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 previous posts from the book of Acts we looked at the conversion of Saul (who later became known as Paul the Apostle). In Acts 9:1-9 we saw how Paul was overwhelmed and humbled by the light of Jesus Christ and how, from Jesus’ perspective, when Paul was persecuting people who followed Jesus, Paul was persecuting Jesus himself. We also saw how you and I need to be overwhelmed and humbled by the light of Christ. And how you and I, when we persecute other believers with our words: we’re really persecuting Jesus. I also shared a story about my personal life that inspired this blog post. If you’re interested you can read more here: I Was Hurt and Offended (and then this happened)–Acts 9:1-9.
Then in Acts 9:10-19 we took a look at Jesus’ disciple Ananias. And we saw how, although he was a devoted follower of Jesus and a genuine disciple chosen by God to do important work for Christ’s kingdom, what Ananias believed was going on inside of Paul was far from accurate. And we saw how only God knew what God was doing inside of Paul. And we learned how only God can know what He is doing inside of anyone, and how you and I are like Ananias in that, even though we might think we know, we really can’t know what God might be doing inside another human being. If you want to learn more you can find that blog post here: Jesus in Disguise–Acts 9:10-19.
Today we’ll look at the actions Paul took as a new follower of Jesus, the violent reaction to Paul’s actions, and the way Paul ultimately responds emotionally to these awful events he experienced.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.Acts 9:19-31
Paul’s Terrible Circumstances
So after Paul was overwhelmed and humbled and blinded by the light of Jesus, he follows Jesus’ instructions and led by the hand he proceeded to the city of Damascus. There he waited without sight, and he neither ate nor drank.
Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, also follows Jesus’ instructions and he goes to Paul and lays his hands on Paul, and he calls Paul his brother, his first words are “Brother Saul . . .” I can imagine that physical touch and those words were especially life giving to Paul. Through the grace Ananias showed Paul, God heals Paul of his blindness and something like scales falls from his eyes.
So at this point things are looking up for Paul. He was blind but now he sees. He was personally introduced to God’s own Son. He literally saw the light of Christ. And now, for some days, he is hanging out with the disciples in Damascus. And then he starts to take action.
Paul begins to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And everyone was blown away because they all knew Paul to be “the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon” the name of Jesus. But Paul increased in strength and he presented an airtight case that Jesus is the Christ. He confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus who argued against him.
The result? Those who were defeated by Paul’s arguments plotted to kill Paul. We see here that since Paul’s conversion he had attracted disciples, because we’re told his disciples found out about the plot and let him down through an opening in the city wall, lowering him in a basket.
Then Paul went to Jerusalem and attempted to join the disciples but they were all afraid of him. Like Ananias, they thought they knew what Paul was thinking and feeling inside, but of course, as we saw in a previous post, they couldn’t know what God had done, and was doing, inside of Paul. (Jesus in Disguise–Acts 9:10-19)
Fortunately Barnabas, God’s encourager, vouches for Paul and the disciples eventually accept him. And in Jerusalem Paul again preaches boldly in the name of our Lord Jesus, and he disputed with the Hellenists (Jews from Greece). And once again the response was they sought to kill Paul. So the disciples evacuated Paul from Jerusalem and they sent him to Tarsus, Paul’s home town.
Paul’s Reaction to his Terrible Circumstances
So later we learn how Paul feels about this time in his life. In 2 Corinthians 11:30-33 Paul “boasts” about this time.
See, here’s the thing about Paul, when he gave his life to Jesus, he surrendered his will. Paul yoked himself to Jesus, so Paul now goes wherever Jesus wants him to go and Paul experiences whatever Jesus wants Paul to experience. And even though, in our humanness, we might see this as a hard thing, the result is surprising. Because what happened to Paul when he surrendered his will that way, when he yoked himself to Jesus, is that Paul “learned to be content in whatever circumstances.” Circumstances, even awful horrible terrible circumstances like plots to kill him, no longer controlled Paul’s heart and frame of mind and attitude. Paul “learned the secret of” being content in any and every situation. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Why You Might Feel Like Your Life is being Destroyed
In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And that’s the first step toward entering into Jesus or becoming a Christian. Come to Jesus: just as you are. Forget about trying to clean yourself up first. Instead just come to Jesus, right now, and give your life to him.
Jesus continues, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . .” You know, when someone is yoked to another someone, wherever they’re going — they’re going together. If you yoke yourself with Jesus, wherever he goes, you go. So we come to Jesus just as we are. And then we surrender ourselves to him wholly and completely.
Jesus continues, “for I am gentle and lowly in heart . . .” Jesus, was lowly and gentle in heart. And if we yoke ourselves to Jesus and do what he does, and go where he goes, and follow him, then we become lowly and gentle in heart ourselves. If we do that, then watch what happens . . .
“. . . and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
There’s this paradox we humans get caught up in. We think the tighter the grip on our own lives, the more control we have over our own lives and over the lives of anyone who might impact our own life, the tighter our grip, the better our life will be. But that’s the opposite of how Jesus lived and that’s the opposite of how Jesus tells us to live. Jesus tells us to be like him, to be lowly and gentle in heart. Jesus tells us to surrender our pride and our own agenda, our own independent yoke if you will, and to yoke ourselves to him. And here’s the paradoxical part: if we do this, if we loosen our grip and give up control and really surrender ourselves and yoke ourselves to Jesus, we find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Anxiety melts away. Our expectations of others dissipate and our relationships improve. We begin to focus on what Jesus declares is important: loving God well, and loving the people around us well. We enter into that abundant life Jesus said he wants for us. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The thief comes and tells us control is the answer. The thief says, “If you can only get things to go your way, then you will be OK, then everything will be OK.” But Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” So when we seek control of the people around us, we’re letting the thief steal our abundant life and destroy our relationships. Jesus went on to say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” So when we surrender our will to him, completely, when we yoke ourselves to him like Paul, it’s then that we enter into abundant life. (John 10:9-11)
I don’t know about the circumstances surrounding your life. With everything going on in the world there’s a fair chance things aren’t great for you right now. I live in the same world you do and I empathize with you. That being said, I think many Christians are disappointed in their lives because they expect to experience the abundant Christian life, but they don’t want to surrender themselves to Jesus and yoke themselves to Christ.
And here’s the thing:
Apart from Jesus, there is no abundant life.
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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.