Hallowed Be Thy Name

PDI Celebration East Conference | Indiana, Pennsylvania

My earnest prayer for us this morning is that, as it has already been, this last hour together would be a defining moment for PDI. There come in the history of institutions, and denominations, and families, and individual lives, and schools, moments that you look back on in decades to come and say, “There was a defining moment.” I pointed to some of them in my own life last night. It may be that it would not only be true for you, but for me as well, that Celebration East ’99 would be one of those moments that I would look back on for the decisive work of God in my life. So thank you for being part of that.

The Lord put this on my heart quite a long time ago for you, and I hope you’ll receive it. When I mentioned what I wanted to talk about today, I was amazed at how many people came up to me, and handed me notes, or with tears, said, “We’ve been praying for this for four years, or longer.” One man laughed and said, “I’ll be gathering my church to pray for this hour, because I can’t be here. And I think it’s a defining moment for them.”

World Evangelization

I want to talk about world evangelization. I want to talk about world missions. I want to talk about those five hundred young people that were standing here last night, doing business with God, and what the future should hold for you. There are only three possibilities in the world for missions; goers, senders, and disobedient. So you’re not un-included in this issue. Frankly, I do believe that God is at work in this globe to muster about two hundred thousand young people. Perhaps the first ten thousand of which will die by the artillery on the first wave there.

Count the Cost

Have you ever thought about what it cost to do battle for Israel in the Old Testament? Have you ever put yourself into a battle of 180,000 people, 30,000 of whom die on the first day? Have you ever imagined this? There are no bullets flying here; this is all hacking. What do you think those men thought who were told by their commander, “You go first”? You’ve got a 180,000 here with swords and machetes and spears. You’ve got 180,000, or 200,000 here with swords and machetes and skin. And they meet in a clash. What did those people on the front line think? They thought, “We die. They live, and maybe they win. But we die.” And they went.

Now God has not yet raised up a generation like that, but he is. I do believe he is. And everywhere I go, if they will let me, I am on a recruitment mission to say, “Will you be a part of these 200,000 or 300,000 people that will finish the Great Commission to Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists mainly?” They do not want you to come, and they have no hesitancies to hack you to pieces in some places. You will lose your hands and feet. It will take a massive work from Almighty God to reorient the whole mindset of American Christianity to finish this.

And if God doesn’t do it here, we get passed over, and he’ll do it with South American Christians. Or he’ll do it with African Christians, or he’ll do it with Filipino Christians, or probably he’ll do it with Korean Christians. Because they’re all young people who are not fixated on their belly buttons, and on their music, and on their dresses, and on their sandals, and on their tan. I tell you, there is one question God Almighty will not ask at the judgment: “Did you get a good tan?” And there are many such questions that we are consumed with as summer comes, which will not be on his list at the judgment, young people, or older people.

Youth Movement

Now a movement of missions in PDI or the Baptist General Conference that I come from, and all over evangelicalism, and the poor, poor, mainline Protestant, Catholic church — the movement of missions is probably not going to happen by a new focus on the world; it’s going to happen by a new focus on God. Young people don’t get excited about organizations today. You don’t taut your organization, your agency, or your denomination. Young people are not moved by that, nor do I think they should be. Psalm 9:10 may get at it: “And those who know your name put their trust in you.” Knowing the name of God, he says, causes young people to put their trust not in their looks, not in whether they’re tall or short, the right kind of hair, or complexion, or build, but in God.

And when you put your trust in God, you start taking risks for God. And when you start taking risks for God, you start letting things go, that all your peers think you’ve got to have in order to be significant. Because you have a totally different treasure that you are living for. This generation is hungry for something that’s worth living and dying for — that you get up early for, you stay up late for, you lay down your life for. And I’ll tell you, it isn’t in earrings, it isn’t in black clothes, or no clothes. It isn’t in anything like that; it is in God alone.

And God’s going to make that plain to hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, until there are enough who are willing to assume their position on the front lines for Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and China and North Korea and Cuba and Indonesia, Pakistan, North India, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, and die. Because the blood of the martyrs is mighty in the bringing down of strongholds. They will watch it from the throne. Do you remember what they said under the throne? “How long, O Lord? How long?” These are the martyrs crying out in Revelation 6:10, “How long ago, O Lord? How long until you vindicate our blood?” And do you remember the answer that the Lord gave them? He put robes upon them, and he said, “Be quiet and patient, for the full number of those of your brothers who are appointed to die is not yet complete” (Revelation 6:11).

Will you be among the number? There’s a number, and the Great Commission will not be finished until that number is complete. And all the souls that die in the cause, and they’re dying at the rate of about 150,000 a year, according to David Barrett — some years, 200,000, some years, less. People are dying for their Christian faith around the world. We are oblivious in the Disneyland of America, where we play, play, play, play, compared to what real Christianity costs around this world. So I want to take as my text one simple phrase from the Lord’s prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:10)

That’s my text: “hallowed be thy name.” And I want to ask:

  1. What is the name?
  2. What does it mean to hallow it?
  3. When you pray it, for whom are you praying?

That’s my message: What’s the name? What do you mean, let it be hallowed? And when you say it, for whom are you praying?

The Name We Hallow

I have a picture in my mind. Let me sketch it for you. I wish I could dramatize this, but it is so big, that nobody can dramatize this picture. But you might be able to see it in your mind’s eye.

Picture an ocean. It’s bigger than the Pacific Ocean; it has no end. In it, there is an iceberg floating, called “the knowledge of God.” Above the water, you may see ten percent, right? Isn’t that the way it works with an iceberg, roughly? Ten percent is above the water. In your little skiff, you’re looking at this. That’s revealed in this book. Ten percent is above the water of the knowledge of God. This iceberg floating in the sea stretches from the water into the sky, as far as you can see, and beyond infinitely. That’s how much is revealed here. You will never get to the top or the bottom of this book, and what it has to teach you about God.

That’s why I am only modestly enamored by the gift of prophecy — modestly. I’m not a cessationist, but just modestly enamored. Because the authoritative, revealed, inspired, inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient word of God has barely been touched by the church, barely been understood. What is the length of your devotions in the morning? Five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes? What a terrain. What a height of revelation is in this book! It stretches like an iceberg above the sea of mystery, knowable, knowable, climbable, infinitely, and we will claim it forever.

And then there is God buried beneath the sea of mystery, vastly deeper than a finite mind could ever fathom. Now that’s my picture of the knowledge of God, lest you think that the next ten minutes of this sermon are comprehensive.

Seven Names of God

I’m just going to try to climb maybe thirty feet onto this iceberg with you, and point to seven names of God, so that when you pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” there’ll be some content in your head, and in your heart.

1. God Is

God said to Moses, in Exodus 3:14, “‘I Am Who I Am.’” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” That is his name: I Am Who I Am. Moses says, “Who shall I tell them sent me?” And he says, “Tell them I Am Who I Am.” Now we can spend an hour on that name. Of course, we could spend years on each of these names, but we’ll spend just a minute or two on each of these names.

I Am Who I Am means, at least, God absolutely is. That’s where I began my message yesterday, that’s where I’m going to end today: God absolutely is. You see, before anything else was, he was. I tell you, little children ask the hardest questions, do they not? And they ask, “Where did he come from? How did he get to be the way he is? When did he grow up? Who taught him to be righteous and holy and good and faithful and kind and merciful? And who made him mighty and wise and eternal?” And there are no answers to those questions. And you have to say to a little child, “You see, God never had a beginning; he always was.” Can you imagine such a thing? That little child cannot get over it. Every child should say, “Ah, I can’t believe it. He never had a beginning? You mean all these qualities we sing about on these screens just are? They didn’t get built into him by some good parenting? He didn’t read his Bible and pray?” No. Absolute reality — he is I Am Who I Am. This is the ultimate reality. If you can get your arms around this, you can get your arms around anything.

And listen, if somebody comes along and says, “I think absolute reality is a gas. It’s just an amorphous blob, and then there was a great bang.” You could say, “Fine, that’s possible. But that’s an awesome commitment you’re making. What’s your evidence for it that it was gas and not person? What is your argument that it was blob and not person? What arguments would you give?” You can’t get behind it to any causes that would make it be gas, or make it be person. It either is gas, or it is person. And there’s no reason behind it to make it that way. And so, there’s no reason you should believe them when they say that it was a blob.” You say, “Excuse me, do you know someone behind it, that told you that? That it was a blob, or that it was gas. Where are you getting that? Were you there?” “Well, no, but . . .” “But what? But what? Tell me. Tell me about this blob that you are so confident was the beginning of it all.” There’s no reason; it’s an absolute wash at this point. It’s 50/50 — person or blob. Then you have to ask, “Does the world that you see, the love that you feel, the conscience in your heart, the order in the universe scream blob or person?”

I frankly have many struggles in my life with faith and that’s not one of them. Sorry, if you’re struggling with belief in God as a person, as the absolute reality, I’m not able to identify, frankly. I know some do, but I have been spared that one, because you can put a bullet to my head right now and say, “Try not to believe in God.” And I’d say, “Shoot me. I can’t. It’s out of the question. There’s no way for me to conceive of ultimate reality that is not personal.”

2. God Is Free

Not only is he I Am, but Exodus 33:19 says, “I . . . will proclaim before you my name.” And here’s the name: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” So the first name is I Am, and the second name is: I am free to do as I please.

And when I treat a person a certain way, I treat them that way because I choose to treat them that way. And if you try to pursue to the bottom of why I do what I do, there will be no bottom other than my will: “I am who I am; I do what I do.” That’s God.

3. God Is Omnipotent

Exodus 6:3 says, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty” — El Shaddai. So that’s his third name: God Almighty. Not only is he, not only is he free, but he is almighty: he cannot be thwarted in any of those willings that he has, and therefore, he’s omnipotent. And that is the guarantee of his faithfulness in our lives. Do not let the controversy surrounding the sovereignty of God rob you from the preciousness of the truth of the doctrine, that it undergirds everything we hope in. And he can pull it off because he is God.

4. God Is Merciful

In Exodus 34:6–7, God comes down now and he declares his name on Mount Sinai. And it goes like this: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

That’s the revelation of his name. So mercy, mercy, mercy, steadfast love, forgiveness, is his name. He is, he’s free, he’s omnipotent, and he’s merciful. That is his name.

5. God Is the Beginning and End

Revelation 21:6 says, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” We’ve seen the beginning, and now he declares, “I’m the end.” Now think about this. This means that you, every person in this room, everybody, everybody you know on the street, everybody you know in your schools, everybody you know at your office, had a beginning. And that beginning was God.

My first grandchild was born eight days ago. I wrote an open letter to my first grandchild for all the people in our church, and I said, “Millie, ten months ago, you were not. You absolutely were not.” (I don’t believe in any form of reincarnation.) “You absolutely had no existence ten months ago. Today, you are, and you will never cease to be. I have a portion in your body; I have no portion in your soul. God made your soul somewhere in August of ’98, by my computation. God did that. And now that soul, Millie Amia Piper, lives forever. You’ve got two choices, Millie: either God will be your Omega, or hell will be your omega. There are only two choices.”

Know this: the name of God is Alpha — he brought her into being — and Omega — he will be her end, or he will assign her end. And that’s true of every person, all the planets, all the galaxies, all the universe; that’s his name.

6. God Is Holy

Isaiah 57:15 says, “Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” Oh, how often we sing of holiness, and God as holy. We need teaching on holiness. Because it’s a word we use in very many hymns and songs, and I don’t think there are very many Christians who could define the holiness of God. So let me try in two minutes, to unpack it for you.

Everybody knows, probably, that the word means “to set apart,” but think about that for a moment. When something is rare — stamps, beetles, Coke bottles — we set them apart in collections and put them on mantels, under glass, and they become valuable. You can trade a certain Coke bottle for $10,000. Certain stamps, certain rare bug collections, you can trade them for $10,000. They’re valuable. To set something apart as rare is to value it and to say it’s got value. Now if there is a stone or a stamp that’s one of a kind, then you really set it apart. You put it in the safe, way separate, way high, because it is supremely valuable within its class. Then if it happens to be a being who has no class but his own, and everything is dependent on him, and he is absolutely sui generis (in a class by himself), then he is infinitely valuable, infinitely set apart, infinitely distinct, and unlike his creation, which is totally other. And I think that’s what holiness is. God is holy. His being, and his righteousness, and his purity, and his love, and his power, and his justice, and his wisdom, and his goodness, are all so distinct, they are in a class by themselves, and have infinite value, and therefore, he is set apart from us, as high, lifted up and lofty, and holy — holy in the sense of the gold in Fort Knox. And they build big brick walls, and they put spiral spiked wire around it so that nobody can get at this valuable gold on which our economy rests.

And God is a million times more valuable. And he is set apart with wire, and with walls, lest it be besmirched by the contamination of his fallen creation. Which throws in the most stark relief the doctrine and the reality of the incarnation, does it not? That he would leave and say, “I will be dirty. And I will be defiled, and I will be mocked, and spit upon, and my beard plucked out so that this gap — this infinite gap between holiness, with all of its barbed wire, and all of its thick walls, and all of its infinite height — may be traversed by sinners, so that we can live there with him forever.

7. God Is Jealous

On Mount Sinai, God said in Exodus 34:14, “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” That means that because of his holiness, and because of his existence, and because of his freedom, and because of his mercy, and because of his omnipotence, he deserves your affection. And he is jealous when you give it to another.

When you take your heart and you give it to basketball, when you take your heart and you give it to computers, when you take your heart and give it to a girlfriend or sex, when you take your heart and you give it to your career, when you take your heart and you give it to clothes, when you take your heart and you give it to a club or a hobby, and it’s clear to everyone that that’s more precious to you than your God, then he is jealous. He burns with jealousy. He is a jealous God. That’s the tip of the iceberg that I see up to the clouds, that are clouding my little finite mind this morning.

Infinitely Jealous for His Name

Now here is an inference that I will draw out from this. That’s the first petition of the Lord’s prayer: that this name be hallowed. Hallowed be thy name. Now think about just the sheer implication of this for a moment: God is telling you this morning to pray to him, who is infinitely jealous for his name, that you should ask him to see to it that his name be hallowed. That’s very strange. He’s already infinitely engaged in the upholding of the glory of his name. That’s what jealousy means.

Now this implication is that prayer is awesome. That God would say to you, the likes of you and me, “Engage with me. Engage with me in the bringing about of what is most burning on my heart — namely, the hallowing of my name in the world. Engage with me in that. Lay hold on me for that. Pursue me for that. Ask me for that.” And if you were to say, “Why? Why? Why? Why doesn’t he just do it? If he’s so eager to do it, why doesn’t he just do it? Why does he tell me to tell him to do it?” And all I know to say is with Pascal, “Prayer is God’s gracious gift of secondary causality.” Does that help? Not much.

But I don’t know what to say. All I know is: this is an awesome calling. If the universe is created to magnify the name of God and see to it that it’s hallowed in the world, and God comes to this fallen creation and says, “Now engage with me to get that done. Call upon me to do that. Tell me to do that. Pray to me to do that. It’s my first petition in the Lord’s prayer. I told my Son to teach you to do that, first of all, in praying. Come to me first of all and say, ‘Do it. Do it. Do it.’” I don’t know why, all I know is that’s a high calling. And I want to be there when he says, “Do it.” I want to pray that way.

Mystery of Prayer

Let me give you an analogy in the Bible, of the same mystery of prayer. Matthew 9:38 — have you ever thought about the strangeness of this text? Jesus is talking now, he looks and he sees the people like sheep without a shepherd, and he says, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Have you ever thought about how strange that is? Now the Lord of the harvest is the owner of the farm. You’ve got a farm, and you’ve got some grain that is ripening in Saudi Arabia or Uzbekista or Indonesia or Papua New Guinea or North Korea. Some grain is ripening, and he owns the farm. Now the owner of the farm knows farming. The slave hands, they don’t know much. They live out on the edge, and they do what they’re told.

And the son of the farmer — the owner of the farm, genius in farming, total power to bring about harvest when he pleases — the son of the farmer goes out on the edge of the plantation, opens the door of the slave quarters, and he says, “Would you please go to my father and tell him we need more hands?” And you say, “He knows we need more hands; he’s the farmer. He knows farming. We do what we’re told.” And the son says, “Go to my father and tell him you want more hands. You don’t need to understand this. I’m telling you, my father sent me here to tell you to come to him to ask for more hands.” And you just scratch your head and say, “Alright, Mr. Farmer, owner of the universe, knower of all things, controller of all persons, could you please send out more hands to bring in your harvest?” That’s very strange.

Prayer is strange. Prayer is strange. And it’s gloriously strange. Oh PDI, pray the Lord of the harvest. Pray the Lord of the harvest. In 1983, God came down on my church — on me and my wife, and many others. He came down on Tom Steller, my associate, in the middle of the night, with a Michael Card song. He wept for hours as he listened to Michael Card, connecting the glory of God and the nations. And he’s never been the same since. He got a new job called associate for missions at our church, which he has to this day now, sixteen years later. Noël and I said, “What can we do? What can we do? What can we do?” And the little thing we said we can do was this: every night when we bow and pray like we do at our bedside, we can say these words: “Lord of the harvest, send forth laborers from Bethlehem” — every day in 1983. Every day we prayed that prayer. And God began a new work in 1984, and he will begin a new work in your churches. Just say the simple words: “Father, send out laborers. Father, you told us to say it. I don’t know why you told us to say it. You know the laborers are needed. You know how to win the world, but you told me to pray it, and I’m going to pray it.” And maybe in the prayer you’ll figure out why he did it that way.

Prayerful Alignment

There are a couple of things I learned from pondering about that. And one is that prayer does not move God to do what he’s disinclined to do. It simply gets us in on what he promises to do, and what he’s going to do. And if you don’t get in on it, do you know what’s he’s going to do? He’s going to put the prayers in the saints in Argentina, and Brazil. And they will get in on it, and you’ll be passed over, and you will lose, but he’ll get it done.

The second observation I make is that prayer is God’s way of bringing our priorities into line with his priorities. God wills to make great things the consequences of your prayers when your prayers are in line with his purposes. God wills to make great consequences the results of your prayers, when your prayers are in line with his global purposes — which I’m trying to make plain from the first petition of the Lord’s prayer this morning.

How We Hallow

Now I shift over to what is it to hallow this name? What does it mean to hallow the name? The word hallow, very interestingly is the Greek word, hagiazō, which is translated almost everywhere sanctified. “Sanctified be thy name” is the literal translation. Hallowed is an old-fashioned King James word that nobody dares to change because it’s in the Lord’s prayer. Which is OK. I’m glad we can pray the Lord’s prayer corporately. But you need to know that it is hagiazo, sanctified.

Which creates a problem, because sanctified, when it’s used toward us means, “Make us holy. Get sin out of our lives.” But when you sanctify God, it means: Declare that he’s holy. Make it known that he’s holy. Set him apart in his barbed wire as holy. That’s what sanctified means. Treat him as holy. Now what I did to try to unpack this from my own mind and soul was to search the Bible for places where the word hagiazō, sanctify, is used toward God. There are not many. I could only find four.

Four Ways to Hallow

In all the Bible, I could only find four places. There may be more and I missed them, but I could find four places where we are to hagiazō God — not him us, but we him. Now let me just read these to you. And I think what they’ll do is unpack for you what you ought to mean when you pray the prayer, “Hallowed be thy name. Let your name be hallowed.” What do you mean? What do you mean, young people, when you say, “Hallowed be thy name”? Let’s find out what the Bible means by hallow.

1. Hallowed by Believing

In Numbers 20, we are in the wilderness wanderings and people are thirsty. There’s no water and God says, “Moses, speak to the rock. Speak.” And he doesn’t speak. In a moment of anger at the people, he takes his rod, and hits the rock. God in his incredible mercy — isn’t it good that God will accept all kinds of crazy prayers? God is very merciful; he’s very merciful. God should have struck him dead, but here’s what he said to him: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy [sanctify] in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” From which I infer that sanctify means believe in. My first interpretation of the word hallow is: “Believed be your name.” So when I say, “Hallowed be your name,” I mean, “Let your name be trusted.

2. Hallowed by Fearing

Secondly, in Isaiah 8, God speaks to Isaiah and warns him not to be like other people, or the people of Israel. And here’s what he says,

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy [sanctify]. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (Isaiah 8:12–13)

Now how would you interpret hallow from that verse? I would say: to hallow the name of God means to contemplate all the things that ordinary people are afraid of. And then to contemplate the fear of God, and to prefer not bringing the displeasure of God upon you by fearing what man fears, but rather fearing bringing the displeasure of God upon you. I didn’t say that very well, but maybe you got it. You’ve got what people are afraid of, and you’ve got God saying, “Don’t fear that; fear me.” And you look back and forth, you will hallow him if you say, “God, I fear you. I don’t fear that.” And I tell you, that’ll make a missionary in a hurry. That’ll take you to a hard place, that’ll make you a risk-taking person, if you say, “I fear one being alone, and nobody else.”

Young people, that’s something to pursue: “I fear one being, and it isn’t anybody on planet earth.” To be able to stand in a courtroom in Afghanistan, having been arrested for illegally preaching the gospel, and being threatened with ten years, or something worse, by maiming, and say, “I fear one person: Jesus Christ my Lord, whom I will not dishonor, but only hallow in this moment, by not fearing you.” Does not your heart burn within you, to be such a person?

3. Hallowed by Obeying

The third meaning of hallow is from Leviticus 22:31–32, “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel.” Obeyed be your name, is what we mean, when we say, “Hallowed be your name.” Obeyed be your name. Obeyed be your commandments.

4. Hallowed by Glorifying

Fourthly and lastly, Leviticus 10:3 says, “Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’” The parallel there makes me think that to show myself holy — that is, hallowed — and to be glorified are the same.

‘Father, Go to Work’

So here’s my interpretation then, of the phrase, the prayer “Hallowed be thy name.” Hallowed be thy being. Hallowed be thy mercy. Hallowed be they sovereignty. Hallowed by thy great wisdom. Hallowed be thy self. What I mean is: Believed be your word. Feared be your displeasure. Obeyed be your commandments. And glorified be yourself. That’s what I mean when I pray the Lord’s prayer.

What we do when we pray the Lord’s prayer is we lift up our hearts and we say, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” We mean: “Father, go to work now. Go to work in the hearts so that they’ll believe on you, so that they’ll fear you, so that they’ll obey you, and so that they will glorify you in all of your panorama called ‘your name.’” That’s what we’re praying.

For Whom We Pray

Now the last question this morning is: For whom are you praying? Who do you pray for when you pray with Jesus, “Hallowed be thy name”? Now the answer to that is not simple; it is complex, or at least duplex. Because I believe that for every petition in the Lord’s prayer, there is a personal, private, individual petition in it, and a global petition in it. And I want to show you why I think that by letting the next two petitions inform the way I interpret the first petition.

  • First petition: “Hallowed be thy name.”
  • Next petition: “Lord, thy kingdom come. Let it come. Bring it, bring it, bring it, O God.”
  • Next petition: “Thy will be done on earth as the angels do it today in heaven.”

Now those two petitions, “thy kingdom come” and “thy will be done,” inform who is being prayed for in “hallowed be thy name,” because you can go elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere in the Gospels to ask Jesus, “What do you mean your kingdom come? “What do you mean your will be done on earth? What do you mean?” And he’ll answer you.

Global Reality

In Matthew 6:33, you come to the end of that section on anxiety, and Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Now from that I take it that seeking the kingdom is a lot like praying that the kingdom come, only it’s very personal. Seek the kingdom means: Seek the rule of God in your life. Seek that he would come as King in your life. Seek that he would exercise his authority over your life, and banish sin out of your life. And so there’s this personal dimension.

But the kingdom is more than personal. And you see in Luke 22:18, at the Lord’s Supper, something like this: Jesus says, “From now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” So in a sense, the kingdom of God had come in Jesus. And its personal dimension was being applied in the lives of the apostles. But now he says, “I’m not going to drink with you again until the kingdom of God comes.” So the kingdom of God is this global reality, which will be extensive over the whole world. And that’s what we’re praying to come.

Therefore, I move up to the first petition and I say, when he says “hallowed be thy name,” surely he doesn’t mean anything smaller than “thy kingdom come.” And so what we’re praying for is: “O God, grant that in all the peoples of the world, your name would be hallowed.” It is a missionary prayer. It’s a prayer for the nations. It’s a prayer for the people groups that are moving to Pittsburgh, and moving to Washington. My neighborhood, in the last three years, has been absolutely turned upside down with Somalis — and they’re all Muslims.

So don’t misunderstand me this morning. Let me clarify something very clear here about missions. And I hope you’ll begin to read about these things. Read the book Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, It’s probably the most important single volume on missions in print today, with articles by everybody about everything. And in that, learn this: missions is not a geographical issue mainly; it is a cultural issue mainly. Meaning this: to move from here to China, or let’s say from here to Nigeria, is not necessarily to do missions in the Pauline way of talking about it, because there is a massive, vibrant church in Nigeria — not in every people group in Nigeria, mind you, but in many people groups in Nigeria. If you go to work for the church in Nigeria to do evangelism, that is not world missions the way Paul talks about it. Now I know that jars some of you, and I know it uses the terminology a little differently than the way most people use it, but I want to make a biblical case for that.

Holy Ambition

In Romans 15, Paul’s talks about his own calling to missions, his own ambition for missions. Picture your geography first. Can you picture in your mind’s eye the Mediterranean world? You’ve got Spain over here at the bottom, and then it branches across. You’ve got the boot of Italy, you’ve got Greece, you’ve got Cyprus in the water. There’s Troas and Antioch. You come down here through Syria to Palestine, and here’s Jerusalem and you’re in the Dead Sea. Now Paul says Romans 15:20,

From Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.

Illyricum is a very hot spot today. Bombs are falling every day in Illyricum now. It’s Albania, and it is Kosovo. That region is Illyricum. Now picture the scope of it. This man has been at work for maybe twenty years. Picture the scope of the territory from Jerusalem, at the Dead Sea, up through Asia Minor, called Turkey, all through Greece, and now up to the top of Italy. And he says, “My job is finished.” There are tens of thousands of unevangelized people in this region. Tens of thousands of unconverted people. So what does he do? He tells Timothy, “You stay in Ephesus. I know your home is Lystra.” So, I am not opposed to what I call Timothy type missions. You go to work in the church in Liberia; that’s Timothy type missions. They’ve got a church. It’s been there a hundred years. You go to serve with Wycliffe in Cameroon, and work in Yaounde, indirectly, you’ll be working for 214 people groups, probably, 190 of which do not have the Bible in their language. That’s pretty close to frontier missions.

But Paul said, “I’m not going to any of those places; I’m going to Spain. Nobody’s ever spoken to the Spaniards, in the history the world, about Jesus Christ. They’ve never heard of him in 53 AD. And I’m going there via Rome, and I want you to send me on the way.” Which means sending is good. He didn’t say everybody in Rome was going with him. He wrote the book of Romans. It says, “Send me, send me, send me.” He didn’t make them feel guilty because they weren’t going. Everybody’s not supposed to go. Don’t hear any guilt from me this morning — unless God’s on you in this issue, and has been for years. And this is the defining moment in your life. And then if you resist, feel guilty. Thank God for guilt.

The reason he could say, “I’m finished,” is because there must be, in the history of the church, in every generation, a group of passionate people like Paul. Not everybody, but there has to be a group of what I call Pauline type missionaries. Not Timothy type, Pauline type missionaries look around Pittsburgh, America, Gaithersburg, Minneapolis. Do you know how many churches there are in the Twin Cities? Let’s just say evangelical churches, not mainline Protestant, not Catholic, but evangelical gospel-preaching churches. Do you know how many there are in the greater metro area of two million people in the Twin Cities? Probably pushing two thousand. Maybe just twelve hundred, depending on how you define evangelical. There are more churches in the densely gospeled Twin Cities than there are North American missionaries to two billion Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists.

You call this obedience? You call this the fulfillment of the Great Commission, to which all of you should say, “Why are you there, John Piper?”? Which is no small or easy question for the likes of C.J. Mahaney, or Mark Altrogge, or me, or any of you other pastors to answer. And I am in a crisis every missions conference in October, as I stand up with some integrity, and try to preach on missions. And my answer is this, and I will give an account to Almighty God: the only warrant I have to stay is if more are going because I am staying than if I went. That’s the only warrant I have, given the density of the church. We have Christian radio stations coming out of our ears, Christian bookstores coming out of our ears, Christian colleges coming out of our ears, Christian churches coming out of our ears, Christian books coming out of our ears.

Worldwide Need

And I have one precious family. They are pushing forty, with seven children. And we put them on a plane two weeks ago, to Jizzakh, Uzbekistan, with seven children, where there are no toilets, no running water, without very special efforts. These are my heroes. I live for these people. These are my heroes. Sure it takes guts to go knock on doors at Cedar-Riverside across the street. Those are also some of my heroes. But when you take seven little children to a place, to help Oscar and Kathy, with their five children, and one of your young people, nineteen years old says, “Can I go and help you with the transition with your kids?” And the church raises the money just like that. And now Anna’s on the plane with them, so that the mom can manage seven kids for as long as it takes. This is life to me.

Uzbekistan is gloriously open. It was shut down for seventy years, under the iron hand of Stalinism and Marxism — that wicked, wicked system that slaughtered sixty million people, while liberals in this country were defending it. And it shut down the church of Jesus Christ. Oh, they thought so. They thought so. God brought it down in 1989. And I’ll tell you, it’s coming down in North Korea. It’s coming down in China. It’s coming down in Cuba. And it’s coming down in all those little countries in Southeast Asia, which are left over from the Vietnam war, trying to play communism when it’s dead. Pray for those few remaining lands. God, bring it down. Just imagine if God released the Chinese. There are a hundred million mighty men and women of God there, because God would not be defeated by the Boxers, or anybody else, when they closed the doors in 1948. “Watch me,” God says. “Watch me work behind closed doors.” Go ahead and hack young couples to pieces. And we will see how the church grows in that kind of blood, in China.

So understand that missions is not geography. If they have moved to your city en masse as refugees, and there’s no church among them — missions is a hundred yards away from my church right now. And not because I define everything as missions; I don’t buy it. Don’t go out of here saying, “Well, we’re all missionaries.” Baloney. That only nullifies the great singular work that must be done. And I’m not minimizing evangelism where you are. I am not. I’m simply saying: if you define everybody as a missionary, do you know what will happen? The whole church will become blind to about two billion unreachable people, because nobody lives in their culture to evangelize them.

You can’t send your money to these people and say, “Let the indigenous people do it.” There are no indigenous Christians. That whole concept that you read about in magazines today, that it’s very economically unwise for us to send missionaries, because it costs $70,000 to keep a family of nine on the mission field. When you could send $500 to the evangelist in Uzbekistan, to go to the villages. And they could do it much more effectively because they know the culture. Do you buy that? You are blind if you buy that. You don’t know the world if you buy that.

The point is this: there are thousands of people groups, sub-cultures, and languages that don’t have any church. There’s nobody to evangelize them to pay. I’d send all my money if that could be done. I’d live on the street if I could evangelize the world that way. Wake up, read something. Read something about the world. Know the situation. Don’t be swayed by naïve notions. Do you know what they are? They stroke us in our ease, and slake our conscience. Because we feel so bad after a message like this. Well, God can handle that.

Nothing but the Will of God

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Have you ever contemplated what you mean when you say as in heaven? Who does the will of God in heaven? Well the angels do it in heaven. Psalm 103:20 says, “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!” God is surrounded by beings who do his will perfectly every day. You know what? Nothing but the will of God is done in heaven. Nothing but the will of God is done in heaven. And do you know what else? It is done with an intensity that leaves nothing to be desired. And that’s what you pray will be done in Uzbekistan — and America, sin sick, playing themselves to death. Father, let your name be hallowed among the nations. Let your kingdom come among the nations. Let your will be done, the way the angels are doing it, all over the world.

Well the job is not yet done. You’ll have to take my word for it. If you haven’t read any books on it, I could commend to you some magazines and periodicals, to keep yourself up on it, or books to read. But you can find those, and you will, if your heart is in this. I’ll just close and try to bring us back full circle to where we began: with worship.

I’ve written a book that may prove, in the history of my life, to be the most important book I’ve ever written. And it’s called Let the Nations Be Glad. I wish I could get every one of you to read it. Everybody I’ve ever met, who thanks me for this book, says, “The first page is all I needed.” So don’t buy the book. Just go tear out the first page from somebody’s book, or get them to Xerox it. You have my permission right now to photocopy the first page and mail it to everybody you want. The book begins with this idea:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is the ultimate goal of the church. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Someday, when God’s purposes are finished, and all evil is banished out of the universe, and there is only God and only worship, there will be no more missions. It is a temporary, this-age stopgap, absolutely necessary, and glorious measure, to bring all of God’s sheep into the fold, so that we will together do what we’re going to do, I pray right now, forever. Worship is the fuel, and worship is the goal of missions. If PDI loves worship because they love God, you must love world evangelization.