Hello Church Devotion Aug.12, 2013

K is for Kingdom

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:22–34

LCMS International Chaplain William Weedon stated in a sermon: “It’s a battle of the Kingdoms. The Kingdom of this world as it now is. The Kingdom of God as this world will finally be at Christ’s return. You heard St. Paul describe them in the reading from Galatians 5.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[a] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

The kingdom of this world characterized by works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (living for pleasure, hedonism), idolatry (trying to squeeze eternal life out of the stuff of this fallen world), sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and (he’s not even giving an exhaustive list!) things like these. That’s the world we live in. That’s the world that lives in us all since the Fall.”

But the world that will be, the Kingdom that is coming? The fruits of the Spirit characterize it: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The Kingdom that is coming and that will be the future of this world, made its beach-head into the Kingdom of darkness at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. There for the first time in human flesh was a person who literally LIVED the fruits of the Spirit without ceasing. Flawlessly. From conception to death and so from death to resurrection! He did it all, for you! And from the resurrection the Kingdom expanded and grew. That growth comes in two ways.

First, it grows by new folks being added to it through the Spirit’s work. They receive the gift of faith, and are baptized and the Church grows. That’s how it has expanded through the whole world and how it continues to expand.

But the second way the Kingdom grows is INSIDE you. For that’s where the battle rages. As long as you live in your fallen flesh, the works of the flesh will continue to try to erupt in your life and disrupt your enjoyment of the Kingdom of God, to destroy the fruits of the Spirit in your life. And in just the same way the Kingdom of God in your life, planted into you at your baptism, engages in an non-stop war against the passions and evil works of your flesh. They are never at peace with each other. The one means the death of the other. To be a Christian is to live in this battle.

Now there are some Lutherans who will tell you that there is no progress in the Christian life, no growth in sanctification. But this is false and it is a lie. Luther in the Large Catechism on Baptism describes the ongoing struggle that Christians engage by the Spirit against the flesh, and he speaks of ever increasing in the fruits of the Spirit and ever diminishing in the works of the flesh. To be sure, it is a battle that proceeds in much weakness and with many setbacks, but it presses on relentlessly to the final victory at the Resurrection. Where this isn’t happening, Luther observes that Baptism isn’t being put to use but resisted.

Yet here is an oft-overlooked truth: this new life of the Spirit isn’t given to you piece-meal. It is given whole. When you were baptized you received the very righteousness of Christ, His flawless obedience to the law, as your very own. It’s the Lord’s gift to you, now given over and over again through repentance and faith. What you grow in is in your living out from that gift more and more, and less and less from the old Kingdom, the Kingdom and works of the flesh.

But this is impossible by your own strength and power. It can only happen by the Holy Spirit. And so the petition: “thy Kingdom come.” That’s your prayer that the Kingdom would increase in this world by gathering others into it, and that’s your prayer that the Kingdom would expand in YOUR life, so that by the gift of the Holy Spirit you believe God’s holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity.

That is, when we pray the Second Petition, you ask that by the Spirit’s power your life would become ever more and more filled with the God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That’s the Kingdom that WILL be the future of this world at the return of Christ. Thy Kingdom come asks for nothing less that that future gift to grow in your life now.

1. How helpful is it to look at the word Kingdom as the “Reign of God” within us and exhibited to the world through us?

2. Look at the Small Catechism and especially in second petition of the Lord’s Prayer. How well does that define the Kingdom of God from our perspective?

3. Sometimes, we Lutherans use a two kingdom example of how God works through both the civil realm and through His body, the Church. How does this exemplify the understanding of the “reign of God” through those realms?

4. As Americans, the connotations of “Kingdom” can be hard for us to understand directly. What would be a good example of how a biblical understanding of “Kingdom” is seen here by us?

Prayer: Lord, help me to look at Your promises, Your desires, and especially Your work on the Cross for me. For I am so apt to look to my own power, strengths, and works rather than fixing my eyes upon You. Strengthen Your rule in my heart and life. Empower by Your word and Spirit, the things that are eternal; the things that are of Your kingdom that never rust or tarnish. Remind me each day of Your gifts and the blessing of being Your child. Assist me in throwing off the old self and my old sinful ways and replace them with Your ways. Let me always walk with Jesus, my Savior and Lord. In His holy name I pray. Amen.

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