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 looked at how the Apostles (and Jesus) delegated responsibility to create margin in their lives so they could focus on what God wanted them to focus on. And that led to a discussion about time and the importance of time as a resource for anyone who wants to follow Jesus well. If you’re interested you can learn more here: But I Don’t Have Time to Be a Good Christian: Acts 6:1-6.
Today we’ll look at how and why “the word of God continued to increase,” and how and why “the disciples multiplied greatly,” and how and why even “a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.Acts 6:7
The Good Lawyer
Today I want to start with something from the book Love Like Jesus. There’s this lawyer friend I have, and he’s a good lawyer. So right about now some of you are saying to yourselves, the word good and the word lawyer don’t belong in the same sentence. But I know this man personally, and although good lawyers might be rare, this attorney is one of them. He’s a skilled lawyer, and beyond that, he’s a good person. He has a heart for the underdog, and he strives to do his best for every client. This lawyer once made a statement to a friend of mine that surprised me, he said, “The best lawyers are not those who love to win an argument.”
When I heard that, I thought to myself, “I know this can’t be true — because I’ve seen all the lawyer TV shows: “Better Call Saul”, “Suits”, “Boston Legal”, “Law and Order” . . . Those lawyers always win the argument. And they seem to relish the courtroom confrontation.
But the good lawyer says, the best don’t take pleasure in winning the debate. He says, the best are outcome oriented. He says, the best don’t look for ways to win the argument, they look for ways to reach the best possible result. At the end of the discussion he made this statement:
“Never confuse pride with principle.”
I had to think about that. How many times did I believe I was standing on principle, when in reality, what I was after was victory and conquest, so I could feed my pride.
And this was nearly always at the expense of any kind of positive outcome.
And very often at the expense of the relationship.
The Lesbian College Professor Who Hated Christianity
Another example from Love Like Jesus: There’s this lesbian college professor who hated Christianity. Actually, hate is too mild, she reviled Christianity. Here’s how she felt about it, in her own words: “Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus, who in paintings looked as powerful as a Breck Shampoo commercial model.”
One time she wrote this article for her local newspaper attacking the Christian group Promise Keepers. Perhaps not surprisingly there was a big reaction to that article. Many responses were from Christians who attacked her views, and many were also from people who applauded her position. But one response didn’t fit into either category. There was this one person, a pastor, who sent a letter she described as kind and inquiring. She threw it out. Then later she fished it out of her recycle bin. She stared at it for a week before she decided to accept his invitation to dinner.
Dinner led to friendship with the pastor and his wife. Friendship led to her reading the Bible. Then she read multiple translations of the Bible. After two years, she came to the place where she was painfully conflicted. She believed. She believed in the gospels and what they said and she believed in Christ. But she struggled mightily with the cost of conversion. Her circle of friends wouldn’t receive the news well if she gave herself to Jesus. But she gave herself to Jesus anyway.
Today she’s married to a pastor. (The name of that English professor is Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. I highly recommend her excellent book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith)
Jesus’ Disciples Doing Things His Way
So often my own tendency is to see what I think are flaws in people. Then I try to “help” by pointing out those flaws, so they can be fixed, so the person can be made more perfect, and that’s important, because, I reason, I love that person and I want to see them “improve”.
Let me assure you: I’ve traveled down that road thousands of times, and I can say that “improving” people is a losing proposition. That tree has never born fruit and the reason is it’s not a living tree but rather a dead stick I used to beat people with. The pastor who led Rosaria Butterfield to Jesus didn’t approach her that way. The good lawyer doesn’t approach people that way. Jesus didn’t approach people that way.
And Jesus’ disciples didn’t approach people that way. We saw in Acts chapter 5:33-42 that it was the Sadducees who were enraged. Peter, John, and the disciples remained calm, and yes they responded, but they responded in love.
And in today’s text we see the results. A great many priests — the same priests who were a part of the Temple establishment that was persecuting Christians — became obedient to the faith. They were saved. They gave themselves to Christ.
This is striking. Because of my own human tendency to want to fix people, I used to act more like those Sadducees than I did Jesus’ disciples. Trying to fix people is natural for me. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him . . .”
I came to realize Jesus doesn’t want me to behave in a way that comes naturally to me. Jesus said to me and to you: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” That’s not natural. That doesn’t come naturally to me and I’m guessing it doesn’t come naturally to you either. So it’s just a question of who and what I love more.
Do I love my natural tendency to fix people, or do I love Jesus enough to listen to him, and follow his words, and do things the way Jesus wants me to?
“Oh Father, have mercy on me, and have mercy on the dear person reading this right now. Change us Oh Lord into the likeness of Jesus. Send Your Holy Spirit to help us to follow Jesus’ words well. Send us Your Holy Spirit and inspire us to respond to people who see things and do things differently than we do, in the same way Jesus’ disciples did. Help us to live and to love the way Jesus wants us to and then bless us with the results, with the fruit for your kingdom that comes from living and loving Jesus’ way. Please Father, have mercy on us and help us.
“In Jesus’ name.
Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”— Jesus Christ, Matthew 9:13
Kurt Bennett, Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus), Enoch Media, 2020
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith, Crown & Covenant, 2012
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) now available on Amazon!
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.