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The Lord's Purpose & Provision in the Lord's Prayer

Sermon by Michael Oh on May 8, 2016

Matthew 6:9-13

Let’s pray!

Almighty, all gracious, all loving, all knowing God, unless You had given to us of the Holy Spirit, unless the Holy Spirit so works in power and glory and mercy and grace, we live and labor and listen, even this morning, in vain. So come and do what You alone can do for the glory of the Father alone. In Jesus’ name we ask, amen.

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 6 verses 9 to 13. In your pew Bible, it is page 811. A very familiar passage to us all, Matthew chapter 6 verses 9 to 13:

“Pray then like this:

 

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”

The Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the most beautiful prayer in the world, and yet at the same time it is perhaps the most abused prayer in the world. Sadly, it is often just rambled through instead of understood and embraced and truly prayed and truly lived. And as we ramble through the prayer, we miss out on the opportunity to understand not just pray but the Lord’s teaching on the purpose of life. So let me ask you an important question, “What’s the purpose of life? What’s the purpose of your life? What makes your life worth living?” Now one way to look at this question of what the purpose of life is and should be for the Christian is to see what Jesus taught us in how to pray. Jesus’ foundational prayer reflects the foundational, essential Christian life. Let me say this again. In Jesus’ foundational model prayer we can find tremendous insight, perhaps even call it a summary of Jesus’ teaching on the foundational essential Christian life and purpose. Now there’s a basic Biblical principle we can see a little later on in this chapter in verse 21; “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And similarly, what you pray about and for, there your heart is also. Your prayers are a reflection of your heart! So if we want to understand the Lord’s heart, the Lord’s treasure, I believe we can find it in The Lord’s Prayer.

Now it’s commonly understood that there are two parts to The Lord’s Prayer. The first half being the first three petitions and the second half being the second three petitions. I agree with the structure. But I want to make a suggestion that the two parts relate to each other and I want to make a suggestion as to how the two parts relate. I’ll share more about that later. So let’s dig into the text!

“Our Father.” Now first of all, this is a shockingly direct and personal addressing of God as Father. And then secondly, Jesus shockingly incorporates us into His Son-ship. Now if there was anyone who could claim exclusive right to address God as “My Father” exclusively, it was Jesus. So in teaching us to pray to God as our Father, Jesus invites us into corporate familial identity. Every time we address God as “Our Father,” we should be reminded of our merciful adoption in Christ, and also, I think, be moved to consider the plight of orphans. Imagine what prayer sounds like to God! Every moment of every day in thousands and thousands of languages, in hundreds of millions of voices, beautiful voices of young and old spiritual adoptees calling out to God saying, “Our Father.” And one day, “our Father” will be addressed as “my father” by children of God from every tribe, language, people, and nation on earth, in heaven. Now here we see that there is an overwhelming, undeniable otherness of God – God in heaven – that God has perspective, heavenly perspective that we do not share. He has unbelievable reach, He has grand exaltation, heavenly authority. And so this God in heaven, we the Church, the global Church, are taught to pray. And we can see in the first three petitions, this first half, prayers for worship, kingdom, and obedience.

  1.  Prayers for Worship

First, worship – “hallowed be Your name.” So here, purpose is now revealed. The first petition that Jesus teaches us to pray is toward the glory and worship of our heavenly Father. “Hallowed be Your name.” It’s the New Testament flipside of the third commandment. “May Your name not be taken in vain but instead be treated as holy.” It’s a heartfelt prayer that God would be worshiped and adored. It is a prayer that nothing else would compete with our affection for God. We are to pray for a holy and stark, evident and undeniable contrast between the hallowing of God in our lives and the worship, adoration, or affection toward anyone or anything else. But personal doxology is not enough! God’s purposes are global and God’s people should have a holy dissatisfaction with the worship-less-ness of the world. That 3 billion people in the world have little or no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and those 3 billion do not worship or hallow the blessed and worthy name of the God who created them. “Hallowed be Your name.” Not just personal, but global, and not just doxological, but petition-al. This is not just a doxological statement, “Hallowed be Thy name,” It is a petition! It is a cry to God to mobilize, to work in power, to bring about that worship of His name. And we’ll come back to this.

II. Prayers for Kingdom

“Your kingdom come.” This is very much related to the first petition. As each individual hallows and worships God, the kingdom grows. As each family hallows and worships God, the kingdom grows. As each nation hallows and worships God, the kingdom grows. “Your kingdom come. Do it, Lord! We can’t! Help us!” That is our cry. Jesus teaches us to pray kingdom-ushering, kingdom-calling prayers.

So how far have we come toward the building of the kingdom of God? We’ve seen tremendous advances in the global expansion of the kingdom. Christianity today is more global than at any time in history. There are Christians, literally, in every single nation on earth. There has been tremendous kingdom growth in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Christianity is, today, stronger in the southern hemisphere than in the North, stronger in the East and in the West. And that growth is part of a very important message that Christianity is not an American religion and missions is not West to East. It is “from everywhere, to everywhere,” reflecting both the reality of the global Church and the global goal of our faith “From every nation, to every nation.” Every nation is a mission-sending nation! Every nation is a part of God’s eternal and global purposes! Every church, every Christian a part of God’s global and eternal purposes. Today, nearly 70% of the world’s missions force is from the non-Western world. The Gospel is going forth from everywhere to everywhere. Christians throughout the world are reaching the lost in their own nations, which is evangelism, and reaching the unreached in other nations, which is missions. One hundred years ago in Korea, where I am from, there were less than 20,000 Christians. Today, South Korea has sent out more than 21,500 missionaries to 175 nations. The Korean Church today is home to eight of the ten largest churches in the world. In fact, eight of the ten largest churches in the world are not just in South Korea. Eight of the ten largest churches in the world are in the city of Seoul.

The Lausanne Movement

The Lausanne Movement has a mission to connect influencers and ideas for global mission and in many ways, this connecting of influencers really began with the friendships of Billy Graham. I was with Billy a couple of summers ago and I asked him, “Why did you start Lausanne?” And he said, “Michael, I traveled the whole world and met such wonderful leaders, but I found that they didn’t know each other.” And so Billy gathered together 2,700 of his closes friends from 150 nations in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 in what Time Magazine described as “a formidable gathering of the largest numbers of global church leaders ever gathered together in one place in the 2,000-year history of the Church.” And that hosting of influencers of the Church continued on throughout the history of the Lausanne Movement. In 2010, we had the third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town and we gathered 4,000 leaders from 200 nations, what then and is today the largest and most globally represented gathering of church leaders in the history of the Church. As leaders are gathered together, the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, inspires idea, strategies are developed, insight is given, and we have been able to witness some of the work God has done in introducing through and highlighting through the Lausanne Movement. Our mission strategy for the Church today, in many ways, including people groups, unreached people groups, the 10-40 window, holistic mission, diaspora mission, business as mission, and so forth, and we’re very thankful to be a part of calling the whole Church to bring the whole Gospel to the whole world.

A part of our work and a big joy in my life is the Lausanne’s work amongst the leaders in China. Two hundred Chinese pastors and leaders were invited to join us in Cape Town in 2010, however they were met in the Beijing and Shanghai airports by hundreds of policemen. They were put under house arrest and were forbidden to get on their airplanes and join us. But, it has been a joy to see how the Lord used that whole experience to identify and unite the top leaders of the Chinese church and it’s been a joy and privilege to help them to facilitate strategic planning of a historic, national effort by the Chinese church called Mission China 2030. Did you know that in China there are 100 cities that have a population of 1 million or more? In those 100 cities, there are 5,000 train and subway stops. The goal is, by the year 2030, to plant 5,000 churches, one church for every train and subway stop, in those 100 cities. Did you know that in the last 200 years of mission history, 20,000 missionaries have been sent to China? The goal now, by the Chinese church by the year 2030, is to send out 20,000 missionaries – one for every missionary who has come into China in the last 200 years. If the Lord blesses these humanly impossible goals, it will impact the whole world.

The global Church is reaching out and mobilizing, from every nation to every nation, but there is much work to be done. According to The Joshua Project, there are more than 6,800 unreached people groups in the world that represent 3 billion people. 41.8 percent of all people groups in the world remain unreached. My mission field, Japan, is the second largest unreached people group on earth. And so we pray, “Lord, may Your kingdom come in Japan and may Your kingdom come amongst the 6,800 unreached people groups in the world.” And we pray, “Lord, mobilize Your Church. Mobilize this church toward that end!” And for the building of the kingdom of God, for the hallowing of God’s name, we pray, “Lord, Your will be done.” And it’s the prayer for God’s revealed will to be done. And the essential way that God’s will is done and honored is when God’s people obey, when we live out the purposes of God in our lives, when we live for God in every aspect of our lives with love for Him with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. Worship, kingdom, obedience.

So from the first three petitions, let me suggest that a summary of Jesus’ purpose of life for every Christian from every nation, is to passionately pray for and pursue the global and eternal worship of and living for God. To passionately pray for and pursue the global and eternal worship of and living for God.

And now let’s move on to the second part of The Lord’s Prayer. Now this section has been described by some commentators as focusing on personal needs, but as I alluded to before, I believe that these two sections of The Lord’s Prayer are much more than two sections with two different themes, but that the two sections relate very much to each other. Now commentators, good commentators, suggest that the first three petitions focus on the preeminence of God while the final three focus on personal needs. But there’s more than just that. In the first half, Jesus teaches us to cry out to God to accomplish even through our prayers and our lives, God’s purpose for global and eternal worship. And the second part is not just a prayer for personal needs now, but instead it is a prayer for provision of all that is needed for such purpose of life laid out in the first section. Let me say this again! The second half of The Lord’s Prayer is prayer for provision of all that is needed for the purpose of life, which is to passionately pray for and pursue the global and eternal worship of and living for God. The second half of the prayer is intimately related to the first half. It’s not just that the first half is the big picture and the second is the little picture, or that the first half is a spiritual side and the second is the earthly, or that the first is the corporate and the second half is individual. No, the second half is prayer for provision of all that is needed for the purposes expressed in the first half.

The Second Half of the Lord’s Prayer.

And it starts off like this, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Towards the life that passionately prays for and pursues the global and eternal worship of and living for God, we have basic needs – bread. The standard is not luxury, but sustenance. You know, we live in a country where we have to deliberately limit our food intake and the caloric content of our food. Has the prayer, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” become meaningless in our society and in our churches? And if not, then what could God be trying to teach you? Would you pray and ask the Lord about this today? “Lord, why should I even pray this prayer? I don’t need to! I have two cars. I have a retirement fund. I have disposable income.” Why would the Lord have you pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread”? You know, only America could have invented such a term, “disposable income.” Essentially, disposable income is saying that everything beyond daily bread, everything beyond sustenance, is mine. Everything beyond daily bread is discretionary funds. Perhaps then, the reason why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” is because He wants us to view every gift, every dollar, ever resource not as a personal slush fund but as provision to pursue passionately Christ’s purpose for life, for the global and eternal worship of and living for God, and that our passionately living toward and generous giving toward such global purpose might even foolishly require us to tangibly need God’s help for our daily bread.

The Prayer for Forgiveness

Next, “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” The prayer for forgiveness and the power to forgive. This is a reminder of our most basic spiritual need now – forgiveness. It’s a reminder of our sinfulness and also of God’s mercy. It’s a reminder of the Gospel, the very foundation of the purpose of God as emphasized in the first half of the Lord’s prayer. The Gospel is to be received and also extended to others. One hundred years ago, the Gospel began to take root in Korea. That Gospel reached my own family through Presbyterian missionaries. I am the fifth generation of Christians on my father’s side. It was that faith that helped them to endure one of the darkest periods of Korean history during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. As many as 30 million Asians lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Perhaps the greatest loss of human life in the history of mankind! My own great aunt was married off as a young teenager to avoid becoming one of the more than 150,000 Korean women and girls as young as twelve years old who were forced to be slaves of the Japanese army and who endured unspeakable horrors. In the strange and beautiful providence of God, He saw fit to eventually send my father to America only to have him later say good-bye to his son, heading back to Asia to bring the Gospel to the land of his former enemy. From every land, to every land, even from Korea to Japan – glorious Gospel design!

And our lives, our ministry, the work that God has done in Japan is a fruit of First Presbyterian Church. I want to say thank you for praying for us, thank you for standing with us, thank you for supporting us. You were with us from the very beginning and I’m particularly thankful for Ligon Duncan and for the faith, the foolish faith that he exercised in getting on board with a seminary that didn’t yet exist. In our first year, we had three students. By our second year, we had grown to two! By 2008, we were near extinction. The Lord, however, rescued and blessed and encouraged and provided and today, Christ Bible Seminary is one of the largest seminaries in Japan today. Thank you for your part in bearing the fruit of this church even to the ends of the earth in Japan.

“Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation! This seems key. Between our individual salvation and the pursuit of global, eternal worship of God lies temptation. What is this? Perhaps for some that temptation is the worshipping of, the hallowing of God’s very provision. Daily bread hoarded like the Israelites hoarding manna in the wilderness. Perhaps the temptation includes the idolizing of God’s spiritual blessings as well, the idolizing of grace and spiritual comfort. And this idolatry of Christian comfort is something that I can understand. It’s a comfort of God’s grace and love, the comfort of my own salvation, the comfort of a marvelous, guaranteed future. But rather than looking at our own blest circumstances and then the unfortunate circumstances of others who are without Christ and saying, “Thank God I’m not them!” we need to recognize that our own circumstances are by the grace of God alone and we should pray, then, for mercy that we avoid the temptations of our blessed circumstances. Have you ever considered for a moment the absolute mercy and blessedness that you were born into your circumstances? You could just as easily have been born in the slums of Bangladesh or as a son of a Shinto priest in Nagoya, Japan. Mercy and grace! And if you had been born in the slums of Bangladesh or as a son of a Shinto priest, how would you want the people in this room to respond? The temptation of spiritual heritage! It’s so easy for Christians to pray for and live for these verses in the second half, skipping the first section that lays out the very purposes of God for our lives, God’s purposes in His world. Too many Christians have made the second half, the provision of God, their purpose.

We Have Nothing to Envy

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” There is severe and deadly persecution of the Church in many nations around the world, especially in the 10-40 window. The most severely persecuted church in the world is in North Korea. In North Korea you have all of the greatest human challenges of the world combined – severe poverty, oppressive communism, global isolation, no political freedom, no religious freedom, no Gospel. Around North Korea you can see some billboards with these words, “We have nothing to envy.” Now of course this is ridiculous in a nation with so little food, no freedom, no hope, but it wasn’t always so. In the early 1900s, the capital city of Pyongyang was known as the “Jerusalem of the East.” In 1907, the year of the great Pyongyang revival, 50,000 Koreans came to Christ. But since 1995, more than 4 million North Koreans have died of starvation. According to one source, more than 500,000 have fled into China for survival, mostly women, and 80% of them have ended up becoming trafficking victims. As many as 1 million have been killed in concentration camps with cruel brutality. Nowhere in the world is Christian persecution so fierce. Despite the risks, the church is growing. There are an estimated 400,000 followers of Jesus Christ in North Korea. North Korean Christians who have nothing of worldly value, understand that in Christ they have nothing to envy! But we Christians in America, we who have everything - so much food, so much freedom, so many resources, we love the Gospel – we envy! We envy as we see people around us, as we watch TV we envy their house, their car, their position, their education, their looks, their family, their spouse. Christians, we have nothing to envy! We have everything! We have Jesus! Can we not learn that important lesson that even the North Korean government would try to teach us? We have nothing to envy!

Respond to the Gospel

So where do we go from here? What can you do for global missions? Let me suggest just a few things! Number one, respond to the Gospel. When Jim Boice of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia used to teach about financial giving he used to say, “Well think about the Gospel and then give in response to the Gospel.” It’s the same for the whole of our lives, right? Think of the Gospel and then live your life in response to that Gospel. Look at your life, honestly. What does your life say about the purpose or goal of your life in how you use your time, in how you spend your money, in what drives you, in your passions, in what you pray about and how you view the world? Let your life be a Gospel-centered, Gospel-focused, Gospel-empowered, Gospel-responding, Gospel-advocating life.

Repent

Two; repent! Repent! Repent! Repentance is not just for the first moment you become a Christian. Repentance is for every day of our lives. May we not talk casually about, “Yeah, I know in this and that way my life is out of line with the purposes of God.” May the Church of Christ not take any sin lightly. Our response to sin should not be resign or, “Oh well,” but “Lord, have mercy! Change me. Turn me from my sin. Turn me toward Yourself. Turn me toward Your purposes.”

Pray

Three; pray! Pray the Lord’s Prayer! Pray the prayers of Scripture back to God. Pray God’s purposes back to Him. Make God’s agenda your agenda. Make God’s passions your passions. Pray for the world; “Hallowed be Your name in Japan! Your kingdom come in North Africa! Your will be done in China!” This is a ministry. Don’t underestimate the power of a prayer ministry for global missions. Jesus is teaching us and empowering us for prayer ministry for the world in The Lord’s Prayer.

  1. Prayers for Obedience

And finally, live out the passions and purposes of God. Live them out! How? Invest in God’s purposes with the whole of your life. Now it kind of starts with kind of the basic question of, “How are we to enjoy life properly?” Now this is such a basic principle that is so simple but it’s also very easy to forget. Ready? Every gift of God is to be enjoyed as from God and not like a god. That everything be enjoyed theistically, Christo-centrically. That every blessing be recognized as a blessing from God and every resource be mobilized toward His purposes. So let’s say you’re a doctor! Enjoy and practice medicine theistically, acknowledging in your studies and practice God’s creating humans in the image of God. Practice doxologically, worshipping God with amazement for the healing power that God places in the human body. Practice medicine soberly, remembering that every single person is a sinner living in a fallen world, and that you may nurse them back to health, but a healthy sinner is still a lost sinner without Christ. And enjoy and practice medicine contextually, remembering the spiritually tragic global context of the unreached peoples of the world, and finding ways to personally and directly exercise the gifts and resources that God has given you to impact the eternal context of global Gospel ministry. I have seen God powerfully use music in missions, architecture in missions, sports outreach, technology, arts, medicine. You all, you all have gifts that can be mobilized for global impact in missions. For example, raise your hand if you speak English! So a lot of you! God can use that! Teaching of English is actually the most common mission work in Japan, the second largest unreached people group in the world. So what I’m advocating is this – the stewardship of life with all things serving God’s purposes and passions, every gift and talent enjoyed and employed for God and His purposes.

And the easiest, clearest, most impacting and at the same time perhaps the hardest way, is with money. Now in good times and in bad, Jesus’ teaching remains the same. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So money is the best indicator of your heart passions and priorities and thus the best place to start, oftentimes. Now if you make, I’m not going to make you raise your hands, if you make $25,000 per year, you are the richest 10% of the world. You are the uber-rich. Congratulations. In fact, if you make $2,500 per year, you are the richest 15% of the world. And if you make $50,000 per year, you are the riches 1% of the world.

I was speaking once at a conference and one of the seminars being given was on “How to Become a Billionaire.” Unfortunately, I was also teaching a seminar at the same time so I couldn’t go, so I’m sorry, I have no good tips for you! But I do want to talk about how to become a millionaire. Now on the internet they have a bunch of these sites that have millionaire calculators. I know some of you have tried this! And you can kind of figure out how long it’s going to be until you become a millionaire depending on how much you have, how much you save, and assuming some percentage return on your saving, like 6% or 8%. So assuming you have no money right now at all, but you’re determined to become a millionaire, let me try to help you out because this is important. You’ll want to save $5,000 per year, and at an 8% return on your investment and interest, you’ll become a millionaire in thirty-six years and ten months. The point is, that the target is in sight. It’s doable. So drop me an email or whatever it is that they use at that time and let me know that you made it. Let’s pray.

Or! Or, let’s say you invest $5,000 per year in global kingdom building! In thirty-six years and ten months you will have been able to invest the equivalent of $1 million in Jesus’ name hallowing kingdom building, eternity altering, global mission work. The point is that the target is in sight. It’s doable. And I guarantee you that in heaven the return on all the funds invested in God’s kingdom will yield you much, much more than 8% and what wonderful discipleship to be able to tell your kids and your grandkids one day that you invested $1 million in global missions. For the great commission, for the accomplishing of the Lord’s purpose in life, great sacrifices are going to be needed – sacrifice by those who go, laying aside comfort, family, the American dream, and sacrifice for those who send. There are those around the world who have risked and given their very lives for the purpose of God – the hallowing of God’s name. How many of us so easily choose the path of comfort and safety, the path that is the answer to the question, “What is best for me?” Our temptation is to seek the provisions of God but neglect His purposes and in holding on to those provisions we halt the advance of His kingdom that Jesus teaches us to pray for and pursue. So many of those whom God has used to make some of the greatest kingdom impact around the world have been those who have not made decisions based on, “What is best for me? My will be done.” They have made decisions based, instead, on an undeniable, unshakable, illogical, foolish passion for Jesus and for the building of His global kingdom. May God grant to us the grace to serve with undeniable, unshakable, illogical and foolish passion for the hallowing of God’s name and for the building of His global kingdom.

Now let’s pray!

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And toward that end, O God, toward that end, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen and amen.

©2016 First Presbyterian Church.

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