Thursday, 06 February 2014 21:53

Thy Will Be Done

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Seriously? We might say this word when someone tells us something rather astonishing and hard to believe. Seriously? In other words, you really mean that? Seriously? That is the theme today in connection now with the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer. When you pray, Jesus taught His disciples, pray also this request with heart and lip sincere: “Our Father who art in heaven…..not only hallowed be thy name and thy kingdom come, but also this we pray, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Seriously? Is this a prayer that you and I make with the Lord on a regular and even daily basis: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? What a prayer to pray seriously, and what does it all mean, praying it seriously? I read from another preacher on our text: “We are too prone to read spiritual words as constant hyperbole”, meaning we take them as if not to be taken literally. But surely Jesus didn’t mean the third petition as an exaggeration or some fanatic prayer of a select few. Rather it is part and parcel of true Christianity and when being genuine and grateful and growing in the faith, then you pray and keeping on praying, also this third petition in all seriousness: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Let us study this more and think about what it means to pray this seriously. Jesus gives us this third petition of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. Let me here also read to you how the Reformation fathers explained this third petition in the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 49: Which is the third petition? Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, that is, Grant that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey Thy will, which is only good; that so every one may attend to and perform the duties of his station and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven. [Question & Answer 124] Then the Westminster Larger Catechism says this: What do we pray for in the third petition? In the third petition (which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven), acknowledging, that by nature we and all men are not only utterly unable and unwilling to know and do the will of God, but prone to rebel against his Word, to repine and murmur against his providence, and wholly inclined to do the will of the flesh, and of the devil: we pray, that God would by his Spirit take away from ourselves and others all blindness, weakness, indisposedness, and perverseness of heart; and by his grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to his will in all things, with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy, as the angels do in heaven. [Question & Answer 192] Reading these explanations on the third petition, does it not sound like our Christian forefathers from the 16th and 17th centuries surely took the third petition most seriously? Is it fair to say the measure of our Christianity can also be seen in whether we take this petition most seriously as well? So considering now the theme of taking this prayer seriously too, would you agree with me that would mean that you see this prayer as something: 1. so wonderful 2. so necessary 3. so searching 4. so comforting “Seriously, all those four points”, you ask? Yes, seriously, this is involved in taking the third petition seriously. Let me explain further. Speaking first of the wonder of this prayer being prayed, what I would bring out is the sinful context in which it is brought. When man was first created, good and perfect in God’s image, Adam and Eve only did the will of God on earth even as in heaven. Before the fall into sin, there was no need for this prayer for what the request asks for happened naturally and perfectly. But then came the fall into sin which has resulted in mankind become not only guilty in sin and rebellion against God’s will by nature but it has left us totally depraved and corrupt also in will power over against God. Now, left to ourselves, the sad and bad result of sin is that we are totally incapable and unmotivated to do God’s will with and in anything at all. So we read, for instance, in Genesis 6:5, not too long after the fall of Adam and Eve and before the world-wide flood of God’s judgment: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Such is our sad situation and condition, left to ourselves. But in the face of such sin and misery, Jesus here teaches, when you pray say, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Seriously? How is that even possible! Jesus the Saviour must have delighted also to teach this request in prayer for it tells us and proclaims to us really what His saving work is all about. What Jesus would accomplish for such sinful and lost people as we are, left to ourselves! Jesus came to this earth to seek and to save sinners and that means then also to make a radical change and transformation in our lives. Jesus came down from heaven to this sin corrupted earth to reconcile sinners before God and to make it possible that once again by us, God’s will be done in earth here and now, yes in line even with how it is done in heaven above! That this request is even a possibility to pray about to God is such a wonder by itself and it tells of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Saviour. He came to this earth and as Saviour of sinners delighted only in perfectly and completely doing the will of His Father in heaven. Especially that He should suffer and die on behalf of sinners and through His once for all sacrifice make payment for sin and save His people from their sins and sinfulness! So Jesus gave Himself completely as we can know also from His anguishing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when He cried to the Lord the evening before His crucifixion as recorded in Matthew 26:39: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And then again in vs. 42 of that same chapter we are told Jesus prayed: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it ,thy will be done.” This is the gospel that in and with Jesus, the crucified and risen Saviour and His perfect finished work on sinners’ behalf, we find again the real and only possibility of this happening. That we, you and I, really would pray and do what the third petition requests: “Our Father who art in heaven…Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” The wonder of it! Seriously, do you see it with me? And do you marvel too that Jesus taught us also to pray this third petition? Doesn’t it declare Him to be so great and glorious a Saviour of sinners indeed? It should teach us too, Jesus in His saving work isn’t about and after minimal salvation but total salvation even to the point that you and I live each day doing the will of God here on earth, yes, even as it is done in heaven. Notice next with me, however, not only the wonder of this prayer but its necessity too. For sure this is what all God’s true people realize when praying also this prayer. How much this request is needed in our lives. Seriously? Yes, says the Christian! Really this prayer is the cry of a born again person who has learned the misery of following their own depraved will and who has come to realize God’s will alone is good and always is good. It is the cry that longs then now not to follow one’s own will but only God’s will as revealed in His Word. The true believer realizes it is God will we must follow and do, shall we be truly blessed. Seriously! The meaning of the petition is, of course, concerning God’s revealed will as given to us in all His Word. And in order to do God’s will, we need to ask the Lord so to bless us and guide us that always again we renounce our own will and do only His will. Is this your Christian conviction and confession of faith too, seriously? Do you personally acknowledge the necessity of this prayer, knowing also how unnatural it is to renounce your own will? Seriously? Yes! No Christian in this life ever comes to perfectly doing the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. Yet isn’t this the real longing of every true child of God when truly led by God’s Holy Spirit and Word? Then it becomes a matter of necessity for you, seeing the misery of sin in this world and the bondage to sin left to yourself and the goodness of God and the blessedness of His holy will, that you pray, and pray increasingly: “Our Father who art in heaven, not only hallowed be thy Name, and thy kingdom come, but let this too be true in my life, really and increasingly, “thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Do you too see and experience the necessity for this prayer before the Lord? What comes of God’s will being done except God bless and enable us so to do? What believer too doesn’t struggle, sometimes at least, with murmuring and complaining in doing God’s will even all too often still? But always that is so dishonoring to God, and so wrong and counterproductive too. Seriously? Yes! Paul says in Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Seriously? Yes! But how shall you and I do so without prayer to God? And calling out steadfastly to Him: “Thy will, O Lord. Let it be done also by us here on earth as it is done in heaven”. Indeed, even as it is done in heaven? Seriously? Yes, for there you can be sure God’s will is constantly done, never with a complaint but always, as we said, immediately and wholeheartedly, gladly and totally, unquestionably and steadfastly. Isn’t it true, the necessity and need for this third petition to be prayed is just so obvious thinking of our sinful self by nature, and thinking of this perishing world going its own way and so headed for destruction? Thinking too of the low spiritual condition and state of the Christian church in general and thinking of the work and goal of Christ the Saviour and all His gospel promises? Seriously, isn’t there just so much need and reason to pray fervently and repeatedly: “Our Father who art in heaven, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven”? In Romans 12:2 Paul exhorts God’s people, believers in Christ: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” How shall any Christian so live, except we daily call on God so to incline our minds and hearts, not to do our own will and follow our own ways but instead ever to prove that good and acceptable and perfect will of God? Do you see and acknowledge the necessity for this prayer, as well as the wonder of it? Seriously? Also both these first two points in connection with the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer? Do you then personally often make this request to God, seriously and earnestly, wholeheartedly and genuinely calling to Him: “Our Father who art in heaven, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven”? Seriously? In answer to that question, let us move to our next point, how searching this prayer is in the believer’s life. What I mean here is when you pray the third petition truly, that will show in different evident or obvious ways, won’t it? Seriously? Yes! For one, then you will be someone intent on learning God’s will and learning it more and more. This means then also being a lover of God’s Word and a person who, time and again, resolves to read the Word of God and to come under the preaching and teaching of the Holy Bible. Indeed, for in the Holy Bible, that inspired unchanging written Word of God, we learn what the will of God is. The Scriptures tell us the revealed will of God and the third petition is all about praying that what God’s revealed will makes known be also exactly how you and I live. Seriously? Yes! Won’t every true believer agree here that a deep respect and love for God’s Word goes together with truly praying the third petition? Praying the third petition fervently and loving God’s Word truly coincides and goes together. Neither can truly happen without the other. Is this evidence of praying the third petition reflected in your life too, or not so? How many people may pray the Lord’s Prayer almost as a chant but never or hardly ever open the Bible to learn God’s will and are very sporadic in attending church to hear God’s Word and will proclaimed. Such is certainly not consistent with taking the third petition seriously. Another searching evidence that is surely present with true prayer of this third petition is hearty love for Christ and humble dependence upon Him. Seriously? Yes! Then you are amazed at what Christ has all accomplished on sinners’ behalf and what He is all out to do through His saving work applied to our complete salvation, and you live devoted to Him and dependent upon Him for all your blessings in all your life! Then you know too that of ourselves there is always reason only for humility on our part for how far yet we fall short of the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus! This is the case for even the holiest and most mature and zealous Christian among us. Seriously? Yes! Then you know your life doesn’t show yet, as it might and should, doing God’s will always here on earth as it is in heaven. But you also keep reaching forward, pressing on to know Christ and the power of His resurrection more and more and to reach that goal which is God’s goal also for us. What is that goal? That one day we truly and perfectly do God’s will even as it is now done in heaven by the angels there! This is a searching matter, isn’t it? Is humbleness of heart before God and man characteristic of you too by God’s grace? And is this ongoing pressing forward in humble dependency more and more to become what we are not yet evident in your life too, by God’s grace? Oh, the third petition seriously prayed is something searching. It is searching also in the sense that when truly praying “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, won’t that show too in knowing about the daily fight against the flesh and the way and will of this world which lives apart from God? The Christian life is one of ongoing self-denial and again and again putting on the Lord Jesus Christ and making no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. Then in your marriage and family life, in your work life and responsibilities at school, and at home and on the job, you desire not your own will but God’s will primarily. Then in church life too and with your commitments there, you seek not your own will but the Lord’s will and what is most to His praise and honor. Is your life a life of self-denial, repeatedly renouncing your own will and aiming instead to do God’s good will? What a blessing when this is evident in our lives, and what a blessing we surely then are to others too in our family and community and for this whole world. Does your and my daily life genuinely reflect in all the choices and practices and habits and priorities and entertainments and activities in life we pursue the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer? Seriously? Yes! The third petition and you and your pursuits and heart goals and passions, are they closely linked together, or not so much so? Where there is a disconnect, will you repent or excuse and defend your sin and just mouth the words, treating the third petition more as a heavenly hyperbole rather than downright practical ‘rubber-hit-the-road-type’ Christianity. Seriously? Do you pray the third petition most seriously, or not so? Saying that brings me yet to one more evidence of truly praying this third petition. Won’t it be the case when we truly pray the third petition, seriously so, that we demonstrate also a mission mindedness, caring not just for ourselves and our wellbeing but also for all people and their wellbeing especially in reference to God and eternity? Yes, seriously praying this third petition means inevitably being not only concerned that you yourself and all your loved ones surrender to God’s will and way. It will also be your great wish and life’s desire that all men would cherish and do the will of God as revealed in His Word and in and with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then you have great thoughts of God’s goodness and will, and you know how lost and condemned all men are not doing God’s will but following their own will. When serious about the third petition, don’t you sincerely and seriously long for all people to submit themselves to God’s divine will? Doesn’t it hurt and grieve you then too when people live so much in either or both ignorance and defiance of God’s will? What a prayer, seriously, Jesus teaches us here to pray, saying: “Our Father who art in heaven…Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Thinking about the wonderfulness of this prayer and the necessity of it and how searching it is, what if you must conclude that truly, honestly speaking, this prayer is not really your prayer and petition before God? What should you do then? You should repent of your sins and sinfulness and ask for God’s forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. Seriously? Yes! And begin to pray this third petition now, asking the Lord to help you even pray it truthfully and repeatedly. Seriously? Yes! If you are living in sin, don’t just keep on doing so but pray this petition and ask for grace and resolve to repent and break from sin and to turn around and begin to live in obedience to God’s law. Don’t excuse your sins or continue on with them, or conclude: “What’s the use? I’ve gone too far in sin already.” No, for the revealed will of God is that no sin is unpardonable except for the sin of refusing to ask for pardon and continuing in unbelief. The Lord is not willing that any should perish in sin but that all should come to repentance. “Turn ye, turn ye,” says the Lord, “for why will you die and perish in sin forever?” God’s will is that you come to Him, and His promise is that none who come to Him calling for mercy and help shall be pushed aside but the Lord will hear and help. Jesus came to save sinners and He is able and willing to save all that come to God by Him, pleading the finished work of Christ on sinners’ behalf. See Jesus and how He did the will of His Father completely to be Saviour of guilty wicked sinners like you and me. Come then to Jesus, and do not delay! For with the Lord in and through Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners and His saving work is mercy and plenteous redemption for all who call upon Him. Seriously, this is the gospel truth! “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Having seen something of the wonder of this prayer, and the necessity for it, and how searching it is, notice yet briefly the comfort with praying this third petition seriously. It is that even as God’s people pray this petition, the Lord hears and grants its fulfillment and that more and more. No kidding! Seriously then already here on earth increasingly and more and more we will be doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. Praying this third petition seriously then even with the smallest of matters of life as well as in the bigger matters of life, more and more we will reflect God’s way and desire in life in line with His Word. And then there is also the blessed and assured expectation that one day when Christ returns, then in glory eternal we will forever live in perfect devotion and obedient service to God Triune. And we will always do His will immediately and unquestionably, joyfully and perfectly, wholeheartedly and steadfastly as the angels in heaven. In that final day all God’s redeemed people will never again be plagued with even the thought of sin or bothered with even the slightest resistance against doing God’s will. Oh, what a day that will be! Don’t God’s people long for it and sigh for it now even sometimes yes, so very much so? But not only that promise of perfect glorious obedience in the life to come is fruit of this prayer but living holy and godly God-honoring lives in all our activities and relationships here and now becomes increasingly the norm when praying the third petition seriously! The comforting gospel truth is that all we need to do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven we may receive from God in Christ Jesus by His Spirit and Word. God is the hearer of His people when praying also the third petition seriously. In view of the immediate and increasing interim response and the final glorious response of God in and through Christ Jesus to this prayer, won’t you too pray it now and pray it more and more till your last breath in this world of sin and vale of tears? “Our Father who art in heaven…Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Seriously? Do you and will you pray the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer too, meaning what you say? Oh, may God now by His Holy Spirit grant that this be your and my prayer truly and repeatedly in Jesus’ Name thinking of the wonder and the necessity of it, how searching it is, and the comfort with it. “Our Father who art in heaven….Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Even so, Lord, please teach us to pray, in spirit and truth. As the psalmist also testified: Help me thy will to do, Thy truth I will pursue, Teach me to fear; Give me the single eye, Thy Name to glorify, O Lord my God most high, With heart sincere. Seriously? Yes, seriously! Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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