The petition we are looking at tonight is what we might call the Superhero petition. It’s just like the Bat signal. When someone is in need of help from Batman, the commissioner turns on this giant spotlight to let Batman know that his help is needed to stop evildoers. If you’re more into realism, then think of it as the 911 petition. It’s what we call to get the police to help when evil is happening.
Of course – the One we’re going to for help is more powerful than the Batmobile and has a better response time than the first responders to an emergency scene.
It’s God. God to whom we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
I. What is Evil?
The question we need to answer first is: “What is evil?” Of course, there are certain things that immediately pop into our minds when we hear the word “evil.” Things like terrorism. Things like sex trafficking. Things like kidnapping. Things like mass shootings, serial killers and drunk driving.
Earlier today in the UK a police officer was stabbed near Parliament. Believe it or not – CNN and Fox News are in agreement. It’s bad. It’s evil.
But then there are the things we consider evil that are a little closer to our hearts. The coworker who consistently bad mouths us to the boss. The friend who betrays us. The guy at the coffee shop who is just plain rude to us.
What do these smaller evils have in common with those bigger evils? They are sin. Sin done to us. That’s the first thing that we are asking in this petition. To deliver us from Sin Done to Us.
But right before the seventh request is a request that ties closely to it: Lead us Not Into Temptation.
The reality is that if you are asking for protection from some sin that your coworker might do to you – Don’t you think there are people asking for protection from some sin that you do to them?
The Bible tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
That includes you. That means you sin. That means you do evil.
What’s interesting about the sixth petition is that it recognizes this. “Lord, lead us not into temptation,” means, “Lord, deliver me from doing evil. Protect me from my struggle with pornography. Keep me from raising my voice at my spouse. Stop me from gossiping about my friends. Lord, protect me from…me.”
That’s the second things we ask in these petitions: To deliver us from Sin Done by Us.
But this sin – the sin you and the sin done to you – comes from somewhere. There’s a bigger bad guy. A source of evil.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
They aren’t the things of fiction. They aren’t myths. They are very, scarily real.
To put it simply – If we believe the Bible and we believe Jesus is our Savior and we believe angels are protecting us (the comforting things) – We also need to believe the scary things. That the devil is real. That evil angels are real. That long ago – the devil and the fallen angels rebelled against God and have been fighting against God’s plans ever since then.
God’s plan is to have you in heaven.
The devil’s goal is to have you in hell.
Look at how much the devil wants it: The devil is prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
He stalks. He prowls. He pounces. And if you’ve ever seen National Geographic, perhaps you know how brutally violent it is when the lion catches the antelope. That’s nothing compared to what happens when the devil catches ahold of you and me.
So, we pray a third thing – Deliver Us from The Evil One. Deliver us from the devil.
This all sounds scary. You might have gone into this night thinking, “It’s a pretty scary world.” But after recognizing the reality of the devil and his legions of demons – it only gets scarier. It’s like a horror movie come true.
But I’m not scared.
Not of the devil.
Not of his demons.
Not of evil.
Neither should you be.
Galatians 1:4 says this, “Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”
Which sounds strange.
You might have expected Jesus to fight him one on one. To go fisticuffs with the devil. To shoot powerful lightning bolts from his hands.
But the Divine knockout punch was much different:
It started on a Thursday evening. Jesus had gotten done eating a special celebration supper with his closest friends. It was a night that was supposed to be filled with joy. A night that was supposed to be a great connection between friends.
But there was something about that night that was off. About halfway through the meal, Jesus looked up to his disciples. His expression was sorrowful. He explained, “One of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21) “One of you will be tempted by evil and fall. One of you will do evil to me.”
Later that night as they were in a beautiful garden praying – the mood shifting again. Torches and clanking of metal preceding a mob of people led by Judas – the betrayal – hell-bent on killing Jesus.
Jesus approaches them.
Jesus sizes them up.
Jesus offers them his hands for arrest.
He says, “This is your night. The night when darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53)
And it was.
Evil arrested Jesus.
Evil mocked Jesus.
Evil slapped Jesus.
Evil condemned Jesus.
Evil killed Jesus.
But the night when darkness reigned – was only one night.
Three days later, Jesus came back to life.
Three days later, Jesus defeated sin.
Three days later, Jesus defeated death.
Three days later, Jesus defeated the devil.
Three days later, Jesus delivered us from evil.
And he has the same promise for us. One day – at just the right time – he will take us home to heaven – a place apart from this evil world. A place apart from sin. A place apart from the devil.
A place of peace.
A place of love.
A place with the victor of life itself – Jesus.
Lord, deliver us from evil now until you deliver us from evil then. Amen.
Prayer 101: Thy Will Be Done
Prayer 101: Thy Kingdom Come
Over the course of Lent, we’re going to get a crash course on prayer from Jesus himself. We’ll be breaking part some of the most well-known words in the Bible – the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Tonight, we’ll be looking at the words of the 2nd Request in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come.” Our goal is to better understand exactly what we’re praying for with that phrase.
I. What’s the Kingdom of God?
A good place to start is to identify what the kingdom of God is. Because if you don’t know what it is, you don’t know what you’re asking for and why would you ask for it?
And that’s what was driving the Pharisees nuts! Beside talking about it in the Lord’s Prayer, they had heard Jesus repeatedly shout: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
But what did it mean?
The number one idea of what this meant was a political kingdom. Follow the logic:
(1) Jesus claimed to be the Messiah
(2) The Jews understood the Messiah to set up a Jewish political power
(3) Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God.
(4) The Kingdom of God must mean a Jewish return to being a world power.
There’s a similar hope among Christians in America. The hope is that the Kingdom of God will be the time that Jesus ushers in a Christian utopia as the most powerful country on the planet. A Christian President, Christian Congress, and Christians on the Supreme Court.
But if that’s what Jesus meant, his words seem foolish…
Are we getting more Christian in America?
The words seemed foolish to the Pharisees too. They didn’t see Jesus gathering an army. His rag tag bunch of fishermen, accountants and political zealots weren’t exactly secret service. He hadn’t set a date nor handed out propaganda with a picture of Jesus pointing that said, “We want you!” There wasn’t any indication of a coup that would overthrow the Romans.
So they asked Jesus, “When is this kingdom going to come?”
Listen to Jesus’ response, “The Kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.”
It’s not political.
It’s not social.
It’s not physical.
It’s not found anywhere on Google maps!
The Kingdom of God is in your heart.
II. How Does it Come?
If the kingdom of God is spiritual and invisible, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. God does all kinds of things that are spiritual and invisible. But it does cause us to ask the next question: How does it come? Or how will God build this kingdom?
Again – the Pharisees were convinced that they were already a part of the spiritual kingdom of God.
Because they did awesome thing.
They fasted more than any of the other Jewish people in their towns.
They put oil on their face so people would pay attention to the fact they were fasting.
They didn’t eat oysters or bacon -- things that were outlawed in the Kingdom of God.
They thought they were a part of God’s Kingdom because of the outward things that they did.
But Romans 14:17 says this, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy...”
The kingdom of God comes with righteousness.
The kingdom of God comes with “Without-sin-ness.”
The kingdom of God comes when you have complete peace with God.
The kingdom of God comes with joy that you and God are allies.
So…Are you in the kingdom of God?
Are you righteous?
Are you at complete peace with God?
Are you filled with joy because you are that connected to him?
Or do you struggle to separate yourself from sin?
Do you fail day after day to stop doing that one sin that you struggle with?
Do you feel the hostility of not doing what God says?
Do you find yourself attached to guilt from something that you did years ago?
Those are not things of the kingdom of God.
But take heart. Look at Romans 14 again:
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
That’s an important phrase. It reminds us of the truth – that if we try to enter the kingdom of God by eating or drinking or fasting or praying or tithing or giving or serving at church or soup suppering or doing any kind of "Christian" thing to impress God, it will not work.
It will be tainted by sin.
We will never have the money required for down payment in his kingdom.
Our eternal visa will. Be. Denied.
We’re really bad at building ourselves into God’s kingdom.
But the Holy Spirit?
He’s the best eternal contractor that there is.
The Holy Spirit introduces us to the perfect housing program – Jesus Christ who gives us his righteousness -- the going rate for a house in God’s kingdom.
The Holy Spirit gives us peace -- the peace of knowing that our property deed has been signed on the dotted line with the eternal, unalterable blood of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit brings us joy – joy that looks out the windows of God’s Kingdom and sees the streets of forgiveness, lined with trees of life, and budding with the fruits of the Spirit.
God’s kingdom comes because of the work of the Holy Spirit. But He doesn’t work with bulldozers and 40 foot cranes. He works with God’s Word. He uses it to break ground on unsettled land. He set the foundation of Jesus Christ on our hearts. He carefully builds and effectively constructs with the Word of God.
Are you a part of his kingdom?
Is Jesus in your heart?
Do you believe that Jesus is your Savior?
You are in his Kingdom.
III. Why Keep Praying This?
If I’m already a part of the kingdom of God, why did I keep praying for God’s kingdom to come? Let’s go to God’s Word for two reasons:
(1) So You Aren’t Evicted
Look at what Peter writes, “Be on your guard so that you may not fall from your secure position.” (2 Pt. 3:17) The implication? You can certainly ruin your part in the Kingdom of God. You can certainly forfeit the righteousness that you need to remain in his Kingdom. This is greater than sin. This is great than making a mistake.
This is throwing away the payment Jesus made.
It’s destroying the foundation that you have in Jesus.
It’s refusing to do any building or maintenance on your faith until it gets old and dusty like that house on your street with the long lawn and the broken shutters.
Eviction comes from falling from faith.
Falling from faith comes from not doing any maintenance.
Maintenance is done in God’s word.
Don’t get deported.
Get into God’s Word.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
In God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will reinforce the walls of your house in his kingdom.
He installs security systems to keep the devil out.
He paints over all the inefficiencies and gives us a beautiful makeover as we live our lives for Jesus.
(2) A Second Answer
But this prayer isn’t just for us alone. Look at what Jesus says in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice.”
Jesus wasn’t a shepherd – he was a carpenter.
He didn’t have any pets. Not a goldfish, not a dog, not even a sheep.
But he did call himself the Good Shepherd.
He did call his followers his sheep.
Here is saying that there are others sheep that aren’t his sheep yet that he needs to bring into his Kingdom.
In other words – Jesus wants unbelievers to become believers and join him in His Kingdom.
That’s what we’re praying in this petition. That God keeps building condos, apartments, and four story houses for people to dwell in his Kingdom.
It means this prayer is very important.
This prayer is for the people that you love.
This prayer is for your atheist neighbor.
This prayer is for your transgendered coworker.
This prayer is for your Buddhist cousin.
This prayer is for your complacent spouse.
This prayer is for me.
This prayer is for each other.
This prayer is for you.
That God would construct a house in our hearts and maintains that dwelling that we may live permanently in the Kingdom of God.
SERMON: Deliver Us From Evil
Have you heard of the new fad that's sweeping teens across the nation? It's called: Knockout. No it doesn't have anything to do with bowling pins nor does it have anything to do with dressing like you're going to the Prom.
Knockout works like this. You get a camera phone. You started recording. You focus on an innocent bystander walking on the side walk. Then, you hold the camera steady as your friend bursts on screen. You record as he swings his fist with all the momentum he can. You cringe as it connects with that pedestrian's face. Then, you reconvene. Laughing hysterically and awarding points for how 'knocked out' the person is who got hit. Hilarious, right?
These are the times we live in. Times when we have to watch our surroundings at the mall. Times where we are on alert at the movie theater. Times when preschools issues codes for parents to enter and pick up the children.
There has never been a more appropriate time to pray the final petition of the Lord's Prayer over and over again: Deliver Us From Evil!
In our lesson for today, I'm thrilled to tell you that God our Lord will do just that!!! Open up to Romans 3:19.
I. God Reacts to Evil.
“Now we know that whatever he law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”
Now we might not always believe that God is going to do anything about evil. We might think he's too busy playing a game of Divine Go Fish with the angels in heaven in order to remember to exact vengeance against evil down on earth.
Think about what we see on earth: Groups continually plant bombs and then shoot television interviews in which they ridicule the men and women who are trying to stop them. Sadistic men kidnap and tie women up for years – becoming nonchalant and cocky – “No one will ever catch me!” Blog post after blog post mocking God and scoffing at the very thought that he could ever hold them accountable.
These people think they are getting away with it and we might feel like they are getting away with it.
But listen to the words from Romans 3 again—The whole world will be held accountable to God. Will be. This is future fact. It's a most definite truth. It doesn't say, “Might be,” or “could possibly be,” but “will be.'
When that happens, it won't be like what you see on the People's Court. There won't be any backtalk. There won't be any preconceived perceptions clouding God's judgment. There won't be sappy argument from picketers or internet bloggers that would cause God to sway his decision.
Because God is God. God has the final say. God doesn't forget. God doesn't miss a wrong. God always sees. God always knows. God always exacts justice! And justice is that he declare all evildoers to be unrighteous. Not good. Evil.
Then, He will give them their their punishment. It won't be community service. Not time served. A hefty fine won't be acceptable nor will 40 years at Guatanamo Bay or life in Alcatraz.
Those punishments are way more humane than what God has in mind for evil.
I'll allow Jesus himself to tell us about it. In Matthew 13:41 “God's angels will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
II. The Worst Kind of Evil
There are a lot of different evildoers in this world. Sometimes, we think we can spot them: tattoos, gruff looking facial hair, a turban. In fact, when you see someone who matches that description you might walk down on the other side of the road or quickly lock your car doors.
But what about those people who don't look evil and do evil anyway? The next door neighbor for 20 years? The grade school principal? The artistic teenager?
The worst kind of evil is the evil that you don't expect.
Look back at Paul's words again. You'll see an evil that you might not be expected. “Now we know that whatever he law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
Who is held accountable in that passage? Could you read it again?
The whole world.
Do you ever find yourselves divorcing yourself from that phrase? As if, it is talking about terrorists, murderers, and the neighbor who listens a little too heavy to his heavy metal, but...not you.
Well, let's do a quick experiment. Lift up your feet. Then, slam your foot to the ground. Did you feel anything? Did you hear a noise? Do you want to know what that was that your feet slammed into?
You are in this world and you too will be held accountable to God . Look at his judgment in verse 20, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law. Rather through the law we become conscious of sin--”
Sin refers to bad things. The opposite of Good. The opposite of God.
Now, maybe you're screaming: “Yeah, right! I'm not that bad. I'm not evil! How can God call me that? There must be some kind of mistake.”
Remember: the worst kind of evil is the evil that you can't identify as evil. Consequently, if you were evil, do you think you'd identify yourself as evil? Or would you blatantly refuse to listen to God? Ignore God? Refuse to accept the truth.
Kinda like the defendants on The People's Court.
The truth is God will declare no one righteous because no one is righteous! That means you. That means me. We all deserve divine punishment for our evil. Eternal death in hell.
III. How God Saves Us from Evil
It's very similar to being on death row.
Haunted by what you had done you sit, dehydrated from tears, in a quiet, dull jail cell. Without any tears left to shed, you numbingly, sullenly sit on the edge of your prison bed.
You know what you did.
You know what you deserve.
You close your eyes to hide the fear.
Then, you hear a commotion. You look up. The cell gate rolls open. Your attorney walks in. He's gleaming.
“There's a way,” he says, “There's a way out! They're willing to drop the charge on you. You won't die! You can live and you're free.”
I got news for you. That's exactly what happened. Your attorney, Jesus Christ, has great news for you.
Listen to God's awesome plan for saving you from evil. All evil. Even the evil within yourself!
Romans 3:20 – Now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Righteousness is what we need to get past the eternal sentence of punishment. Righteousness means that there is no evil--only "right"--ness.
How can evil people like us become righteous?
Think of Winnie the Pooh. He loves loves honey. However, Winnie the Pooh was also a bear. Bears can't make honey. Honey bees can. So, no matter, how hard Pooh Bear tried, he couldn't make honey! He had to get it from the bees.
That's like us. We can't produce any righteousness on our own. So, where do we find the righteousness to be saved from the evil within ourselves? From the only one who can produce righteousness: God himself!
Immediately, you might be thinking: "Let's talk cost. What will God demand of us in order to get his righteousness?"
Remember what we just learned! We are humans. We are sinners. We have evil within us. Therefore, we can't give God anything good in order to earn salvation. Paul says “There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!
So God gives it to us. Free.
He gives it to you. Free.
All are justified freely by his grace. That's exactly what grace means. Free gift.
Of couse, we shouldn't get the impression that no one paid for this righteousness from God. Take a look at the next part.“All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
What's redemption? It's the buy back price.
In a kidnapping, there might be a ransom note. A demand that the parents pay a couple million dollars and then, they get their child back.
Evil took hold of us. It threatens to take us to hell. It demands a ransom of God. The ransom? Give up your perfect child in exchange for your evil children.
God didn't even blink.
Verse 24, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
What's atonement? Break the phrase apart to remember it easily. “At One Ment.” Meaning, we are no longer God's enemies because of our evil deeds, but we are at one with God. We are at peace. Jesus saved us from our own evil!
Now, you might think: “That doesn't seem very just! Is God just deciding to let me – and countless other believers get away with sin?”
Not at all. Look at verse 25 again: God did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just...
How did God demonstrate his justice by sacrificing Jesus on the cross? Because on the cross, evil got what it deserved! The hellfire, angry wrath of a God who hates sin raged against sin—our sin! On the cross, our evil deeds were punished in the person of the innocent, completely righteouss Son of God.
But God's whole plan was not simply about punishing evil. It's not just about vengeance. It's about you.
God is both just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Justifies means: “Declares not guilty.” “Declares not evil.” That's exactly what God has declared you because of Jesus!
Here's our conclusion then: God will deliver from evil.
He does it in this life. He is the one who protects us in the hood. He is the one who keeps us safe from terrorists. He is the one who commands his angels to guard and protect you from all evil.
And one day, he will bring you to heaven. A place where there is no evil! There aren't any bombs. No nuclear holocaust. No shootings. No walking down on one side of the street while watching your back because you don't know who's gonna get you. There is no evil in heaven.
My grandpa Kiecker was a small town farmer. There's some scary stuff on a small country farm. Fights amongst the hired help -- machinery accidents -- wolves attacking the chickens.
Grandpa no longer has to deal with any of those frightening things. Now he is at home in heaven. Now he is in the loving arms of his God, Jesus Christ -- apart from all evil.
Maybe, you have a Grandpa Kiecker too. Maybe you have a loved one who has gone into heaven. Give thanks to God for that loved one. Give thanks to God for delivering them from evil. Continue to pray that God does the same for you -- even as he already has on the cross.
Deliver us from evil Lord. Deliver us from evil. Amen.
SERMON: Lead Us Not Into Temptation
12 If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor. 10:12-14, NIV 2011)
Smooth, creamy peanut butter. Delicious melted milk chocolate. A few M&Ms sprinkled throughout. Glazed with a hot fudge sauce. Eaten right out of the oven—warm & delicious.
This is the recipe for Temptation Bars. Or at least, it's similar. (You can Google it and find a bunch of different recipes.) They are called Temptation Bars because they are hard to resist.
Temptation Bars work a lot like real temptations. They look delicious. They taste good while you're eating it, but...after you eat 2 or 3 (or in my case, 7) you have a tummy ache.
Temptation to sin works just like that. It seems cool. It seems fun. It may even feel good while it's going on, but afterwards you are left with the emotional stress of shame and guilt. You may even have caused your body real physical pain. Finally, there is the eternal pain of suffering in hell for falling to temptation.
No wonder we ask Jesus to “Lead us Not Into Tempation” in the Lord's Prayer.
Today we're going to look at that phrase and discuss three common misconceptions about temptaiton. In doing so, we'll reveal the lie and reveal the truth that God gives us in Scripture. The specific part of Scripture we'll look at today is found in 1 Corinthians 10.
MYTH 1: I am powerful enough to overcome temptation.
Ever thought like that? Ever been convinced that temptation isn't a problem with you?
Yesterday was new member Sunday. New Member Sunday recognizes those people who have spent time learning the truths of Scripture in a Bible Basics course and are ready to become full members of the church. In our church, this class takes up about 20 hours of learning for adults—60 45 minute classes for middle school children.
It's interesting that temptation was the topic for this Sunday. Because, if it's the same as it was when I was confirmed, then the devil is quickly at work: “Finally, I made it through. I learned all I need to know about the Bible. I got through Pastor's bad jokes. I no longer have to get up early or stay up late in order to keep studying the Bible. I'm going to be confirmed! Suddenly, temptation won't be such a big deal. I'm confirmed. I'm a professional Christian. I'll never be easily tempted again!I am powerful enough to overcome temptation on my own.”
Perhaps you confirmed awhile ago. Then, you might recognize the strange thinking that takes place, “They think they don't need to be wary of temptation any longer? They've got another thing coming. It's not so easy. Temptation keeps on coming.At least, it did. But I've been a member here for 20 years. I've been spiritually strong. I was confirmed years ago. I can quote Lutheran hymns in my sleep! All the sins pastor normally talks about – hated, greed, lust. I don't have to worry about them. Never have those temptations anymore. That's kiddy stuff. That's new member stuff. I am powerful enough to overcome temptation on my own .”
People think foolishly about temptation at all different levels of Christianity! The goal: get to a place where we can go and do whatever we want, because we're so powerful we can take on any temptation the devil is going to throw at us.
It's as if we view ourselves as Superman whose temptations bounce off of us like bullets to the Man of Steel's chest.
If we don't think like it, at least we act like it! Consider this:
Have you ever knowingly head out for a drink with the same group of people that lead you to foul language and drunkenness every time you go out? Yet, you rationalize: “I'm feeling extra Biblely today. I'll be fine. I won't sing this time.”
Or why do we think that this is the time that we're not going to think lustful thoughts during that “R” rated TV show when it's always been the case every other time? Did God grant you a special level of resistance that allows you to watch smut without being affected?
So, is it true? Are we really? Are Wisconsin Synod Lutherans really impervious to temptations? Are just the stronger members? Is the pastor?
Look at what the apostle Paul wrote: “If you-- and that's plural. He's talking to everyone who reads this letter – If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!"
In order for an NFL quarterback to take a hit, he lowers his center of gravity. He plants his feet. He stands firmly on the ground. It prevents him from being knocked over and helps to keep himself from fumbling.
Similarly, the lady who is at the mall for the 2am Black Friday special stands firm. She knows she needs to in order to keep her place in line. If she doesn't stand firm, she'll fall back—knocked over by the vicious grandma out to get her grandchild the latest bed wetting doll.
Paul meant the same thing: If you think you are standing firm, watch out! Because the truth is that once you start getting complacent, once you stop bracing yourself, once you think you aren't in trouble, you are in the biggest trouble of all.
The myth is that we can handle temptation. The truth is that we are in danger of temptation, because we can fall! We do not within ourselves have some kind of superpower that makes us impervious to temptation! If you think you are above temptation, because you are a member of a church or a long time member of a church-- you have got another thing coming!
MYTH 2: Your temptation is so powerful that you can't help but fall.
On the other hand, you might be totally agreeing completely. “Yes, temptation is great. I can't handle it. In fact, pastor, I have a few temptations in my life that I can't handle. Super temptations! It's borderline –an addiction! I want that chemical or that sneak peek or that anger release so badly that any time I'm tempted I can't help but sin. What's the point in trying to fight back? I'll just sin again and again and again. As soon as the temptation hits, I basically give up. I'm done for.”
And what's really strange? We may take pride in this. We might say, “The devil has to work super hard on me. Sure, I fall to his temptations, but they are super temptations. The regular temptations that other people fall to, I am better than. In order to get me, he has to pull out all the stops. Impressive, right God?”
It's as if we view our own personal temptations as on steroids! We think of them as super temtpations, as if they were bitten by a radioactive spider or fell into a vat of mutagen. Then, they are able to completely conquer us.
But is that true? Do we deal with temptations that are so far superior to us that God will just excuse us because the temptation is too difficult to deal with!?!
Look at what Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” Literally in the Greek it says “Humanish.”
Understand then what he is saying: The temptations that we experience are normal to all humans! There is no such thing as a “super temptation.” Temptation is NOT impossible to overcome. Your temptations are not impossible to overcome!
MYTH 3: You are fighting temptation alone.
Wow. Talk about depressing. Jesus is saying that the temptations we face aren't even all that impressive and yet we still have to be aware, because we aren't powerful enough to defeat them all by ourselves.
You might be feeling sad. Pathetic. Alone. Stuck in temptation without a way out and without anyone to help us!
But that too is a myth!
Look at the incredible truth of the next passage: God is faithful. Think about that. It's a predicate nominative. Faithful is God. It's his essense. It's who He is. Meaning...He can't not be faithfully there for you, even in the midst of temptation.
You are NOT alone. You are NEVER Alone. God is with you!
You might say: “Yes, he's there. But he's God. He doesn't know what it's like to be tempted by a pretty lady. He doesn't know the pull alcohol has on me. He doesn't realize how upsetting my brother is!”
But remember: Jesus was human. And as we already reveiewd, remptation is common to humankind. Since Jesus was a human it follows that he too was tempted! Turn to Matthew 4 for a specific exmaple of the devil doing just that!
The book of Hebrews says it this way, “Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are.”
Think about that: As a little boy, Jesus was tempted just as we were. To refuse to put his toys away when his mom asked, to throw fits, even to fight with his friends in school.
When he grew older, he would have been tempted to ditch school and go vandalize the Hebrew schule. His eyes would have been tempted to gaze lustfully at the girls by the well.
It didn't change when he was grown up. He would have been tempted to greedily steal some monies from his Apostle's stash. He could have been tempted to take advantage of the women who came to him for help. He might have been tempted to slap and hit all of the men who came to arrest him at night.
Then, to top it all off, he would have been tempted to pridefully look down on all the sinners who surrounded him and even begin to think of himself as better than God the Father himself!
Jesus' human life was just like ours. It was filled with temptation. He knows what you are going through.
But unlike another human who might commiserate with you and say “I hate that sin too, but I don't know what to do about it.” Jesus knows exactly what to do.
Listen to the end of the passages from Hebrews: Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin!
Wow! Think about all the ways you are tempted everyday...by media, friends, and physical feelings. Then, appreciate what Jesus did: He never fell to temptation even once. Never abused his body. Never abused another. Never broke a commandment. Always did what he should all the time!
That's nothing short of incredible. It's nothing short of miraculous. It's nothing short of super!
So, yes, we don't inherently have some kind of super power above temptation. And we don't each have some kind of super temptation that's impossible to resist. But Jesus!-- He is super. He has super power! He defeated temptation in all of its ugly, disgusting forms!
Including the end result: Sin! Jesus defeated sin. He defeated your sin. He destroyed, shatttered, vaporized all of the sins that we have been revisiting through this sermon. Jesus beat them all on the cross! He suffered the wrath of God for you.
It means you are forgiven. Through faith in our Savior, you are forgiven of every single temptation realized—every single sin, you've ever fallen to. All of them. Forgiven.
That's how incredibly faithful God is. We had fallen to temptation. We deserved to fall to hell. Yet God is so faithful to you that he would not let you die even when you deserved it. Instead, he died. Then, he remained faithful in death—coming back to life to continue to suppoort and uplift you to this day!
This is why the Apostle Paul wrote, God is faithful. He didn't write, “He was faithful, or he sometimes is faithful. Or only when he remembers to be faithful. NO! God IS Faithful! He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it!”
In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way.” Certainly, he is the way to heaven. Is it so far off to also say that Jesus is the way out of temptation?
It starts with prayer. “Jesus, I'm being tempted right now. On my own, I can't handle it. But with you, I will defeat it. Because you're more powerful than the devil. You're more powerful than any temptation. You are the most powerful, all powerful Lord of heaven and earth! Be faithfull. It's who you are. Help me!”
Then, get away! Run from temptation. Get out of the sinful relationship you are in. Get away from the drug that tempts you. Stay away from the gossip group. Pull the plug on your computer. Take a walk and cool off. Get away from temptation. Run to God!
This might seem scary, but remember: God is faithful! He will always abide. He is always with you—with all of his power and strength.
This is why we pray what we do: Lead us not into temptation! Not that God ever would lead us into temptation, he wouldn't and he can't. He's faithful. It's not in his divine genes!
Instead, we remind God of his promise. We focus ourselves on his incredible power. And we remain confident. Confident to defeat any and all temptation. Confident not because of ourselves AND not because temptation is weak, but because our God is stronger! Amen.
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.
SERMON: Thy Will Be Done
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.
SERMON: Thy Kingdom Come
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.