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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 11/11/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:


*Kingdom Culture*


As we begin our reflection on Kingdom Culture, we should say at the very outset that the Scriptures must ground our understanding of Kingdom Culture. Otherwise, whatever we end up saying may be the result of our imagination, fantasy, or some other source other than God's revelation. 


A good place to begin is biblical prayer. Prayer is a natural starting place because in prayer we are asking the Lord to bring about certain things that He desires. 


The most famous prayer recorded in the the Bible is the Lord's Prayer. This prayer is offered by Jesus when His disciples ask Him how they ought to pray. (The prayer should really be called the "Disciples' Prayer" since Jesus offers this prayer for His disciples. The "Lord's Prayer" can be better found in John 17.) Here is one rendition of this prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13. Verses 14 & 15 are included because Jesus adds an important commentary on forgiveness.


9 “This, then, is how you should pray:


“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’


14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.


The prayer has six petitions (the first three focused on God directly, vv. 9-10, and last three focused on petitioner's needs, vv. 11-13). The order is significant since it reminds us that our changing needs never usurp the place of adoration and the overall importance of God's greater agenda.


It's hard to tell but the NIV scansion (how the lines are set off) and punctuation suggests that "on earth as it is in heaven" follows the three petitions. So: (1) "hallowed be your name, on earth as it is in heaven"; (2) "your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven"; and (3) "your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". This seems correct.


"Hallowed" means "honor as holy." God is already holy so we are not asking God to be something He already is. We are asking that God be regarded or honored as holy. We are praying that God would manifest His holiness. Holiness is an essential trait of God, along with love. That is, we cannot truly imagine God without holiness. An "unholy" God can be feared but such a God cannot be loved or honored. In fact, it is God's holiness that captures the attention of angels that surround God. 


Isaiah 6:3, the seraphim call to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

    the whole earth is full of his glory.”


Revelation 6:8, we read,

8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!”


Reflecting on this first petition -- that God's name be hallowed -- we are reminded that any pursuit of "Kingdom Culture" must be God-centered ("theocentric"). The Triune God alone is the sole focal point of a Kingdom Culture. Although a vibrant Kingdom Culture brings about abundant blessings to people, the only true attention belongs to the Triune God. Therefore a Kingdom Culture without Worship is Impossible!


"Your kingdom come." The kingdom was already inaugurated in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Therefore the Kingdom is already here. The prayer to "come" simply means we are asking God that kingdom realities increase more and more, until the time when the Kingdom is consummated in Jesus' return.


What is the "kingdom"? It is the reign of God that came through Jesus the Messiah, the establishment of God's rule in the hearts and lives of people, the overcoming of evil forces, the removal of consequences of sin (including death and sickness) and all that would destroy and diminish life (like despair), and the creation of a new order of righteousness and peace and reconciliation. Experiencing the "new order" is another way of saying we are experiencing "Kingdom Culture."


The kingdom of God is an "already/not yet" reality. To believe that the Kingdom is here in its complete fullness is called "over-realized eschatology." We need to be a little cautious here. Not fearful, but mindful. An over-realized eschatology becomes disconnected to the real world of pain, troubles, persecution, and death. When Jesus comes back and the new heavens and the new earth are finally established -- only then -- can we speak about living in an over-realized eschatology. For now, we will live in the tension of the "already/not yet."


Although you might find some "over-realized eschatology" here or there, the prevalent eschatology in most churches is "under-realized eschatology," meaning many churches think and live as though Christ had not defeated Satan, sin, and death. That Christ's resurrection power is not available, that the Day of Pentecost had not occurred, whereby the Holy Spirit is poured out and fully available to all who believe. When people get sick, people still pray, "If it's your will, may this sick person get well, ...." And so forth. I do not want to be overly critical but it's a constant temptation for churches to slide into "under-realized eschatology" when things get tough and prayers don't seem to get answered. Instead of praying for God's greater presence and power -- and believing that this will come about -- we can be tempted to think and operate only at the level of church comings and goings and lose sight of the Kingdom realities that God wants us to experience with greater vitality and engagement. 


"Your will be done." This is a type of Hebraic parallelism, emphasizing in different words the petition of "your kingdom come." 


[In another devotional, I will tackle the last three petitions as they relate to God's kingdom culture.]


In the meantime, let's pray for an increase in God's Kingdom realities -- more of His presence, more breakthroughs, more healings, more joy, growth in discernment, growth in the prophetic, more signs and wonders, more miracles, more victorious spiritual battles. All the while worshiping the Holy God!


Let's pray: Father God, we thank you for the amazing watershed in history when Jesus became incarnate, lived, preached, ministered, died, rose again, ascended, and poured out the Holy Spirit. This watershed event brought about a new order whereby the enemies of God and human beings were confronted and defeated. This "new order" is something we can live in now. The new order of your peace, salvation, power, love, and hope. Help us to know, as we come into a greater understanding of this new order, that your kingdom realities are available and that we can experience them with greater intensity and power. May you give us enough faith to believe their availability and enough passion to pursue them as we stay focused on you. In Jesus' name, amen.