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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Pray for God to bring his kingdom
Text:LD 48 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 77

Psalm 99

Hymn 63:1,3

Hymn 1

Hymn 29

Scripture readings: 1 Chron. 29:10-20; Rom. 5:15-21; Rev. 7:9-17

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 48

* 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 our Lord Jesus Christ,

It was Monday, March 10, 1522.  The famous German Reformer Martin Luther was faced with a big problem.  The Reformation was gaining momentum.  Large numbers of young men were coming to Wittenberg to sit under Luther’s teaching.  They were passionate about the truths rediscovered from Scripture.  They were zealous about the Christian life.  In fact, their passioniate zeal was what had caused the problem on this particular Monday.  Students can get into all kinds of trouble on the weekend.  Well, Luther’s students spent their weekend bursting into the homes of the German nobility.  These upper class men and women were still practicing Roman Catholics – they even had private altars in their homes for holding mass.  The students were bursting into these homes and destroying the altars and raising a big fuss.  This threatened to destroy the progress of the Reformation.  But more importantly, it showed how Luther’s students didn’t really understand God’s kingdom. 

So Luther gathered his students and taught them.  He said, “Students, you’re right to see the abhorrence of the mass.  But you’re wrong to go into private homes and tear out the altars because the Reformation cannot come by force.  It can only come by the Word of God.  You can tear up the altars and even pull people away from the altars by their hair, but as soon as you leave them, put back the altar and to the altar again they go.  We should preach the Word, but the results must be left solely to God’s good pleasure.  Certainly, to hold the mass in such a manner is sinful, and yet no one should be dragged from it by the hair.  For it should be left to God; his Word should be allowed to work alone without interference.”  Luther went on to say,  “Why?  Because it is not in my power to handle or fashion the hearts of men as the potter molds the clay and fashions them at his pleasure.  Their hearts I cannot reach.  I can get no further than their ears.  And since I cannot pour faith into their hearts, I cannot, nor should I, force anyone to have faith.  That is God’s work alone.  He is the one who causes faith to live in the heart.  Therefore, we should give free course to the Word of God and not add our works to it.  If you preach the Word and trust the Word, the Word will sink into the heart and do its work.  God would accomplish more with His Word than if you and I were to merge all our power into one heap.”

Luther’s students didn’t know something fundamental about the way God works in this world.  God brings his kingdom.  Sure, he uses instruments, but those instruments are only two:  his Word and his Holy Spirit.  God uses his Word and Holy Spirit to bring about the recognition and reality of his royal dominion in the universe.  And so, at the root it is God’s kingdom, and it’s God’s work to bring it about.  We see this in the model prayer our Lord Jesus teaches us too.  When our Lord Jesus tells us to pray “Your kingdom come,” he again wants us to have God’s plan and God’s priorities foremost in our hearts.  So, I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

Pray for God to bring his Kingdom 

We’ll learn how the kingdom to pray for is one of:

  1. Power
  2. Grace
  3. Glory

In 1 Chronicles 29, we find one way in which God’s rule is completely different from that of earthly rulers.   We have these words of praise from David.  We have the historical context laid out for us.  King David is about to transfer his kingdom over to his son Solomon, along with the responsibility to build the temple.  At this point, David was at the height of his rule.  Sure, David had his struggles and difficulties, but there was no question that he was a king of great power.  His kingdom was one of great power. 

That makes it all the more amazing to hear these words of praise from David in 1 Chronicles 29.  He doesn’t take the credit for himself.  He doesn’t heap up praise on his own name.  He doesn’t sound like a modern politician who might say, “We’ve built a country we can be proud of.”  Instead, David points to God and gives all the praise and thanks to him.  Moreover, King David recognizes God’s kingship as being entirely different.  He knows his kingly power is limited and fleeting.  After all, he’s getting near death.  But he says about God in verse 11, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all in the heavens and in the earth is yours.”  Then in verse 12, “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.  In your hands are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”  He says God is the king whose power is incomparable.  David only rules Israel, but God rules all creation.  God is the supreme King before whom all people, including David, have to bow.

That helps us to understand something of the character of the kingdom we’re taught to pray about in the second petition.  If we try to define it, the kingdom of God is simply his rule over the world and everything in it.  We don’t define it in geographical terms – God’s kingdom has no borders, for instance.  Instead, we define it in terms of the exercise of power and dominion.  Simply put:  God rules.  And he rules with power over all that’s been created.  There is nothing, not even one atom, that falls outside his royal rule.  His is a kingdom of power.  And when we say that, we’re really making reference to what we call God’s omnipotence.  Omnipotence means God is all-powerful.  God is able to do whatever he wills in the way he wills it.  The angel said it to Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Why?  Because he has the power to rule over creation as he wants.

Now how does that connect to the Lord’s Prayer and then also to our prayers in general?   Well, we pray for God’s kingdom to come.  But this aspect of God’s kingdom, the fact that it’s a kingdom of power, it’s already there in all its fullness.  No one can add or take away from the fact that God’s kingdom is powerful to the maximum degree.  Our prayers can’t change that.    

What Christ is teaching us is to pray that we would more and more recognize God’s royal power and live accordingly.  We have to see that God’s kingdom is one of power and then let this recognition impact our lives. We have to pray about that.    

And what will that look like?  The Catechism says, “So rule us by Thy Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to Thee.”  God uses instruments in our lives so we recognize his rule and live thankfully in an appropriate way.  The instruments or means are simply his Word and the Holy Spirit – and these two always work together.  Through the Holy Spirit working with the Bible, more and more we listen to what God wants for our lives.  We start to look more like Jesus.  This is about our sanctification, the process of growing to look like our Saviour, the process of growing in holiness.  When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we’re praying for his rule in our lives to impact us meaningfully.  The king of power speaks and things change in our lives.  The king of power speaks and our lives are transformed by his power. 

We’re praying that God would bring us to see his royal power.  When we recognize that power, it changes our lives.  It also brings us comfort.  We know that our lives are under his royal dominion.  He rules us with power and that power is always molded and shaped by his love for us.  And seeing that bring us to praise him in ever greater measures.  God is a king unlike any other.  Our entire lives should be filled with a prayerful longing to see him honoured through us and others. 

Rebellion towards this king of power is intolerable.  Sadly, the world in which we live doesn’t see a King of power who will someday be their judge.  They live in mockery and rebellion today.  Someday their rebellion will be publicly exposed and the King of power will be vindicated.  That has implications for us too – because we’ve heard about this king’s reign in clear and direct language.  Most unbelievers have heard little about the king – just enough to make them without excuse.  But in the church we’re different.  And we’re going to be held accountable for what we did with what we knew about our King.  At the end, we want to be able to say that we prayed for ourselves to fall in submission to our King.  We prayed for the help of the Holy Spirit to do that, so that our lives would honour our King.  

Now let’s learn how God’s kingdom is one of grace.  We should all know the basic definition of grace.  Grace is when you receive the opposite of what you deserve.  Because of our sins, we deserve God’s eternal wrath.  But because of Jesus Christ, because we are in him by faith, we receive God’s eternal favour.  Grace is at the heart of the Christian faith.  We believe that we’re saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. 

Now it may not appear that way from a superficial reading, but the Catechism speaks of God’s grace when it says, “Preserve and increase your church.”  If you think about it for a moment:  how does God preserve his church through the ages?  He works through the Holy Spirit by the preaching and teaching of the Word.  The preaching of the Word is a means of grace.  It’s a means by which God’s grace in Jesus Christ is proclaimed.  We’re told how Jesus Christ graciously redeems us from our sins by his obedience, suffering and resurrection.  We’re told how Christ graciously sanctifies our lives by the ongoing work of his Holy Spirit.  The preservation of the church is therefore owing to God’s grace.  After all, God doesn’t owe it to the church to preserve her.  We certainly don’t deserve this from God.  But God in his good pleasure wills to preserve a people for himself. 

By his grace, he also wills to increase his church.  Here again, this happens through the means of grace, particularly through the preaching of the Word.  Through the preaching of the Word in mission settings and established congregations, unbelievers are called to repent and believe the gospel.  By the gracious working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, they respond in obedience to this call.  They’re then joined to God’s people.  All of this is God ruling with grace. 

You can see how there’s a connection between the church and the kingdom of God.  Some people like setting up a fairly rigid distinction between the two.  To be sure, there are differences.  The kingdom of God is broader than the church.  But the church definitely falls in the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is simply his rule in this world and doesn’t the church also fall under that?  And nowhere is the gracious aspect of God’s kingdom clearer than in the church where we find the means of grace.  God does show his grace outside the church too – think for example of the fact that God makes the sun shine and the rain fall on unbelievers as well as believers.  Nobody deserves to have that.  But it’s especially in the church, in its preservation and increase, that we clearly see the King of grace in all his splendour. 

So when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we’re praying for his grace to be shown more and more.  That also applies to the destruction of the works of the devil.  Remember the devil isn’t interested in giving people what they don’t deserve.  Satan only wants to cause destruction, what people really deserve.  But more than that, he also wants to destroy God’s works of grace.  He wants to destroy the church where the means of grace are found.  And then there’s not only the devil, there are also other powers that rise up against God, human powers.  There are conspiracies against the Word of God, persecutions brought upon the church.  All these enemies are there trying to destroy grace.  They hate it when they see people receiving what they don’t deserve.  They’re revolted by God’s goodness.  When we pray in the spirit of the second petition, we’re praying that God wouldn’t allow these evil plans to come to fruition.  We’re praying that God’s kingdom of grace would continue to rule in this world and increase in strength. 

God’s gracious rule will continue in our lives and in the lives of others.  God wants us to pray to him for that and fully trust him that this will happen.  In Romans 5:21, we read about the rule of grace in our lives.  Paul says that sin is there in our lives, but it doesn’t rule us.  Instead, grace rules through righteousness.  This is the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us.  It brings us to eternal life.  So, we aren’t ruled by sin and death, but by grace.  We have to see that grace is being personified in this passage -- it’s spoken about as if it were a person.  There’s a good reason for that.  Grace isn’t an abstract theological concept.  Grace is an attribute or characteristic of God.  God is the king.  God is the king characterized by grace.  So, when Romans 5:21 says we’re ruled by grace, it really means we’re ruled by the God of grace. 

So then what does it mean to pray for the coming of the kingdom?  We saw a few moments ago that the power of God’s kingdom is already fully present.  It’s different with the aspect of grace.  When we talk about God’s kingdom being one of grace, there is an “already…but not yet.”  God’s kingdom of grace is already being experienced in the lives of God’s people.  But it isn’t yet fully being experienced in our lives or in the lives of others whom God is still going to draw into his church. 

That means that when we pray for the coming of the kingdom, we’re going to pray earnestly for God to bring in the full number of his elect.  We pray for God to increase the church, through mission, but also through and in this local congregation of Christ.  That’s a general kind of prayer.  We can also pray more particularly.  We can and should pray earnestly for the salvation of particular people whom God brings across our path.  Pray for the lost in your life.  Pray for them by name.  That way of praying is the “not yet.” 

Then there’s the “already,” that means we also pray earnestly for ourselves and other believers that we’d continue to live under the reign of grace.  We pray that we’d continue to see Christ working in us and among us to transform our lives into his image. 

Praying for God’s kingdom also means seeing that his kingdom is one of glory.  The last line of Answer 123 is partly a direct quote from 1 Corinthians 15:28, “that God may be all in all…”  That looks ahead to something that isn’t currently the situation.  In other words, right now God is not all in all.  But a day is coming when he will be.  We see something of that future day in what we read from Revelation 7. 

Here too, there’s also an “already…but not yet” to God’s kingdom.  His kingdom is here in its aspect of glory, but not yet in its full measure.  In other words, God’s kingdom is already receiving praise and honour, but in the future, a day is coming when this kingdom will be glorified in a way that’s simply mind-blowing. 

This coming day involves the preservation and increase of the church.  God’s plan is to bring believers from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages into the recognition of his rule.  Being and staying under his rule, they’ll give him glory, raise up praise for him.  That’s what we see in Revelation 7.  We see something of God’s genius.  He knows that a choir singing in parts sounds much more beautiful than a choir that sings only in unison.  Bringing in people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds is part of God’s plan for his kingdom to receive maximum praise and glory.  Isn’t it fascinating that the picture in Revelation 7 is not of a multitude of people who are all the same?  They all sing the same song and praise the same God, but they keep their unique cultural backgrounds.  That shows how God values diversity among his people.  He uses and will use that diversity to magnify the glory of his royal rule. 

So with that picture of Revelation 7 in our minds, how should we be praying and living?  We should pray and live as people for whom the kingdom of glory is a present and coming reality.  Those who live under God’s rule today make his glory a priority in how they live and how they pray.  We are God’s subjects right now.  We acknowledge his royal rule, therefore in our prayers we long to see the day when his kingdom will get the maximum praise and glory.   That means prayer for mission and evangelism should be a priority for us.  We ought to pray also for God to use us.  And when we say these prayers, we pray them from hearts that really long for these things.  And having hearts that long for these things means we look for open doors where God will use us to spread the gospel.  We look for and pray for opportunities and when God brings them to us, we enter in trusting in God. 

Through all of this, we can prayerfully look forward to the day when God will be all in all.  And what does that mean exactly?  John Calvin put it this way, “Paul’s words mean nothing but this, that all things will be brought back to God, as their sole beginning and end, that they may be closely bound to him.”  In other words, many today try to disconnect existence, life and everything from God.  But the day is coming when it’ll be clearly made known to everyone that existence, life and everything are bound up in God.  Paul put it a different way in Acts 17:28, “For in God we live and move and have our being.”  The day is coming when it will be plainly made known to all creation that God is the sovereign King.  God will make it happen.

So when we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, we’re really praying for the fulfillment of all his plans for us, for the church, and for the world.  We’re praying that the good things already in place under his rule will remain.  We’re praying that the good things to come from his rule will come quickly.  We’re praying these things not so that God would become king, but that he would be recognized by all creatures as King.  Already some do, but not yet all.  May the Lord come quickly so the day comes when all willingly submit to his sovereign eternal rule.  May we also be eager subjects, today and everyday, until the fulness of the kingdom comes.  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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