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 post from the book of Acts we answered the question, “Should I fear God?”. If you’ve ever asked yourself that question and you’re interested in exploring that question you can learn more here: Should I Fear God?: Acts 5:1-11.
So the reason the fear of God came up in our ongoing conversation here on God Running is because we were in that part of the Bible where a husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, tell a lie and as a result they drop dead. Today we’ll look at how people reacted to the news of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira.
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
“None of the rest dared join them . . .”
We see in our text that although this group of people called “the rest” held the Jesus followers in high esteem, they dared not join them. According to Craig Keener, during this time “many non-Jews attended synagogue and believed in Israel’s God without fully converting and keeping Jewish rules.” So Keener, and other Bible teachers, speculate that a similar group referred to here as “the rest” respect the Jesus movement but dare not join them. (Keener)
There were reasons for not joining this group of believers, including persecution from the Jewish high priest and the Jewish religious leadership of the day. But now there was another reason. Although Jesus is amazing and His Spirit moving through Peter and the apostles was miraculous, word spread fast that if you connect yourself with this group and you sin, the consequences could be radical. So they dared not join them.
I think there’s a similar group today. They love Jesus, and they want him in their life, but they’re reluctant to enter into a community where their sin is talked about in a way that makes them uncomfortable. They respect the love they see in the fellowship of believers, they hold in high esteem the way Jesus’ love is expressed in the Jesus followers they know, but the way sin is portrayed in the church “is killing them.” So they dare not join their community.
Or maybe even more egregious, there are those who don’t join because there’s one point of doctrine or another that they disagree with. Or the teaching isn’t interesting enough. Or the music isn’t good enough. Or someone in the leadership has said something or done something they find offensive.
This leads us to today’s question: Why did the earliest believers go to church?
We saw in Acts chapter 4 how the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:32-33)
I’m reminded of the two groups of Christians I’ve seen over the years. The ones like these early believers go to church because they love God and they want to please Him. They go to church because they want to worship Jesus communally with one heart and soul. They go to church because they’re looking for opportunities to please God. They’re looking for opportunities to communicate the love of Jesus to the people in their community of believers. They go to church looking for opportunities to bless God and to bless others.
The day before yesterday I learned of a church like this. The people who attend there are about blessing God and blessing people. They’re about looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ with each other and others. This church is in a valley surrounded by mountains where wildland fires are common. Last summer there was a catastrophic fire and thousands of people were burned out of their homes. So the leadership put the word out that they needed beds so they could put people up inside the church building. The response was so overwhelming they had to tell their members to stop sending beds. Then came the call for blankets, and pillows, and clothes, and food. Each time they had to tell people to stop giving. They had more volunteers than they could use. This church also buys run down houses, fixes them up, and offers them to people needing a home in a home bridging program. They’re also active in a program that helps moms and dads in crisis called Safe Families for Children. They help each other through community groups. Their heart is the same heart as the church described here in Acts. They’re doing it the way the earliest church members did it. They go to church focused on what they can give. (If you want to learn more, you can check out the video here: Edgewater Sunday 9-20-2020. I found the lady at 32:41 in the video particularly compelling.)
The other group I’ve seen over the years is influenced by our culture of consumerism. What will I get if I buy this item on Amazon? What will I get if I pay for this service I found on Angie’s list? Will I be entertained if I choose this movie on Netflix? So this group goes to church (or doesn’t go to church) focused on what they’ll receive. Will I get to hear a good teaching? Will I get to hear good worship? What will I get if I go join them? What will I get, is the question they ask themselves.
I’m not saying you should go to a church where you disagree with everything they teach. I’m just saying that you’ll never find a church you’ll completely agree with. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for a church with good teaching and good worship. I’m just saying you’ll never be in the flow of God’s Spirit if that’s your focus.
The focus of the early church is plain. We see “day by day” they were “attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.” They were generous with each other and helpful toward each other. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They assembled together looking for opportunities to communicate the love of Christ to each other. They went to church out of a love for God, looking for opportunities to please Him. (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37)
I want to be a person who goes to church with an attitude like that, with an attitude that pleases God. I hope you’ll join me.
“Father, be merciful to me, a sinner, prone to selfish thoughts and selfish ways. Lead me away from the temptation to have a consumerist mentality. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and inspire me to connect myself with a church out of love for You, seeking to please You and to bless You. Looking for opportunities to delight You and to communicate the love of Jesus to the people I connect myself with at church. Help me and help every reader of this blog to have a connection with a church community the way the earliest believers did. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 335
Photo of church gathering by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com
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.