COLLINS COLUMN: Be a vessel of God

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

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I prayed it this morning. You may have, as well. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Faithful Christians have been praying this prayer for more than 2,000 years. Protestant and Catholic theologians, clergy and church members, young and old know and pray the Lord’s Prayer often, if not constantly. It is, after all, the prayer Jesus gave us and taught us to pray.

Today, I am not writing about this powerful and wonderful prayer. I have written about this prayer before and will no doubt do it again. But today, I want you to think about just that one line referenced above from the Lord’s Prayer and ask yourself this question:  What does it look like for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven?

Having written mostly about passages from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the last four months, my reading plan has taken me straight to Acts. As many of you know, Luke is the author of both the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts. Luke’s work is a two-volume set that tells us all about Jesus and the acts of the apostles that God used to continue his work in the world today.

The answer to the question above is found in Acts. As we read through Acts, we discover why Luke wrote two volumes of work. He told us the story of Jesus in his gospel. In Acts, he shows us what the kingdom of God looks and acts like as we follow the life of the apostles, who did what Jesus taught them while he was on earth. But they now act not just with information; their acts are replicating the work of Christ, who gave them the Holy Spirit to empower their witness to the world.

In the first 11 verses of Acts, it is clear that Luke is telling the rest of the story. Jesus told his followers to wait until the Holy Spirit came. There was still a bit of confusion about this Kingdom Jesus had taught them about. One of the apostles even asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” But Jesus was never just about Israel. His mission was to bring God’s kingdom to earth. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus began this renewal and restoration by bringing both forgiveness and life to everyone. The gift of the Holy Spirit would make possible that his followers would truly do greater and more expansive things than he did when he walked the earth in the flesh.

Reading through the book of Acts, we see men and women filled with the Holy Spirit who are not seeking power or trying to exercise control. These faithful servants, by the power of the Holy Spirit, share with words and deeds that they have been transformed by the power of the gospel and freed from selfish ambitions of building earthly riches or kingdoms. As the church is born, we see the unity Jesus prayed for as his followers share the bread of life with everyone they encounter.

Acts shows us that when we pray “thy kingdom come and thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” that the father will indeed answer our prayer. The church was never to try to control or force ideology or even morality on the world. Jesus’s plan all along was that kingdom people, transformed by the gospel and filled with his spirit, would show the world what grace, mercy, and righteousness look and act like. Paul would later describe the witness of God’s people to spread a sweet aroma as we celebrate the life of Christ through our words and deeds.

Acts tells us stories of courage, humility, and boldness that come as regular people like you and me surrender our lives to Christ and pray boldly for God’s kingdom to come here, now, as it is in heaven. Acts doesn’t have to be just a history book; it can be a call to action that changes our world just as much as the early church changed theirs. And when we act in unity and with the intention of seeing the kingdom come, we will also see the King of Kings return in glory in us as we wait for his eventual return to finish the work of the renewal of all things.

Father, as we read the acts of the apostles, we pray that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit and use us to boldly share your gospel as we live lives that demonstrate your kingdom is here in us. May we be your vessels of hope for the world today. In Jesus’s name, amen.