In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus introduces us to a model for prayer commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer. Most of you are familiar with this prayer and depending on your upbringing you may have recited this prayer hundreds of times in church. In fact, dozens of denominations recite this prayer on a weekly basis. This is not necessarily a bad thing but as with everything that is done repetitively it can quickly become a meaningless, mindless, and automated practice that holds little value or impact for the ones reciting it.
You will notice that when Jesus talks about this in Matthew 6 prayer He says, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, who babble but when you do pray, pray like this…” He does not say, “When you pray, pray this prayer…”
Matthew 6:5 – 13
Jesus gives this prayer as an example, a model or a “template” if you will on how Christians should pray. This prayer contains seven components the first is an invocation and the rest are petitions could be broken down like this.
Today I want to focus on five simple words found this prayer in verse 10, “May your kingdom come soon.” These five words may seem like simple everyday words, but they have a huge significance regarding the present and future kingdom of Jesus Christ. When I first began researching the topic of the Kingdom, I felt it would be a pretty easy and basic sermon because there is so much in the Bible regarding the kingdom of God. But in my studies, I noticed there are over 150 references to the Kingdom in the Bible. This shouldn’t be a surprise because Jesus’ primary message was about the kingdom of God.
You may recall in in Matthew 3:1 – 3 John the Baptist declares, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” What was this kingdom that he spoke of? The Jews understood it to be at the coming of the Messiah; the one who would come and set Israel free from the shackles of Rome, He would set up his kingdom here on earth. The Jews had been praying for centuries for this Messiah. John spoke of the One whose Kingdom was coming, Jesus. He announced this coming kingdom, but this kingdom was not what the Jews expected. Yes, the Messiah had come, but he was coming as a servant to give his life as an atonement for sin. His glorious eternal kingdom was here… but not fully. What does this mean?
The kingdom of God is a vast concept with multiple aspects. Today I am going to answer three questions that only scratch the surface of the Kingdom.
First, what is the Kingdom of God? Unfortunately, there is not a word, phrase or simple statement that can be neatly packaged to define the kingdom of God accurately. Jesus even referred to the kingdom of God as a “mystery” or a secret.
The word kingdom in this passage is translated from the Greek word Basileia which means royal power, kingship, dominion, rule. It is not to be confused with an actual earthly kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom. It’s a kingdom, or the territory subject to the rule of a king. It is used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah. The kingdom isn’t so much of a place that you and I would understand as a kingdom like country that is ruled by a king or queen. Instead, the Kingdom Jesus spoke of is fulfilled in a person, Jesus Christ, who is King but has not yet, set up his earthly kingdom but reigns as King in the eternal kingdom. The king has come, and he is supreme, however He has not established his true kingdom on earth… this is still future. Confused yet?
This is where all of this begins to get confusing because this kingdom has come in part, and it is still yet to come. The kingdom is present through Jesus Christ (through his physical appearance on this earth, his indwelling in the believer) and it is future in the second coming which ushers in his messianic rule and reign for all eternity.
Luke 17:20 – 21 says, “One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
Jesus is saying that He is the fulfillment of the kingdom. The kingdom was standing right before the Pharisees, and they did not recognize it. In fact, had they understood that the king was present, “my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders.”
Jesus also uses parables or word pictures to describe the kingdom of God; In Matthew 13:31 – 44 he says, the Kingdom of God is…
In other words, the kingdom of God is an expanding kingdom (seed and yeast). It is also a Kingdom of great worth and value to God (treasure and pearls). This kingdom contains his body and is important in every aspect to God. So much so, He sent his Son to be the perfect sacrifice so that all who believe in Him can have access to His eternal Kingdom. This is the kingdom you and I are a part of and we help in expanding it for God’s glory.
The kingdom is not merely a present, personal experience but also a future, historical place. It is in Christ's return with his angels to gather his elect from the four winds and establish his visible throne upon the earth. Jesus described the second coming like this: “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.” (Matthew 13:40 - 43). This kingdom will be a time of refreshing restitution and a time when we will dwell in the eternal presence of Jesus Christ. This is the great hope for all who believer and it is horrible reality for those who reject Christ. In the Gospel of Luke 1:33 it refers to the kingdom as eternal with Christ as the eternal king. The present Kingdom started at the advent of Jesus and future and eternal kingdom will be established at the imminent return of Jesus Christ at His second coming. What a glorious day this will be!
So, who are the beneficiaries of this kingdom? The Bible is clear that there is only one way to enter the kingdom of God and that is through faith Jesus Christ because of his work on the cross of Calvary. According to 2 Peter 1:8 - 11 those who pursue God and commit to living their lives for his glory and honor (through Christ) will be granted access to this kingdom. On the flipside according to Eph. 5:5, those who reject Christ will have no inheritance in the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3 says, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” The poor are those who recognize their spiritual need and dependency for God. They understand that life is missing something and that something is God. Jesus also says in Matthew 5:10, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” This means those who are persecuted for his righteousness’s sake will also be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. A big welcome mat will be set out for the men and women who are so committed to Christ that they are beaten, tortured and even killed for their faith in Christ. Matthew 18:3: The kingdom of God is reserved for those who believe, trust and have faith in Christ like a child. Like a child who is dependent on his parents we so must have this same dependency on God.
This brings us to the final question what is our responsibility? This can be answered with three words, “seek, pray, prepare”.
First, Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Yours and my primary job is to seek God’s kingdom first and above all else. Our perspective in life is not merely on the temporal or my concerns are not primarily for this world, they are for the things from above. Romans 12:2 says, “ Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Our primary loyalty, obedience, and allegiance should be to God and God alone. All else is secondary.
Second, we should pray for God’s kingdom to come. This world is not our home, we belong in God’s kingdom, and His Kingdom is our eternal residence. We are sojourners passing by and our home is in the kingdom of God with Christ as our King. I pray for this, and I look forward to the day when I take up residency in the Kingdom to live with my God and savior for all eternity. Since we are here on earth, we also have the responsibility to tell others about this kingdom. We cannot lose focus God has placed us here on earth and we must pray for our loved ones, friends, co-workers and family so they too may enter the kingdom of God on this glorious day. We must have a kingdom mentality and pray kingdom prayers. We live in this world and we thrive in this world, but we must pray, and live for the eternal kingdom.
Lastly, we should prepare for the kingdom of God. Revelation 1:7 says, “Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!” There will be a second coming of Jesus Christ and we need to be ready. When He comes, He will not return as a humble servant who gives His life for the flock; instead, He will come as a triumphant King to judge the earth and to establish His kingdom here on earth. We need to be prepared because we do not know when this day will be. Jesus says in Matthew 24:44, “ You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” For the believer this is a day to anticipate and long for. For unregenerate and sinner this will be a horrible and terrifying day that will end with weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Kingdom of God is a glorious present reality and the hope for all who believe. However, to have access to the Kingdom of God you must be born again. You must have a transformation of the heart and a cleansing of sin and iniquity and have faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The Bible tells us that we become a new creation in Christ. We become Spirit-filled believers who acknowledge the supremacy of God in our lives and anticipate the day when God establishes his Kingdom of peace, justice and mercy here on earth.
The challenge for today is simple… Ask yourself…? Have you been washed and cleansed by the blood of Christ? Do you have a transformed heart? Are you a new creation in Christ? Does God have complete (not just some) but complete rule and reign over your life? Have you experienced the new (second) birth in Christ? I pray you are and that you have. This is the central message of Jesus Christ and it is available to all of us today. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand… Are you part of this Kingdom?
The Walking Dead
In 1968 Canadian American filmmaker George Romero directed and produced a movie that would forever change the face of horror movies titled “The Night of The Living Dead”. It is an independent black and white horror film that was produced for under $115,000 but has since gone on to gross over $12 million in the U.S. and over $15 million internationally.
The Night of the Living Dead is a story that was inspired by Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel “I Am Legend”. The film is a tale of five individuals who are trapped in a house in rural Pennsylvania and are attacked by a gang of outlandish flesh-eating monsters. These monsters are never given names in the movie itself, but soon thereafter became known in popular culture as zombies or “the living dead.” The zombies portrayed in this movie and subsequent zombie movies to follower are mindless dead creatures who walk around aimlessly seeking to feed their deep cravings and desire for the flesh. I know it sounds kind of gross, but hey, it’s a horror movie.
In modern pop culture zombies are a relatively new concept, but Zombie folklore has been around for centuries. According to History.com the ancient Greeks may have been the first civilization terrorized by a fear of the undead. Archaeologists have unearthed many ancient graves which contained skeletons pinned down by rocks and other heavy objects, assumedly to prevent the dead bodies from reanimating. The Folklore is believed to have originated in the 17th century when West African slaves were brought in to work on Haiti’s sugar cane plantations. According to Haitian voodoo folklore a zombie is a dead person who has been brought back to life and in Voodoo’s case they are brought back to life by a sorcerer or witch doctor.
I might pose that the concept of zombies or the living dead has been around since the beginning of time. From the moment the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, ate the forbidden fruit they became in essence the living dead as they were dead in their trespasses.
Ephesians 2:1 - 10
Today we are going to look a little deeper at the idea the walking dead from a spiritual perspective. We will see that even though zombies may not actually be real, there are certainly people in this world who are in fact the living or walking dead. But fear not, this message will not be about gore, horror or the hopeless apocalyptic horror movie genre instead it is about hope in life through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Vs1: ONCE YOU WERE DEAD… We were all dead at one point in lives, because we are born into sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” We are all sinners and the wage, or the penalty of sin is death. If we are all born into sin and the wage of sin is death, then the natural conclusion is that we were or are all dead in our sins. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead in our sins and trespasses. Before anyone comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ, they are essentially the walking dead. They walk aimlessly through life seeking to feed on and devour the flesh of this world.
Vs 2 - 3: Before anyone comes into a relationship with Jesus, they are subject to the world and walk in the ways of the world. They are in bondage to sin, the world system, and are subjects to the devil, the commander of the unseen world. Think about this for a moment… (Think back on your life before you were a follower of Jesus) What was your life like? When I think back on my life, I remember how I lived only for the pleasures of the flesh and sought to fulfill my selfish ways. I paid no mind to God, his people, or his church. I had zero moral boundaries, I had no sense of right or wrong; I did what I felt was right in my own eyes and that which I thought brought me pleasure. I was a spiritual zombie.
We are reminded in these verses that we once ALL lived according to the ways of the flesh, and maybe some of you are still living according to the flesh and dead in your trespasses.
Vs 4 - 7: If our stories ended here, it would be a sad and hopeless story. There would be no purpose. If there is no purpose, then there cannot be hope. However, in verses 4 & 5 we encounter one of many big “Buts” found in the Bible. “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved.” This is where everything changes for the believer.
Because of God’s mercy (Mercy is not getting what you deserve) and because of his great love (through Jesus Christ), he gave us life. The dead now become the living. We are made alive through Jesus Christ and God has “Raised up with him AND seated us with him in the heavenly places in Jesus Christ.” As if being raised to life wasn’t enough, God has lifted us up and seated us with Christ. He has placed us in a high place of honor because of Jesus. We do not just become alive; we are now FULLY ALIVE! When we are fully alive in Christ it affects every part of us. This new life changes us and our relationship with God. It changes how we see ourselves (who we are), How others see us (how we live), and how we treat others. We go from being the walking dead to becoming fully alive in Christ!
Did God have to do this? Is He required to give us life? No! He gives us life because he loves us so much and He provides a way to life through Jesus.
Consider this; even when you were dead in your sins, it did not change the fact that God in his abundant mercy gave His life for you. His love for you is never ending. Jesus didn’t die on the cross of Calvary based upon your response to Him. He died so when you who believed in faith you would be made fully alive in him.
Vs. 8 - 10: We have life because of God’s grace (or God’s unmerited favor shown to undeserving humanity). We do not deserve salvation; we deserve hell. We do not deserve life, we deserve death. But through God’s grace we do not receive hell and death, through faith we receive salvation and life. God provided a way. It is THE gift from God.
Your salvation is not based on what you do (works). If you think you are on God’s “nice list” because you attend church regularly, give an offering, and endure through some painfully long sermon then you are mistaken. You receive life based upon what Christ did on the cross of calvary (His grace).
God called you to life because He first loved us, not vice versa. Your response to Him is based upon your conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit and this leads to the realization that you and I are sinful, decrepit, and in need of a savior. God calls us to receive His gift of Grace, Jesus Christ.
Salvation is a gift from God by grace through faith (the uncompromised belief that Jesus is Lord of all and by completely trusting in Him in as Lord and Savior). If salvation was based upon your works, you would have room to boast, thus taking away the glory of God and His gift of grace, making you prideful and arrogant. If you could be saved by your works, then the cross of Christ would have been for no reason. Good works are important, as a believer; for the Bible tells us that your good works are the fruit or evidence of your relationship with Jesus. But your works will not save you nor make you righteous before God. Only through faith in Jesus can you be made right with Him.
So, as I conclude today’s message with this question, “Are you fully alive in Christ or are you still dead in your trespasses?” God’s grace, love, and mercy for you is so great that He has given you life instead of death. Through Jesus Christ you now have a new life, one where you are fully alive, thriving and in need of nothing because the Spirit of God dwells in you. The old ways: the sinful, dark ungodly ways are gone, and you no longer live in the murky waters of the world. You now live in the fresh waters of Jesus Christ; victorious over sin, darkness and evil and thriving in the Kingdom of God and sharing the Good News that Jesus has come to give life and His Kingdom has come. If you are a believe the world will try and beat you down but take comfort and security in the knowing that nothing that comes your way can overtake you or hold you down in this life or the life to come because Jesus has defeated death and sin and given you life and victory through him.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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