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.
The Book of Acts Chapter 1 (continued)
So . . . the holidays have come and gone, and now it’s time to continue our journey through the Bible. We’re in the book of Acts and our first post from Acts discussed how the disciples received the Holy Spirit. They were together in the upper room, devoting themselves to prayer, with one accord. Following Jesus’ instructions they were seeking the Holy Spirit. (If you want to learn more about receiving God’s Holy Spirit the way Jesus’ disciples did, you can check out this previous post: Who Won? vs. Acts 1)
In another post on the book of Acts, we took a look at this verse specifically . . .
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.Acts 1:14
. . . we saw in that post how God used scripture to change the prayer life of two people. (See previous post: Prayer)
You can also read our introduction to the book of Acts if you’re interested: Introduction to the Book of Acts.
I included those previous three posts because it’s been awhile since we were in the book of Acts. But today we’ll look at a passage from Acts chapter 1 that reminds me of why I fear God.
Peter Stood Up and Said This
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)Acts 1:15-19
Judas may have thought he was doing the right thing by betraying Jesus. He may have thought he was doing something for the greater good. His convictions may have been genuine leading up to his betrayal. But what happened to Judas as a result of his convictions reminds me of how I fear God. Jesus said of Judas, “. . . woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” And he said, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
Judas opposed Jesus and the consequences were cataclysmic.
I’m afraid of opposing Jesus.
I’m afraid of opposing God.
I know fearing God isn’t fashionable in our culture today. But cultures come and go. I remember laughing at some of the things my grandparents used to think and do because of the influence of their culture. I’m sure my grandkids will do the same with me. Maybe you’re young right now, but here’s the thing: your grandkids will do the same with you. The truth is what’s valued in any given culture at any time in history, in any place in the world, is always held up by that culture as the right way of viewing the world. And every culture looks back on previous cultures and views them as flawed and inferior. It’s built into our nature. It’s inherently human to think this way.
Because of the pattern described above, I don’t trust cultural trends and proclivities. There are so many examples in the Bible of people going with the flow of their culture, even though it went against the flow of God’s scripture.
The Israelites wanted a king because that’s how everyone else was doing it in those days. So as He so often does, God gave them what they wanted and they paid a price for it under Saul’s reign.
There’s a long list of those who were influenced by the cultures around them to worship their gods in addition to (or instead of) the True and Living God. God allowed them to do as they desired, but they paid a heavy price because of it.
The culture of their Middle Eastern neighbors didn’t include a Sabbath. So there were times in Israel’s history when they went with the flow of that aspect of the culture around them. Again, God allowed them to have what they wanted, and again they paid a price for it.
You know, when I was in my thirties and forties, I thought I would feel like I was less of a sinner as I grew older. But that hasn’t happened. The more I learn about Jesus, the more I realize how sinful I am. “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14)
And there’s something else. The older I am, the less I trust myself. The older I am, the more I realize how little I know. The older I become the more I realize how fragile I am and how prone I am to confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. I used to think I was objective. But I’ve come to the conclusion I’m just as human as anyone else. Without even realizing it, I use my intellect to justify my opinions rather than using my intellect to discern the objective truth and then basing my opinions on that objective truth. As I’ve gotten older, I realize I’ve had a tendency to start with my opinion and then work backwards to use scripture to validate my opinion, rather than starting with scripture to inform my opinion.
These days I pray to God to keep me from my own ways. I tell Him “I’m like a little child down here Father. Please, I don’t know what You know. I’m not wise the way You are wise. I don’t love the way You love. I don’t trust myself. Do what You know to be best with me.”
God’s Ways and My Ways
There’s one thing we can be certain of when it comes to culture. Some of our views will turn out to be wrong.
And there’s one thing we can be certain of when it comes to ourselves. Some of our views will turn out to be wrong.
But there are things we can be certain of when it comes to God too.
- We can be certain that His ways are not our ways. His ways are higher than our ways. In fact, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways. I’ve found it to be important to always keep that in mind. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
- We can be certain His ways are perfect. His way is always the perfect way and His word always proves true in the end. For confirmation of this idea we have only to look at Jesus, the exact imprint of God’s nature and the radiance of His Glory. Jesus’ life in the Gospels reveals how God’s ways are without sin or error. (Psalm 18:30, Hebrews 1:3)
- We can be certain God’s ways, even when I don’t understand them, are founded in love. My culture’s ways are founded on all manner of motivations, some good, some bad. And my own ways; I want my own ways to be founded on love, but I recognize I’m prone to sin and sinful motivations, sometimes even when I don’t realize it. But God’s steadfast love endures forever. (1 John 4:16)
Where I’ll Spend Forever
I mentioned in a recent post that Gabe, Nate, and I read C. S. Lewis’s book The Great Divorce in 2020. The quote at the top of this blog post is from that excellent book.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
I don’t mind telling you I fear hell and one reason I fear God is because I fear hell. And after reading The Great Divorce, I fear the possibility that I could choose the wrong path somewhere along the line and wind up in that place of outer darkness.
So I fear God. And much of what I do and how I think is because I fear God. I sometimes think about how the conversation with Him will go, on that day I meet Him face to face. And I’m afraid of a bad conversation with Him on that day. I want to hear those words, the same words you want to hear, the same words we all want to hear: “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
In our text for today we took a look at Judas. And when I really think about it, Judas was a lot more like me than I like to think. He was in ministry. He committed three years of his life to Jesus. He followed Jesus. He studied Jesus. And yet somehow in the end Judas opposed Jesus and God. In the end Judas didn’t hear those words: “Well done good and faithful servant.” He didn’t hear those words because he didn’t fear Jesus. Judas didn’t fear the Son of God, the Radiance of God’s glory. I never want to be in that place where Judas was. The place where I don’t fear God. God tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Judas, is an illustration of how not fearing the Lord is the opposite of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)
Cultures and, the values and views of cultures have come and gone and will always come and go.
I have come, and soon I will go — the way of all the earth.
We’ll all go the way of all the earth.
But God’s word remains forever.
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.