So many of us are trying to build our own kingdoms. When we look for ways to control our agenda, our money, our comfort, our career, and our security, we’re building our own self-sustaining empire. Sometimes we’re successful at this, and sometimes we’re not. Either way, the pursuit of such an earthly kingdom is endless and unsatisfying. That’s why Jesus teaches us another way to live – within the power of the Kingdom of God.
- I will surrender and say, “God, it’s your kingdom.”
- I will trust God’s power to be realized in my life and circumstances.
- I will be intentional about giving God the glory he deserves this week.
There was a day in Rome when the most powerful man in the world ruled. He was devoted to building his kingdom. The world had never seen anything like it. The kingdom stretched North all the way to England. It stretched South all the way to Africa. It stretched East all the way to Asia. He literally ruled the known world. He ruled the nations. He ruled the rulers of the nations. They all bowed down to him. He was the king of kings. It was his kingdom. He was the most powerful man who had ever lived, and he was devoted to expanding his power. His army was so strong it was unchallenged. The world was living in the midst of what became known as the Pax Romana — the peace of Rome. It wasn’t that everyone wanted to be ruled by Rome, but his army was so strong that no one could challenge it. No one was a threat to it. He was the power. He alone wore the crown. And he was devoted to extending his glory. || His name was Caesar Augustus. || By the end of this man’s life, people literally worshiped him. They bowed down and worshiped Caesar Augustus. || Think about that. He built the kingdom and the power and the glory of Rome like no one has ever done for any nation in the history of the world. Everywhere he looked, he could say, “My kingdom, my power, my glory.” And he was right. || It was a bloody kingdom. It was brutal power. It was self-worshiping glory… but it was very impressive. There had never been or has ever been anything like it. || And then we’re told by an ancient historian that one day Caesar had an idea. In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (Luke 2:1) All the world would be taxed! || Caesar at this time was around 60 years old. And perhaps no human being before or after ever held such dominant power so tightly for so long. And one day, Caesar said to himself, “I want everyone to know how large my kingdom is. I want more money to extend my power… to reflect my glory.” || And so this king just lifted a finger, just said a word and the whole world scrambled, each to his own village, to obey the word of the king. || Then Luke tells us what happens next… because now things start to get real interesting. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:4-7) New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright puts it like this: This man, this king, this absolute monarch lifts his finger in Rome. And 1,500 miles away, in an obscure province, a poverty-stricken couple undertakes a hazardous journey all at the whim of the king. Only notice the result. A child is born in an obscure little town that Caesar has never heard of that just happens to be mentioned in an ancient hidden prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. – N.T. Wright “But you, Bethlehem, out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Matthew 2:6 Caesar lifts a finger, says a single word, and a little baby named Jesus is born in a little town called Bethlehem. || And what king is at work here really? Whose will is actually being done? Whose kingdom is it really? || It turns out that this story is really the tale of two cities. Rome is one of them… and there’s one kind of kingdom and power and glory there, and it’s very impressive. We see that kind of kingdom all around us. People are engaged in an insane scramble to acquire that kind of kingdom and that kind of power and that kind of glory. || And then there’s Bethlehem. This is another kind of kingdom. The money and the soldiers and the palaces and the title and the wealth… those were all in Rome. Bethlehem was just stables and mangers and donkeys and shepherds. But I want to tell you, the angels weren’t singing in Rome. They were singing in Bethlehem. || Caesar thought his throne in Rome was as secure as a throne could be. And I suppose from a human perspective Caesar was right. I suppose that’s about as secure as a throne can get. But what he didn’t know was that the real kingdom was laying in a manger in Bethlehem. That’s where the real kingdom was. || You see, human beings have a kingdom problem. We all do. We think, “It’s about my kingdom, my power, and my glory.” || But Jesus said… The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Matthew 23:11-12 You see, this is just truth. It’s not even a command. It’s just the way things are in the real kingdom. || So the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray ends with… For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Now you’ll notice in some translations in Scripture this is actually in a footnote. It’s not in some of the ancient manuscripts. But these words were used. They were the practice of the church within the first century of Jesus. And almost certainly his prayer ended with these words or words very much like them… because we have a kingdom problem, we human beings. “I want to build my little kingdom — make my family, my work, my friends, into a little kingdom under my control. I want my life to be about my agenda, to serve me. I want to be in charge.” Some people are bold and obvious about this and some people are sneaky and subtle. But everyone has a kingdom problem. || I walk into work, and I see my projects being done, things being run my way, people doing what I want them to do, tasks that I have assigned being carried out. What does it mean? It means I’m in charge. It’s my little kingdom. || I go into my kid’s room. The beds are made just as I prescribed. Chores are being done just as I commanded. What does it mean? It means I’m in charge. It’s my little kingdom. || I walk in the door at the end of the day, and my slippers are laid out by the best seat in the house. An iced beverage is waiting. Sportscenter is on the TV. The ipad is on the end table for me to read whatever I want. My dinner is on the stove. What does it mean? It means I’ve walked into the wrong house. It’s someone else’s kingdom. It’s not my house. || You see, this is just the truth about us. Some of us are obvious and bold. Some of us are sneaky and subtle, but we’re all kingdom builders. My agenda, my comfort, my money, my success, my lifestyle, my achievements, my career, my opportunities, my security. || But the day is going to come when I’m going to learn the truth about what kingdom is ultimately in control, about who it is that lifts a finger and says a word and the world turns upside down. And he doesn’t live in Rome. And he doesn’t live in Washington. And he doesn’t live on Wall Street. And he doesn’t live in Hollywood. There is a kingdom at work in this world, and it may not be particularly visible. It may not look real impressive sometimes. You may wonder from time to time whether or not you can really trust it… but you can. || And so Jesus teaches us… in this marvelous prayer… to end it by praying, “your kingdom, not my kingdom.” || And in these words we Surrender. Remember how this prayer started? “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Not mine. — God use me. I’m going to give up trying to construct a life around the pursuit of my agenda. God use me. I will give. I will serve… “And every time I forget and go into the kingdom building business, I’ll come back to you and I’ll repent and I’ll pray again, ‘Your kingdom, not mine. Use me, I’ll serve. I’ll give.’” || So let me ask you, where do you need to surrender today? Where have you been trying to build up a throne? Where are you trying to construct your little kingdom? Do you have any secret sins that you’re clinging to? Do you have any grudges you won’t let go of? This is the time to surrender… right now. This is your time to surrender and say, “God, it’s your kingdom.” || I wonder how the world would have been different if Caesar would have somehow found his way to Bethlehem, at least in his heart, and knelt down on the floor near the manger and surrendered to the king. || Well, this is your time. You can do that. || I want to do something a little different right now. I want to give you a few moments to pray and I want to encourage you to take this time to make God the unobstructed, unchallenged king of your life… and anything that needs to be surrendered, you surrender it now. You just tell God, “Your kingdom.” Take a few moments to pray and then we’ll continue the message. 1 minute countdown on the screen with the words — Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. Jesus said when you pray, to pray, “It’s your kingdom, God. It’s not my kingdom. You reign, not me. It’s your agenda, not mine. It’s your kingdom.” || Then he says, “God, it’s your power.” || Let me ask you a question — Could you use a little power today? Do you have a challenge at work? Is there any part of this world you’re concerned over that you want some of God’s power to flow to? Do you have a need with someone you love? Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a spouse. Maybe it’s a child. Maybe it’s a parent. Do you have a burden or a concern or a worry or a fear? || It’s God’s power. We were not made to live in our own power. || But we have a hard time believing that God’s power really is available to us. And so Jesus teaches us to pray. “It’s your power, God.” And we need to ask him for it. || I want to show you something from the book of Acts in the New Testament. This is a story about how believers a long time ago would ask for God’s power, but had a hard time thinking he’d really make it available. Acts 12 is also the tale of two cities, the story of two kings. One of them was King Herod. This is not the same Herod who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby… this is another one. But he had James, the brother of John killed. And he saw that this pleased many of the people, so he decided to have Peter executed as well. Acts 12:4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter now is being guarded by 16 prison guards. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The writer says they were not just praying, but earnestly praying. This wasn’t a half-hearted afterthought. They were pouring out their hearts. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Now imagine being Peter. You’re in prison waiting to die. You’re sound asleep… and whack! You’ve heard of “Touched by an Angel”? Peter was whacked by an angel. It was one of those high testosterone cherubim that comes to Peter. “Get up!” he says. || Now look at verse eight. Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. In other words, Peter doesn’t even believe that God’s power is really at work here even though he was a witness to the resurrection and Pentecost. He thinks he’s dreaming. Verse 10: They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” Now get the picture here. Peter is an escaped convict. He would be the object of a manhunt as soon as his escape was discovered. He’s a fugitive, desperately searching for a safe hiding place… and the church is praying for his safety. He goes and knocks on the door, and this servant named Rhoda comes to answer it. “Who is it?” “Peter,” he says. You think she might open the door and let him in because he needs to get off the streets. But she’s so excited, she leaves him at the door to go tell everyone that their prayers are answered… while he’s still standing outside where any Roman soldier could see him and put him back in prison. Alright, verse 15: “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” “Don’t be silly,” they say. “Peter is in prison. That’s the whole point of this meeting. We’re trying to get God to do something about Peter being in prison.” || And I just wonder what went through Peter’s mind. It says in verse 16 he just kept standing there, knocking on the door. Rhoda comes, Rhoda goes, people say it’s not him. Peter is just standing there knocking. Then the text says: But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. “We were praying for God to let Peter out of prison, and God let Peter out of prison. This is unbelievable!” They prayed and asked God to answer their prayer, and God answered their prayer and they were shocked. They couldn’t believe it. || And you know what — I have the same problem. I live as if I’m restricted to my own little power. || This is embarrassing because I’ve been following Christ for so many years, but there are so many times when I carry burdens… and I do it in my own power. And then I get more burdened by anxiousness or preoccupation. || It’s a humbling thing after this many years in the faith, but one of my primary goals is just to cut the lag time between when I am challenged and when I ask God for power — just to cut the lag time. || Because when I go to God, I get strength. I may not always get a dramatic answer like this, but I do get strength. I get wisdom. I get creativity. I get comfort. But way too often, I forget to ask God for help. || I can be working on a message where I’m going to teach people about asking God for power, and I’m trying to do it under my own power. || So I want to ask you to take some time to Pray Earnestly for God’s power to be realized in your life and in specific situations in your life. Ask God to show his power in the area of your life where it’s most needed. Maybe you’re in a kind of prison today. A prison of guilt or regret or temptation, and you need to be free. Maybe there’s a sin that you need to be freed from. And you need God’s power to do that. Maybe you face a parenting challenge or a relational difficulty. Maybe it’s a financial burden. Maybe you’re concerned about some part of the world that desperately needs God’s power. Well, for the next few moments I want to ask you to do what the early church did — Earnestly pray for God’s power. Just take a moment right now to pray and then we’ll come back to the message. 1 minute countdown on the screen with the words — Earnestly pray for God’s power. Jesus said remember to pray, “Your kingdom, God,” and surrender. Remember to pray, “It’s your power, God,” and ask. || And he said remember to pray, “It’s your glory, God,” and Worship. || And now you’re going to do the most important thing that you will do all week, whoever you are and whatever you do. You’re going to glorify God’s name. You and I are going to proclaim his goodness and his greatness with all of the heart and soul and strength that we can. For God is the most glorious and wonderful being in this universe. || Dallas Willard has written a kind of paraphrase of this prayer that Jesus taught us to pray in his book “Divine Conspiracy.” He writes and talks about how his prayer life was transformed by living this prayer. He said: There are many nights when I would awaken about 2:00 and spend an hour of delight before God just dwelling in one or more phrases of this prayer. By the way, it was from Dallas Willard that I learned to take one phrase at a time from scripture and just live with it. || “Our Father, who is always near.” Not our Father in heaven, some remote place real far away. “Our Father who is closer than the air I breathe, who is all around me.” And just repeat that over and over and live with it all day long. || “May your name be treasured and loved. May people, beginning with me, come to really see and believe how surely good and wonderful you are.” || His translation of the last part of this prayer goes like this: Because you are the one in charge, you have all the power. And the glory too is all yours forever, which is just the way we want it. He writes, “Just the way we want it is not a bad paraphrase for amen.” Then he writes: What is needed at the end of this great prayer is the ringing affirmation of the goodness of God in God’s world. And if your nerves can take it, you might occasionally try whooping. I imagine God himself will not mind. || I tried to picture how that would sound in the church where I grew up, a bunch of expressionless baptists praying, “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, whoopee.” I had a hard time picturing it. || But I’ll tell you something… we have to do something to get these words off spiritual autopilot. We have to find the words and the thoughts. We have to use our bodies and our minds and the arts and every gift that God gives us to enter into the sheer goodness that’s expressed through this transforming prayer. || And although we live in Rome, or Pleasanton, or Chicago, or Idaho — wherever the kingdoms are that we struggle with — it’s his kingdom and it’s his power, and it is his glory. || We started our study of this great prayer with the opening line, “Our Father who is all around us, hallowed be your name. May your name be treasured.” And I just want you to think about this for a moment: One day his name will be treasured by everyone. || The writers of Scripture have a lot to say about this name. Luke tells us that the life of the man named Jesus was ended as it began — by a decree from Caesar — “Crucify Him.” Now Caesar didn’t even make this decree personally. It was made by one of his lower level bureaucrats. But it was done in Caesar’s name, by Caesar’s soldiers, to protect Caesar’s glory, to protect Caesar’s kingdom, through Caesar’s power… because all rival kings must be killed. || So Luke the historian tells us that Jesus’ life began where Caesar decreed in Bethlehem. And Jesus’ life ended where Caesar decreed at Calvary. || But here’s the question: Whose will was being done really? Was it really Caesar at the end of the day? || Paul says that it was another king that chose, that it was Jesus who chose Calvary. He says that Jesus, being in his very nature God, humbled himself and was born in Bethlehem. And he walked this earth, the most glorious life any human being ever lived, and became obedient in death, even death on the cross. But that’s not the end of the story. That’s not the end of the kingdom or the power or the glory. Therefore, God exalted him in the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. The name that will one day be hallowed. For at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess in heaven and on earth and under the earth. || And let me ask you, how much territory does that not take into account? || In our day, his name is not hallowed. It’s used by one human being to curse another. It is ignored or abused. It’s used to profane. But one day the king will lift his finger, and a whole lot of thrones that seem real secure will come down. || How many knees will bow? Every knee. Think about that… just picture that scene. All humanity, every creature who ever lived from Adam until the very end will bow in acknowledgement of his final supremacy — his kingdom, his power, his glory. || Think about that. Every president who ever lived. Every CEO who ever led a company. Every movie star who ever graced the screen. Every billionaire who ever made a fortune will be on bended knee. Their tongues will confess. People we know and read about now who sit on thrones in our day — whatever their current beliefs are now, whether they’re followers or not — will bow. Oprah will be on a bended knee before him one day, and Joe Biden and Donald Trump and Bill Gates and Elon Musk and Tiger Woods. Knees that did not do much bending on this earth will bend in that day… Napoleon and Adolf Hitler will bend on that day. Joseph Stalin will bend a knee on that day. Caesar Augustus, who sent out a decree that the whole world should be taxed, will come before this Jesus who entered the world on his watch, born to humble parents in a dirty stable in an obscure village, in an oppressed country he never thought about passing through. Caesar will bow. And Herod, who put out the word that he was looking for this child, who gladly would have run him through with the sword, who did kill many other babies with the hopes of killing this one, will find out that death never really was a match for this man. Herod will bow. Pontius Pilate, who didn’t really want to do something wrong, but didn’t want to really do right either, will find that the day comes when you cannot wash your hands and look the other way anymore. And Pontius Pilate will bend the knee. And all the characters we’ve read about — Pharaoh and Goliath and Jezebel and Judas Iscariot, they will bend the knee. They will bow their heads. People who went through their whole life being bowed to will become the bowers that day. And there will be others. Billy Graham will bow down. Mother Theresa and Moses and Abraham and Ruth and Esther and Peter and Paul and everyone you’ve ever known. The person you live next door to, the person who sits closest to you at work, the person who sits next to you right now. And your mom and dad, your brothers and sisters. Some knees will bow under duress. They will bow grudgingly and resentfully and stiffly. Some knees will bow in adoration, and they will express hearts that are overwhelmed with love and admiration and joy for God’s sheer goodness. But one way or another the day is coming… as sure as this day came. The day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. || And this is our day. This is our moment, right here in this place. We don’t have to wait. We can start practicing. This is our chance to love and cherish and hallow the name of the Savior. For there is no other name on earth given by which man can be saved. For God has given him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus right now in this place, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, “Your kingdom, God. Your power, God. Your glory, God.” Will you tell him know? Will you confess with all your strength and heart and soul right now? || Alright, let me pray as Michaela comes to lead us in a time of glorifying his name. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA