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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:No Neutrality in a Divided World
Text:LD 48 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 93:1,2                                                                                           

Hy 1

Reading – Psalm 145:1-13; Mark 4:26-32; Luke 10:1-20

Ps 145:1,3

Sermon – Lord’s Day 48

Hy 44:1,2,3,4,5

Hy 76:2,3,4

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

Beloved in Christ, shall we begin with a history lesson? Let’s go to Europe, and to the years leading up to World War 1. In those days, there were a few nations that wanted to stay neutral. And they wanted to, because everyone was worried about a coming war. They were growing nervous that an aggressive Germany was looking for some reason to invade the countries around her. So, hoping to avoid conflict, a few nations declared their neutrality. The Netherlands did this, as did Belgium and Spain and a few others. This meant they weren’t loyal to Germany, but neither did they side with France and England. They hoped that if and when the war started, they’d be able to ride it out in peace, because they hadn’t committed either way.

How did it work out for them? For Belgium in particular, it failed miserably. They were right in the way of Germany’s line of invasion into France, and the Germans thought nothing of rolling through Belgium’s territory with their armies. In fact, it put Belgium in a difficult spot  once the Germans started appearing at their borders: they were neutral, so were they even allowed to defend themselves? Would they be treated worse if they fought back, or was it better to cooperate? In the end, Belgium’s army was destroyed, thousands of citizens were killed, and they spent the next four years under German occupation.

Which shows a principle that is ever true: there is no middle ground. You can’t remain neutral. Jesus says in Matthew 12, “He who is not with me is against me; he who does not gather with me scatters” (v 30). Again Christ says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt 6:24).

In this life, in our present conflict—which isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil—in this evil day, there’s only two sides to choose from. It’s been like this for a long time. Yet not always. When God created the world, He saw everything that He made, that it was very good. But already by Genesis 3, Satan is tempting Adam and Eve to sin against God. There had been rebellion in heaven, and many thousands of angels turned against their Creator. This means war! Two lords and masters now compete for glory and worship. Since that time, there has been continual war—the whole world sharply divided between two kingdoms, between the prince of this world and the King of the universe. This is what we consider in Lord’s Day 48 and the second petition,

Living in a divided world, we pray “Your kingdom come!”

  1. it has always been coming
  2. it came closer in Christ
  3. it soon will come in fullness


1) it has always been coming: When Jesus taught his prayer for the first time, He didn’t give the disciples a handful of Catechism lessons in order to explain. He just says it, and carries on. For most of the petitions—including the second, the “kingdom petition”—Jesus said nothing at all. And that’s probably because this entire prayer had deep Old Testament roots. The disciples knew the themes and truths of the Scriptures, so they understood this prayer.

What does the Old Testament say about the second petition? Out of all the ways that the law and prophets speak about God, this is among the most frequent: that the LORD is king, and rules a mighty kingdom. What Moses sings in Exodus 15:18 is repeated, again and again, “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.” God has always been the sovereign lord, ruling and protecting his people, upholding and governing even the entire world.

Or think of Isaiah’s vision. In chapter 6, the prophet reports that he saw the LORD. And where was He? God was “sitting on a throne, high and lifted up” (v 1). The LORD was surrounded by hosts of angels, who were all singing out in praise of the holy God. Isaiah collapses in fear, crying out, “Woe is me, for I am undone… For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (v 5).

In the Old Testament, it’s clear: the LORD is King. He has a position of great power and dominion. I encourage you to do a search this week sometime of all the passages which speak about God’s kingdom. There’s a lot. But if we had to summarize those many dozens of texts, we could say this.

First, God is an eternal king. The Psalms say, “Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (93:2). And again, “Your dominion endures throughout all generations” (145:13). That means there never was a time when God didn’t reign over all. Even before He created anything, the LORD was sovereign.

That fact alone is a comfort to us, because when the devil began his rebellion, he was going up against a kingdom that had been established forever. The devil might be called the “ancient serpent,” but the LORD God is so “ancient” that He is without beginning and without end. Age or longevity isn’t a guarantee that something will be permanent, of course. But in the case of God’s kingdom it gives a rich assurance: this eternal kingdom will not quickly fail. It will never fail!

The Old Testament teaches us that God’s kingdom is eternal, and second, that it’s universal. Now, we’re used to thinking of authority as having limits. And that’s a good thing. It’s good that our mayor can’t decide things without the support of the city council, and it’s good that the prime minister needs his bills passed by a majority of the other MPs.

But when it comes to God’s kingdom, there’s not anywhere in his creation which doesn’t have to submit to him. Psalm 103 says it, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (v 19). Over all: God rules the very elements, the sun and moon and stars, rules over the highest heights and the deepest depths of creation.

God the King exercises rule even over those who oppose him. The Old Testament says that God is Lord over all the other gods, God is Lord over his enemies, God is even sovereign over Satan and his hosts of demons.

That’s another rich truth for us. There are many attacks against God’s Kingdom, against his church, and against the truth of his Word. We see Satan doing all he can to terrorize the believers. Even so, the LORD God remains supreme. Scripture says that God’s enemies can only do “what his hand and purpose have determined will be done.” None of it takes place without the wise decree first being issued from God’s heavenly throne.

And third, what is the aim of his dominion? It is so that everyone will know what David calls “the glorious majesty of [God’s] kingdom” (Ps 145:12). God wants to be hallowed and glorified as God. He wants to be praised through the triumph of his kingdom, when that day comes and all people will finally acknowledge him as King, when “all your works shall praise you, O LORD” (145:10).

We’re not there yet. But until that glorious day, the kingdom is advancing through the spread of God’s rule in every place: in hearts, in the church, and in all the world. So in every place, God is for life, and against death. He is for love, and against hate. In every place, God is for hope, and against despair. There’s no neutral ground anywhere, but every square foot is being contested and claimed. For God will be king over all!

If we return to the Old Testament for a moment, let’s think about Israel’s place as God’s special kingdom and holy nation. We just said that God is king over all the universe—even Egypt and Rome and Babylon—but sitting on the throne of Israel was the LORD himself. And He allowed human representatives to rule in his place. The kings would govern his people for him: protect them like He would, provide like He would, judge like He would. Some of these kings did the job pretty well, but many were quite bad. And wicked kings on Israel’s throne meant corrupt judges and impoverished people and military losses.

And worst of all, wicked kings meant spiritual decay. Every wicked king gave Satan another foothold in the land. Because if there was a wicked king, then false religion would spread, lawlessness would grow, and God would not be acknowledged. For either God will be lord and king, or some other god will.

For instance, think about the dark days of Ahab, when the people chose to worship idols. It all came to a head in that contest on Mount Carmel, that showdown between the LORD God and the god Baal. And this is what Elijah said to the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kgs 18:21). They couldn’t have it both ways. No one can have it both ways! Are you committed to God as your King and commander, or do you give your allegiance to another? How long will you waver between two opinions?

On that day at Mount Carmel, God showed himself supreme, and the Israelites made their commitment. But that wasn’t the end of the struggle. So the prophets kept pointing forward to the day when the LORD would show his perfect rule once and for all. You could say that’s the constant prayer of the Old Testament: a prayer for restoration, a petition for God’s eternal and universal and glorious kingdom to come. And it came closer in Christ.


2) it came closer in Christ: When Jesus first started preaching, what did He say his message was? What would you expect it was? Did He start going on about love? Or maybe start preaching fire and brimstone? From Day One, Jesus announced the kingdom! Mark 1:15 summarizes the sermons that He came preaching, “The time is fulfilled,” said Jesus, “the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” The Kingdom is at hand!

Looks were deceiving, of course. Jesus might’ve had the credentials to be king—He was born into David’s line, born in Bethlehem—but He didn’t look like much. For instance, He was homeless. As a person, He was pretty average-looking. Besides, as a teacher He had a habit of saying things that made people think twice about following him. He said things like: “Let the dead bury their own dead.” And, “Take up your cross and follow me.” He hardly seemed kingly, but in some ways, that was the point.

Think of Mark 4:30-32, one of many parables that Jesus told about the kingdom. “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God?” (v 30). And Jesus contrasts a mustard seed—a proverbially tiny seed—with the large and productive plant that comes from it. “When it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade” (v 32). The seed was now—the ministry of Jesus. This was a time of planting, a time of small beginnings. It didn’t look like much. But later would come the harvest, and endless blessing for all who bow to the king.

Even if the kingdom seemed insignificant right now, its growth and spread were obvious to those with eyes to see. He spoke about this in Luke 10. Jesus had sent out seventy of his disciples to bring the message of the kingdom. And when they returned to Jesus, they marveled at the power they’d been given, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name” (v 17). As the disciples toured around, they could command demons to leave those they were tormenting. Simply through speaking the name of Jesus, demons would flee—amazing!

And listen to what Jesus replies. He explains to his disciples what’s going on: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (v 18). That’s a puzzling statement. What did Jesus actually see? Was it something physical, a literal flash across the horizon? It probably describes an insight that Jesus had been given by the Father. Jesus knew that right now, during his ministry, Satan was losing ground, and fast. The devil had lost his right to stand in God’s throne room and accuse the Lord’s people—and even now he was being thrown out for good. Even now, there was underway a critical assault on the kingdom of darkness. This is why Jesus came, after all: to destroy the devil’s works! And it was happening.

It’s no wonder that the demons were dropping like flies. No wonder they were occupying pigs instead of people, because the very commander of these demons was doomed. Sometimes the demons even said this when Jesus came close. “What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?” one cried out in a synagogue, “Did you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24). The demons all knew that their time was almost up, that a new age and kingdom was coming—and it was all in the name of Christ.

“I give you the authority,” says Jesus to his disciplines, “to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). That is the great strength of Jesus, God’s King! Those who believe in his name are made able to resist the evil one.

This is how John put it in his first letter, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (4:4). You’ve got to slow it down to appreciate the meaning. Satan is the one who is “in the world”—somewhere Jesus calls him “the prince of this world.” And the world is where we all live, and it’s a hostile place. Even now, “there are powers raising themselves against God, there are conspiracies against his holy Word” (Q&A 123). But good news for those who live by faith: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

No, Satan still roams the earth, tempting and lying and killing. He doesn’t want us to share in God’s kingdom and enjoy his grace. This is why we’re taught to pray this kingdom petition, “Destroy the works of the devil” (Q&A 123). But even as we pray, we know the devil’s defeat is certain, for the decisive battle has been fought! Colossians 1 says us that “[God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vv 13-14).

In Christ we can trample on the serpents of temptation and tread on the scorpions of unbelief. Satan fears the name of Christ—he fears him more than anyone, so that’s the only way for you to stand. Only when you go to Christ and you pray for his power and Spirit. And that sets a decision before us doesn’t it? There’s a need to take a side. Christ’s kingdom comes with an invitation—a command. It puts a claim on our hearts.

And you can’t not decide. A decision not to be fully devoted to Christ means a decision to reject him. Think again of Jesus’ words, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

Even in the nonbelieving world, there’s a recognition that a person can’t be neutral. In politics and business and relationships, you can’t sit on the fence, but you need to commit one way or the other. You can’t dither or hesitate forever. And so you decide, knowing your choice has a consequence. What’s not an option is saying that you won’t be on either side.

In this divided world, in this war of two kingdoms, think of what would happen if you tried to be neutral. Fearing neither side, not committing either way, you would let down your guard—you would fail to watch and pray. You would neglect the kind of spiritual fortifications that you should be busy with. And then the enemy shows up at your border, and you have no idea what to do. And he invades and captures you quickly. Neutrality simply will not work, but we must pray and strive for God’s kingdom to come.

You surely remember Jesus’ words in Revelation, how He rebuked one of his churches, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (3:15-16). Jesus won’t tolerate those who try to have it both ways.

And beloved, let’s realize that we’ve already been enlisted to be on God’s side. By our baptism, God has already chosen each of us for himself. We don’t enter life as spectators, as neutral observers, but we enter on the side of God. Beloved, this calls us to take up the life to which we’ve been set apart—to answer God’s gracious call. Don’t delay, but believe in Christ wholeheartedly as Saviour and serve him joyfully as King. A true citizen of the kingdom listens to his King and does his good will.

This is part of the Catechism’s lesson, too: “So rule us by your Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to you” (Q&A 123). Submitting to God should be growing more evident in us, day by day. Already now, it should be clear which side that we’re standing on. We’re not trying to find the middle ground, where we have a kingdom-side of our life, and a world-side of our life. That’s impossible. We’re either for Christ, or against him. And there’s an urgency to this matter, for his kingdom is soon going to come in all itts fullness.


3) it soon will come in fullness: In the second petition, there’s something unfinished. Our prayer is that the Kingdom “come,” that it keep on advancing. By his ministry, Christ brought God’s Kingdom very near, yet it’s still in progress. He’s made a beginning, but it’s still not full. And so we pray, even today, “Your kingdom come.”

For God wants to restore his good creation, so that it finally and fully resembles the kingdom that it truly is. He wants to purify this world with fire, and be rid of that stain of sin which runs so deep and which causes so much brokenness.

And God also has plans to punish his great enemy forever. Satan has already been cast down. Now all that remains is to throw him “into the lake of burning sulfur… where he will be tormented forever and ever” (Rev 20:10). That is the second petition, answered fully. It’s true that even in eternity, the rebellion of the devil won’t be undone. The fall into sin can never be revoked or changed. When Christ returns, there will be many who suffer condemnation forever.

But listen to what the Spirit says in the book of Revelation. On that day when Christ returns, it says, “The kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (11:15). The kingdoms of this world which are now so opposed to God and his church, now so devoted to the kingdom of darkness—the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ.

For one day everyone in the world will see how true the gospel is, everyone will see how great Christ is, and every knee will bow before him. Everyone will see what Psalm 145 calls “the glorious majesty of God’s kingdom,” a kingdom “that rules over all.”

We don’t see it just yet. Today that mustard seed is growing, but it’s looking very small, even worthless. But we know that soon it will become a great tree, even one that fills all the world and gives shelter to all who believe! So in this divided world, make it your constant prayer—and make it your single-minded purpose: “Your Kingdom come!”  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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