Life in obedience to God’s Kingdom doesn’t mean attempting to set it up on Earth, Pastor Kevin DeYoung recently told young adult Christians.
DeYoung, who pastors Christ Covenant Church in North Carolina and writes about theology and faith, spoke at the Cross conference last week about the meaning of the phrases “your kingdom come, your will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer.
“We cannot bring about the Kingdom by elections, or education, or humanitarian good works, or environmental stewardship or by the cultivation of the arts,” he said. “Listen very carefully, we must not be confused on this point. Kingdom values should infiltrate our politics. Kingdom living should make a difference in our communities, but the Kingdom does not advance when trees are planted or when unemployment is lowered or even when injustices are addressed.”
God’s Kingdom comes from God’s work, not the efforts of believers, he said. When God acts to change the world, the Kingdom appears and Christians can participate in it.
“The Kingdom comes when and where the King is known,” said DeYoung.
God’s Kingdom differs from earthly kingdoms because it simultaneously impacts the world now and has not yet arrived, he noted. The Kingdom will arrive completely one day, but it exists now in only some places. Just as a cloudy sky changes to sunlight one opening at a time, God’s Kingdom breaks into the world a little at a time.
“[The Kingdom is] coming and it has come,” he said. “Jesus cast out demons and it was one indication that the Kingdom had already come. It’s present and future. It is like the sun in the sky, breaking through the clouds, but the rain has not fully passed, the brightness of the sun is not yet experienced as it will be.”
Christians should commit their lives to the advancement of God’s Kingdom, he said. They can draw a valuable example from the ways that leaders like Winston Churchill selflessly worked to uphold the ideals of earthly empires.
“If Winston Churchill and so many other men and women like him of that age could make that sort of commitment to the British Empire with all of its imperfections, how much more should we as Christians be committed to a vastly more gracious, more significant, more eternal kingdom?” he said.
The Lord’s Prayer focuses on what Christians should pray even as it focuses on how they should pray, DeYoung said. The extension of Jesus’ rule as the Messiah and obedience to God’s commandments should be the desire of Christians.
In the Lord’s Prayer, God’s will means what God desires to happen, he explained. Although everything happens because God decrees it, God wants people to do right and for His Kingdom to advance. Christians should want these things too.
“The will of God can be shorthand for obedience to God’s commands. This is the will that we are praying about in the Lord’s Prayer,” he said.
The Cross conference is aimed at 18- to 25-year-olds who want to help make Jesus’ name known around the world, particularly in unreached places. Other speakers this year included John Piper, David Platt and Trip Lee.