When I was teaching Sociology at Nashville State Community College, every semester, during the topic of globalization, I would say (somewhat sarcastically) that you can go anywhere in the world, and in any major city, you will find a McDonalds. Likewise, you can go anywhere in the United States, including any small city, and you will find a Mexican restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. In fact, a lot of small cities will not have a McDonalds, but they will have a Mexican and a Chinese restaurant. I have traveled to Honduras multiple times, and in Honduras I have eaten at McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway, Chili’s, Applebee’s, and more than one Chinese restaurant. Surprisingly, I have never eaten at a Mexican restaurant in Honduras.
Cultures have a way of affecting other cultures, and dominant cultures have a way of changing other cultures. I have heard people in other countries explain how they learned English by watching “American television,” or listening to “American music,” mainly rock and hip-hop. All around the world people follow the cultural trends coming out of the USA. In fact, our influence over other cultures is one reason why some cultures despise the United States. Take recent events in Iran as an example. Protestors have taken to the streets in an effort to bring down their dictatorship. The protestors demand a better economy, and to be more “modern” (a code word, meaning to be more like the USA). In response to the protestors, the Iranian government has blocked the internet, blocked cell phones access, and blocked television. All in an effort to diminish outside influences. North Korea does the same thing. Here is the point I am trying to make: We have done a better job spreading our western culture throughout the world then we have in spreading the kingdom of God. We are better disciples of culture then we are of Christ. And spreading God’s kingdom, transforming culture, is why we are here.
Your Kingdom Come
Jesus’ first public address, right after His baptism, was, “The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Jesus was telling us to not only repent of our sins (that was John’s the Baptist’s message), but to also repent of our desire to live life on our own, to be our own ruler, or to live as earthly citizen’s first and kingdom citizens second. Jesus was telling us that faith in Him initiates a new reality, a new kingdom that demands our allegiance above all others, and to believe that this coming of God’s kingdom is, indeed, good news!
Jesus’ entire message, His entire life, all of His teachings and healings and miracles, everything He did had one directive, and that was, “The present reality of God’s kingdom is now available to all who repent and believe.” This was the central theme in all His parables, and the main lesson behind all of His miracles.
The phrase, “kingdom of God” (or its equivalent, “kingdom of heaven”) occurs over 100 times in the New Testament; 99 of those times it appears in the Gospels, and 90 times it is Jesus saying them. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and spent forty days with them teaching them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Some of the last words to His followers were, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). What was the “good news?” According to Mark’s gospel, it was the proclamation that in Jesus Christ, God’s kingdom has become a present reality, that carries with it, a future hope. (NOTE: The word “gospel” means “good news.”)
The Lord’s Prayer
The longest recorded sermon of Jesus is known as The Sermon on the Mount. It is found in Matthew 5:1-7:29. It starts with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), and concludes with the illustration of the foolish man building his house on the sand while the wise man builds his house on the rocks (Matthew 7:24-29). In the middle of His sermon (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus demonstrates for us the model prayer. He prays:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by 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.
For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever.
Not surprisingly, twice in this short prayer, Jesus mentions God’s kingdom. The first time has a present fulfillment (“your kingdom come…on earth”). The second time has a future fulfillment (“Thine is the kingdom…forever”). Thus, God’s kingdom is both now and not-yet. We have been taught a lot about the not-yet of the kingdom, while neglecting the present reality of the now kingdom. Thus, the old saying, “Many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.” What a shame! What a sham!
We don’t live in the future. We live in the here and now. If the gospel is not good news for today, it is not good news for tomorrow. God’s kingdom is God’s will and God’s will is God’s kingdom. I suggest the phrase, “your kingdom come” can be applied to the public aspect of God reconciling the world to Himself. While the phrase, “your will be done,” can be applied to the personal aspect of God reconciling the world to Himself. God has called each of us to do His will, bringing His kingdom into our present circumstances. Jesus prayed for God’s kingdom, His will, to be done right now, on earth, as it is (and as it will be) in heaven! What does that mean? How is that possible?
God’s kingdom is God’s reign. It is where His authority, and His sovereignty, is realized in all things. God’s kingdom is God’s power! Psalm 103:19 reads, “The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” To Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world…my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). Yet, He clearly stated this kingdom had now arrived (Mark 1:15), and He specifically prayed for this kingdom to be realized now, in the present, just like it would be fully realized in heaven. Once again, the now and not-yet of the kingdom. In his classic book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Ladd wrote, “In order to enter the future realm of the kingdom, one must submit himself in perfect trust to God’s rule here and now” (1959, p. 21 of 41, Kindle version).
What I mean by the pubic aspect of God reconciling the world to Himself is summarized by the words of theologian H. Richard Niebuhr (d. 1962), “The kingdom of God is transformed culture.” Thus, when Jesus prays for His kingdom to come, right now, in the present, He is praying that all of society be reconciled to God. Jesus’ prayer is that God’s kingdom would influence, change, convert, and revolutionize political systems, economic systems, health systems, judicial systems, educational systems, entertainment, work, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, nation, and world.
“Your kingdom come…” (Matthew 6:10).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
The public aspect of God’s kingdom can be summarized in the biblical idea of justice. The prophet Micah wrote, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). The best definition of justice is, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Justice is treating people equitably and fairly. Justice is standing up, and speaking out, for the vulnerable in our society.
“Your kingdom come…”
Jesus described life in His kingdom when He read from the prophet Isaiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed…” (Luke 4:18). He then concluded, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21); the now of the kingdom. Furthermore, the present reality of the kingdom is described in His parable of the sheep and the goats, where He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
In the kingdom of God, in the public arena, in the present moment, the poor are offered hope, the prisoner is given mercy, the sick are cared for, the oppressed are set free, the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given something to drink, the immigrant is welcomed with open arms, the naked are clothed, and the dignity of the condemned is affirmed by visiting them, showing them grace.
This is all the now of the kingdom, that will be fully realized in the future. At that time, the not-yet, will be perfected. John, in his Revelation, gave us a glimpse of the future kingdom when he wrote, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4).
The question is, how can we be the answer to Jesus’ prayer and bring His kingdom into present day? The answer is by praying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, has left it up to us, His disciples, to fulfill His will on earth. He has no plan B. If we don’t do it, it will not get done. This is the personal aspect of His reconciling the world to Himself. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are submitting ourselves to His rule and reign, asking Him to use us to bring His kingdom, His will, into our everyday lives.
We are the ones charged to, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We are the ones who must commit ourselves to, “(Doing) to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). We are the ones, as ambassadors of His kingdom, given the responsibility to offer hope to the poor, showing mercy to the prisoner, taking care of the sick, setting the oppressed free, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, showing hospitality to the immigrant, clothing the naked, and affirming the dignity of those who are condemned. On another occasion, Jesus prayed, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).
We are the answer to Jesus’ prayer! We are the ones who are to go out and transform culture. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This is what it means to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9-10). If we would live out these principles, our families, our communities, our cities, our states, our nations, and our world, would be transformed and reconciled to Him who gave His life for that reconciliation. In so doing, we would do a better job spreading God’s kingdom then spreading our own humanistic culture.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
A couple of years ago I was discussing the kingdom of God at a men’s bible study. While talking about the kingdom, the men asked me questions about our church. I described to them our ministries of caring for the vulnerable, visiting prisons, providing shelter, our community center, the plans for our group home, traveling to Honduras, speaking out on issues like affordable housing and homelessness. As I was describing these things, in the context of discussing the now and not-yet of the kingdom of God, one of the men interrupted me and said, “It sounds like what you are doing as a church is taking snapshots of the kingdom.”
I liked that analogy.
Right now, when the church is being the church, we have pictures of the reality that is still to come. But those pictures are life changing. Those pictures are transformational. So, when you visit a prisoner, that’s a snapshot of the kingdom of God; the now, of the not-yet, of His perfect will. When you give someone your clothes, or offer them food, or show them a better way, or drive them to their doctor, or wash their hair, or help them obtain their GED, or assist them in looking for a job, or hang a storm door, or house them on a cold winter night, or pray with them, or encourage them, or show them love, a flash goes off, and what you have is a picture of heaven. At that moment, you have brought the future kingdom into the present reality.
And that is a miracle!
That is priceless!
That is worth giving your life towards.
Let’s commit ourselves this year to be kingdom photographers!
 The King James Version has the words, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
 Taken from Scott McKnight’s book, Kingdom Conspiracy (2014), p. 236 of 256, Kindle version