To get us started today, let me take you back to Middle School science class. One of the great discoveries in the history of science was learning that the sun is at the center of the solar system. Before the 16th century, the prevailing view was that the earth was at the center of everything, and the sun and all other planets revolved around the earth. But then a Polish genius named Nicolaus Copernicus took another look at things. He noticed that there were some big issues with the math behind the dominant view. Things didn’t add up.
So Copernicus went to work and proposed a different model - where the sun didn’t orbit the earth, but the earth orbited the sun. Suddenly everything fell into place. This discovery set the table for future astronomers to refine Copernicus’s work and help us better understand the wonder of the created universe.
And the “aha moment” in the science was fixing the right thing at the center. Without that right thing in the center, everything else was a little out of whack. But with the right object at the center, everything else fell into place.
What's Your Center?
We all have a center - something that orients our lives, and around which we build everything else. It could be a relationship. It could be your grades, or your job, or some goal you have. It could be a hundred different things. And the same thing Copernicus sensed about the solar system is exactly what we sense about our own lives. When the wrong thing is at the center of our lives, things don’t add up. Something is out of whack.
Maybe you’re reading this, and this describes what you’re living right now - something is out of whack, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is or why that is. You’re sabotaging a key relationship you’re in. You explode in anger, or withdraw and go dark. Some private addiction or bad habit owns you, and its negative impact is starting to bleed into your public life. Or maybe you’re hitting all your goals, but you still feel empty. You don’t know why, but you know you’re missing something, even though it seems like you have it all.
When the right object is at the center of our lives, everything else falls into place and we get the right perspective.
In Matthew 6, Jesus provides key teaching on prayer. And tucked into this prayer Jesus teaches us to pray (often called “the Lord’s Prayer”), Jesus makes sure we know what should be at the center of our lives. (This is Jesus, God’s Son, saying this - this is worth paying attention to.)
The center of our lives that Jesus points us to - the center we orbit around, or else we’re out of whack - that center is God.
And the thing that stands out about this prayer is how clearly God-centered it is. Basically the first half of the prayer is focused entirely on God! In v. 9 we learn that we can call God our good “Father” – because of what Jesus has done, we can have access to Him! We’re created to be in close relationship with Him! In verse 9 we see that God is holy - He’s set-apart; He’s transcendent; He’s perfectly righteous.
And then as Jesus moves from focusing our attention on WHO God is to WHAT we pray for, Jesus still keeps our attention fixed firmly on God. Check it out in Matthew 6:10:
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Not my kingdom come. Not my will be done. God’s kingdom. God’s will. The center of our orbit - in prayer and in everything - is God.
Really what Jesus is saying here all boils down to our posture before God. Jesus is pointing us toward a posture of humility, surrender, and trust. This is what having God at the center of lives looks like.
If we get this posture of trust right, it affects not only our prayer lives but everything about us, where with open hands and willing hearts we desire and trust God’s way of doing things more than anything else. (Where in your life right now do you need to look to and trust in God’s way of doing things?)
All right - let’s dig into this verse. Here are the questions we’ll walk through, as we look closely at Matthew 6:10:
What is the Kingdom of God?
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke - the first three Gospels, where we learn so much about who Jesus is and what He’s done, “Kingdom” language is used close to 100 times. The kingdom of God is “at the heart of Jesus’ ministry.”
If you’re just starting to look into Jesus, you can’t check out on this. If you want to understand Jesus, you have to start to wrap your arms around the Kingdom, because of how central it is to Jesus.
To help us understand Kingdom, here’s the best short, single phrase to think of: when you hear kingdom of God think “reign [or rule] of God.” (This is the language you’ll run into pretty quickly once you start digging into what the scholars say on this.)
Or if you want a little more, here’s a simple definition: The Kingdom of God is where the reality of God’s reign is responded to rightly. (For those of you that can appreciate alliteration: I did my best to fit as many “R’s” in there as I could. 😀) It’s where we say “God’s way is the best way.”
In a sense, we all have our “little kingdoms” - where things are done the way we want them. I mow my lawn a certain way, and when my boys are mowing and they miss a spot, I have them go back out and address it. Why? Because that lawn is part of my kingdom. 😀
For my boys, their rooms are maybe one of the closest things they have to a “kingdom” right now. Brothers can’t barge in on them. That’s where they keep some of their favorite possessions. Check out this picture of a sign my son Keller put on his door a few years ago:
He retreated to this space because his room is his kingdom, where things happen the way he wants them to happen. Our small, imperfect “kingdoms” are where things are done the way we want them, because we’re in charge of that space.
God’s Kingdom is where His design, His reign, is responded to rightly.
And if you look into things closely enough, you realize that this story of God’s Kingdom - where the reality of God’s rule is responded to rightly - this is the story of the whole Bible.
All the way back in Genesis 1-2, the very beginning of our Bibles, we find God speaking a good creation into existence. And at least at the beginning, God’s good rule over His perfect creation is responded to the right way. Adam and Eve enjoy a vibrant, interactive, personal relationship with their Creator and Heavenly Father…and their King.
It doesn’t take long, though, before things take a turn. Instead of continuing to respond the right way to God’s good rule, Adam and Eve resist His rule. They rebel and fall into sin. This introduces THE primary problem of human existence - our sin and separation from God.
Even now that sin is a factor, nothing has changed about the reality of God’s reign. He’s still in control and He’s still perfectly good. But now instead of responding to His reign rightly, we instead rebel and resist. Instead of God being on the throne of our lives or at the center of our orbit, something else takes His place.
But that’s not how the story ends. The future God has planned is that one day God’s perfect reign will be fully realized and responded to in the right way again. Everyone who places their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord will experience the full relationship with God we’re designed for, and will experience His design for a renewed creation. This is what the end of our Bibles looks forward to in Revelation 21 and 22, when the reality of God’s reign is responded to in the right way forever and ever, by all who follow Jesus.
So what is God’s Kingdom? It’s where God’s good reign is responded to the right way. It’s where we say “God’s way is the best way.”
Let's move on to our second question:
How Does the Kingdom Come?
Here’s why this is the right next question: You might say: “If God’s perfect reign is resisted through sin, how does God’s Kingdom overcome that?” Or you might say, “If the final promise of God’s kingdom at the end of human history is still in the future, what makes us so sure that’s really going to happen? How secure are God’s promises? To address these questions, we have to ask the larger question: “How does God’s Kingdom come?”
The shortest answer is this: God’s kingdom comes through Jesus Christ - most specifically, through His death and resurrection.
Jesus came to proclaim and demonstrate the arrival of God’s Kingdom in His ministry. At the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel, the very first words out of Jesus’ mouth are these: Mark 1:15: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The good news is that the kingdom of God has come near in the Person and ministry of Jesus!
Jesus came to proclaim the arrival of God’s Kingdom, and in His death and resurrection, He inaugurates God’s Kingdom. It’s now available in a way it hadn’t been. In his death and resurrection, Jesus broke the power of sin and death. We trust God’s promise for the future because the future has already broken into to the present, when Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus secured the future that is God’s plan.
And now we sit between the launch of God’s kingdom through Jesus, and the fulfillment of God’s kingdom when Jesus returns. That means things aren’t yet the way they’re supposed to be. God’s Kingdom is still resisted. Sin is still present. All of creation is fractured in different ways. And so we still pray, “Your kingdom come.”
And God’s Kingdom is still advancing! This is happening in all sort of ways. Lives are being changed as people follow Jesus, receiving Him as Savior and Lord. Listen to this language from Colossians 1:13: “…he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” God’s kingdom advances as people trust in Jesus.
We see God’s Kingdom advancing when relationships are being reconciled or when whole structures in society are being renewed. We’ve got a great example of this renewal in the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
King was a Christian who was so compelled by his awareness of what God intended in race relations and equality that it shaped what he pursued and how he pursued it. His dream of equality was saturated with Scripture; King was compelled by God’s picture of the way things are supposed to be, and he worked faithfully and tirelessly toward that. And through Martin Luther King Jr, God advanced His Kingdom - moving us in the direction of what He always intended.
There’s still a whole lot of work to be done. It won’t be done until Jesus comes back. But at the same time, we can point to ways that God’s design for His creation is breaking in and taking shape.
As God pushes His Kingdom forward, there are ways this happens dramatically. Miracles happen. People are healed. Evil spiritual forces are pushed back. Lives are changed overnight. In our secular culture, we need to remember that this happens, and God is still acting this way.
But we also need to remember that this isn’t the only way God advances His kingdom.
It’s just as true there are ways God’s Kingdom advances gradually.
In Luke 13, Jesus tells us the Kingdom of God is like yeast working through 60 pounds of flour. That takes effort, over the course of a lot of time! Sometimes God’s Kingdom advances like that! It took a lot of work for Martin Luther King Jr. to bring about the change he led, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. The rise of public education, progress in healthcare that we benefit from, and the fight against majority world poverty take decades.
In your own day-to-day life, maybe the kingdom of God advances in small, gradual ways through the way you answer some questions that a guy named Henri Nouwen puts in front of us: “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions.” - the questions that help us be used by God as He advances His kingdom.
And maybe the change you see in your life is gradual. Nothing dramatic happened overnight, but you’re a different person now than you were 6 months ago or 6 years ago. Lasting change in your life may stay gradual like this. As you follow Jesus, change in your life takes time and effort. But it’s just as much godly change as everything else. Let’s not forget that God’s Kingdom advances gradually.
There are ways God’s Kingdom advances counter-intuitively, in a way we wouldn’t expect. In Matthew 6:10, the prayer is for God’s Kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done. It’s really two different ways of saying the same thing. And at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we see Jesus in a garden called Gethsemane, and He’s praying there exactly what He tells His followers to pray in Matthew 6.
In Matthew 26:39, Jesus is praying, asking God to spare Him from His upcoming death by crucifixion, and everything that went along with that. That’s what Jesus means when He says “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup [all the wrath and pain that’s coming] be taken from me.” Jesus makes His request known! But then look at how He ends: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus is basically saying to God, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” He says this, even knowing that that includes suffering, pain, and apparent defeat. Talk about a posture of surrender and trust!
In our own lives, the advance of God’s kingdom doesn’t mean everything will only be up and to the right. Sometimes God accomplishes His purposes through us and draws us closer to Him through trials. And difficulty. And apparent defeat. The upside-down nature of Christianity reminds us that God’s Kingdom doesn’t mean the absence of trial and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s precisely this trial and suffering that advances God’s Kingdom in us and through us.
We’ve been looking at some big, important topics today. Way to go for hanging with me. Now let’s ask our third question:
What Does God's Kingdom Mean for How I Pray?
I’ll quickly mention three things:
First, we pray to God as King. When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come, we remind ourselves that God is King. This gives us confidence. The King we’re praying to is powerful; He’s able to accomplish His will. But it also cultivates humility. I’m praying for His Kingdom to advance, not mine. For His will to be done, not mine.
Second, we pray alongside others. Here’s why I mention this: Since God’s kingdom so often advances gradually and counterintuitively in our lives, sometimes we need others to help us see God’s activity when we can’t. Or sometimes we need others to point out ways we’re being selfish, pursuing our own kingdoms instead of God’s.
This is why community is essential for a healthy, growing Christian life, and why we talk as much as we do about the value of Community Groups at Brookside.
Third, we hang on for the ride. When we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done,” we’re placing our trust in someone else’s agenda for our lives.
There are times that’s awesome. When I was 22, I was just finishing up a ministry internship working with high schoolers. Way beyond my expectations, on my last day the guy I had been working under and my wife revealed a surprise trip they had planned, where Carrie and I were gifted with a trip to San Diego for a few days. It was entirely someone else’s surprise agenda for me - I just hung on for the ride. And it was awesome.
And there are times trusting God’s agenda and hanging on for the ride is really difficult.
When our oldest son Carston was still just learning to walk, there was a time when he pulled himself up to an end table and pulled a glass lamp down on his head. He got a deep cut right next to his eye that needed stitches. When we took him into the doctor, there was no way Carston was going to let a needle get near his eye. So I had to wrap Carston up in my arms and legs - basically wrap myself around him so he couldn’t move - while the doctor pulled the needle and thread in and out of his face.
Carston had to submit to my decision for him on that. He couldn’t understand that and he certainly didn’t want it - but it was for his best.
Either way - whether things are awesome or when they’re difficult we express trust when we pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” In what areas of your life do you need to pray this, and show this sort of trust in and surrender to God?
The center of our orbit - in prayer and in everything - is God.
I mentioned this area: this all boils down to our posture before God. Jesus is pointing us toward a posture of humility, surrender, and trust. This is what having God at the center of lives looks like.
Where in your life right now do you need to look to and trust in God’s way of doing things?
 For what follows, see, for e.g. https://www.space.com/15684-nicolaus-copernicus.html
 Per Goldsworthy, “Kingdom of God” in NDBT p. 615. France (“Kingdom of God” in DTIB p. 420) puts the count at about 70x in the Synoptics, not counting parallels.
 Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, Drama of Scripture, 2nd ed, p. 137.
 This is my simplest personal definition of kingdom - doing my best to summarize what the scholars say and make it applicable to people in the congregation.
 For much more on this, see any of the relevant literature mentioned in the bibliography of Tim’s study notes or the best evangelical biblical theologies. Also material prepared for Bible Basics (with accompanying supplements), or The Bible Project’s video on The Kingdom of God.
 e.g. Luke 9:1-2; Matthew 12:28
 original source unknown
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