God’s Will Be Done: H.C. Lord’s Day 49

Q 124. What does the third petition mean? 

A 124. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:
Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
Language about the “will of God” can be very confusing.  This is due in part to the variety of ways that this language is used in Scripture, but also finds it’s puzzlement in how Christians use the term to talk about what is going on in their lives.  We readily dismiss negative events in our lives, even those related to the presence and impact of sin, as being God’s will.  A tragic death, a fatal illness, and even injustice that we experience in the world around us is all chalked up to and dismissed as “the will” of God.
 
Yet, even in that rather dispassionate response, there is something unsettling that stirs in us.  The question of how a good God can allow for such evil arises.  When we dismiss sin as the “will of God,” we even begin to walk the line of blaming God for sin and potentially see Him as the cause of it.  Thoughts such as this are contrary to what we know about God; He cannot sin and is wholly separate from sin.  How can these two things be reconciled?
 
There are really two sides of God’s will that Scripture reveals to us: His will of decree and His will of Desire.  God’s will of decree has to do with His continual governing and provision of the entire universe.  His divine sovereignty covers everything from the orbits of planets and galaxies to the number of hairs on your head and the color of your eyes.  Most of all, God’s unthwartable will is the ultimate redemption and restoration of Creation and the annihilation of sin.
 
God’s Will of desire is what the Lord’s prayer is pointing toward.  God’s will of desire has to do with what God wants for His people and for the world, but it is a will that can be disregarded by His rebellious creatures.  This is where human freedom comes in.  While it is God’s desire that everything on earth be as perfect as it is in heaven; perfect worship, perfect obedience, perfect service, perfect holiness.  He has, however, instilled freedom in the human heart.  It is this freedom that ultimately led to sin entering the world and it is this freedom that continues to allow God’s creatures to turn from Him and reject Him.
 
Ultimately, this is why we pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”  As we have been talking about already, the Lord’s prayer is about teaching us to pray.  Clearly, praying these exact words does not enact God’s will of desire here on earth instantly.  If that were true, everything would be perfect once again.  Instead, this once again reminds us of who we are praying to and what He desires for us.
 
First, by praying this we are reminded that it is indeed God’s will, not our own will, that we are to desire.  For us, that also means that we are putting our own will aside.  Scripture describes this as “dying” to ourselves.  There are many examples of human desires and will taking center stage and God’s will being put aside.  Whether it is that time when we littered while we were driving in the country or the concentration camps of the Nazis in World War 2, when human will is allowed to run free, it always runs to sin.  Clearly, we need a Savior, and one of the results of God’s salvation is the changing of the heart; we desire that God’s will would be done, not our own.
 
For this to take place, a second thing needs to happen: we need to trust God’s will.  It isn’t enough to just want God’s will to happen, we need to trust that how He is working and what He is doing is the right thing too.  Often this is where Christians start to say things like “it’s God’s will.”  Certainly, nothing in the world happens without God allowing it to happen.  However, it is not God’s will that people would die, that people would abuse or kill, or that sin would continue to have all of the horrible impacts on the world that it does.  In the midst of this, however, God is at work.  As we desire His will over ours, and as we trust in Him, we begin to see things change in our lives.  Our faith grows, our trust grows, and we look to Him in the good times and the bad, recognizing God’s faithfulness and His love, even in the midst of our pain.
 
Finally, as we desire God’s will and trust His will, we must also carry out His will.  This is the ultimate end of transformation in our hearts; it overflows into and out of our lives.  As we learn to pray and learn from this prayer, we begin to see things as God sees them, to feel about people the way God feels about them, and our hearts begin to beat in sync with His.  In essence, God’s will of desire becomes the desire of our will!  It is to that end, then, that we begin to desire that heaven would come to earth and we work to that end, spreading God’s love and working God’s will in the world around us.


Heaven and Earth: H.C. Question 124

What does the third petition mean? 
 
Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
 
Matthew 16:24-26 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
 
Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
 
Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
 
Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
 

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 – Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
 
Ephesians 6:5-9 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
 
Psalm 103:20-21 – Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.  Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.


Your Kingdom Come: H.C. Lord’s Day 48

Q. What does the second petition mean?
A. “Your kingdom come” means: Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.

Preserve your church and make it grow.

Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word.

Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.
 
If interesting factoids are your thing, it would probably interest you to know that one of the greatest theologians in the Reformation, John Calvin, began his commentary notes on this phrase by saying, “this is nothing new.”  At first glance, it might seem a bit shocking to use such casual and dismissive language as this in a commentary on the Lord’s prayer.  Yet, when we look a bit deeper, we can see that he is right.
 
Coming to this second petition, we’ve already prayed that God’s name would be made holy and isn’t that, at least in part, what happens as God’s Kingdom comes in our lives and expands in the world?  God is, after all, the antonym of sin, and His will is not just that sin would take a back seat or generally be less bad.  His will is that sin will be completely crushed and entirely eradicated from the hearts of all people and from the world.  There will be no compromise at the end of time, sin will be done away with completely.
 
It can be so easy for us to get caught up in the issues of the day, whether they be social, political, or otherwise.  We have opinions, ideologies, and preferences that are part of the makeup of who we are as human beings for each and every subject or issue that we are presented with.  Make no mistake, God also does as well.  When we pray that to God “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven,” we are laying aside our own will and preference for the sake of God’s work and ultimately God’s glory in our lives and in the world.
 
Remember, Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s prayer was not meant to be a line-up of words that have some sort of magical ability to get God’s attention.  Jesus wasn’t giving us the passcode to God’s listening ear, He was teaching us about prayer, the content, substance, and direction that He wanted to see it take in His disciples’ lives.  So once again, while this statement can be simply a declaration, it is a phrase that reminds us what our purpose is: we are praying into God’s Kingdom.
 
What this doesn’t mean for us is that if we pray fervently enough all of the sudden good things will happen.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find anything that teaches this.  Unlike the teachings of some, particularly those who tout the prosperity gospel of “name it and claim it,” this is not simply a matter of having the right words with the right intensity.
 
This also does not come as a sort of passive statement that, if we say it, eventually God will make it happen.  While Scripture does teach that God acts on behalf of His people, perhaps in the case of healing diseases or turning the hearts of people toward himself and that the prayer of the righteous person is both “powerful and effective,” we are again no talking about magical incantations that bend God toward our will.
 
In fact, we see right in the wording that Jesus uses that this isn’t about our will, it’s about God’s.  As Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray, He is teaching them that the appropriate posture of God’s people is to see their will bent towards His.  The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to this Lord’s Day is incredibly telling here: “Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.
 
As we pray into the will of God, we begin to see our hearts turned toward His.  We begin to see things as He sees them; love people as He loves them.  We even see ourselves more able to forgive others just as God has forgiven us in Jesus Christ.  In all of this, we then see the expansion of God’s Kingdom, His rule, and reign on the hearts of His people, spread outward from our lives into the world around us.  The effects of sin are pushed back… our selfish hearts are softened and our desires are molded and shaped into God’s will both in our lives and in the world.
 
When we take this approach, too, we will see God’s Church expand as well.  The Church is not the Kingdom, but when churches become Kingdom minded, they will give witness to the Kingdom, be heralds of the Kingdom, work to expand the Kingdom, and in turn, see themselves grow as well.  Never in Scripture do we see teaching of prioritizing our church before the Kingdom.  Sometimes it is difficult to see this when our local church is going through difficult times.  We tend to look inward, hoard our resources, and protect ourselves.  That, however, is not the teaching that Christ puts forth in this prayer.
 
God calls us to be about the business of the Kingdom, to be workers in His harvest field.  When we declare “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…” we are reminded of the priorities that God has for His people.  God’s Kingdom is one of abundance and provision coupled with trust.  Sure, we can be prudent with church finances and expenditures, but never at the expense of Kingdom vision and work.  We are called to “Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  Then all of the other things will be added unto you.”


Romans 9 – Election

Read Romans 9

Today Paul tackles the theological doctrine that we call “election” head on.  The doctrine of Election is both incredibly complex and abundantly simple in attempting to describe and give us an understanding of how God acts.  Simply put, the doctrine of Election speaks to the reality that some are chosen to be God’s people while others aren’t.  Those that are chosen as so due to no special circumstances or prior knowledge of potential good, but rather because of “God’s good pleasure and will.”

While that may sound simple enough, the issue is much more complex.  The doctrine of Election, as Paul describes it here, that there are those who are ethnically Hebrew who are not God’s people and also, by extension, those that claim to be Christian that also are not God’s people.  Why?  How?  Because it isn’t about physical descent or ancestry, Paul says, but rather that God’s people are given that identity through God’s mercy and promise only, not because of anything they or any other human did or will do.

Ok, perhaps we can accept that… but it doesn’t really seem fair… and doesn’t that impinge upon the theological notion of free will?  What about the people that never hear the Gospel?

Paul points out the reality of this being at the very heart of God.  Simply put: He is God.  His ways are higher than our ways.  We may not be able to fully understand it.

Yet there is a movement from specific to universal that takes place in Christ’s work.  No longer is the promise given only to the Jews, but it extends to the Gentiles as well.  God’s grace in Jesus Christ is available to all, and as John says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”