Sermon Notes – 29 April, 2019 – Matthew 6:9-10 – “As Above, So Below”

This sermon was preached at the West Congregation of The Austin Stone, as part of our ongoing study in the Gospel of Matthew. You can find audio of the sermon here.

These notes are a rough outline of what I said.

Matthew 6 is where we will be. We have been going through the world’s most famous prayer which we know as The Lord’s Prayer. It is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse and is part of his teaching to His disciples on how they had to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and religious thought leaders of the day if they hoped to be part of His great kingdom. And so, He has compared and contrasted their perceived righteousness with actual righteousness, and then He compared the way in which they prayed with how citizens of the kingdom ought to actually pray.

  • They loved to be seen by others. We ought to spend most of our time in private.
  • They used fancy words and phrases. We ought to use everyday language as described by Jesus.
  • They seemed to want to cajole and convince a distant God who needed to be impressed in order to listen. We ought to pray with the bold humility of children who are certain that we have full access to our Father, who just so happens to be ruling and reigning over the universe from Heaven.

And so last week – on Easter weekend – we looked at what it means to say to our Heavenly Dad that we want what He wants more than we want what we want. The great news of Easter is that Jesus didn’t just tell us to do that, He did that Himself. The even greater news of Easter is that what God wanted was to defeat sin and death and to resurrect His Son from the grave. What He wants is so much better than what we want.

What we will look at this week is the related request. It seems almost synonymous but introduces to us a very important concept of what it looks like to say to God that we don’t want what we want but what He wants. We want His kingdom to advance.

Let’s look at it in Matthew 6:9-10.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven. [1]

 See how beautifully this all cascades down?

  • When we know how trustworthy and powerful God is, then we will really want others to know how great He is and we will really want His name to be praised far and wide.
  • We will then want His will over ours because we know who He is, and we will want His kingdom to rule and reign more than we will want any of the kingdoms of the earth because that will “hallow” His name, and that will cause more people to know Him as “Our Father in heaven”. It is such a beautiful prayer.
  • But what on earth does it mean to pray….

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven. [2]

 In order to answer that, we need to know a couple of things and so this is how we will shape our time together briefly today.

  • We need to know what the Kingdom of God is.
  • We need to know what the impact and purpose of asking for it to come is.

So, first question…What is the Kingdom of God?

I know that many of us here in America have a weird relationship with the idea even of a kingdom. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that we fought to bring ourselves out from underneath the reign of one. When we look around the world today, we don’t have great examples of functioning kings and kingdoms. The United Kingdom isn’t really a kingdom, and its royalty function more as some sort of reality TV celebs than they do as actual rulers. Monaco has a king of sorts, but some of you have ranches bigger than that kingdom. And we have too many examples of “king” like figures operating as despotic leaders and keeping their people oppressed. And yet we have a longing to be part of a Kingdom with a just king as a ruler. Why?

Well, very briefly today (as many very long books have been written on this subject), it is important to note that the Kingdom of God is a central theme in the Scriptures. In fact, some very respectable and knowledgeable biblical theologians see it as the central theme holding the Scriptures together.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones stated simply…

“The key to the history of the world in the kingdom of God” 

We see it in the way the bible begins and in the way bible ends, with God ruling perfectly over his people in a place that is full of his reign. In between, there is a struggle between the kingdom of this world and God’s kingdom.

We see it longed for and continually tainted and sullied in the narrative of the people of Israel in the O.T. We see it promised and feel its longing in the writing of the prophets. Then Jesus comes on to the scene and it is His primary teaching topic. He continually announces that in his coming, the Kingdom has come near to people and that it is amongst them. He performs miracles to show the Kingdom’s power. He teaches parables to explain the Kingdom’s nature. He teaches the Sermon on the Mount as a sort of manifesto of His new Kingdom. The Romans agree to put Him to death in part because it looks like an insurrection against the kingdom of Rome and the kingship of Caesar. It is everywhere in the life and teaching of Jesus. 55 times Jesus speaks of it in the Gospel of Matthew, more than 120 times across the four gospels.

So, if we put this all together, what is it? Well, again many theologians have offered many lengthy definitions, but they all pretty much have the same base three ingredients, and so I will keep our working definition to those today, acknowledging that much more can and probably should be said.

 The Kingdom of God is …

            God’s People

            In God’s Place

            Experiencing God’s Full Rule and Reign

 When we say God’s people…

  • In Eden it was His covenant family.
  • In the OT it was His covenant people Israel.
  • In the new NT it is all of His elect covenant people who have trusted His Son for salvation. In other words, the church.
  • In heaven, it will be all of those from every nation and every generation that He has saved by grace through faith.
  • So, there is always in this life an incomplete feeling to the Kingdom in terms of His people, because it also number all those who have gone before and all those He will save in the future.

When we say God place…

  • In Eden, well it’s Eden.
  • Much of the OT narrative is the people trying to get to and protect the promised land, which is meant to house the people of God experiencing the presence of God in the Holy of Holies.
  • In the Gospels, it is everywhere that Christ goes. It comes near to all who come near to Him.
  • In the rest of the NT it spreads out and isn’t just one pocket of God’s presence, but the people of God traveling throughout the world as temples of the Holy Spirit, taking the Kingdom with them wherever they go. This is why we still send cross-cultural missionaries across the globe today.
  • In glory, it will be in the new heavens and the new earth. The new Jerusalem coming down as a holy city for us to inhabit.

When we say God’s perfect/full rule and reign…

  • That is obvious pre-fall in Eden.
  • It breaks through in moments of God’s miraculous intervention right throughout the Old Testament, and it is longed for in the prophetic and poetic writings of the rest of the OT.
  • When Christ arrives we see it in his life.
    • He is able to resist sin every time.
    • He is able to heal all afflictions every time.
    • He has absolute authority even over forces of nature.
  • But here is where we need to watch and be aware, because he doesn’t rule and reign like an ordinary king. All of his followers want Him to do that. Have you noticed the questions of his followers throughout His ministry? “Is it time for you rule Israel yet? Is it time? How about now? Can we rule with you? Can we have a little throne? You get the big one obviously, but can we have a little one?”
  • But Jesus warns us again and again that while His Kingdom is near and at hand and evident to them in His coming, it is also not of this world, and not how they think it ought to be, and not ultimately fulfilled until He would come again.

So, this is big, and it shapes our prayers, and I know most of you know this, but it matters.

The Kingdom of God is both ALREADY and NOT YET.

Jesus is able to say that the kingdom is within us in Luke 17 and that it is not of this place or world in John 18. In Luke 19, Jesus tells a parable because He is worried that people are starting to think that the fullness of the kingdom was going to appear immediately. Russell Moore says that it something that contains both a future glory and a present reality.

There are two comings of the Kingdom, because there are two comings of the King.

And so…

The Kingdom of God is …

            God’s People

            In God’s Place

            Experiencing God’s Full Rule and Reign

And there is an element to that, that is already now. And there is an element of that is very much not yet. Something we long and wait for. Which brings us to an important question.

 Why would we pray this prayer?

If the rule and reign of Christ is something that is already established and will definitely come about in its fullness, why pray “Your Kingdom Come”?

Two reasons today and then I am done.

 When we Pray “Your Kingdom Come”

  1. It creates a purpose and expectation for the here and now
  2. It creates a hope and a longing for the Kingdom to come

 Firstly,

  1. It creates a purpose and expectation for the here and now

When we pray “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, our hearts are crying out in acknowledgment that this world is not what it ought to be yet, that the kingdoms of the world are proving cruel and unjust and unfulfilling, and we are asking God to bring touches of His heavenly rule to our earth now.

One of my favorite writers and pastors of the last century or so was a man called Eugene Peterson. As one of his many writing projects he set out to write an everyday language translation of the bible for his congregants in the hope that they would engage more meaningfully and regularly with the Scriptures. It went on to be a bit of a phenomenon called The Message. I unashamedly use it often both in my private time with the Lord but also as a sort of a commentary when I am studying. He captured this verse in this way.

                        Set the world right;

                        Do what’s best—

                         as above, so below.[3]

 That is what we are asking in this prayer. God, set our world right. It’s not right as it is. The way it is above, bring some of that before us here. We long to see touches of God’s absolute rule and reign in the here and now.

Where the sick are healed.

Where sin is resisted.

Where broken relationships are restored.

Where injustice is dismantled.

This isn’t just plea, this is also purpose.

We are God’s people. You and me. This is in a very real sense, God’s place, here amongst His people. It isn’t His only place, but think, that through us, God has a tremendous presence in the city of Austin right now. We are called to be ambassadors of the Kingdom here and now and this prayer reminds us of that. We pray for more of God’s rule and reign in our lives. This is a prayer asking for greater holiness, and spiritual power.

Let me give you two examples I have seen in the last couple of weeks.

  1. Our goers have seen 1539 unique salvations over the last four months. In the hardest environments in the world to see that. The Kingdom is at hand!
  2. This week, one of our beloved deacons at West, Bob Sleet took me to Community First Village in East Austin where I spent an afternoon with the founder Alan Graham. We spent 90 minutes with him and when we were done and had heard just the smallest bit about the phenomenal work that God has done through that ministry to the most vulnerable and overlooked members of our society, all I could say was… “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Secondly, when we pray “Your Kingdom Come”

  1. It creates a hope and a longing for the Kingdom to come

This is the prayer of the sojourner and foreigner in this world. Longing for God to move in the here and now, but knowing ultimately that the fullness of God will only be experienced in the New Jerusalem. This is hope. One day, God will make it right. In heaven will be the same as on earth.

Picture it…Revelation 21…

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”[4]

 Let me close with this. While we wait for that day, we can be completely confident as we ask for God’s Kingdom to come in the meanwhile. Why? Look at Luke 12:32.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.[5]

Conclusion:

We are God’s people, in God’s place, asking for the fullness of God’s rule and reign in our lives.

Our real hope and prayer is that would actually make us a more faithful praying people. It would be lame if we learned all the theology of Jesus’ way of prayer but it didn’t actually change the way we prayed.

So now, let’s pray. We are going to ask our Heavenly Father for His Kingdom to Come. As Above so Below.

  • Time of prayer in groups.
    • Celebrate the already.
    • Cry out in the not yet.

For anyone who needs a touch of “As above, so below”. There are prayer teams available down here for you.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:8–10.

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:8–10.

[3]Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language(Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Mt 6:9–10.

[4]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 21:1–5.

[5]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 12:32.

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