THE MODEL FOR LIVING IN ETERNITY
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in
heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
We could title the verses above as The Summary For
Kingdom Living. While it is widely known as the Lord’s
Prayer, it is really a prayer for His followers. The larger
context for this prayer (chapters 5, 6 and 7) provides the
detail for the nature of the Kingdom, the character of the
King and the pattern for Kingdom living. There is a special
relationship between these five verses and the longer passage
surrounding it. These verses serve to condense the meaning
of the entire sermon in an easily remembered arrangement.
In other words, the “Lord’s prayer” serves as a key to open
our understanding of what Jesus said on that mountainside.
Some of us may have heard a message in which the
Lord’s Prayer was offered as a model for praying. That’s all
right. However, when we consider the context it appears
much more was intended. As you read through the Sermon,
you realize Jesus was addressing a fundamental question:
How should we live as part of His Kingdom? We already
noted the sharp contrast of His message with what was commonly
advocated and practiced by the religious leaders of
that time. Here He was asking people themselves to check
their own lives. Without a doubt, that has to be life’s most
important examination. He offered Himself as our example.
How Did Jesus Live?
If Jesus is our example for living, we should take a look
at His life. As we read about Him, we see a strong connection
between His living and His praying. We could even
say He lived a life of prayer. Jesus separated Himself, even
from His closest disciples, to be alone in prayer. Sometimes,
Jesus prayed through the entire night. Each gospel writer
comments on this aspect of Jesus life. Since this was so vital
to Jesus, let’s take time to review some statements from His
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside
by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23).
“Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane,
and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there
and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along
with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled . . .
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and
prayed. ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken
from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ ” (Matthew
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus
got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where
he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to
pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12).
“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter,
John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to
pray.” (Luke 9:28).
As Jesus neared the time of the cross, He prayed fervently
for His disciples. That magnificent prayer is recorded
in John chapter 17. Based on what we read about Jesus’ life,
the time He spent in prayer, His teaching on the priority of
prayer, and His prayer for His disciples in John, it seems that
the “Lord’s prayer” of Matthew 6 was intended to be more
than a group of words to repeat.
Jesus’ living and praying were indivisible. It was difficult
to see where one ended and the other began. His example of
prayer forever altered the lives of His followers. They faithfully
followed His teaching and example in prayer. Prayer
formed the foundation for churches that were organized in
Jerusalem and other locations. The disciples “. . . joined
together constantly in prayer, along with the women and
Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts
1:13, 14). “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray
with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the
first day . . .” (Philippians 1:3-5). “For this reason, ever
since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your
love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for
you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:15, 16).
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have
not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with
the knowledge of his will. (Colossians 1:9).
In their writing and preaching, the Apostles referred often
to prayer and the importance of prayer. As they wrote on
prayer, they often included prayers for their readers (see the
context of the preceding verses). We can do the same thing
by looking at the chapters (5-7) that form the context for the
Lord’s prayer. It is in these chapters that Jesus announced the
standards of living for Kingdom members.
If we accept the Lord’s prayer as a pattern for our lives,
we see it summarizes the key issues for living in eternity. Out
of eternity Jesus came to earth to verify what God was
looking for in humanity and reveal the means to achieve it.
From that perspective, let’s look at what the King said
regarding Kingdom living.
Our Father in Heaven
The starting point for Kingdom living, or living in eternity,
is a personal relationship with God: Our Father. No
explanation is given. It is the unquestioned essential. At its
core, living in eternity is a relationship with God that is best
described as parental—father and child.
In the physical realm, we can see the parent’s characteristics
in the features of the children. Just as we have a resemblance
to our parents, as children of the Kingdom we should
show a resemblance of our eternal heavenly Father. Having
the likeness of our heavenly Father would be normal and
would disclose our heavenly parentage.
The beloved disciple John put it this way: “We know that
we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The
(person) who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he
commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone
obeys his word, God’s love is truly in him. This is how we
know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk
as Jesus did.” (I John 2:3-6). John is saying we should be
able to see the family resemblance in people who claim God
as their Father.
Although John’s writing makes that clear, there is often
resistance to what it means. You may recall the difficulty
Nicodemus had when Jesus informed him that to have
relationship with God, he had to be “born again.” Jesus said
he needed a new family relationship. Nicodemus believed his
Jewish ancestry and tradition were sufficient for Kingdom
membership. Jesus responded, “No, it isn’t a matter of human
relationships or physical activities. It’s being born into
God’s family by the initiative of God Himself.” (John 3:5-8).
God becomes “Our Father in heaven” through a supernatural
birth that implants in us supernatural life. The
Apostle Paul describes it like this: “At one time we too were
foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of
passions and pleasures . . . But when the kindness and love of
God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of
righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He
saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the
Holy Spirit . . . so that . . . we might become heirs having the
hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7).
The good news Jesus announced to those on the
mountainside remains the same for us. Living in eternity,
Jesus said, begins with relationship. This relationship is no
different from a normal, human parent-child relationship: It
begins with birth—a new birth as Jesus described to
Nicodemus. We don’t open the door to living in the eternal
by what we bring. Knowing the eternal God as our Heavenly
Father opens that door.
The first phrase, “Our Father in heaven,” also identifies
the perspective or viewpoint of this relationship—it’s from
heaven. That’s critical. All other relationships are earthbound.
In outlook and objective they are weighted down
with goals tied to what is important on earth, here and now.
Not so with the relationship Jesus is offering. Living in
eternity takes away the need for the endless pursuit after this
world’s objectives. Living in eternity means getting direction
from heaven, not our worldly culture. Heaven dictates our
goals and how we are to reach them.
Accordingly, we have a certainty that is given by God
Himself. The family’s headquarters or home is heaven. We
can relax! It’s impossible to improve on our goals and
directions because our Father in heaven has settled it. The
Apostle Paul wrote it this way; “For, as I have often told you
before and now say again even with tears, many live as
enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction,
their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.
Their mind is on earthly things. But, our citizenship is in
heaven.” (Philippians 3:18-20).
Jesus reminded His disciples that “heaven and earth will
pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew
24:35. That’s a great way to begin our living—with our
Father who is in heaven! Our connection with the eternal lets
us live life with complete confidence that we are taking the
Hallowed Be Your Name
The word “hallowed,” comes from the same word that
gives us “holy.” Accordingly, it’s not possible to separate
“hallowed be your name” from how we live. It’s one thing
to pray, “Hallowed be your name, God.” It is quite another
to live in a manner that expresses God’s holiness. Although
the prayer may be phony, the life can’t be faked. A life
expressing God’s holiness can only come about as a result of
relationship with God. If we used these five verses of Scripture
only as a prayer, what does it mean to say, “Hallowed be
your name”? We know just repeating the words won’t do
that. Can our actions do it? Yes, holy living hallows God’s
name just as unholy living profanes His name (Ezekiel
13:17-19). And isn’t it interesting that Jesus said, “Hallowed
be your name.” As members of God’s kingdom family, His
name is represented through our living.
That brings to mind a story about Alexander the Great.
One of his soldiers had acted disgracefully. When the soldier
was summoned before the Emperor, Alexander asked him his
name. The soldier’s response was, “Alexander.” He was
dismissed with the command: Either change your ways or
abandon your name! The Emperor would not permit having
his own name disgraced by the actions of another.
When God our heavenly Father brings us into His forever
family as children, He gives us His name. What a gift!
What a responsibility! As we live today, we are eternity on
exhibit. As Christians, our lives should disclose our heavenly
Father’s character to those around us. The Apostle Peter
wrote what he had learned and what is expected of us. “As
obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had
when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is
holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy,
because I am holy.’ ” (I Peter 1:14-16).
Throughout the Sermon, Jesus talked about a radically
different life from that of religious correctness. Yes, the
Pharisees had developed the right lifestyle. They knew how
to polish up the exterior. They majored in minors. They
prayed, gave and fasted elaborately for others to observe.
The rulers of that time controlled the ritual. However, Jesus
was talking about the right life. He declared it wasn’t the
ceremony—it was the life that displayed eternity.
Read how Jesus connected our earthly living to eternity:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be
hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a
bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to
everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine
before others that they may see your good deeds and praise
your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Notice that Jesus began the mountainside Sermon with
the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are
the pure in heart.” Kingdom living is a dynamic life, not a
fake lifestyle. Jesus confronted the religious performers of
that time. They could not dodge the meaning of His words.
They knew Jesus was talking to them. “Therefore I tell you
that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and
given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on
this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls
will be crushed.” And their response? “When the chief
priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew
he was talking about them.” (Matthew 21:42-46). However,
they did not turn from their ways; they persist even today.
Your Kingdom Come
Jesus’ first declaration as He began preaching was, “The
kingdom of God (heaven) is at hand.” From that moment, we
notice a progression and movement in His teaching:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
“. . . then the kingdom of heaven has come upon you.”
“ . . . some here will not taste death before they see the
kingdom of God come.” (Mark 9:1)
“Let the children come to me . . . the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these.”
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
“The good news of the kingdom of God is being
preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”
“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the
kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom
of God does not come with your careful observation,
nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,”
because the kingdom of God is within you.”
(Luke 17:20, 21)
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter
the kingdom of God unless he is born of water
and the Spirit.’ “
Notice the movement in these verses. He said that the
Kingdom is near; that it is coming; and that it is in you. It is
apparent that for Jesus the Kingdom was something more
than a far, distant future event or condition. By bringing us
into His Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom He spoke of would
not only be near us, but in us as well. As the Apostle Paul
explained, the Kingdom is something to be entered now
solely as the result of God’s initiative and action. “For he
has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us
into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have
redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13, 14).
Jesus did not identify any action by which I can realize
the Kingdom of God—except as I personally allow His
reign, His dominion, His authority to govern my life. His
Kingdom comes one person, one heart at a time. As Jesus
told Nicodemus, you can enter God’s Kingdom, you can
realize His kingdom in your life now, through relationship,
being “born again.” (John 3:3-5). That showed conclusively
how a person can be in God’s Kingdom today. It is not
something that must wait for the future. Although we don’t
control the political agendas of the world, we can and do
control the governing arena of our own lives. Our lives can
be the location for the throne of God’s reign. His Kingdom
becomes reality within us when the King rules our lives.
We don’t want to write about the Kingdom of God without
adding that Jesus also taught of a future time when there
will be an external, physical kingdom. That kingdom will
cover the entire world with its power (Luke 13:22-30;
Matthew 24:30, 31). God’s plan for that time is linked
directly to those who have already entered into a Kingdom
relationship with Him. We can see that in the opening verses
of Matthew 5. Jesus declared, “Blessed are the meek, for
they will inherit the earth.” (verse 5). The meek are not the
wishy-washy characters depicted on television or in the
comics. In Scripture, meek people are like Moses who submitted
himself to the King’s plan and vigorously followed
God’s will (Numbers 12:3). Jesus was saying we inherit the
earth both now and in the future because we have submitted
to the King. We bow to His rule.
What the religious leaders of that time wanted was an
earthly kingdom of God. What they rejected was having the
King reigning in their lives. They wanted the political
privileges of a non-Roman kingdom without turning over
control of their hearts. They wanted the advantages of relationship
while avoiding the new birth into God’s family.
Jesus explained the problem: “You belong to your father, the
devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire . . . He
who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do
not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43-47).
Being in God’s Kingdom requires relationship.
Jesus also included the Kingdom of God in the future
when He instituted what is now called the Lord’s Table. He
informed the disciples that He would not take part in that
ceremony again until the final “fulfillment” of the Kingdom.
(Luke 22:14-20). So, the Kingdom is now active as indi-
viduals enthrone the King Eternal in their lives. It awaits its
full, complete disclosure to the world in the future.
The bread and wine of that communion observance remind
us of how we participate in God’s Kingdom now. Jesus
revealed that taking part in the Kingdom, future, is the same.
Jesus’ death on the cross makes possible our relationship
with the eternal Father, both now and in the future. Both are
linked to eternity. Both require relationship with the King.
In some of His last teaching, Jesus combined the two aspects
of His Kingdom, now and future. “When the Son of
Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will
sit on his throne in heavenly glory (the future Kingdom).
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you
(today’s kingdom members) who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since
the creation of the world.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-34). It is the
bread and the wine, Jesus death and resurrection, which
make God’s Kingdom (future and now) possible.
Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Jesus once told a story to His disciples of a man who had
two sons. At the conclusion of the story, Jesus asked an
important question. Notice how He builds up to the question.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He
went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the
“ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind
and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the
same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.’
” (Matthew 21:28-32). Then, Jesus asked the question,
“which son did his father’s will?” The disciples’ answer (like
ours) was “the son who actually went and worked.” What
each son said was not the critical issue; what they did was.
Shall we apply His teaching to the phrase we are examining?
If we regard the chapter 6 passage as only a prayer, it
would be easy to say the words, “Your will be done.” But if
we expand its purpose as summarizing Jesus’ instructions for
Kingdom living, it becomes a different matter. Of my own
initiative and power I cannot bring about God’s will on the
earth. However, I can allow His will to be done in my life.
The only road I control to bring about God’s will on earth is
the one leading to my heart. That is what Jesus was speaking
about. The people listening to His teaching understood what
He was saying.
So, if I pray for God’s will to be done on earth while refusing
to accept His will in my life, what does that make me?
What did it make the Pharisees and Scribes in Matthew 23?
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were willing to debate religious
topics as long as it did not affect their lives. The fervor of our
words (prayers) should be matched by the zeal of our actions
(lives). Our lives should show passion for His will, not only
in heaven, but here on earth. That was the point of the
parable of the two sons. Our lives are the vital factor, not our
speeches. What we do is essential.
Did Jesus reveal what conditions should exist to show
that “God’s will is being done on earth as in heaven?” Did
He say what conditions should exist in a person’s life to
enable one to say the same thing? As before, Jesus defined
what He meant in the Sermon chapters.
In Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus began describing the character
of Kingdom members. In 5:14-16, He showed the impact of
Kingdom members on our present age—as salt and light. He
then talked about the critical issues of that time. For each
case, Jesus specifically outlined the appropriate actions of
Murder 5:21-26 Treatment of enemies 5:43-48
Adultery 5:27-30 Giving to the needy 6:1-4
Divorce 5:31, 32 Prayer and forgiveness 6:5-15
Swearing 5:33-37 Fasting 6:16-18
Lawsuits 5:38-42 Saving for retirement 6:19-24
Stress and anxiety 6:25-34.
Looking at what Jesus talked about is somewhat like
reading the morning newspaper. Few significant issues of our
time are omitted. What would happen to many of our
problems if those who professed to be Kingdom members
truly followed Jesus’ instruction? Today’s newspapers would
have little to report. The need for many government programs,
including the criminal justice system, would evaporate.
Hard to be believe, right?
Yet the phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven,” identified
the permanent standard for Kingdom living. We look to
heaven for direction. The perspective is both toward and
from heaven. From heaven and out of eternity, God sent
Jesus to earth to provide the ultimate definition of His will
for humanity. In its basic but most profound explanation it is
“. . . that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
eternal life.” (John 3:16-18).
To get our attention, we could say that Jesus penetrated
time to introduce us to eternity. He entered the confines of
our space to open up the vista of God’s universe. He divested
Himself of His heavenly privileges to take on our human
frailty. He brought us eternal life in exchange for everlasting
death. He did all this to inform and display forever what
God’s Kingdom was about.
Jesus made it clear that the only ones capable of bringing
this kind of revolutionary change to the world are active
members of God’s Kingdom, those who are living in eternity.
He told us, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses
its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? You are the
light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
(Matthew 5:13-15). When Jesus said, “You are the salt and
light of the world,” He said that nothing and no one else can
be that to the world. Can we describe today’s church in those
words? Sadly, those who live by the rules of this present age
often outdo Kingdom members in commitment. Our lives
Jesus followed this part of the Sermon with vivid
reminders. Kingdom members are to be identified by how
they live (Matthew 7:21-27). Spiritual counterfeits along
with celebrated religious leaders will be turned out into everlasting
judgment and separation (Matthew 7:22). Jesus said
bluntly: Relationship, not giftedness, determines Kingdom
membership. “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew
you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” (Matthew 7:23).
Without relationship on earth, there won’t be any in heaven.
Jesus announced that relationship is an absolute necessity.
Eternity awaits your decision. Since it all comes back to
relationship with the King, how is that started? How is it
maintained? What does it take?
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
In most industrialized countries, it would be unusual for
people to ask God daily for bread. That’s not one of our
pressing needs even though for millions of others, it is. Just a
few verses later, Jesus advised His listeners not to worry
about food or clothes. “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall
we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after
those things and your heavenly Father knows that you need
them.” (Matthew 6:31, 32). Now after He told us not to
worry, why would He tell us to daily ask God for food?
This becomes easier to understand if we recognize Jesus
was referring to how we live as much as how we pray. Do I
realize that everything I have in this land of plenty is God’s
gift? Or, do I claim it’s my achievement by hard work and
clever intellect? Does my life show an awareness of my daily
dependence upon God? Or, do I consistently display my
autonomy and self-sufficiency?
God wants us to acknowledge daily what is the truth:
Without Him, we are helpless. One of the best indicators of
this is our need for food. We don’t get very far without
eating. So, can you think of a better time to be reminded of
our dependency on God than when we eat? It’s necessary, it’s
frequent and we usually do it in the company of others. Now
if we can admit and accept our dependence about something
as necessary to life as the food we eat, we are approaching
the kind of life Jesus had in mind. But Jesus did more that
that—He set the example. He did this privately and publicly,
with His disciples and with the multitudes. When he broke
bread, He thanked His Father in heaven.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus
rebuked Satan’s effort to have Him use His power for His
own personal benefit. He said, “Man does not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of
God.” (Luke 4:4). Later in His teaching, Jesus identified
Himself in this way:“ ‘For the bread of God is he who comes
down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then He
declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will
never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be
thirsty.’ ” (John 6:32-35).
Linking these verses to John 1:1-14, we can see the other
dimension of “give us this day our daily bread.” In 1:1-14,
John introduces Jesus as being “with God in the beginning,”
the One who “made all things” and that “in him was life.”
The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus is more than Creator . . .
Jesus is Sustainer of our entire universe, great and small,
spiritual as well as physical. “For by (Jesus) all things were
created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible . . . all things were created by him and for
him.” (Colossians 1:15-20).
The writer of Hebrews reinforced Jesus’ position as
Sustainer when he wrote, “The Son is the radiance of God’s
glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all
things by the power of his word.” (Hebrews 1:3). From these
three writers we see that nothing exists over which Jesus
does not have authority. No matter what the need—physical,
spiritual, seen or unseen, now or future—Jesus is the
Provider/Sustainer of everything.
Spiritual Bread And Physical Bread
What was Jesus’ primary concern for Kingdom members:
Spiritual or physical bread? Of course, we understand
the consequences of not eating—weakness, illness and eventually,
death. How about the spiritual side of our lives—can
we expect to maintain spiritual life without daily partaking of
the Bread of Life, even His Word, the Scriptures? The
unmistakable teaching of Jesus is He expects Kingdom
members to be seeking Him, daily, for spiritual as well as
physical food. Without question, He placed the need for daily
spiritual food above that of bodily needs. He instructed us to
“seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” and the other
things would be added. (Matthew 6:33).
In the parallel section of the beatitudes, we also read that
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). What
do the words, “hunger and thirst after” bring to your mind?
Do you see a casual, occasional interest in spiritual food and
right living? No, it is a picture of someone panting in
desperation for nourishment to survive. That, I believe, is the
understanding Jesus wanted to develop in His listeners.
Hungry people crave food, whether physical or spiritual.
What would Jesus find today? Would it be people “hungering
and thirsting” for spiritual food? It appears in North
America, many people are convinced that God is not necessary
to daily life. Scientific achievements, space exploration
and advances in communications, medicine, technology,
computers—all point to mankind’s ability to realize its goals
without God. Given enough time and money, we’ll solve all
our problems ourselves, thank you very much. We are masters
of our age. We seem intent to “do it our way,” for spiritual
as well as physical matters. A day is coming, however,
when God’s Word will no longer be found (Amos 8:11).
In today’s polite society, we don’t ask about one’s spiritual
feeding habits, particularly at church. Yet failure to
partake daily of the Bread of Life (God’s Word) is as
damaging spiritually as is starving to the physical body.
Living in eternity means we accept God’s priorities for our
lives, priorities that Jesus listed in the mountainside Sermon.
There, He declared that seeing reality from eternity’s standpoint
is essential. It is more than praying, “Give us this day
our daily bread.” It is recognizing that were it not for Him,
not only would human knowledge and achievements vanish,
but spiritual life cannot exist.
We are appalled when we see wretched human conditions
while warehouses, filled with grain and food, remain
locked and undistributed due to warring factions. Television
programs often show the ravages of famine and drought
around the world. But what spiritual calamities result when
Christians fail to daily partake from the Bread of Life? What
do our spiritual bodies look like to God? How does He react
at the lack of spiritual development and holy living by those
claiming to be His offspring, members of His Kingdom?
In these opening chapters of Matthew (5, 6 and 7), Jesus
defined God’s will for His Kingdom people. At the end of
Matthew 7, He warned of false teachers, calling them
“ferocious wolves.” (7:15). Dressed up like the genuine
article, Jesus continued, their lives do not display the King’s
character. In solemn words and illustrations He warned His
listeners not to confuse performance with character, or
dramatic results with relationship with God.
Part of Kingdom living, Jesus said, is daily asking and
receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and opening
(Matthew 7:7-11). No more than we can survive physically
on a starvation diet can we live and grow as Kingdom members
without daily spiritual food. Our feeding habits should
be a clear indicator that we are followers of the King. What
would a visit to our home or a detailing of our habits reveal?
As a Christian you and I freely admit that in eternity, we
are forever dependent on God. What we often fail to act upon
is that we are already in eternity. It is only our delusion that
makes us think that the world has any reality at all. The
combination of today’s culture and self-deception leads us to
feel that our achievements are due to our own activity and
not God’s doing and power. When Jesus taught us to pray,
“Give us this day our daily bread,” He was inviting us to
participate in a spiritual life that only God can begin and
maintain. That life requires full dependence on Him. And
when we ask daily, God fills daily.
This life can begin when we concede that God does it all.
From eternity, God gives us daily food and strength for
living today. We open God’s resources by declaring our
weakness. There is no greater prayer than the person facing
God and confessing, “I need You today!” and then living like
it. The Apostle Paul explained our source of strength: “God
chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God
chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He
chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things
—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that
you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from
God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and
redemption.” (I Corinthians 1:27-31).
Later on, Paul related to the same congregation that God
permitted him to have a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of
Satan, to torment him. What was God’s purpose? He told
them: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away
from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will
boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that
Christ’s power may rest on me.” (II Corinthians 12:7-10).
That kind of language is not often heard in churches today.
Yet, if we are not weak enough for God to be our source of
strength, are we any better than the culture around us?
The time would come when culture would overrun the
church. Jesus declared that He intended us to be salt and
light to the world. The model for living that Jesus gave His
disciples was also the model for the future church, requiring
us to live in eternity. We can’t forget that the day is passing
and temporary. Eternity has all the advantages. We are to
seize the day, to capture it with eternity! “The Law and the
Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the
good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and
everyone is forcing his way into it.” (Luke 16:16).
Forgive Us Our Debts,
As We Have Forgiven Our Debtors
In the opening verses of Matthew 5, where Jesus talked
about Kingdom members, He said that as they show mercy
they would receive mercy themselves (Matthew 5:7). In the
phrase we are looking at, Jesus restated that principle: The
key to receiving forgiveness from God is found in granting
forgiveness to others. Through this teaching, Jesus connects
how we live to how we pray. The clear implication of both
passages is that we have no hope of receiving God’s
forgiveness if we fail to practice forgiveness in our lives. Our
living must agree with our praying.
To illustrate this truth, Jesus gave an example. He told a
story of two debtors. One, who owed a fortune, had his debt
totally canceled by his master. The forgiven man then ran
into another man who owed him the price of a cheap meal.
He chastised this poor man and had him thrown into the
debtor’s prison, telling him he must stay until he paid. On
hearing about this, the master called in the servant he had
forgiven. “ ‘You wicked servant’ he said, ‘I canceled all that
debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have
had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ ”
(Matthew 18:22-35). The story is a word picture of the
phrase, “forgive us as we have forgiven others.” Members of
God’s Kingdom have received the ultimate benefit: Total
forgiveness from our sin and its eternal consequences. Without
any credit, God canceled the debt that, if not cleared,
would have left us doomed to an eternal hell.
Considering the magnitude of our debt that has been
canceled, Jesus said it was imperative that we live forgiving
lives. Can we claim we have truly entered into relationship
with the God of forgiveness if we haven’t picked up the forgiveness
characteristic? Jesus said that’s part of living in
eternity—evaluating the small, temporary slights of the day
in light of God’s gift of eternal forgiveness and life. In this
same Sermon, He told us to “Love our enemies and pray for
those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your
Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44, 45).
By displaying the character of the King, we show that we
are the King’s sons and daughters. We don’t have to “get
even” with others. This leads us back to the theme of this
passage: Jesus’ focus on how Kingdom members should live.
You see this goes far beyond what we might consider as a
“pattern” for prayer. It is His design for living. Praying and
living go together. As we read in Proverbs 28:9, “If anyone
turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.”
Since we all desperately need forgiveness, we should practice
forgiveness towards others. Jesus reminds us that is part
of living in eternity (Luke 6:32-36; I Peter 2:21-23).
Lead Us Not Into Temptation,
But Deliver Us From The Evil One
If the people on the mountainside had not realized it
before, Jesus took away all doubt: Kingdom members are in
a battle! Since the battle is one with eternal consequences, it
demands our full attention.
This section opened with the phrase, “Our Father in
heaven.” That statement alone clarified the essence of the
conflict. Jesus opened the door to relationship with God,
“our Father in heaven.” But, He warned, opposition and evil
forces are intent on disrupting and destroying our new life.
There are also situations that offend God. But those in this
relationship want to avoid anything that would break the
fellowship with God. In word and deed, they have expressed:
Their desire for holy living
Their longing to see His will being done on earth, and
His Kingship accepted everywhere
Their need for God’s daily feeding and forgiveness.
Kingdom members are committed to these concerns.
The dramatic change from the imperative of our time and
culture to that of eternity is revolutionary. As we understand
this we realize that God by His grace has rescued us from the
thought processes and actions of our day. He has thrust us
into eternity. It is like going from a two-dimensional concept
drawing into three-dimensional reality. Individuals are liberated
to live in eternity. This kind of living is so radical and
the change so dramatic that it arouses a peculiar reaction
from those who are entangled in the culture and practices of
the present day.
The Bible records many examples of this change. A
unique chapter in Scripture has catalogued and illustrated the
kind of life about which Jesus talked. Let’s read a few sentences
from that chapter. “All these people were still living
by faith (that is, they were already living in eternity) when
they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only
saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they
admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth . . .
They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he
has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
That is the perspective Jesus presented in the final words
of what we call the Lord’s prayer. “Lead us not into
temptation” is the cry for help to live a holy life—to be
spared even the possibility of being tempted to transgress
against our heavenly Father. We have already asked for and
received forgiveness for our sins. Since we have recognized
the magnitude of our sin and the unmerited favor of God’s
forgiveness for us, we have joined with other Kingdom
members to forgive those who sin against us. Still, we
urgently need deliverance from the evil one, Satan.
Because we live in an age that is time-oriented, our
desire to live holy lives is often compromised. Much of our
lives are constructed with building materials from our present
culture. How we spend our time, what things are important
to us, what kind of cars we drive, houses we live in,
movies we watch, motives for profit, church methods, etc.,
are all saturated with the seductive aroma of our immediate
culture. There is so much that would tell us to “lighten up.”
Don’t be so serious about this “sin thing.” These voices,
however, are echoes from our culture; they are not the
sounds of eternity. Even the poets of ancient Greece knew
the truth when they said, “In him (God) we live and move
and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). They understood ultimate
reality: We are living in eternity now!
Now, however, we live and move and act as though our
times are separate from eternity with no connection between
the two. In our day, immediate gratification, sensual stimulation
and ego satisfaction comprise life’s great purposes. Ideas
are of little value unless they can be experienced. Thought is
replaced by emotion. Passion replaces purpose. Feelings are
more important than belief. Absolutes are rela-tive. Celebrity
substitutes for character. Convenience cancels commitment.
Results justify the methods. Entertainment masquerades as
Contemporary life thrives with activities and goals designed
by the evil one to prevent us from considering eternity.
From education to entertainment, everything is being
striped of eternal perspective. In some places, God can’t be
mentioned. But God and His standards have not changed and
Satan isn’t asleep. The Apostle Peter warned, “Be selfcontrolled
and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like
a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him,
standing firm in the faith . . . And the God of all grace, who
called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . . will himself
restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him
be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:8-11).
Recognizing and Resisting Temptation
In the swirl and swiftness of our day and age, Christians
are in danger of being seduced into forgetting that we have
been called to live in eternity. Constant stimulation can
deaden us to the danger of temptation. That blinds us to our
personal need for protection and deliverance from Satan in
our daily walk. Jesus taught that we are always in jeopardy.
He understood the power of the enemy differently than we
do. A life of prayer will help us recognize that we are under
attack and in constant need of God’s care for us. In the hour
of Peter’s temptation, Jesus warned as well as encouraged
Peter. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not
fail.” (Luke 22:31).
Just hours after that conversation with Peter, Jesus reenforced
the priority of prayer in confronting temptation.
The disciples did not yet understand. They went to sleep
when they should have been praying. “Then he returned to
his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not
keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch
and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’ ”
(Matthew 26:40, 41). When He returned later, the disciples
had again fallen asleep. Temptation’s power was as deadly as
it was real. So Jesus warned, “Watch out for temptation!”
Jesus took sin seriously. Sin separates us from God. It
ruptures relationship with God. It prevents us from receiving
everything God is anxious to give us. He came to earth to die
because of our sin. His great and lasting mission of life was
to reconcile humanity with God (I John 3:7, 8). As Kingdom
members, He wants us to share the same hatred for sin that
He had. Sin in the life of a member of the Kingdom is
destructive of what Jesus came to achieve. It cost Him everything.
He wants us to avoid it at all cost. “Since the children
have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity
so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the
power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all
their lives were held in slavery by their fear of
death.” (Hebrews 2:14-18).
Just as the requirement for both physical and spiritual
food is continuous, so too is seeking deliverance from temptation
and evil. It’s a daily necessity. Temptation brings us
into contact with the deadly virus of sin. While we are not in
sin when we are tempted, we are warned to avoid actions
that bring us into temptation and its influence. This important
principle receives much attention in the Scriptures.
(Verses in Proverbs; Matthew 26:41; I Corinthians 10: 11-15;
I Timothy 6:9-11; II Timothy 2:22-26; I John 2:15-18).
In resisting temptation, the writer of Hebrews called us to
vigilance: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a
great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that
hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run
with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our
eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . . Consider
him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so
that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to
the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:1-4).
In summary, we see in the Lord’s prayer far more than a
model for prayer. In condensed form, it is a picture of the
pattern for living in eternity. Jesus told His disciples to use
this pattern to live by: “Therefore everyone who hears these
words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise
(person) who built his (her) house on the rock.” (Matthew
Let’s now return to the opening phrase of the Lord’s
prayer, “Our Father . . .” What does it mean to have God as
our heavenly Father? How does that affect our living?