LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 15 September 2019
Sermon Text: Matthew 6:10
I. God’s will
II. A discrepancy between earth and heaven
III. Glorifying God and enjoying Him
I was away to Sydney last week to attend the GAA of our denomination. In the opening service of the Assembly, a prayer was made with these words, ‘Father, Your will be made clear in our midst.’ If I were not preparing a sermon for the exact phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, that prayer words could’ve simply gone through my ears because I had heard that plea many times and said it myself many times. Simply, this prayer request for ‘God’s will to be made clear or done’ was too familiar. But, that prayer didn’t go through my ears but stuck in my ears like arrows as its plea fitted the occasion of the GAA. The GAA meets in every three years and almost every GAA deals with certain important aspects of our denomination’s theological stance. In the process, the federal Church could be strengthened through affirmation of our biblical, Reformed faith – which is the usual case – but the danger of misjudgement is always there. So, seeking a clear will of the Father for the Church is so vital.
Christians love this phrase, ‘God’s will be done,’ so we often say it in our prayers. When we need God’s guidance for various things of our life, we pray and say something like, ‘Father, if it is Your will’ or ‘as You, Father, wish’ or ‘if You please, do so and so.’ In fact, we’re encouraged by the Lord Jesus to pray and say, “Your will be done,” as a part of His sanctioned model prayer.
If this is the case, it is our obligation to know what we petition with these words. When we say, ‘Your will be done,’ we must first know what ‘God’s will’ is and why we should plea that this ‘be done,’ implemented, executed ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ If we say it and repeat this plea without knowing what we say, we’re in a danger of violating what our Lord warned against in terms of prayer, that is, heaping up empty phrases as the Gentiles or pagans do.
So, I want you to pay attention to what these words of the Lord’s Prayer mean, especially, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
I. GOD’S WILL
And we begin with an obvious point of this plea, that is, we pray and seek ‘God’s will’ be done rather than ‘my will’ or ‘our will’ be done. We do not say, ‘God, please listen to me carefully as I’ll tell You what I will and want.’ No. Instead, we pray, ‘Father, Your will be done.’ It’s a simple and obvious fact.
Then, what is God’s will? Let me read you some NT verses that answer directly to this question. 1 Thess. 4:3 begins and says, “… this is the will of God, your sanctification ….” Eph. 5:15 and following say, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Rom. 12:2 again urges us, saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Teaching us what God’s will is, there are two Greek words used in the Bible and they are ‘thelema’ and ‘boulema.’ Dr R. C. Sproul explains that those Greek words usually carry three nuances. The first is the sovereign, efficacious will of God such as God’s decree that comes to pass like the cases in Gen. 1 where God decreed, “Let there be light” and there was light. Also, Jesus the Lord commanded Lazarus in Jn. 11 to rise and come out and he did obey His will and walked out of the tomb. Such is God’s sovereign and efficacious will. The second nuance is God’s preceptive will. Simply put, God wills people as His creatures to keep His precepts or commands, like we should have no other gods before Him and honour our parents and so on. Whereas God’s sovereign, efficacious will cannot be delayed or violated, this second nuanced will can be violated and is violated every day. The third and last will of God described in the Bible is His will as God’s basic disposition or inclination. In this sense, God’s will has to do with what is pleasing or displeasing to Him.
Examining a NT verse such as 2 Pet. 3:9 will help you understand this further and clearer. 2 Pet. 3:9 is a famous and somewhat controversial verse for some people, but not for us because we clearly understand what this verse means. So, let’s have a look at this verse which reads, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” If this verse was interpreted in the nuance of the first will, that is, God’s sovereign and efficacious will, it could mean, ‘God wishes all to reach repentance, thus, all would repent.’ Like the case He willed and light came into being, none to perish would happen as God sovereignly wills it. But this is not the case. Then, what if it is interpreted in the second nuance, that is, as God’s preceptive will? It simply means that no one is to break this will of God and breaking it is a sin. If this verse is interpreted in the third sense, this verse simply says that God is not pleased when someone perishes, He does not enjoy the reality that not all are saved. So, understanding this verse in light of the entire Bible, the first two are not the correct interpretation of 2 Pet. 3:9, but the third sense is correct, meaning, the apostle Peter is telling us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
II. A DISCREPANCY BETWEEN EARTH AND HEAVEN
So, when we pray, ‘Your will be done,’ our petition is not really for God’s sovereign and efficacious will be done, although it’s not totally excluded. But, the first focus of our plea is on manifestation of God’s preceptive will, that is, that all men and women know and keep the commands of God. This is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Let me explain what I mean by this. What does it happen in heaven? What do all inhabitants of heaven such as angels and Seraphim alongside all glorified saints do in heaven? They obey God’s law completely and there’s no one in heaven who commits sin.
But on earth, no one truly keeps God’s commands, let alone anyone fully understands it. There’s a great discrepancy between heaven and earth, and we pray and petition to God to help us all and correct this discrepancy. May all people, not just Christians, do realise the Creator’s good and righteous intent expressed in His commands for us – as all glorified saints in heaven do – then, follow their way and keep God’s perfect law even on earth.
This is a continuation of the previous section of the Lord’s Prayer, namely, “Your kingdom come.” Last Lord’s Day, we heard about what it means to have God’s kingdom. Firstly, we become one in Christ, love one another as brothers and sisters. This is ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves’ which is a summary of all laws and commands of God, as Jesus confirmed it in Mk. 12:31. In a word, this plea, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” is a commentary or explanation or elaboration of its preceding petition, “Your kingdom come.” Oh, what a joy it would’ve been if all people on earth know the Lord and His commands, and keep them! It would be like heaven, wouldn’t it? It would be God’s kingdom accomplished on earth! And we pray for this when we say, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
III. GLORIFYING GOD AND ENJOYING HIM
But, this is not all. Something far greater than this is in our petition. When we say, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” we mean we long for oneness with God’s will; we desire in this prayer that God’s will be our will and our will be God’s will. This is truly an amazing wish.
Think about it this way. A son knows his father’s heart and the father sees his son’s desire. Between these father and son, there’s no need to explain each one’s thoughts and desires because they know each other’s heart well. Each one’s will is shared with the other. How good would that relationship be! A better case would a married couple who have spent a long time together like for 50 or 60 years. We often take it for granted, but truly such is a great joy, coming from knowing and sharing each other’s thoughts. Christian couples who love one another in the Lord will grow in sharing each other’s thoughts and move on to finally have only one shared will between two.
Then, what if you and I know our heavenly Father’s will as He knows ours perfectly? What if you do your heavenly Father’s will as He satisfies you by continuing what He does good to you? What if you grow in knowing and doing your Father’s will, and finally, His will becomes your will? What would it be that you examine your heart and soul, and find God’s will alone, having no longer anything that might be called as ‘your own’? There’s no longer any discrepancy, but one same will and desire between you and your God – would it be good? Of course, yes! That’s the yearn and passion of Eph. 5:1-2 when it says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
This is exactly what the first questions of both Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms point out. ‘What is the chief and highest purpose of man?’, it asks. Its answer is, ‘The chief and highest purpose of man is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him for ever.’ This is the second focus of our plea and it’s about God’s disposition or inclination, the third sense of God’s will. We pray and seek that God’s disposition may be our disposition – in other words, our temperament may be changed and sync together with God’s inclination. This is, in fact, how we glorify our God. Nothing else glorifies God than our acknowledging Him as our Creator God who is sovereign, yet so gracious to us and sent His Son Jesus to us to save us from sin and death. Nothing else glorifies Him than our giving thanks to Him through believing Jesus and living as He wants us to live. This is the message of the whole Bible, even the OT, unlike some people’s claim that such is the message of the NT. Look at Prov. 21:3, for example. This OT verse says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” Ps. 51:17 sounds even clearer in these words, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” In this way, having God’s disposition and inclination as our temperament and nature is our act of glorifying Him.
Then, when we glorify God, that’s how we enjoy Him. This is because what God pleases, we’ll be pleased and what He displeases, we won’t like that either. Consider it in a slightly different angle, what would it be like to you if something you like to do is exactly what your heavenly Father likes you to do? What would it make you feel when all things you plan are what God would plan for you, and all things you want to do are what God would want you to do, and so on? You’d absolutely rejoice with all things! That’s what it means to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever!
So, to conclude this message, we need to go back to our first point, that is, ‘we seek God’s will be done rather than my/our will be done.’ Then, say, ‘Ah, what we pray is ultimately this that God’s will be my/our will and, through all these, may God be glorified and we enjoy our heavenly Father for ever!’
So, my fellow Christians, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, let us make our plea to God, and ask Him to align our heart and mind and soul to His will, so when we pray and say, “Your will be done,” may our human will be engulfed in the sea of His will, thus, His will be ours too to the glory of Him and our eternal joy in Him! In fact, this is our Lord prayed in Gethsemane, saying, “Not My will but Yours, be done,” because He already revealed to all that the purpose of His coming to this earth was not to do His own will but the will of Him who sent Him. ***