we want.  You are the prince or princess and God is at your command.  Even prayer can be twisted inward.

With the Lord’s Prayer, our Lord Jesus is untwisting prayer.  He’s pointing it in the right direction, reorienting it.  And in doing this, he’s also reorienting us.  He’s straightening out our priorities.  When we pray, we are to pray like this, he says.  When we pray like this, along the lines he teaches, that’s part of how he shapes and moulds our lives.  Prayer is thus part of our sanctification.  Because we love our Lord Jesus, because we love God and we’re thankful to him, we’re going to listen to him as he instructs us.  This afternoon, we’ll see then how our love and gratitude leads to our prayer for the hallowing of God’s Name.  We’ll see:

1.      What our Lord Jesus meant by this petition

2.      Why our Lord Jesus taught this petition

We’re looking at the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  A petition is a request.  The petition or request here is:  “Hallowed be your Name.”  “Hallowed” is not a common word in English outside of religious contexts.  The word came into our English Bible translations through John Wycliffe.  It was then picked up by William Tyndale and then the King James Version and has been there in the Lord’s Prayer ever since.  Though it’s a word that needs to be explained, “hallowed” is still there in the NIV and also in the 2011 NIV. 

What does “hallowed” mean?  Do you know?  Well, in both English and Greek the word “hallowed” is related to the word “holy.”  To hallow something is to keep it holy, make it holy, revere it, sanctify it. 

We are praying then that God’s Name would be kept holy, that it would be revered by us and through us.  We are praying that it would be clear to the world around us that God’s Name is set apart.  We want the world to see, more and more, that God is special.

Now a couple of things need to be made clear here.  First, when we speak of God’s Name, we are not just referring to the word “God,” or to his personal Name Yahweh, or to the Name Jesus, or to any of the divine titles.  God’s Name does include those things, but it is not limited to them.  God’s Name encompasses himself.  Everything he is and everything he does.  Hallowing God’s Name, keeping and making God’s Name holy and set apart, involves far more than just words. 

That’s why the Catechism also speaks in terms of knowing God.  Knowing God is not just knowing about him, it is about living in a relationship of fellowship with him – a relationship in which we love him and want to make much of him.  We want to see more praise for him. 

The Catechism speaks as well about sanctifying, glorifying and praising God in all his works.  It’s not only about God’s being, this petition is also about his deeds.  Why?  Because in his deeds, especially those revealed in Scripture, we see God’s power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy and truth.  His deeds reveal who he is in his essential being, his attributes or qualities. 

So the first thing we need to be clear about is that this petition involves far more than just a name as we understand it among human beings.  God’s Name is far bigger and it includes everything about him.  The second thing is what this petition is asking for in relation to God’s holiness and glory.  God’s holiness, glory, and majesty cannot be increased.  He has these qualities or attributes in absolute perfection.  No one can add to God’s glory.  But what we can do and what we are taught to pray for is that people would see his glory more and more.  That they would acknowledge his holiness on a grander scale.  That they would praise his majesty more consistently.  That we too would do all these things. 

An illustration may help.  Maybe one day you wake up and look outside and see a thick fog.  The sun comes up and the sun is shining.  The sun is there the entire morning.  But we can’t see it until later in the day and the fog burns off.  The sun is gloriously bright, just as God is always glorious, holy and majestic.  But the fog can sometimes keep us from seeing.  The first petition asks God to clear the fog, asks God to help us too to clear the fog. 

That sort of prayer is found more often in the Bible.  We find that prayer in some of the Psalms.  We also find it in Jeremiah 32.  Jeremiah buys the field – which from a human perspective was a crazy thing to do, especially since Jeremiah knew what was coming.  He knew that the Babylonians were about to attack.   But Jeremiah obeyed God.  Then we read his prayer in verses 17-25.  Notice how he prayed.  It wasn’t the prayer of a narcissist.  Jeremiah began with God and his glory and majesty.  He recognized the greatness of God’s Name.  He showed that he understood how God had revealed his glory through his great deeds of deliverance.  “...Great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds.”  Jeremiah knew God rightly.  And he sanctified, glorified, and praised him in all his works.        

Loved ones, as we pray, Jeremiah’s way should be ours.  It should be ours also because Jeremiah’s way was Jesus’ way and we’re united to him and want to follow his teaching.  That means having God first in our prayers.  Not only in terms of address, but also in terms of adoration.  The temptation is often there to take the grocery-list approach to prayer.  We trot out all the items which we need help.  We never stop to adore God, to contemplate his works.  Perhaps we think to ourselves that he doesn’t need us to tell him what he has done.  No, that’s true, he doesn’t need it.  He is omniscient, he is all-knowing.  So he doesn’t need to be reminded of how he used left-handed Ehud to deliver the Israelites from Eglon.  God doesn’t need to be reminded of how he sent an apparently random arrow through the air to Ahab.  He doesn’t need to hear about how he took away the grumbling in the tummies of the lions with Daniel.  He doesn’t need any of that.  But we do!  And God wants us to adore him for all his works.  He wants us to love him for all these things and many more that I haven’t mentioned, including his works in our lives.  We express that love in our prayers and in so doing, that shapes us more into people who look outwards and upwards to our God.  So, brothers and sisters, as we pray, let’s be more conscientious about starting with God and starting with praise and adoration for him and his works.  To do that, we also need to be familiar with his works.  We need again to be busy with Scripture.  We’re only going to truly know God, also in the relational sense, as we are people of the Word. 

It’s true:  to the extent that we leave our Bibles to gather dust, to that extent our prayers will become more and more narcissistic and it will be more likely that we will always start our prayers and fill our prayers with...me, ourselves.  The way out is through the Word.  The Word is the way through which God will bring us back to his designs for us. 

His designs for us are revealed quite powerfully in a place like Psalm 8, which we sang a few moments ago.  Psalm 8 shows us why God created us.  He created us to bring glory and honour to him.  He put each of us on this earth so that we, like I said this morning, would not be black holes, but mirrors, reflecting his love and his beauty and his glory.

But what has happened?  The answer to that is the reason why our Lord Jesus taught the first petition.  The fall is what happened.  Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve were living according to God’s design.  They were perfectly knowing God and sanctifying, glorifying, and praising him as they were created to do.  They directed their lives in such a way that God’s glory was always shown through them.  The fall into sin messed this all up royally.  According to Satan, God is not someone to be trusted.  God is not worth glorifying.  The devil says that God deserves to be blasphemed.  You know who really deserves praise?  You know who really deserves to be at the center of the universe, who should be the epicentre of everything?  You!  Adam and Eve bought these lies and their children often have too.  Satan was and is the world’s biggest cheerleader for narcissism.  He knows that narcissism is the path away from God.  Right now he’s fuming to hear me telling you the truth from God’s Word.  Make him more angry by believing these truths, brothers and sisters.  But not just to make him angry, but because believing the truth pleases your Father in heaven, his Son who saved you, and the Spirit who dwells in you.

Do you see why the first petition is necessary?  Because we live after the fall.  The reality is we live in a sinful and messy world.  You can see the evidence of it in Jeremiah 32 as well.  When Jeremiah prays he’s honest with God about what he sees.  He lives among a people who have not obeyed God or followed his law.  He knows that these are the reasons why the disaster is there.  God’s people are not living like God’s people.  Instead they’ve gone the way of unfaithfulness.  There is a world out there, but sometimes the world infiltrates the church in a gruesome way.  That’s what happened in the days of Jeremiah. 

And it could happen among us too.  We need to pray that it would not.  Pray that God would have his name hallowed by us and through us.  God wants to hear us calling to him, “Father, may we never bring shame to your Name, but only greater praise.” 

Of course, our sinfulness reveals itself in different ways.  One of those is the one that we’ve been focussing on this afternoon:  our obsessive self-centeredness.  Our Lord Jesus didn’t come to earth in our day, but the people of his time were not much different than us in terms of the sins they struggled with.  People in all cultures past and present are prideful and tend towards the idolatry of the self.  He knew this and that’s why his model prayer reads the way it does, putting the emphasis and focus right from the beginning on God. 

This is part of how he saves us from ourselves.  Let me clarify what I mean by that.  He saves us from ourselves.  Left to ourselves, we would increasingly become a black hole of self-centeredness.  That is a sin.  A sin that deserves God’s punishment.  So Jesus saves us from ourselves and thereby from the punishment that is owing our sin in hell for eternity.  Through prayer he is working in us to put that old self-obsessed nature to death.  Through prayer he is working in us the new nature that looks up to God and loves him and desires him, hungers for him and for his glory.

This petition reminds us that we are in need of changing.  It also reminds us that we are in need of forgiveness and of righteousness.  Jesus Christ provides all of this for us.  He changes us through his Word and Spirit.  He provides forgiveness through his taking our place on the cross.  He provides righteousness through his active obedience, his obeying God’s law throughout his life in our place.  This petition reminds us of how we need Christ and the gospel that speaks of him. 

When we read the Word and we understand again that God has met our need, how can our hearts not be filled with love and thankfulness?  How can we not go on from here with a deeper desire to see God praised, to see him loved and adored?  All of that is going to be expressed in our prayers.  And it will be expressed in every facet of our lives.  This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a vision for who we are becoming:  a people who will always hallow God’s Name into eternity.  A people who are permanently cured of their narcissism and spiritual scoliosis, who have stopped being restlessly self-obsessed because they have found their rest in another, the God of glory who loves them.  AMEN.                                      

                    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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