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.
Did you get any gift cards for Christmas? Sometimes you might get a gift card to a place that you have never heard of before. Sometimes they're not gift cards, so much as gift certificates, or pieces of paper that the small business owner wrote "$10 free" on in blue ink.
What do you do when you get a gift card to a place that you don't know where it is? Google it. Use your map App on your iPhone. Guys, we pretend like we know where it is and then trust our man-sense to get there.
However you choose to do it -- this may be one thing you are doing this POST Christmas season: SEEKING out stores in order to use a gift card or maybe just return a gift. Today God's Word reminds us that these places are not the only things we should seek after Christmas. But that we should also SEEK GOD!
Open up to Isaiah 55. Remember Isaiah was a prophet at a time when the people of Israel didn't seek God. Instead, they sought their own sexual desires, their own greedy wants, and their own earthly happiness. That was what was most important to them. God was not.
It was Isaiah's job to tell them differently. He says, Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near."
I. When to Seek Him
Do you remember Beanie Babies? People used to go crazy for those things! Moms would pull up in their soccer vans, sprint out of the door, hurdle a baby stroller and get to the McDonald's counter in order to get a tiny bean-filled stuffed wallaby.
Why did people go nuts for that stuff? Because they were only available for a limited time. The value was increased because once they were gone, there were no more!
Isaiah's words are similar. Find God now while he may be found! Find Him while he is available. He will only be available for a limited time. Once that time is over, if you haven't found him, then you'll never find him.
Of course, are most people more urgent about God or Beanie babies? About God or some post Christmas deal? About God or getting home to watch the NFL playoffs because "the game is only on for a limited time!"
Brothers and sisters, we need to change our urgency!
You might be asking, "Why? I've got all the time in the world. When won't I be able to find God anymore?"
Answer: When you are dead. Dead people can't find God. Dead people can't find much of anything. The Bible tells us, "Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment."
Did you hear that? Die Once. That passage alone eliminates a host of false teachings: There is no purgatory. There is no millenial reign on earth. There is no reincarnation. There is no second chance to find God later. Stop thinking there isn't urgency and find God him now before it's too late!
II. Where NOT to Seek Him!
Isaiah is pretty clear of where God is not. "Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts." Because God is not in wicked ways and you won't find him in unrighteous thoughts.
He's not at the bottom of a liquor bottle. There's nothing heavenly found on the 14th page of pornographic search results. You won't experience and find God through liberal sexuality. The high from whatever will not lift you up so you can see God. Sin does not lead to God!
Yet by the amount of time we spend seeking out sin, you'd think it does lead to God. "I need to clear up my schedule so I can have drinks with the ladies and make fun of all my neighbors." "I need to work all weekend so I can have more things and stuff." "I need to stop doing everything else and watch a couple of hours of this TV show with awful language and adult situations."
Brothers and sisters, stop seeking sin and seek God!
III. Where TO Seek God?
Look back at the Gospel of John. We read more of this chapter on Christmas Eve. The beginning verses are all about someone called "The Word." After some detective work in those surrounding verses, it was determined The Word was referring to Jesus Christ. Now read verse 18: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known."
In other words, we see God in the Word himself. We see God in Jesus and we see Jesus in the Word -- The Bible.
Now let's be clear. I'm not asking you to pick up the book and put it under your feet as you stand at the top of the Blue Ridge parkway so you can get a better glimpse of God in nature. Nor do I want you to use the book to prop open the door to a theological discussion at some liberal university where "they determine what God must be." Nor should you use this book to hold up your keyboard so your wrists won't get tired and you can better search for "What's God like?" on the Google.
God wants you to read it. To hear it. To study it. Because in his Word, you will find God.
Find God in a barn quietly sleeping next to his mother. Find God in the carpenter's shop handing his dad a hammer. Find God on the hillside, smiling as children play near him. Find God, smiling softly as he raises a girl from the dead. Find God standing in a courtroom, listening to the insults hurled at him. Find God on the streets, buckling under the weight of his cross. Find God on a hill, nailed to that cross and dying.
It's really quite amazing! Because instead of revealing himself in some loud, thundering lightning bolts or a glowing, magnificent rainbow, God reveals himself most clearly in a human. A condemned, dying human.
OK pastor, but how do I know this Jesus is God? And how do I know this book about him isn't just the mistaken words of a few human beings?
It really is a matter of trusting Jesus. Because Jesus called the Bible -- the Old Testament portion -- he called it God's Word. Then, his apostles the very people sent out by Jesus' to teach Jesus' teachings wrote the New Testament and declared Jesus -- who was God -- his Words and teachings.
Again the skeptic might say: "But why should I trust Jesus? You said earlier he was a sad pathetic man who died on a cross."
Simple. Jesus came back to life! No other human being has ever been able to bring himself back to life! If Jesus didn't do that, his legacy would live on in books and that's it. But Jesus returned from the dead! He did what only God can do!
And there were hundreds who saw Him alive again! At least 500 to be exact. Most of whom were still alive when this book was completed. Who read what it said about Jesus and who confirmed: "Yep. He was alive. Yep. He was God. Yep. This book is of extreme importance! This holy book is how you will find God!"
IV. Why Seek Him.
That might be the best question to consider. Why seek God at all? Because if the Bible is God's Word, then doesn't it describe how God wipes out sinner after sinner? Doesn't it tell of a worldwide flood? Fire and brimstone destroying to sinful cities? A sinner swallowing earthquake? And these are all nothing compared to the eternal fires of hell it describes! Why would I want to seek Him?
Because there's more to God. Read what Isaiah tells us in the next part of verse: Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them.
Not "he might have mercy." Not "He'll consider having mercy." "Not he will have mercy, if..."
Simply: "He will have mercy on them."
That's why you need to seek God! Because God will give you mercy. Forgiveness. Eternal life. Salvation. To all who turn to him.
This mercy that God bestows is not a limited time offer. It didn't expire at the end of 2013 so that any sin you sinned in 2014 isn't covered under Jesus' death on the cross. No. God's mercy keeps on repeating! God will have mercy for the addiction that you struggle to get past. God will have mercy for those awful sinful thoughts you had yesterday evening. God will have mercy for the big sins. God will have mercy for the little sins.
Simply put, God will have mercy, because He has been merciful! He showed us himself in Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
And the Bible keeps telling you that! It tells you God loved you that he gave his one and only Son for you that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. IT tells you It is by grace you have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It tells you God has clothed you with garments of salvation. And In Jesus we have redemption!
It's like that $30 Mug you can get at Starbucks. You pay for it once and then you can get as much free coffee as you want in it. God's Word repeatedly declares to the trouble conscience the forgiveness of sins.
Except it doesn't even cost $30. It's free! Isaiah emphasizes that with the final words of our text: "Let them turn to our God and he will freely pardon."
It would be a downer if it wasn't true. If after spending your entire life trying to find God, you finally stumbled upon him and he spoke to you and said "Glad you found me. Did you bring the righteous deeds I require? No? Come back when you've figured out the secret to being perfect."
That would be sad. But that's not what God will say. Instead, as we sinners find God in the message of Jesus found in his Word, God smiles. He simply says, "My child, you are forgiven."
Brothers and sisters, seek this compassionate LORD in 2014. Seek him while he may be found. Forsake wicked ways. Receive his mercy! Amen.
"The Word became flesh."
Four words. Simple. Profound.
Take a moment. Think about it.
What Word is this? What Word became flesh? Is it the Word "Christmas?" "Present?" Is it: "Eggnog" or "Wiener Schnitzel?"
Or perhaps, (clear your throat for sounding super smart) "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis."
It's not that simple.
John 1:1 contains a clue: In the beginning was the Word...
When we see the word, "Word" there we are talking about more than just language. It can't be quantified by English, Spanish, Yiddish or French. Those words weren't. They languages didn't even exist. But THE WORD, it always was:
In the beginning was the Word....
Note that it was not the literal word "God," floating around universe. Again English wasn't invented. Nor was Hebrew, so their word for God -- Elohim is right out too.
Besides that, words don't float. They need to be spoken. Written. Typed. Tapped. Signed. Or even texted!
The Word wasn't simply 'a word.' It was The Word.
John 1:1 explains, "The Word was God." His essence. His being. Who he is. ...and the Word was with God. It was with God in the beginning.
You hear two main points in that explanation. The Word was God. The Word was also with God. He is God and he is beside God at the same time.
This is a mystery explainable only in the Triune God himself. A mystery beyond our comprehension. Indescribable and epic, this can only be understood by the divine. The Word is God, yet the Word is beside God. John continues to tells us that he is the "light of the world" and that John the Baptist preached about him.
It becomes clear. The Word is the second person of the Trinity. Jesus.
Did you realize we were reading the Christmas story?
The Word became flesh.
Immediately, a few contradictions need to be made. Note the following:
The Word -- which is God himself-- did not become a theory to be debated.
God is not just some theoretic idea that is debatable amongst the greatest minds of our times. God isn't spending some time at a Duke lecture listening to a Professor of Archaeology match his thoughts on God against a Professor of the liberal arts who nods appropriately with the Evolutionary Science director who gives a high five to the Jewish rabbi that presented along the Islamic Imam.
God is not a theory to be debated. He exists. He is real. He is one. He is not a collection of the best of religions. He is not sitting up in heaven thinking: "I really like the way the Buddhist thinks of me. Now if only he would add that idea from the Catholic with that idea from the Humanist, then, I'd be really cool."
God is not created by our theories. God exists apart from us. Without us. God is real. God is not a debatable entity.
Also note: The Word did not become a poem to be mused upon.
Too often this is how we view God. A pick me up. A good luck charm. A Facebook post with a cool waterfall background and an inspirational verse in Lucida Font up in front.
God is not some kind of fairy tale. He isn't there for good advice and a witty quip on a calendar. He isn't the product of human imagination. He isn't just a word we use for good will and cheer. He isn't the opiate for the Masses. Something invented by human beings to make us feel better about this sad, lonely, gloomy life.
God is real. The Word is absolute. Allow Him to prove it by looking at what the Word -- God himself-- did become:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.
God himself. The embodiment of the spoken Word. Love. Life. Being. God became flesh.
Understand what that means. God chose to take on a frail human body. Brittle bones. Breakable skin. A respiratory system that could develop allergies. Lungs that slowly breathe until they can no longer inflate. A heart that beats until it runs out of energy. Blood that runs -- tries to clot -- fails.
This incredible truth is clearly seen throughout Jesus' life. He sleeps. He eats. He cries. He walks. He talks. I imagine he even had to clear his throat once or twice. All human things.
Yet, he healed the blind. He made the lame walk. He cured diseases without medicine. He walked on water. Stopped storms. Brought back to life.
And he did it all with....words.
That's God stuff.
The Word, God himself, became flesh--a human being.
Well, what words might you use to describe humans?
"Hateful. Vengeful. Lonely. Depressed. Guilty. Frail. Aging."
God is entirely different from that:
"Loving. Uplifting. Innocent. Unassailable. Ageless."
Why would God give up all his grandeur and glory in order to take on human flesh?
The answer is simple. He needed to.
God needed to be God because God alone is perfect. Therefore, God alone could and would live perfectly. A prerequisite for life on this earth and a necessity for everlasting life in heaven.
But God already had that. Therefore, this perfect life, wasn't for him.
It was for you.
But in order to accomplish this, God also needed to die. He needed to take on what you deserved. He needed to take on your finality. He needed to take what you, a human, deserve and make it his own.
But how could God eternal, immortal, apart from time, life itself, die?
The Word became flesh.
In order to take our place and save us from the wrath of God our sins deserved, He needed to be God to live a perfect life without sin, yet he needed to be human to die. God wanted to be that sacrifice. God wanted to be that substitute. It was (and is) the only way! So he became flesh and began inching ever closer to that final breath on the cross thirty three years later.
The Word became flesh to die. The Word became flesh to save us.
But He is no longer in death. The Word brought truth to his promise of eternal life for all who believe in him. It's a promise that glows with certainly in the aftermath of the Word's death. A promise that fills us with hope as we see the Word's real human flesh return to life again at the Word of the Word's divine nature.
And now? The Word has some new words to describe you:
Maybe, you'll change the words you'll use to describe Him.
A Message from Deuteronomy 4.
1 Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
"What in the World does Hallowed Mean?"
I think that's a good question. In today's world, it's just not an adjective we use all that much. We might call someone cool, awesome, or neato.(Or maybe we don’t and I need to update my hip vocabulary.) Hallowed is just not a word that you hear all that much.
Hallowed means "honor as holy." You might do this at your high school football field. You call it “hallowed grounds” or maybe the University library at night. You are quiet because it is “hallowed.”
Holy holds the idea of clean, pure, apart from sin. In other words, hallowed means to make something, "completely unlike anything you've ever seen or heard."
No wonder we don't use it with each other. We are all like one another. We're sinful. We've heard that before.
So whose name are we praying to be hallowed? It isn't yours. It isn't mine.
It's our Heavenly Father's.
1. What Do I Need to Do to Honor God’s Name as Holy?
In the first five books of the Bible, there's a lot of time spent on the concept of "holiness." The holy LORD wants his Israelite people to be holy. Leviticus 19:2 sums it up. It says, "Be holy because I the LORD your God am holy." This command is in the midst of chapter after chapter of ceremonies, practices, and moral laws that, when kept, would have them treat God’s name as holy.
We could, then, spend time reading those 40 some chapters in order to get a better sense of holiness. But, you probably want to get back to your tasks at hand toady. Thankfully God gave his people (and us) a great summary of these chapters in Deuteronomy 4. He says, "Do not add to what I have commanded you and do not subtract from it. But keep the commands of the LORD, your God, that I have given you."
In other words, keeping God’s name holy involves listening to and doing all that God has to say.
This makes sense.
If you wanted to become a firefighter, you would learn from a firefighter. If you wanted to learn to be a dentist, you would be an intern to a dentist. If you wanted to learn to crochet, you’d learn from your grandma. You’d go to the expert to learn how to do something.
If we want to learn how to be holy and do holy things, we have to go to the expert—God himself.
Then, listening to God and doing what he says is holy. But we need to be careful. There are certain pitfalls to watch out for.
The first is this: Don't add to God's Word.
Teenagers are good at embellishing. They use this special skill especially when it comes to proving that their parents are "awful." One might say, "My dad is so mean that I'm pretty much grounded for life." What dad actually said maybe have been quite different. It may have been more along the lines of, "You can't go to the Justin Bieber concert this weekend."
Why does the teenager change her dad's words in the first place? Because she wants people to think about her dad as this totally unreasonable, wrath filled, tyrant. If she told the facts, she's not sure it would happen. So, she "adds to" her Father's comments in order to make him look much worse than he really is.
This is what God is warning us of first of all. Don't add to my commands. Yet, we do it, because we think that somehow we'll be making God more holy.
This is what the Jewish rabbis had done by the time of Jesus. They followed and preached Old Testament laws to be sure, but they had also developed an entire book of extra laws and practices that “improved upon” those Old Testament laws of God. This book—called the Talmud is still in use to this day.
Of course, Christians aren’t immune to this. A certain church body is great at adding to God’s Word. They tell their pastors not to get married, because they think that this makes them holier. They have their parishioners say prayers a certain number of time after each sin they commit. They encourage people to have religious statues around them while they pray, because these statues will somehow make their prayers holier.
The truth is: God never commands any of that stuff.
Do you ever catch yourself doing that? Do you find yourself thinking that by saying a prayer with your hands folded around a cross with beads on it that you are suddenly making that prayer holier? Do you tell people with pride, “I never ever have an alcoholic beverage!” as if that was a commandment? Do you ever have people look at your office cubicle at work in hopes that they will realize how holy you are because you have a cross as your screen saver, your mouse pad, and in five or six picture frames around your desk? Feeling extra holy from your own added laws?
It is really a crazy concept: Unholy human beings attempting to make God holier. That's like me trying to tell Lebron James how to dribble the basketball between his legs. He's the expert, why does he need my help?
God's the expert on holiness, why does he need our help?
The second thing God warns us of probably a lot more common among us. Back in verse 4 God says, "Do not subtract from my Law."
If you saw a speed limit sign that said, “55 MPH.” What does it mean to you? Make sure you drive 65? Don’t go faster than 70? Go 55 if police are present?
Americans have collectively changed the meaning of speed limit signs. There might be certain areas this isn't true like school zones and whenever Raleigh's finest is present, but in general we've subtracted from these signs. We make them mean less than they do because driving the speed limit can be hard. It requires attention, patience, and focus. Something we don't always have. So, we subtract from this law and make it easier to attain to.
Don't we do the same thing with God's Law? "It says, 'don't lust', but we say, “When I'm looking at those lingerie models, they aren't without any clothing. So it's not really lust. At least, if I keep it under 15 minutes." God says, “Don’t gossip,” but we say, “That's hard. He must have meant 'don't gossip, unless its really juicy, then go ahead.'" God says, “'respect the government,” but we says, “God probably meant that only if I like the government." "God says, "don't hate,” but we say, “that means don't hate people who don't deserve it. Unfortunately, I only know people who deserve it, so I'll go right on hating." And talk about a popular one, God says, “homosexuality is a sin,” we say, “I don’t want to be a bigot, so I’ll just cover it in white out. (All ten plus times it says so.)”
It's like we make God's Word into the Golden Corral. "I'll have some of the "don't murder", sure, but "divorce being a sin," has always left a bad taste in my mouth. I won't get any of that. I think I'll put a smidgen of "love your neighbor" on the corner of my plate, but not too much-- too much makes me sick. I'll wash it down with a glass of "only believers in Jesus go to heaven," but that's too bitter to share with my friends, so I'll make sure and water it down first."
Listen to the LORD again, he says, " Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you."
That means in order to keep God's name holy, we need to listen to everything that he says… all the time.
It’s because you are. And in the present of the All Holy God, how else could we feel?
Yet listen to what our Holy God did to make us holy. He tells us in Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church,” and here church doesn’t refer to a building, but to people. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Think about that. Christ is God. God is holy. Christ was holy. Yet He gave himself up for us!
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.”
This is why Jesus died. Because you and I are unholy. Because all of us have added to and subtracted from God’s Word in our thoughts, words, and actions. God, who was holy, died to make us holy, because we could not do this by ourselves!
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy washing her with water and the Word.”
This is what Baptism is. It’s God’s eternal promises that in the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit seals us as holy thanks to the work of Jesus Christ our Lord. He washes us of our impurities. He makes us clean. He forgives you all of your sins!
2. Why Honor God’s Name Holy?
If we can’t do it on our own, if we don’t need to do it to earn heaven, why then do we make God’s name holy by our words and actions?
Take a look at the next part of Deuteronomy. Beginning at verse 5, "See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
In other words, Moses is telling the people to "Live by God's Word so that they you will get noticed by the rest of the world."
This was so true at the time of Israel. The other nations worshipped images of stone. The Israelites worshipped a God they couldn't see. The other nations encouraged sexual immorality as a way to get closer to their gods. The Israelite nation reserved this special act for marriage. The other nations yearned for greed and power. The Israelites offered the first fruits of their harvest to the LORD.
But why did they do this? Was it to draw attention to themselves? Why do we listen to God's Word? Is it to draw attention to ourselves?
That's not the case. Listen to what they have to say about the Israelites, 7 "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?"
Did you catch that? The Israelites lived the way they did so people would pay attention to them and in turn they would see God!
It's like Coach K. Duke's basketball teams usually play very well. That's a reflection on the players, to a certain extent, but when year after year, player after player, team after team plays as well as Duke does, it reflects on the coach.
When believer after believer, church after church, Christian after Christian follows God's Word, it reflects, not on us, but on God!
This is why we do it. To show people God.
Don't think this is to make ourselves appear better than others. It's not "I'm a great Christian" so much as it is "Christ is great!"
First, we show them God's holiness. As Moses says it, "Is there any nation so great to have such righteous decrees?" When we teach God's holiness as it is taught in the Bible, that becomes clear to people.
Because no one else considers holiness as cut and dry as God. No lust ever. No hate ever. No coveting ever. Don't ever think anything else is more important than God ...ever. Not once. Never.
When people see God's holiness, they learn what we were reminded of early in this message. “We are not holy! Not at all. We need a Savior!”
That’s the second thing we want to show people, that God is merciful.
Moses said, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Think about that. The Israelites were a sinful people. God told them to be holy, but if you open up a page in the Old Testament, chances are you'll come across some sinful things that people did.
Yet, God was with them. He led them across the Red Sea. He protected them in the desert. He heard their every plea. He did it because of his mercy.
God has done it for us as well and the message we have for others is that God did it for them too! In Jesus, with his death on the cross, God was merciful to us. He punished his Son for the sins that they committed. Through faith in him, they too will be saved!
*This is what we mean by "hallowing God's name." We want to teach and act upon all of God’s Word in order to show people God’s holiness and his mercy.
III. How Can We Pull this Off?
Moses told the Israelites, "9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live."
How do you stop yourself from forgetting?
Do you remember the order of the presidents of the United States of America?
I did at one point. Got an A+. Now...I just remember that Millard Polks Fillmore. Otherwise, I draw a lot of blanks.
Why? I didn't keep studying it. The same is true with God's Word. If you don't study it, you will forget it. It will leave your heart. Consequently, if you don't forget God's Word, then there is no way you will live it.
This is why God encourages us to read his Bible! Make a plan and get this done immediately. It’s why Bible study exists. Join one! It’s why church happens each week. See you there!
Secondly, we want to teach this to our kids. Moses said just that to the Israelites, "Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Because, guess what? They need you to tell it to them.
Don't come up with this idea that someday, somehow they'll learn on their own. That's foolish.
Instead, teach them God's Word. Bring them to Sunday School. Review the Sunday School lesson with them during the week. Pick up a devotional. If you need help finding the right one, ask me...I'll be glad to do it!
Finally, you might be realizing that this is all extremely difficult. You'd be right. How can an unholy people begin to understand the holiness of God and then put that into practice in day to day life?
You're going to need help. May I suggest that you call on the expert?
It's what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be Thy Name." It’s really quite cyclical. We are asking God for help.
Here’s the progression of thought: “O Holy God! We are not holy. We see that when we compare ourselves to you. Yet, in our baptism and because of Jesus, you have made us holy in your sight. Now we ask you to help us make your name holy in the world. Again, we can’t do that on our own. We need you to send your Holy Spirit to work in our hearts a holy understanding, teaching, and acting upon of your Word.”
In other words, “God make your Name Holy!”
May this holy God strengthen you to make his name holy that more might be brought into your holiness. Hallowed be Thy Name O Lord. Hallowed be Thy Name. Amen.