God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last blog post we finished the book of John. (See previous post: God Understands When You Live Your Life This Way) If you’re interested, you can read through the GodRunning teachings from the Gospel of John beginning here: The 1 Way We Can Learn God’s Mind and Heart: John 1:1-3 . Today we’ll begin the Book of Acts.
Who Won the Election?
Who won the election? That’s what everyone’s asking at the time of this writing: Which presidential candidate won? That’s interesting timing because in our text we see Jesus’ disciples ask a similar political question?
In Acts 1:4:5 Jesus intstructs the disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. Jesus says, “You heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
And the disciples respond: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus’ disciples are concerned with a political kingdom. They want to know if Jesus is going to end the rule of the current leader of Israel, Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus, and begin a new administration in Israel led by another candidate: Jesus Christ himself.
I can hardly believe the timing of this post. Because that’s what’s on the minds of most of my friends and family right now.
But watch what happens next. Watch how Jesus answers:
Jesus answered: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (see Acts 1:8)
Asking the Wrong Question
Jesus replies to his disciples’ question by saying: You’re concerned with the current political scene, but there’s something far more important I want you to concern yourself with. I want you to concern yourself with my Holy Spirit. I want you to do what’s necessary to receive the Holy Spirit from the Father.
I have Christian friends and family who are democrats, and I have Christian friends and family who are republicans. Like the disciples in our story, most of them have been concerning themselves with political questions over the last six months or so. And like the disciples in our passage, their concern is misprioritized. It’s not that what’s happening in our country right now isn’t important. It’s just the angst and time and energy devoted to these political questions is misplaced.
Jesus Said To Do This
One of the last commandments Jesus gave us came just before he ascended into heaven. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus’ life is an amazing example of how to accomplish this. And he summed up how to go and make disciples, and how to teach people to obey everything he has commanded us. He said to love God with everything we have, and to love people the way he did.
What we see too often are people loving their political candidate with everything they have. Or even worse, hating the opposing political candidate with everything they have. They’re devoted. Their emotions, their energy, their time is devoted to what they see as the most important thing in the world.
But what Jesus said eclipses our political concerns.
And to accomplish what Jesus wants us to accomplish, to go into our world and share Jesus, we need something from him. We need his Spirit.
John Chrysostom, one of the church fathers, wrote this about God’s Holy Spirit:
“Just as when soldiers are to charge a multitude, no one thinks of letting them issue forth until they have armed themselves, or as horses are not suffered to start from the barriers until they have got their charioteer; so Christ did not suffer these to appear in the field before the descent of the Spirit . . .”Chrysostom
I’ve written a book filled with examples and practical advice about how to accomplish the mission Jesus charged us with just before he ascended. (If you’re interested you can learn more here: Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). But none of it works without the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus instructed his disciples to concern themselves with receiving the Holy Spirit, I believe he wants you and I to do the same.
And it’s so worth it! Unlike the caustic political spirit we hear and see so much of right now, God’s Holy Spirit is a completely different kind of power. It’s not of this world. It doesn’t even need a Starbucks in the morning to get started. Where the Holy Spirit dwells, hate withers. Where the Holy Spirit dwells, love spawns and grows and thrives and flows. Where the Holy Spirit dwells, relationships are resurrected. The change comes from within, not from our outside circumstances. What the Holy Spirit does to you, and to me, happens regardless of which political party’s in power.
The power of the Holy Spirit dwarfs political power.
The power of the Holy Spirit transcends political power.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”John 1:32-34
We know very little about Jesus’ life before the event recorded in the passage above. We know something of his birth. And we know about the time his parents lost track of him when he was twelve years old, when he was dialoguing with the rabbis in the temple. But that’s it. There’s no biblical record of Jesus performing miracles before the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve wondered if there was some reason behind the change in Jesus’ life at the beginning of his public work for God’s kingdom. If you’ve ever wondered, read on.
Did Jesus Need the Holy Spirit?
Perhaps you have heard it before, that when Jesus came to this planet, he left all of his personal divine power behind in heaven. I can’t say for certain whether that’s true or not. There are theologians on both sides of the issue. But we do have Philippians 2:7 that says Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (see also Hebrews 2:9) And as we saw in the paragraphs above, what we can say, is that it wasn’t until this moment, the moment recorded in John chapter 1, where John the Baptist describes how he saw the Spirit descend onto Jesus from heaven like a dove, that the record of Jesus’ teaching and miracles begins.
So it would appear that it was necessary for God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out upon Jesus, in order for him to do all the amazing works we see him do in the gospels. Which begs the question: If Jesus needed to be baptized with God’s Holy Spirit, how much more do you, and how much more do I?
Should You Ask For God’s Holy Spirit?
Later in the book of Acts we’ll see that the apostles thought every believer should be baptized with the Holy Spirit. We see that, when they encountered people who believed in Jesus but didn’t yet know about the baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:14-17.
. . . Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
So scripture indicates that it’s God’s will for His Holy Spirit to be poured out upon every Christ follower. And we see in John chapter 1 that John the Baptist says, Jesus the Son of God will baptize with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:33-34) In today’s blog post we’re just one chapter away from seeing this happen.
“But how?” You might be asking right now. “How do I receive the baptism of God’s Holy Spirit?”
How To Receive The Holy Spirit
Jesus tells us how. He says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
So we’re to ask. That’s it: just ask. And then in Luke chapter 18 Jesus even tells us how to ask.
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
This is how the disciples prayed after Jesus ordered them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of God’s Holy Spirit. In today’s passage Jesus said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5) After Jesus said these words the disciples “with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:14) The disciples petitioned God as the widow petitioned the unrighteous judge in the parable. And to see how God responded, just have a look at Acts chapter 2. There we see as a result of the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit, 3,000 people responded to their message and gave themselves to Jesus.
Why Not Ask Right Now?
So do as Jesus instructed you and me to do. Ask God for His Holy Spirit to be poured out upon you. Ask as Jesus’ disciples asked. Ask like the widow asked the unrighteous judge. Ask right now. Ask again tomorrow. Ask at the start of every day. Ask three times a day.
The Holy Spirit manifests differently in different people and in my experience, it can be difficult to see the Holy Spirit working in your own life overtly. However, I believe you can still know whether or not you have the Holy Spirit in the way the disciples did in Acts chapter 2. Just ask in the way Jesus instructed us to ask. Ask in this way and you can be sure you’ll receive God’s Holy Spirit in the same way you can be sure you’re saved. You know you’re saved because you believe God’s words in John 3:16. In the same way, you can know you’ll receive God’s Holy Spirit because you believe Jesus’ words when he said, your heavenly Father will give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. (see Luke 11:11-13)
For Jesus to love the way he did, he needed God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out upon him.
You and I do too.
John Chrysostom, Homily 1 on the Acts of the Apostles, NewAdvent.org, 400 AD
Kurt Bennett, Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus), Enoch Media, 2020, pp. 133-137
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.