“In Charge?”  Matthew 6:10

Give it all to God. 

The Lord’s Prayer  June 24-25, 2023

“In Charge?”  Matthew 6:10

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

             The number of Americans who regularly go to church has taken a serious plunge.  Why?  There must be some reason.  I think there are a number of legitimate reasons why so many people have given up on the church.

            Some of the problems start at the top.  Pastors and priests have committed horrendous sins against their own congregations.  Some have led immoral lives.  Some have stolen money from the church.  Some have abused children and youth.  Many godly parishioners were tricked by those they trusted.  Paul hits it on the head when he asks the supposed leaders, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal?  You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?”  “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?”  (Romans 2:22-23)

            Some churches have become a war zone.  Bickering and fighting becomes a way of life in the parish.  Folks have enough of that at work, or in politics, or even among their family.  They expected something holier and better in the church and the church failed them.  They found the back door.

            And sometimes churches lose their focus and purpose and the reason that they exist.  It is no longer guided by the Scriptures.  God’s Holy Spirit has been silenced.  It no longer points to Jesus.  It no longer has a passion to love others.  It has turned inward.  Folks want to belong to something that has a real mission.  Many exited.   

            I can see why some have washed their hands of organized religion, a place that I consider the foundation of human life – living with a life receiving God’s gifts through Jesus and involved in the ministry, purpose and love of a local congregation.

            But I think there is a greater problem than that.  There is a problem with every human heart – Christian or not.  The reason that many people don’t want anything to do with any church, and don’t want anything to do with Jesus, is that He asks too much of them.  Listen to what Jesus says His disciples should pray – “Your will, Father, be done on earth as in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:10)

            Who is in charge of your life?  If you have kids – they’re in charge.  If you are married – you know who is in charge.  Just ask them!!  But who really wants to be in charge?  God does.  Jesus says that we are to pray, “Your will, Father, be done in my life.”

            And I would say that an unbeliever would say, “NO!!”  “No one is going to intrude in my life.  Give up control?  I don’t think so.  Forgive people who don’t even deserve forgiveness?  Love my enemy?  What are you asking?” 

            I think that submitting to God, surrendering to Him and His will is the last thing that many people want to do.  But this struggle isn’t just for the unbeliever.  This is a prayer that is almost impossible for even the holiest person in this church or in any church to pray.  “Thy will be done?”  In everything?  At all times?  Come on!!  St. Paul, who would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t much of a saint, would say this, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”  (Romans 7:14-15, 18-19)

            This petition is one that the unbeliever resists.  This petition is one that the believer can struggle with.  But this is a brilliant prayer and one that frees us, rather than binds us, when we know the wonderfully gracious will of God our heavenly Father.  Pastor Ken Schurb says, “The Lord’s Prayer includes this petition not to break our faith, but to make our faith.  Instead of leaving us with nothing, it gives us everything.”  (Concordia Pulpit Resources, 2014, Volume 24, Part 2, Pg. 56)

            If they (those not of a living faith), and you, and me, would simply know how wonderful the will of God is, we would delight in turning over our lives and will to His.  The prophet Jeremiah speaking to folks who were uncertain about what was their future, heard these words of God, “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

            To know the will of God is to know the heart of God.  And what a good heart He has.  When His own people turned their heart away from Him, when their wills did not care what His will was, He reached out to them with a Father’s heart, “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways”, declares the sovereign Lord.  “Repent!  Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.  Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,” declares the Sovereign Lord.  “Repent and live!”  (Ezekiel 18:30-32)  Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40)

            Jesus delighted in the will of God.  In John 4:34 He says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night He would be betrayed by His followers and would be sentenced to death by the brutality of crucifixion, prayed, three times, for the Father’s will to be done.  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  (Luke 22:42)  In mid-sentence we read about the will of God for all people, church people and people who aren’t church people, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  (I Timothy 2:3-4)

            I have one more part to this sermon.  To this point I’ve mentioned how we resist the will of God.  Next, I said that we, due to the work of Jesus, can delight in the will of God.  We can approach the will of God not with clenched teeth but with open arms and a joyful heart.  The will of God includes our forgiveness and eternal salvation.  With joy, we plead, “Lord, may Thy will be done in me!”  So, I have one final question for you.  How do you know what the will of God is?  That can be a hard question.  Sometimes we have no idea.  What does God want me to do?  Do I make this choice or that choice?  Should we determine what the will of God is by our feelings?  If it feels right, just do it?  Or do I determine the will of God by asking a friend what they think the will of God is for me?  Looking for peace, and receiving counsel from others can be helpful, but there is something even better.

            For matters of right and wrong, for a relationship of trust in God, and love for your neighbor, I know where God’s will is brightly revealed.  He has written it in a book – the Bible.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  (Psalm 119:105).  When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He spoke God’s word back to the devil to reveal God’s path for Him as He fought the lies of the devil.  “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”  (See Matthew 4:1-11)

            How do you get to know God’s heart?  How do you get to know His promise of redemption and eternal life?  How can you evaluate that you are following Him?  By His Word.  Paul speaks to Timothy and says, “How from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (II Timothy 3:15-17)

            Enough with us foolishly thinking that we can be, or should be, in charge.  Give it all to God.  May His will of eternal salvation in Jesus be yours.  May His will of daily directly your life in the best ways be yours.  “Your will, Lord, be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Amen!!




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