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.
Last post from the book of Acts we looked at the part of Peter’s sermon where he pleaded with his brothers to repent. (If you’re interested, you can check out our previous post here: Leaving the Path You’re On Is Hard (do it anyway) Acts 3:11-21) Today we’ll look at a quote from the Old Testament that Peter shares with that same crowd. It’s a prophetic quote that points to Jesus. Jesus said the Old Testament scriptures speak of him. (John 5:39, Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44-46) And here we see Peter sharing with his Jewish brothers one of the many places where Jesus is found there, in the Tanakh, in Deuteronomy. Peter quotes Moses when he says,
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.”(Acts 3:22-23, also see Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19)
The Parking Lot Challenge
What Peter shared reminds me of the transition I went through. If you’ve read the book Love Like Jesus you already know about how a pastor (my pastor, Pastor Jon) challenged me in the church parking lot after a Bible study one night. He looked me in the eye intently and said these two words: “Study Jesus.”
That challenge led to an obsessive seven year deep dive into Jesus’ life and words in the Gospels. In a very real way I was a much younger person before that deep dive than I was after. I was a different person in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and even through my early 50s — much younger, not just chronologically — but younger in my relationship with Jesus too. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and have a talk with my younger self. In my younger years others described me as arrogant and condescending. I often had the feeling I was surrounded by idiots. I could be harsh, blunt, and abrasive. I was intensely interested in whatever I was intensely interested in, and had no inclination to join other people in their interests. I was also intensely interested in my own plans but not terribly interested in God’s plan. (If you want to learn more, you can find the book here: Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus).)
So I would love to go back in time and have a conversation with my younger self. If I could, if I found a time machine, or if I could go back and visit my younger self in a dream somehow, that exchange might sound something like this:
A Conversation with My Younger Self
Young Kurt: So . . . who are you?
Old Kurt: I’m you, except I’m older. I’m from the future.
Young Kurt: OK. Why have you come back?
Old Kurt: To tell you about Jesus.
Young Kurt rolls his eyes and says, “If you’re really me from the future, you already know that I already know about Jesus.”
Old Kurt: Absolutely true. You do know about Jesus. But later in life you’re going to be challenged by Jon to study Jesus very intentionally and thoroughly. You’re going to take him up on his challenge and it’s going to change your life. I thought I might come back and share something with you to put you ahead so to speak.
Young Kurt looking skeptical: Not sure what you could share that would change anything. I’m a believer. I go to church. I mostly do the right thing — try to avoid doing wrong things. I think I’m doing OK, especially compared to some people I know.
Old Kurt: I agree! You are most definitely a believer. And you’re doing well in so many areas, I know. I just thought you might like to know something now rather than wait until later.
Young Kurt remains silent.
Old Kurt hesitates. He knows his young self only too well. He knows how cynical he can be: OK, well, so, here’s the thing, the one thing I want to say to you: take Jesus’ words seriously.
Young Kurt: OK.
Old Kurt: So you’re thinking you’re already doing that, right?
Young Kurt: Pretty much.
Old Kurt: OK, so let me share some things I noticed during the seven year deep dive . . .
Young Kurt interrupts: What seven year deep dive?
Old Kurt explains about the seven year deep dive and then continues: In John chapter 14, in the first verse, Jesus says to his disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
Young Kurt: Already knew that.
Old Kurt: Of course, yes, you already know that. It’s just that this one nondenominational pastor you know is going to share what that word believe means in the original Greek. The Greek word used there is pisteuō and it does indeed mean to trust, and to accept as true and reliable, same as the English word believe. But in the Greek, the original word, it also means to believe in a way that results in obedience.
Young Kurt: You mean like allegiance.
Old Kurt: Yes! Great word to use there. Like allegiance. Like a soldier who would have enough allegiance to his leader to go into battle even though he might die. Yes, like that. I’m reminded of when I first learned about our firefighting gear.
Young Kurt: So you’re talking to yourself here, and, I already know about that.
Old Kurt: Yes of course. So if you could just indulge me for a minute . . .
Young Kurt looks like he’s trying hard not to roll his eyes.
Old Kurt: In an air conditioned classroom while I sipped on a Coke my Battalion Chief Ralph Quincy told me and my fellow recruits how our gear which included an SCBA would allow us to operate in environments as hot as an oven. In one sense I believed him. But a month or so later another Battalion Chief ordered me to don that gear and charge inside of a burning building. As you know, that was our first fire. And I, you, we somehow managed to obey that Battalion Chief and we went inside the belly of the beast and helped put the fire out. That second instance of belief: that’s pisteuō.
Young Kurt: Yeah I get it.
Old Kurt: So later in that same chapter where Jesus told us to believe, Jesus says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Then in the next paragraph he says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
Then a few verses later Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word . . .”
And then in the next verse after that Jesus says, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
Four times Jesus communicates this idea that if a believer loves him he will keep his commandments. Four times inside of nine verses. So you know what the best Bible teachers say about what it means when we find things repeated in the Bible.
Young Kurt: It means God is emphasizing the importance of that idea.
Old Kurt: Yes, exactly. So in the book of Acts, in chapter 3, Peter shares this same idea with his Jewish brothers. Immediately after Peter heals the lame man at the gate outside the temple, speaking of Jesus, Peter quotes Moses when he says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.”
And then he goes on to say the second part of the quote: “You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.”
Young Kurt: So what are you saying exactly?
Old Kurt: I’m not saying anything. I’m just sharing what Jesus shared and what Peter shared. You can draw your own conclusions, although, I’m just an older version of you, so — I already know what those conclusions will be.
Young Kurt looks uncomfortable.
Old Kurt: Again when Jesus talks about building your house on the Rock he says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And, “. . . everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
And again, speaking of the final judgment Jesus says, “. . . the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
And he continues, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Young Kurt is squirming. “What are you saying?” he asked again.
Old Kurt: I’m just doing what Jesus told us to do in the last chapter of Matthew. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
I’m just passing along what Jesus told me to tell you “to observe all that” Jesus has “commanded you.”
Young Kurt’s thoughts are swirling. He has so many plans. He’s thinking about his selfish interests. He’s thinking about how much he enjoys entertainment.
Old Kurt can see and feel the conflicting emotions in young Kurt and he empathizes and sympathizes more than any other human could.
Old Kurt’s next words fall gently upon young Kurt. Softly, he says, “A bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
“Listen to him.'”
When young Kurt heard this he became disconcerted and he looked down at his shoes.
And when he lifted up his eyes, he found himself alone.
Scripture references: Acts 3:22-23, John 14, Matthew 7:24-27, Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 17:5-8
Kurt Bennett’s book is 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.
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