Thy Kingdom Come
Matthew 6:10, Luke 11:2
If you go outside and look at my truck right now, you’ll see an interesting juxtaposition. You know what a juxtaposition is, right? It’s when we put two things, often things that are contrasting, side by side. So if you go outside and look at my truck, you’ll see an Ohio State logo license plate on the front. And a magnetic decal that appears every football season of an arm carrying a football on the driver’s door, and the arm features the arm of an Ohio State football jersey. And an Ohio State “Brutus Buckeye” sticker on the rear window on the passenger side. And an “Ohio State Dad” sticker on the rear window on the driver’s side. But then, if you look down at the license plate, you’ll see the “Spectacular Peninsulas” version of a Michigan license plate there. That plate is there because I live IN Michigan. Not Ohio. And it’s not like I just moved here. As of August 1, I’ve lived here in the Traverse City area for 25 years. I moved up here on August 1, 1996. I’m not a recent transplant.
And to be honest, I love Michigan! Well, most of the time. I even like winter until it slops over into spring. March and April and sometimes May are tough months for me. But the rest of the time, I love it here. I’m proud to live in Michigan. But when I first moved up here, my mom was like, “Well, you’ll have to be a Michigan fan now” and she bought me some U of M stuff to wear. And I tried to. I really did. But it just wasn’t happening. I couldn’t do it. Nope. Uh uh. But I really did try. I promise. And I have no desire to live in Ohio again. I like it here. But while I live and love one state, Michigan, part of my heart still lives in Ohio I guess. With the sports teams I grew up rooting for. My Buckeyes, and my Bengals, and my Reds, although I have adopted the Tigers too. I want credit for that.
I live in one kingdom, but in some ways, my heart is still in another one. At least durin. g the fall. I think a lot of us who follow Jesus are like that. We live partly in the kingdom of God and partly somewhere else. Our ultimate loyalty is divided. Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God. Many of his parables started with the words “The kingdom of God is like … a mustard seed, a treasure, a pearl, yeast.” In Mark 1:15, Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” When the pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, under cover of darkness, Jesus told him, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3).
And when Jesus teaches us to pray, he tells us to pray, “Your kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven.” This fall we’re walking through the Lord’s prayer together, a phrase at a time. We’ve looked at the words “Our Father” and “Hallowed be your name.” Today, we’re diving into the phrase, “Your kingdom come.” Your kingdom. What are we praying, when we say those words?
Do you realize that if you’re following Jesus, you are, first and foremost, a citizen of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Christ? You are, first and foremost, not a citizen of the United States of America. Or Canada. Or the United Kingdom. Oh, you, likely, are one of those too, and that’s important. But you are, first and foremost a citizen of the Kingdom of God. 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…” Hebrews 11:13-16, talking about all of the ancestors in the faith, people like Abraham and Moses, says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” But it’s St. Paul who gets the most direct when he says in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
You and I may be citizens of The United States of America, but we are, first and foremost, citizens of the Kingdom of God. We may honor our stars and stripes, but there’s another flag that holds a higher place of honor in our hearts and minds and lives. It is the cross of Jesus Christ. Pastor and author and scholar R.C. Sproul told this story from his days as a student learning to be a pastor. “I was a student pastor of a Hungarian refugee church in Western Pennsylvania. It was a little group of about one hundred people, many of whom didn’t speak English. Someone donated an American flag to the church, which I placed in the chancel, across from the Christian flag. My crisis came the next week, when one of the elders, who was a veteran, came to me and said, “Reverend, you’ve got it all wrong there on the chancel.” I asked, “What’s the matter?” He said: “Well, the law of our land requires that any time any flag is displayed with the American flag, it must be placed in a subordinate position to the American flag. The way you have it arranged here, the American flag is subordinate to the Christian flag. That has to change.” Anyone who has lived outside this country knows how wonderful this place is. I love it and I honor it, along with its symbols, including the flag. But as I listened to this elder speak, I asked myself, how can the Christian flag be subordinate to any national flag. The kingdom of God trumps every earthly kingdom. I’m a Christian first, an American second. I owe allegiance to the American flag, but I have a higher allegiance to Christ, because he is my king. So I had a dilemma. I didn’t want to violate the law of the United States and I didn’t want to communicate that the kingdom of God is subordinate to a human government. So I solved the dilemma easily enough – I took both flags out of the church.”
We can and should honor and respect our nation, our leaders, and our national symbols. But we are followers of Jesus first. Whether the president has the name Bush, or Obama, or Trump, or Biden, as Christians we must pray for them. And whether the president is a republican or a democrat, we serve Christ first, we follow Jesus first. We are standard bearers for the Kingdom of God. And in this day and age in America, that reality is offensive to many. I am, first and foremost, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Thy kingdom come.
Now, the Bible, in the New Testament, speaks of the Kingdom of God as BOTH a present reality and a coming reality. In Luke 17:20-21 we read, “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The kingdom of God is already here, right in your midst. You’re looking at it.
But then, in Luke 19, Jesus tells a parable to illustrate the equally real truth that the Kingdom of God is yet to come. “As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return” (Vv. 11-12). And then he tells the parable of leaving money with each of 3 servants, and what the servants did with the money while he was gone. One invested it well and got great return for his master. One did an okay job with it and got a decent return for his master. And one hid his coin away and did nothing to make it grow. He gave back to his master the exact amount his master had entrusted to him. And the first two were greatly rewarded and the third one was punished. But notice the reason Jesus told the parable. “They supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” The parable was designed and intended to teach that the kingdom of God IS COMING.
So, according to Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come and is right here. AND it is yet to come. The truth is, it is both. In Christ, it is here now. In every human life in which Christ reigns, the kingdom of God is present. But it isn’t a geopolitical entity on earth. You can’t Google “where is the kingdom of God?” and get a Google maps path to take to get there. Those who aren’t looking for it can’t always see it. Even those who were looking for it sometimes missed it when Jesus was standing right in front of them. It is a present reality in every life that is submitted to God. But it is not here yet in its fullness. We have not yet come to the time when “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Sometimes you’ll hear Gregg say something about us living in the “now and the not yet,” and that’s what he’s referring to. The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. A present grace and a future hope.
And like every kingdom, the kingdom of God has boundaries. Citizenship in the kingdom of God isn’t something you are born into when you are born to Christian parents. Citizenship in God’s kingdom is completely voluntary. And that boundary is the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. And while there is nothing we can do to earn, or deserve, this citizenship, there is something we do to attain it. We respond to God’s offer of citizenship in his kingdom. We accept it. That means we choose to begin following Jesus, to receive God’s forgiveness (which means admitting we need forgiveness) and giving Jesus our primary loyalty.
In most countries you receive a citizenship card or citizenship papers when you become a citizen, if you weren’t born a citizen. In the kingdom of God, the sign is two-fold … being baptized and regularly receiving sacrament of Holy Communion. Those two visible acts are sacraments. They remind us that our citizenship is in another kingdom. A heavenly kingdom.
But that doesn’t mean that the kingdom of God isn’t tangible or for this world we call home. God’s good world consists of two spaces. Heaven, which is God’s space. And earth, the cosmos, which God has created for us to inhabit. In Christ, through the Holy Spirit, and through angels too God moves freely between and through both spaces. God is active and present in this world through the Holy Spirit. And God is also active and present in this world through those of us who follow Jesus. We are standard bearers for the kingdom of God. That was the plan from the beginning. That God would have, on this earth, a people who would reveal to the world what it looks like to live as human beings in right relationship with God, as citizens in the kingdom of God. That was the role of Israel in the Old Testament. But Israel couldn’t do it. Truthfully, no people were going to be able to do it. So God in Christ did it for them, and when we place our faith in Christ and begin to follow Christ, we begin to fulfill that role in the world. We reveal to the world, day in and day out, what it looks like, what it means, to enjoy grace and forgiveness and live as children of God, citizens of God’s kingdom.
You see, the point of the kingdom of God is not to get the people of God out of this world and into God’s presence in heaven. The point of the kingdom of God is to break into this world, for now in the individual lives of believers, and then globally when Christ returns. And yes, there will come a time when this earth passes away. But even then, the direction is bringing heaven to earth. Look at Revelation 21:1-4. “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 …” A new what? Heaven AND earth. Both of the old ones are gone. EVERYTHING is new.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband …” Which direction are things flowing? From heaven to earth. The new Jerusalem coming FROM heaven TO earth.
“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.” Where is this happening? Where is the new Jerusalem? The new earth. Heaven come to earth. God with humanity.
When you and I pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are praying in hope for that day. But we are also praying that the kingdom of God will be born in our hearts. We’re saying, “Your kingdom come, and start with me.” Start in my heart, right here, right now. I submit my will to your will. I submit my desires to your desires. I submit my goals to your goals. Start with me. Because right now, that’s where the kingdom of God is. Make me your kingdom-bearer. But we aren’t submitting to an evil dictator or a manipulative demagogue. We are submitting to our loving heavenly Father as his children. We are submitting to our Good Shepherd who cares for us, who guides us, who protects us, and yes, who corrects us.
Pastor R.C. Sproul, who I quoted early, did a series of lectures to Christians in three eastern European countries in 1990. The countries were Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania. I let him tell the story: “As we were leaving Hungary, we were warned that the boarder guards in Romania were quite hostile to Americans and that we should be prepared to be hassled and possibly even arrested at the border.
Sure enough, when our rickety train reached the border of Romania, two guards got on. They couldn’t speak English, but they pointed to our passports, then pointed to our luggage. They wanted us to bring our bags down from the luggage rack and open them up, and they were very brusque and rude. Then, suddenly, their boss appeared, a burly officer who spoke some broken English. He noticed that one of the women in our group had a paper bag in her lap, and there was something peeking out of it. The officer said: “What this? What in bag?” Then he opened the bag and pulled out a Bible. I thought, “Uh-oh, now we’re in trouble.” The officer began leafing through the Bible, looking over the pages very rapidly. Then he stopped and looked at me. I was holding my American passport, and he said, “You no American.” He said the same thing to the others in our group. But then he smiled and said, “I am not Romanian.” By now we were quite confused, but he pointed at the text, gave it to me, and said, “Read what it says.” I looked at it and it said, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” The guard was a Christian. He turned to his subordinates and said: “Let these people alone. They’re OK. They’re Christians.” As you can imagine, I said “Thank you, Lord.” This man understood something about the kingdom of God – that our first place of citizenship is in the kingdom of God.”
My loyalties might be divided between two states – Michigan and Ohio, but my citizenship is in one place … the kingdom of God. My sovereign isn’t a constitution, or a dictator. My sovereign is my loving and good heavenly father. But he IS my sovereign. And so I pray “Your will be done … and start with me.” Let us pray.