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.
Read Acts 1:1-14.
Last post from The Book of Acts we looked at how the disciples’ focus was on a political kingdom, and how Jesus responded to their concerns about who would be in power, politically. (See previous post Who Won? vs. Acts 1) Today I’ll share an introduction to the Book of Acts, we’ll look at the beginning verses of Acts, and we’ll also look at why the Jesus followers in Acts were able to change the world the way they did.
Whose Acts Are They Anyway?
Traditionally, the Acts of the Apostles is the full name of this book, but most Bible versions have shortened it to the Book of Acts. It could also be titled: the Book of Acts of Jesus, or the Book of Acts of the Holy Spirit, because although we see the activities of different apostles, the only character who appears consistently throughout the entire volume is Jesus. Throughout the book, the acts in the Book of Acts come from Jesus directly or from Jesus through His Holy Spirit.
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,Acts 1:1
Luke, a doctor and traveling companion of Paul’s, is the author of the book. We get a glimpse of Luke’s devotion and character in 2 Timothy 4:10-11. During a time of great trial, when others had left Paul, Paul writes that “Luke alone is with me.”
In our text, right away we see that this is part two of a greater work of Luke’s. Part one was the Gospel of Luke. Part two is the book of Acts. Both parts begin by addressing the same person, the reader these books were intended for, Theophilus. Part one, the Gospel of Luke, “dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” So because part one, the Gospel of Luke, was about what Jesus began to do and teach, we might believe that part two, the Book of Acts, is about what Jesus will continue to do and teach. Although in the Book of Acts, much of what Jesus does is done through His Spirit and His apostles.
Many Infallible Proofs
. . . until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.Acts 1:2-3
Luke begins by writing about how after the resurrection, Jesus was with the disciples during a forty day period, instructing them about the kingdom of God, and presenting himself to them alive. The original language here is communicating the idea that Jesus provided to the disciples many infallible proofs of his live presence after his resurrection. He didn’t just appear in a vision. He ate with the disciples, he allowed them to touch his wounds. (We recently saw these examples at the end of the Gospel of John.) Paul tells us that after his resurrection, Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,” and, Paul said, most of them were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing. Which is an ancient way of saying: “Hey, don’t take my word for it. Go find the hundreds of people who are still around who saw him for themselves.” (1 Corinthians 15:6)
A Good Thing Will Come to Those Who Wait
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he 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
Jesus orders his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for God’s Holy Spirit to come upon them.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “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.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.Acts 1:6-9
At this point the disciples ask Jesus if he will make political changes for the nation of Israel. (For more about how Jesus responded to that question, and about the Holy Spirit, see our previous post from the Book of Acts: Who Won? vs. Acts 1.) Jesus tells them they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes, and they will be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. And when he had said this, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
While they were gazing into heaven as he went, two angels said,
“Why do you stand there looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Then they went to Jerusalem as Jesus instructed. And they entered into the upper room where they were staying.
And together they devoted themselves to prayer.
How Did They Turn the World Upside Down?
“. . . you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Jesus said. And as we read through the Book of Acts, we’ll see that they did indeed become Jesus’ witnesses. These 120 disciples changed the world. In the next chapter we’ll see how 3,000 come to Christ after hearing Peter speak. Some scholars say that up to 2 million people became Jesus followers in the first century after Jesus’ resurrection. These disciples, they really did turn the world upside down.
In the last post from the Book of Acts we talk about the power behind how Jesus’ disciples changed the world. So if you’re interested, you can check out that article: Who Won? vs. Acts 1. Today we’ll look at the behavior that changed the world.
This afternoon I heard a pastor say he sometimes hangs out downtown and talks to people about Jesus. And when he asks people what they think about Christians, what do you suppose they say? It’s sad, but mainly they talk about what we’re against. And they talk about our hypocrisy.
But as we study the Book of Acts we’ll see that during the days of the early church, the world called Christians, “Followers of the Way.” Makes sense because Jesus said, “I am the way . . .” And Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” So after I become a believer in Jesus, there’s a way I have the privilege of walking in. I get to walk in the way Jesus walked. John the Apostle writes about this, he says, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6)
And this is exactly what the early Jesus followers did. During the time of the early church we Christians were known among unbelievers as Followers of the way of Christ.
And the way of Christ is love.
We see what God thinks of religion without following His commandment to love in several places in the Bible. God tells us: All your religious practices without love for Me and your neighbor, “My soul hates.” “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove evil from your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:11-18)
Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor . . .” (see Zechariah 7:2-10)
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
So if we don’t see people flocking to Jesus the way they did during the days of the early church, maybe it’s because we’re not seeking the power of the Holy Spirit to begin with, and, maybe it’s also because we’re failing to love the way God wants us to love. We’re supposed to be known for our love. We’re not supposed to be know for what we’re against. (John 13:35)
God’s kindness is what is meant to lead people to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
We see the people of the church in the book of Acts, acting out these good practices God outlined in those verses from Isaiah, Zechariah, and James. We see them taking up their crosses and following Jesus. They risked their lives to share Christ with others. They shared their possessions with each other. They travelled to far off places to help each other. They cared for widows and orphans.
What we see in the Book of Acts are believers who say they abide in him, and then walk in the same way in which he walked.
They love God.
They love their fellow Christ followers.
They love unbelievers.
They even love people in authority who persecute them.
We can learn a lot from these early believers in the Book of Acts.
What I learned from these earliest believers, and from Jesus himself, is if we want to influence someone for Christ, by far the most important thing we can do is to love that person well, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
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.