Our neighbors have gone all out. Fake spider webs all over the bushes. A devious looking stuffed crow on top of the bird feeder. A giant spider that pops up from the ground when Trick or Treaters step close to the sensor.
They love Halloween. They told me "It's their favorite!" In case, I couldn't tell that from the massive amount of Halloween decorations.
So I got to thinking...why does the secular world love Halloween so much? Is it the candy? The dress up? The decorations?
I'm thinking there's another reason:
Halloween is the only holiday that isn't scary.
Yes, I know there are monsters, skeletons and goblins, but...none of these are real! We all know this. So we have fun pretending to be scared! We enjoy celebrating things that aren't going to get us. Pretending.
A goblin is a lot less scary than losing a job. A vampire can do less harm than a bad boyfriend. A one eyed greed monster will harm me less than cancer!
We don't really have to wear garlic to ward of vampires. We don't need to watch out for black cats. We don't need to have a gun with silver bullets under our pillow in case of werewolf.
But Christmas? That's scary. At Christmas, we're faced with an Almighty God come down to earth. Is that baby really God? If so, I can't assume that he's too pleased with how I've lived my life!?! What will he do?
And Easter? God killed? Because of my sins? He can't be too happy about that. Then, he comes back to life! It's real too. There's over 500 witnesses. I think I'd rather stay away from that.
What about that other holiday on October 31st? Reformation.
Now that's scary!
Because on Reformation, we are faced with the violently, frightening truth that God exists! He is real and he really hates sin. Suddenly, the things that we normally ignore as "no big deal" become the very things that will threaten us with eternal pain!
Scarier yet, there's nothing we can do about it! We can't run and hide. There aren't vegetables we can strap around our neck to ward off God. We can't even appease him with gifts or good behavior.
We're as good as dead -- eternally! That's horrifying!
But, just like any good horror movie, when all hope is lost...came our Savior! Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Here's what he did. He confronted our sins. He wrangled them away from us and confronted God's wrath head on. He died a gruesome death and our sins died with him.
Then, three days later, in a miracle testified as real by over 500 witnesses, our hero returned from the grave. Not as a zombie, but as the conquering Lord of heaven and earth. Our Savior.
But the sin wasn't with him! It was dead. He alone was alive. He promises that we too, through faith in him, will live!
Colossians says it this way,
"Jesus has rescued us out of the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the One he loves, in whom we have the forgiveness of sins"
Suddenly, the scary message of Reformation is turned on its head. It is no longer scary, but joyful. When we couldn't save ourselves from our own demons of the past, Jesus Christ does save us! He conquered sin, death and the devil for you!
With Jesus on our side, there's nothing to be afraid of.
Join us this Sunday for Reformation Service at 10:30am.
What is the limit to the amount of times you can forgive someone?
It's an interesting question. Take a moment. Think about your answer. How many times do you usually forgive people?
If you need help concocting a scenario, think of your kids. How many times do you forgive them when they 'forget' to clean up their toys? What if they refuse to clean up their toys? Or how many times do you forgive your coworker for continually mocking you behind your back? Or how many times do you forgive your neighbor for repeatedly cranking up the noise at night?
I think we all assume there must be a limit. Because if there isn't, then aren't we just training people to keep on sinning against us! If I forgive my child every time he says he's sorry, what has he learned? If I forgive my husband every time he says he's sorry, what has he learned? Not too mention that I'm just letting myself become a punching bag. If I forgive my coworker, every times he asks forgiveness for bashing me, then won't he just keep on doing it?
There must be a limit, right?
Fortunately, for us the Apostle Peter asked Jesus that very question.
1) The Debt We Owe
In Matthew 18 Peter approaches Jesus and asks, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
I wonder why Peter asked that question. Was his brother Andrew repeatedly late for early morning fishing? Was there a neighborhood boy whom Peter had repeatedly caught trying to steal his fish? Did his wife constantly 'nag' him for spending too much time with that Rabbi? Did his own children stubbornly refuse to clean up the toys were scattered all over his room?
Whatever it was, Peter seems to be seeking permission to stop forgiving. Maybe, he was hoping that he had already reached the limit and could immediately return to his 'sinner' and tell him off! Worst case scenario, in his mind, he would at least be able to look forward to a day when he could give a mean look, raise his voice, and say, "I will not forgive you!"
As he usually does, Jesus says something that is totally unexpected: "I tell you, don't forgive seven time, but seventy-seven times."
I imagine Peter sighed, but then immediately began counting the number of times he had been sinned against by this person. "How close am I? Maybe another few sins and I'll finally be able to let him have it!"
But before he could get too far, Jesus continued: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt."
"Ten thousand talents." In 2013 American dollars, that estimates to be about 20 million dollars! So, say that you made $40,000 a year. That's an average middle class income. If you made that much, it would take you 500 years to pay back the money. If you never used the money for anything else. (You know, like food, clothing, or shelter).
In other words, this was a ludicrous amount to pay back. There wasn't any way this guy would pay it back in this lifetime. That's why the king decides that he'll call it even if he gives him everything he owns. Appliances. Transportation. Animals. Home. Family.
Can you imagine being so far in debt that you are in danger of having your kids taken from you?
It was too much for the servant. The shame caused him to fall to the ground. 'The servant fell on his knees before his master! 'Be patient with me,' he begged.' Literally, the Bible tells us that he lay prostrate on the ground! Flat in the dust. Tears in his eyes. Distress in his voice. He makes a delusional promise: "I will pay back everything!"
What would you expect the king to do? 20 million dollars. He should sue him for all he's worth. Wouldn't you do the same thing? That's a lot of money.
But he didn't. Instead, the servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
Let's take a break from the parable to remember that Jesus is using this parable to teach us about forgiveness. Consider: Who do you think the servant represents?
If you're thinking, "My next door neighbor! He's such an awful sinner. He does drugs, plays raucous party music and keeps inviting woman after woman to spend the night." You've missed the point.
Because the servant is... you. It's me. It's all of us who live under the Heavenly King.
Let's do some math. Say that we each sin an average of 1x per minute. You might want to contest taht, but remember sin involves not only actions, not only words, but thoughts as well! Sure, maybe there's a minute that goes by without a sin, but that average is driven up when in a rage when lambast a coworker or you spend an entire hours sneaking glances in the mirror at the lady working out at the gym near you.
So. One sin per minute would mean we sin 60 times per hour which means we sin 1,440 times per day and 525,600 times per year and 42,480,000 times per average lifetime of about 80 years.
That's ludicrous! But it's also the truth. The debt we owe our Heavenly Father is so high, it's ludicrous.
It also isn't something that we even have the means to pay back!
If you have a debt, no matter how much it is student loan or mortgage, it is something that you can at least pay back. Even if the debt is ridiculously high, at least, you could possibly conceive of how it could be paid back. A lottery win, a cool investment, or hard work and good saving habits could pay back the debt of money with money.
How do you pay back the debt of sin? Romans 6:23 tells us: "The wages of sin is death." It's not money. It's not hard work. It's not good intentions. None of those pay back even a single sin! The wages of sin is death! Eternal death in hell. I suppose if you wanted to pay for sin on your own, you could spend eternity in hell. But there's two problems there: 1) That would only pay for one of your 40 million plus sins.
2) How would you get out of that eternity in hell in order to start paying for your next sin?
Do you see how dire our situation is? It almost makes you want to lie in the dust and cry out: "Have mercy on me!"
When we turn to our Heavenly King in such despair, know that He reacts just as the king in the parable did. He has mercy. He forgives you. He cancels all your debt.
It's as simple as that.
Now this may seem unbelievable! I get that. Yet, the key to understanding comes in what the parable doesn't tell us: our Heavenly King still needed the debt to be paid! So he paid this impossible debt with regenerating, infinite blood that only He has. Jesus died on the cross for our sins! Because of this death, you are forgiven!
Think of what that means for you. Those hundreds of actions sins you commit each week. Those thousands of word sins you commit each year. Those millions of thought sins you commit each lifetime, all of these sins, trespasses, debt--whichever version of hte Lord's prayer you're using--all of these terrible things have been forgiven in Jesus Christ.
Incredible. With God, there is no limit to forgiveness!
2) The Debt We are Owed
Look at the rest of the parable: The servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. "Pay back what you owe me!" His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "be patient with me, and I will pay you back." But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt."
Doesn't that upset you? What a jerk! He just had millions of dollars wiped out. You'd expect a celebration. But instead, he goes and finds a guy who owes him a lot less money and he tries to kill him. Even after he begs for mercy, the unmerciful servant refuses to have mercy and he has the guys turned in to the cops.
Before you get too upset, remember who that servant represents. Remember how we opened this sermon by considering how often we are willing to forgive others. Remember that you're a human and you probably have done exactly what this man did -- been forgiven for your myriad of sins and then turned and refused to forgive someone else!
With that in mind, look what happens next: The other servants saw what had happened and they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" In his anger, his master turned him over to the mailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how your heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.
Wow. Puts it into perspective, huh? When it comes to the debt others owe us, there is not anyone in the world who has sinned against you more than you have sinned against Jesus. It doesn't even come close! The debt we are owed is meager.
Because, Really? How many times has anyone sinned against you? Probably the people that sin against you most are your spouse and your kids...simply because you spend the most amount of time with them.
However, I bet they get distracted. Sometimes they sin against the person at work that's upsetting them. Sometimes they sin against their brothers and sisters. Sometimes they sin against the teacher at school. In other words, they aren't always sinning against you.
Compare this to every one of your sins. No matter who they are against on this earth, they are also against God in heaven.
And yet, in Christ, he forgives you!
Plus, when humans sin against humans, we generally consider that debt payable. At least, people always treat it that way. Whether it's time that earns forgiveness or gifts or good behavior or even literal money -- like a courtroom might award. Even the worst offenses, when death occurs, we might say: "I guess she got what's coming to her! Now I can forgive."
Compare this to your relationship to God again. Our sins are unpayable with anything but death! NOTHING WE DO CAN EARN FORGIVENESS!!! Yet, that's exactly what Jesus did--He died that you might be forgiven!
Why, then, wouldn't you forgive those who have sinned against you?
That's Jesus' final point. Why wouldn't you forgive those who have sinned against you. In fact, he implies, you must! Because if you truly grasp what our Heavenly Father has done for you, if you truly mean "forgive us Lord, as we forgive others", then you too will forgive.
"But," you might be saying, "it's too hard to forgive. These people have truly wronged me. I can't forget it. I'm not able to look at them without being disgusted. How can I ever forgive when I keep thinking about all the wrong they've done to me?"
Fair enough. When we look at those who have wronged us and how they have wronged us and THEN try to forgive, that's hard! Usually our insides scream, "No way!" and we become more hardened in un-forgiveness.
Why not look to Jesus?
Think about that. If you are struggling to forgive, look to Jesus! What would happen? You'd confess your sinful struggles to forgive. You'd see the power of the cross. You'd look at your Lord crucified for you and view that the incredible amount of your sin He has forgiven. Then, marveling at his forgiveness, you will be strengthened to forgive others from the heart.
What an incredible God we have! He forgives us and give us strength to forgive others!
"O Lord, Forgive us Our Trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Amen.
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Five loaves of bread and two fish.
That's all it took. No one had to spend any money at the fish market. No one had to forfeit their bite so others could eat. No one was malnourished. No one went hungry. No one was even less than completely satisfied.
It was awesome. Around 10,000 people fully satisfied.
The people wanted more, but when they went looking, they couldn't find the guy who did it!
Can you imagine their thoughts?
Guy who worked 70+ hours a week at two jobs says, "Where did he go? This is just my luck. Just when I find a guy who'll make it so that I can quit my hard day job and get some early retirement, he disappears!"
Mom of six children says, "It's just so tiring. If we find him again, maybe he'll provide breakfast. That would be a relief. Not having to be at the beckoning call of all those children. That's what I want."
College student says, "We've gotta find him, he's my ticket out of eating Ramen noodles every evening. Next time I see him, I'm asking for a pizza-- even though, I'm not sure what that is."
The people wanted Jesus. They were so driven that they picked up a few oars. They got into some boats. They chose to cross a lake in hopes of never being in want again. I imagine they rowed frantically with visions of money woes gone and tummies never being hungry again!
25 When they found Jesus on the other side of the lake, they acted completely innocent: "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus saw right through it: 26 "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." In other words, you don't view me as the Messiah, just the guy who fills your bellies. Jesus continues:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."
You know how dogs ears stick up when they hear the sound of a squirrel passing by the back porch? That's about how these people reacted to Jesus' words: "Food enduring to eternal life? You mean...something better than the bread you just gave us? Because...that's gone. I'm getting hungry again. This is even better than we anticipated. v.28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
And I imagine the people started murmuring to each other. "I think he's talking about himself. He might have mentioned something about being the one God has sent, but I can't be too sure. I think I was chomping down really hard on that delicious bread at that moment.
30 "What miraculous sign will you give that we may see it and believe you?" Our ancestors, you know, they ate little pieces of bread that fell from heaven like the morning dew. Maybe, you could send us bags of Doritos? Or a Big Mac with cheese! You know, just give us what we want...like Moses!"
Jesus replied, "It wasn't Moses who gave you that. It came from God. The same God who provides the true bread from heaven!"
"Heaven bread? I don't know what that is, but I've had Italian bread, wheat bread, and Wonder Bread, so...I'll try this heaven bread. It sounds pretty awesome. 34 "Sir," they replied, "from now give us this bread."
I am sure Jesus' response floored them: "I am the bread of life."
I. What God's Will is Not
It's where our account picks up in John 6:35. Today, we are attempting to better understand just what God's Will is that we want to be done in the Lord's Prayer. This group of people and Jesus' response, show us a few things that God's Will is not.
1) God's Will is not whatever we want.
This is a principle that we hold true with our kids. We don't give them whatever they want. If so, Chocolate chip cookies would be on the dinner menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, mid morning and afternoon snacks as well.
The same is true with God. He doesn't just give into whatever we want. He's wiser than us. He's smarter than us. He knows what we want, isn't always good.
Look at the Israelites. They wanted some more food. But they didn't get it. Just a sharp rebuke for thinking about their tummies.
2) God's will is also not whatever makes us feel good.
The Bible says that after these people ate the bread from Jesus, they were all full. I bet that felt good. Kinda like you might feel on a Sunday afternoon--watching football, eating a whole bucket of Bojangles chicken, spicy fries, a glass of sweet tea and the delicious muffin for desert. You're satisfied and you fall asleep before the game ends.
The people wanted that good feeling again. It felt lots better than hunger pains from not having enough food and thirst pains from working in the hots sun all day.
But Jesus didn't offer it to them.
In fact, God doesn't give us just what feels good. If that were the case, I suppose some things like sexual immorality, greed, and hatred wouldn't be absolutely forbidden by God.
3) God's will is also not whatever we think is best.
As we mentioned earlier, the Israelites thought that the very best thing that could possibly happen would be for Jesus to go with them and make it so they didn't have to work their deadbeat jobs in order to buy food that they would slave away in the kitchen to eat only to be mildly impressed with their "Not so Top Chef" like cooking skills.
Jesus did the opposite of what they thought was best. He went away from them and then refused to repeat his performance.
God's will is not whatever we think is best. Should we trust him?
Should you trust your own instincts about how to treat cancer or the cancer doctor? Should your instincts or the God who gives all good things?
Recap: God's will is NOT whatever we want, whatever makes us feel good or whatever we think is best.
The Lord's Prayer says, "THY WILL BE DONE," yet how often when we say it do we think, "MY WILL BE DONE." Get me a better job. Make the bills disappear. Find me a husband. Get me a bigger house. Give me a kid. Get the kids a job so they get out of the house sooner. Give me my health. Get rid of this back pain. Heal my cousin. Heal my uncle. Lord, this is what I want, so MY WILL BE DONE!"
Here's the problem with our will. Sometimes it is so far off that it puts ourselves into serious danger. Look at what Jesus said to the people who came asking for bread: "He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty, but as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe."
Jesus' point? These people had seen the miraculous signs that he was their Savior from eternal damnation. Yet, they were so worried about Jesus being their "Sugar Daddy" that they couldn't care less about his being the Eternal Savior.
Here's something to note: If we hold too closely to our wants, it leads to unbelief. Listen to how it happens:
"Really, God? All I ask is that you get me a job. A decent one. It's been months now and you can't seem to do that. I'm beginning to think that you don't exist!"
"C'mon Lord. Just a child. Please. My wife and I have done everything right. We've been praying. We've been waiting. Still...no child. Maybe, there's no God."
"Well, God, you messed up big time. I was thinking you'd heal my uncle at least for a few more months. But, now he's dead! And you know what else is dead? My faith in you!"
Careful. God's Will is not Your Will. It's His Will.
Thank goodness that is true.
II. What God's Will Is.
Listen to how Jesus spells it out in this section, " For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that's God, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Did you catch God's will? It's threefold.
1) God's wants to lose none of what is his!
I hate losing socks. I started folding them into a ball before I threw them into the dirty laundry. That way, I figured, there was one less spot for me to lose them along the way.
Unfortunately, this means that when I haphazardly put a whole pile of laundry into the wash, the socks get washed while they are rolled up into a ball. My wife says, "that doesn't clean them. Why don't you just put them in one at a time?"
My response? I don't want to lose them!
God's the same way. He doesn't want to lose you. He wants to keep you as his own.
This is why he sent Jesus because was threatening to take you away from him. Sin was going to remove you from his clutches for all eternity. If God let this happen, you'd be lost. Permanently. Forever. Amongst the fires of hell, where you can't tell the difference between one person's screams and others.
Enter Jesus. God sent Jesus because he wanted sin's clutches on us to be broken. God wanted sin defeated. He wanted the devil laying helpless on his back. He wanted you safe with him forever.
This is exactly what Jesus did. He freed us from sin. He defeated the devil. He destroyed what was threatening to take you away from God forever.
And God reaches out to us. Maybe, he reached out to you when you were but a child. Through the waters of baptism, he brought you into his family. Maybe, he reached out to you when you were older, through the words of a friend you were found--brought to faith in Jesus. Maybe, he's doing that right now as your are reading these words. (If nothing else, he's firming up his grip on you.)
2) God wants to raise you on the Last Day.
This may actually be something that you hope happens too. Death sounds scary. Death sounds no good. It's so final. So complete. In fact, when you think of death, you might think: "I'll be lost forever. God will have lost!"
But you are talking about the God who came back from the dead. Death doesn't not mean lost to him. It means -- found! Jesus himself proved that when he returned from the cold, dark grave to walk the earth again.
God wants you to experience this triumph as well. He wants you to return from death! And this won't be a return that just leads to another death. Because 3) God wants to give you eternal life.
Granted, this is not a life that takes place on this earth. That's temporal life. Yet it is a life that, quite frankly, takes care of all the needs we long to have satisfied in this life.
Tell me if these things don't fit into your list of temporal desires: Never be hungry. Never thirst. Never again have an arthritis pain in your joints. Never again need another doctor visit. Never again have creditors breathing down your throat. No stress. No fear. No sadness. No guilt.
These are the things that are ours when God accomplishes his will! These are the things that are ours through faith in Jesus.
Maybe, God's will isn't so bad after all?
The problem is that we're too earthly. We get bent out of shape because our will is about the here and now God, who is spirit and eternal, is will is about the forever.
III. How this Affects Our Lives.
Here's something you need to know: as serious as you are about what you want, God is more serious. He's so serious that he is willing to do whatever is necessary. I mean that...whatever is necessary to accomplish his will.
* If it means not giving us our Desires. He'll do it. Maybe, you have always wanted to have a six figure job with all kinds of respect and honor for your peers. That doesn't mean God's going to give it to you. If that six figure job is going to make you proud, arrogant, and one who starts to think, "I did this by myself. I don't need God anymore," perhaps God will refuse to give it to you in the first place. Remember: His will is to have you in heaven.
* If it means taking away things we "love”, realize God's not afraid to do that either. If there's a human that you 'think' you're in love with, but that human also happens to want nothing to do with God and in fact, he is slowly pulling you and your kids away from your Savior, don't be surpised if God allows that to go sour! Remember: His will is to have you heaven.
* This may mean that God starts allowing sins that we do to harm us. Maybe God has warned you--in his Word, from a friend, from a sermon to stop abusing his gift of alcohol. You don't listen. So He let's you get sick. Real sick. And in your terror you call out to God again! Why would God allow this? Because of His Will. He wants you in heaven!
God is willing to do whatever's necessary to have you in heaven. And since these gifts are ours through faith in Jesus, God's will is to do what's necessary to get us to focus on Jesus.
In the end, I'm not sure there's a petition in the Lord's Prayer that requires greater trust. We say to God, "You know what I want. You know my desires. You know my dreams. I really want these things...
...but, Lord, forget them. Do your will. You're smarter. You're wiser. You're more powerful. You're more loving. Lord, THY WILL BE DONE."
I trust that THY WILL IS GOOD. After all, you are the eternal essence of God. I am not. My will is flawed. Yours is not. I trust your will is better! For me."
And I trust that you will ACCOMPLISH THIS WILL. You are all powerful. Nothing can stop you from getting what you want. And what you want? Is me. How humbling. How comforting. How powerful.
THY WILL BE DONE, O Lord, THY WILL BE DONE. Amen.
A Message from John 18:33-37
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Our Government shut down.
It's amazing how it could happen. Groups on both sides of debate so hostile towards one another that friendly discussion is out of the question! The only thing they agree on is that they should shut down.
It isn't leaving most Americans too happy. Currently, congress has less than a 10% approval rating. Sad. If I ever got a less than 10% on a test growing up, I'm sure I would have been grounded for a month!
Maybe, you are part of the greater than 90% that are frustrated. Maybe, you long for a change. Maybe, as a Christian, you've longed for change for awhile. You hope for a place where Christian morals are restored. A Utopia of Jesus directed Laws. A dichotomy of Christian morals from both of our 'so-called' political parties-- A place where there is no corporate greed, yet everyone works to earn their pay. A place where the poor in society are cared for, yet the rich aren't penalized for hard work. A place where we cherish the lives of malnourished children as much as we cherish the lives of unborn little children. A place where the environment is treated with the love and care that it was in the Garden of Eden just as marriage is treated the same way that God established it in the Garden of Eden. A place where science is furthered to better learn about our world, while people can mention the name of God in a public school without fear of being tossed out of the system!
That sounds nice doesn't it? Unfortunately, in order to make it a reality, we need to find the answer to a very tough question:
What candidate are you going to get to do this?
This candidate must able to unite the "Christian concepts" of the Republican party with the "Christian concepts" of the Democratic party. Party lines are so hardened, could such a candidate ever be elected? Republicans are convinced that there's is the Christian political party. Democrats are convinced that there's is. The truth is that neither of them encompass nor are they influenced by only Christian truth! Greed and racism -- atheism and licentiousness each affecting one, if not both parties--the parties that make or break you. Even if one person were focused on Christian values---how difficult it must be for one to stay true to Jesus without being influenced by a selfish desire for personal glory and to get another large group of people (with very few Christians) to adhere to these values!
I'll tell you the plain truth. If we are supposed to be looking to a human being to restore us to a Christian society, we're in trouble.
Maybe, that's why we pray "Thy Kingdom Come." It's funny that the government shutdown comes the same week that we study that petition in the Lord's Prayer. Because there's no one who could set up such a society, such an ideal kingdom, except for Jesus himself.
So, is that then what we mean when we pray, "Thy Kingdom Come?"
I. What this Kingdom is Not
It's a sensible thought. Certainly, this was the popular idea at the time of Jesus. That he would become king and establish a kingdom on earth. Although, they weren't looking for Jesus to be elected to a political position, they were looking for him to lead a revolution against the godless, pagan government of Rome that was currently controlling their very country.
This is why Jesus' followers tried to make him king. After he had fed around 10,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, they were thrilled! Here was a man who could provide them all with enough to eat--even the impoverished and he could do it without harming their rich. He could provide for all of their needs so that all of them would be fed. He could satisfy all the people without doing it at the expense of others. Everybody's happy!
Jesus, on the other hand, slipped away from them. He hid.
In fact, this became such a repeated theme that many began to realize Jesus didn't want to do this. He wasn't secretly training an army on the Shores of Galilee nor was he making political speeches on the steps of Pilate's palace.
When it became obvious that he wasn't going to do what he desired, Jesus' enemies used this to denounce him as king!They riled up the people: "Crucify him! Crucify him! He isn't our perceived political Savior. He is simply a fraud. He's crazy!" Then, they used that concept to bring him on trial before the Roman Governor: "He's plotting against you. He's says that he's the king!"
It worked. Pilate was nervous that Jesus might be a king. Pilate was nervous that Jesus might be planning a revolution. A revolt that would start in his own city. A revolt that, if Pilate wasn't able to shut it down, Caesar would not only remove Pilate from office, but have his head as well!
Pilate didn't have any time for goofing around. He got straight to the point: It says in verse 15, "Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” In other words, are you in fact planning a revolution against me? Are you another earthly king that I have to worry about gaining influence that I might lose my own power?
Jesus' reply is priceless: 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” Jesus puts the pressure back on Pilate. "Do you think I'm a king?"
But Pilate won't have any of it. 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. "I don't care what you guys talking about theologically. The only thing I am concerned about is whether or not you are going to try and overtake the Roman government! “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Listen carefully to Jesus' response: 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world."
Can it get any plainer than that? But Jesus even offers some extra proof. He says, "If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews." Something that Peter tried to do. But Jesus didn't encourage him to keep swinging his sword, he demanded that Peter put his sword away.
Why? That seems like a bad strategy for revolt. Why put away your weapons? Why put down your attack? There are groups in the Middle East that refuse to put their weapons down for this very reason.
But Jesus had a reason that he wasn't attacking the government: Look at Jesus' answer here: My kingdom is from another place.”
God's kingdom was not, nor is it, nor will it ever be an earthly kingdom. He will not lead a bloody earth revolution for political power. He doesn't care about winning electoral votes. He's not going to return and announce his plans for presidency any time soon.
How does that strike you? Disappointing?
There are some groups of Christians that are so obsessed with the idea of a 'good, Chrisitan earth' that they teach about a 1,000 year reign that Jesus will have on earth. A time when peace and prosperity will reign alongside Christian morals.
How does that hold up against Jesus' own admision here? "My kingdom is not of this world!?!"
That certainly can rub humans who long for earthly power and peace the wrong way. Maybe it does to you.
We think: "Jesus doesn't seem to want what's good for me? Shouldn't he come back and get of moral filth? Shouldn't he return and get rid of every starving person on earth? Maybe, he's lazy! Or he doesn't care. Or, at the very least, He isn't so powerful!"Satan gets into our heads: "If there aren't rulers on earth doing God's will, then, God can't be in control."
It's as if Jesus were asking us the same question he asked Pilate, "Do you think I'm a king?"
We have to admit that our answer--when we look at a struggling economy and pathetic morals is this: "No. I don't think you're king, God!"
II. What this Kingdom is
One thing we have to get straight. Jesus is still in control. Matthew 28:19, Even if Pilate thought differently, Jesus set him straight. He reminds Pilate, “You have no authority except that which God has given you.”
And if we think differently, may those words strike us hard. God is in control! He's God. He is the ultimate ruler. There isn't anyone else who has more power than him. No one can ruler over him. No one can veto him. He is in charge of this kingdom on earth.
The think is that this kingdom on earth is not where God directs all his efforts. His goal is not a Christian Utopia on this world.
God's goal is a kingdom that's outta this world!
Listen to what Jesus tells Pilate; "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Did you hear that? Jesus was a King! He was born to be a King. Jesus came into the world to be a king. He even kept himself busy with all kinds of ruling activity.
The truth is that Jesus is a King! He does have a kingdom. He is actively involved in running.
But where is this kingdom?
Look at Jesus' response a little closer. There are some clues.
1) It is a kingdom centered in Truth.
It's why Jesus came into the world. To testify to the truth! As a king, this is his most important activity.
What kind of truth was King Jesus focused on proclaiming?
John 8:34, " Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. And a slave has no permanent place in the family.".
John 5:29 "Truly those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
John 3:15 "Very truly I tell you...(I) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in (me).
Mark 3:28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins...
John 5:24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.
Did you Jesus' truths? They had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with our relationship to God!
Here's a very simple summary. We are sinners. We deserve hell. Jesus died to take away our sins. Through faith in him weare forgiven and we have entered his kingdom!
This is God's kingdom of truth!
It's like getting the keys to the White House. I imagine everyone who works there has a set. Whether they are metal fitted keys, or access codes or retina scans, it is cool to be given what's necessary to enter the capital. This is true for governors or janitors!
Jesus gives us what's necessary to enter his kingdom. It's truth. The truth of our sins. The truth of forgiveness of sins in him! The truth of his kingdom.
2. A Kingdom in Hearts.
Not only is God's kingdom located in truth, but it is located in hearts. The heart is what does the believing! Colossians 3:15 says this:"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts!"
It's amazing really. There's the White House. The Taj Mahal. King Solomon's Palace. Even the Vatican. All big impressive and structurally amazing. Fit for a king!
Yet Jesus chooses to set up his palace in our hearts. A palace that's roughly 5 inches long, 3 inches wide and 2 inches high! He doesn't need the fanfare, the royal band, the crown of gold! He doesn't need some big, gigantic palace. Jesus is content to rule inside of you.
And, yes, he does some redecorating. He gets rid of our filthy sins that ordain the walls of this 'heart palace.' He washes the crevices clean with the waters of Baptism. He throws out the drapes that are made from our selfish desires. He destroys our foolish ideas of earthly glory. He fills us with his love and the joys of his kingdom!
This is King Jesus' most important work. He actively works through the truth of his Word to get into our hearts where he rules and where he plans on ruling forever.
3. A Kingdom of Eternity.
Jesus' kingdom is not like the Roman dynasty. They aren't in control anymore. The same can be said for the Greeks, the Turks, the Hmongs, the Persians.. These were all dynasties that were, but are no more.
Christ's kingdom lasts forever. It's what Ezekiel was talking about when he was relaying thee Word of God in our Old Testament lesson. He said, "My servant David will be king over them...forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.. I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
David was already dead by the time Ezekiel wrote this. So, who was Ezekiel talking about?
Think about it: No human can rule forever. We die. Only God is eternal. Jesus is God. Jesus is eternal. His Kingdom is eternal.
And when we enter the glory of his kingdom in the next life, it will be unlike the terrors of the kingdoms on this earth. No terrorist threats. No economic downturn. No homeland security breaches. no angry political protests. No congress members fighting with one another. No poverty. No joblessness.
Only righteousness, peace, and joy. (Romans 14:17)
III. How His Kingdom “Comes”
Remember how the petition goes. "Thy Kingdom Come." How does that kingdom come? How does Jesus bring people into his kingdom?
We already heard Jesus' was going about building his kingdom. He "testified to the truth." It was a truth of eternity. It was a truth that he spoke to hearts.
Therefore, we know that God's kingdom comes as the truth of eternity is spoken to hearts.
Now, you might expect God to choose big wig Senators and famous orators who might be the next people to run for president in order to introduce his kingdom to the world. This isn't so. God shares that truth of eternity for hearts by using you and me. Plumbers, teachers assistants, accountants, waitresses, moms, and construction workers!
Our King actively works through us to Make His Kingdom Come!
His kingdom comes as you review this week's Sunday School lesson with your child at home. His kingdom comes as you invite and bring your friend to church. His kingdom comes as you share a Facebook devotion with a relative. His kingdom comes as you sit over a cup of Starbucks and have a heart to heart talk about the eternal truths of Jesus!
Its' not wrong to be engaged in politics. In fact, it's our duty. We are citizens. God calls for citizens to do their duty. He has given us this earthly kingdom to live under. A Christian can certainly be engaged in trying to better this country.
However, maybe we need to keep our priorities straight. As important as it might be to 'change the country', how much more important it is to change hearts!
Can you imagine what might happen if we were as actively engaged in building God's Kingdom as we were in building a "better America?" All the time we spend sharing political articles on Facebook changed to sharing devotional thoughts about our Savior! All the arguments we get in over political points changed into presentations of our King's grace. All of the time, money, and energy we spend trying to get some frail human being elected to a government positions, directed instead at trying to get King Jesus into the heart of another.
Think about what we're praying. Thy Kingdom Come” means “God hold me in faith. Bring others to faith and use me to bring others to faith."
Certainly, we have a powerful God who is always at work bringing his Kingdom. Yet we pray: Thy Kingdom Come, O Lord, Thy kingdom Come. Amen.
If you haven't heard by now, the United States Government has "shutdown." The House and the Senate were unable to agree on a spending plan and so...without this plan in place...government jobs have been temporarily cut.
National Parks are closed. You have to wait to get a Federal home loan. You won't be seeing many work site inspectors on duty. You won't even be able to get your tax questions answered by the IRS hotline.
From all the pundits and news sources available, you will learn that the longer the shutdown goes on the more we will be affected.
This all may be a bit disheartening and extremely confusing. With less people working under Homeland Security, will the government be able to thwart attacks? Will the Center for Disease Control be able to spot dangerous outbreaks? Will people still receive all of the support and benefits they were promised? How long will all of this last?
Thankfully there is One Ruler who is still at work.
Jesus said it this way, "My Father is always at work to this very day even now as I too am working." (John 5:17)
In other words: God is NOT shut down.
His all powerful hands are still protecting us from all evil.
His incredible knowledge is still guiding all things for the good of those who love him.
He is still healing diseases of every variety.
He is still providing rain and sun when necessary.
He is still ready to answer any and all cries for help.
He is continuing to pour out all of the benefits that he promised in Jesus: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
And he will always be doing this!
He never tires, because he's eternal. He never makes poor decisions, because he's all knowing. He never is unable to do something, because he is all powerful! He keeps blessing our nation even when the majority of people want to give him a disapproval rating, because of his intense love for us!
For example, look at one of the roughest days of work that God ever had: While still controlling the weather, feeding the birds, taking care of the atmosphere, commanding tens of thousands of angels, and repeatedly defending against the devil, he also was slated to die. He dealt with all of your sins and mine. He worked through hell on earth in order to save you and me. He died!
Yet, he didn't stop working. The earth still revolved around the sun. The stars stayed in their places. Photosynthesis still was in production! For goodness sake: EVEN DEATH COULDN'T HOLD GOD BACK!
And on the third day, God in Jesus came back to life. He proved that his work wasn't in vain. He proved that his work on Good Friday would bring about eternal life to all who believed in him. Then, 40 days later, he ascended into heaven where he sits on the Eternal Throne to rule all of our universe.
What's the point?
If you're nervous about the government shutdown, look at the bigger picture. Look at the Incredible Ruler of the Universe. There's no job he can't handle. He'll never malfunction. He's totally trustworthy. He absolutely wise. He'll never come to an impasse in which he has to shut down his love.
He's always working for you.
PRAYER: Dear Lord above, please take care of us. In the midst of this strange political climate, bring peace. Guide us all with your incredibly loving hand. Show love to our nation because of your mercy. Forgive our sins. Watch over us with your eternal palms of power. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.