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Bible Insights

How to be Saved

Discover What the Bible Says about Salvation

Paul, in writing to the church in Ephesus, shares a succinct and essential truth about salvation. He tells them how to be saved, which reminds them how they were saved.

He writes “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).

By Grace

Our salvation starts with God’s grace. Grace gives to us what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve our right standing with Father God that came to us through Jesus when he died in our place for the wrong things we have done

As we explore how to be saved, it doesn’t start with us but with God and his grace.

Through Faith

The second related item is faith. This is our part. We must receive the grace that God offers to us through faith. We must believe.

It doesn’t make sense to most people. It seems too easy. So they pile more requirements upon it, as if making it hard will make it mean more.

Yet through faith we can receive God’s grace. This is how to be saved.

A Gift

Lest there be any doubt, salvation is a gift that God freely gives to us. It’s a no-strings-attached present from the Almighty. That’s what God’s grace does.

Not Works

We can’t earn our salvation anymore than we can earn a gift that’s already been freely offered to us. Yet when many people consider how to be saved, they think there’s a list of requirements they must meet, that is, there are a set of prescribed steps they must go through to earn their salvation.

But we can’t work to become eligible to receive a present from God that he’s already given to us. All we need to do is open that gift.

To be saved, we make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus. Click To Tweet

How to be Saved: Follow Jesus

When we consider how to be saved, we must acknowledge that God’s gift of grace is something that we receive through faith. But how do we do that?

It’s simple. We make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus. That’s the essential message that Jesus tells people when they ask him how to be saved, how to have eternal life. He simply says follow me (Matthew 9:9, John 1:43, John 8:12, John 10:27, and many more.

I follow Jesus. Do you?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

Church Improvement Tips

We witnessed more than a few oversights, errors, and blunders that could turn people away. Sadly, many occurred in more than one church. Here are some pointers, some church improvement tips, to consider so you don’t scare away guests.

Consider these four discussion questions: 

1. Realtors stress curb appeal. So should churches. 

What can you do to make the outside of your building inviting? How can you ensure the inside continues the positive experience?

2. Having an online presence is critical to attract new people. Short of a personal invitation, most people won’t visit a church that lacks an inviting online presence. 

What steps can you take to invite people to your church?

3. People attend a church for the service. Make it easy for everyone to participate. 

What can you personally do to help newcomers better understand and take part in your service?

4. To remain viable for the long term, a church needs to look outside themselves. Too many churches have an internal focus. 

What outward-looking initiatives could you pursue?

Consider these church improvement tips and pick one to focus on. Then move to the next one.

[See the prior set of questions, the next post in this series, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Can We Have a Superhuman Spirituality?

Don’t Be Merely Human

Paul reprimands the church in Corinth for many things. One time he points out that they envy one another and argue a lot. There is jealousy and quarreling in their church. It happened then and it’s still happening now.

We want what others have. Although this often relates to money, possessions, or prestige, we can also envy the faith of others, their spiritual journey, and even their intimacy with God. Though it seems spiritual, it is just as wrong. Jealousy is jealousy, regardless of what we long for.

Next is their quarrels. We disagree and fight with words. It seems no church is immune to arguing, yet Paul decries this as wrong. Don’t do it.

Jealousy and quarreling are worldly traits. They are not godly, but worldly. By allowing these conditions to persist, we are mere humans.

By saying mere humans, Paul implies there is another way, a higher ground we can take. We don’t need to be merely human; we shouldn’t be merely human.

Superhuman Spirituality

Through Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit we can rise above being mere humans. We can become more than human, superhuman, if you will: not superhuman in physical strength but superhuman in a spiritual sense, a superhuman spirituality.

As followers of Jesus, being merely human is who we were, but our future is a superhuman spirituality.

Are we willing to pursue it?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 1-4, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 3:3.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jeremiah Issues 3 Warnings to Misleading Ministers

Beware of Slacking Shepherds, Godless Pastors, and Misleading Ministers

The prophet Jeremiah doesn’t just warn the people about judgment for their sins, he also warns their religious leaders too. The twenty-third chapter of the book of Jeremiah details three leadership failures. Most troublesome is the third item about misleading ministers.

Everyone in leadership should heed Jeremiah’s cautionary words and seek God’s help to avoid repeating these errors.

1. Slacking Shepherds

Jeremiah proclaims woe to the shepherds (a metaphor for religious leaders) because they fail to take care of the sheep (a metaphor for God’s people). The prophet gives three examples to demonstrate the shepherds’ failure.

First, they have scattered the sheep. Second, they have driven the lambs away. Third, they have neglected to care for their flock.

God pledges to punish these failed shepherds. Then he will replace them with good ones (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

2. Godless Pastors

Next, Jeremiah condemns godless prophets and priests. Imagine that. These men should represent God to his people, but they don’t. Even in the temple (the church building), God finds them full of wickedness.

He promises to banish them to the darkness, where they will fall. He proclaims disaster for them (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

3. Misleading Ministers

Jeremiah continues rebuking prophets who proclaim lies. They fill the people with false hope. These religious leaders don’t have the mind of God. They don’t hear what the Lord says. Instead, they make up things to tell the people (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

In short, they fail to speak God’s truth.

God’s punishment for these misleading ministers is that he will forget them and cast them from his presence (Jeremiah 23:39).

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds. Click To Tweet

Today’s Preachers

This issue of misleading ministers happens today at too many churches, albeit with a modern twist. Preachers speak what the people want to hear and not what the Bible says. They avoid proclaiming the parts of God’s Word that may upset their congregation.

They water down the good news of Jesus by removing what may offend. Instead of speaking biblical truth, they substitute it with nice sounding messages of their own making that delights listeners, avoids confrontation, and minimizes conflict.

God wasn’t pleased in Jeremiah’s day by the leaders who did this. And he is not pleased today.

Our preachers today must listen to God and teach what he and his Word says. We don’t need any more slacking shepherds, godless pastors, or misleading ministers.

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation reacts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 23-25 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 23:16-17.]

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

7 Last Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

Discover What We Can Learn from the Final Words of Jesus

We’ve talked about the Bible’s first recorded words of Jesus and his last words before he ascends into heaven. But what people focus on most is what he says as he hangs on the cross, dying in our place for the wrongs we have done. Let’s explore the 7 last sayings of Jesus.

Three of these come from Luke and three from John. The seventh one appears in both Matthew and Mark’s biographies of Jesus. Here’s what he says, the 7 last sayings of Jesus on the cross.

1. Jesus Forgives

Jesus addresses the people who are killing him and those who brought about his execution. He says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

In doing so he models the forgiveness that he taught his followers to do. He said to them that if they don’t forgive others, then God won’t forgive them (Matthew 6:15).

Stephen, the Bible’s first martyr, follows this as he is being stoned to death. He asks God to not hold his attackers accountable for what they did, to forgive them (Acts 7:60).

2. Jesus Promises Salvation

To the thief crucified next to him on the cross, Jesus promises that they’ll spend eternity together. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, NIV).

Though this directly applies to the criminal being executed for his crimes, we too can receive the promise of salvation when we follow Jesus.

3. Jesus Cares for His Mother

As Jesus dies an agonizing death, he carries concern for his mother. He wants to make sure she’s cared for when he’s gone. He asks John to make it happen. He says to Mary “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27, NIV).

Jesus’s concern for his mother warms my heart. Yet it also perplexes me because Jesus has four brothers and some unnamed sisters (Mark 6:3). Couldn’t one of them—shouldn’t one of them—have cared for their mother?

Regardless, in Jesus’s deepest despair, he still thinks of others. We should do the same.

4. Jesus Talks to God

Jesus faces his darkest moment at the time when the weight of humanity’s sins throughout all time rests squarely on him. He must complete this journey on his own. He calls out to God “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, NIV).

This fulfills David’s prophetic words in Psalm 22:1.

Though it’s necessary for Jesus to complete this on his own, we never need do anything by ourselves. God is always with us and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

5. Jesus Shares a Physical Need

Being thirsty while undergoing one of history’s most brutal forms of execution is minor in comparison to all else that Jesus is physically enduring. Yet no one can help him deal with any of those sufferings. But someone can give him a drink.

This may be why he says, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28, NIV). We see this foreshadowed again by David (Psalm 22:15). Earlier Jesus taught his followers to give water to those in need (Matthew 10:42).

Jesus dies so that we may live. Click To Tweet

6. Jesus Completes His Mission

As Jesus is about to die, he has fulfilled what he came to earth to do. He confirms this when he tells everyone who is keeping vigil, “It is finished” (John 19:30, NIV).

7. Jesus Gives Himself to His Father

Death will complete Jesus’s earthly mission. Rather than suffer any longer, he wills himself to die and gives his spirit over to Papa: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46, NIV). This also fulfills David’s prophetic words (Psalm 31:5).

The 7 Last Sayings of Jesus

These are the 7 last sayings of Jesus

The result is that Jesus dies so that we may live.

Thank you, Jesus.

Read the 7 last sayings of Jesus during his crucifixion and the events that precede it in Matthew 26:14-27:66, Mark 14:12-15:47, Luke 22-23, and John 18-19.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

Generalizations from 52 Churches

Stating generalities is risky, but it is a way of processing information. 

Here are two areas to discuss:

1. In our experiences, churches with older congregations and traditional services tended to be friendlier than contemporary services with younger people. 

Does your church match this observation or break from it? What must change?

2. I’m dismayed that we witnessed dogmatic, closed-minded, and exclusive attitudes at some churches

If your church produces division, what can you do to promote unity?

Seek ways to be friendly and promote unity at your church.

[See the prior set of questions or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Can We Be Baptized For Dead People?

Understand How to Respond to This Perplexing Practice

A perplexing verse in Paul’s letter to his friends in Corinth mentions being baptized for dead people. What in the world does this mean? It sounds heretical.

Can we be baptized for dead people? Well, I suppose so, but we shouldn’t expect it to accomplish anything. Should we be baptized for dead people? No.

Though the meaning of this verse is unclear—and I won’t attempt to clarify it—we should keep two things in mind:

First, it is likely a reference to an issue confronting only the church in Corinth since it is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Though we don’t know the background for this particular issue, we do know the Corinthian church had many issues, with this being one of them.

Let’s not make this our issue by adopting their misguided practice. After all, they had many unwise practices.

Second, and most importantly, is that Paul shares this procedure in a descriptive manner. He is simply describing something other people are doing. Paul does not command we do this; he does not recommend we do this; and he does not model this.

If we did everything the Bible described, we’d be a sorry lot. Instead let’s look at what the Bible commands. That will keep us busy for a long time.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14-16, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 15:29.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Avoid Spiritual Adultery, of Being Unfaithful to God

Jeremiah Compares the People’s Relationship with God to a Cheating Spouse

The prophet Jeremiah, along with many other writers in the Bible, accuse God’s people of spiritual adultery. They are unfaithful to their Lord. They cheat on him. They run around with other, lesser gods.

Marital Adultery

Cheating on a spouse is a situation most people readily comprehend, having experienced it, witnessed it in others, or faced that temptation themselves. The result of adultery is a damaged or destroyed marriage, broken hearts, and scars that last a lifetime.

In a marriage relationship, adultery—being unfaithful to your spouse—stands as a critical mistake, a potentially relationship-ruining act of selfishness. The same is true of God when we cheat on him. How our duplicity must break his heart.

Cheating on God

But how, you ask, do we cheat on God? We are unfaithful to our Creator when we put other pursuits before him, when we no longer allow him to be number one in our life.

Though in the Old Testament this means chasing after other gods, that practice isn’t so widespread today—at least not in a literal sense. But we do serve other gods in a figurative manner.

From a spiritual standpoint this is a potentially relationship-ruining act of selfishness.

Even more important than being faithful to our spouse is being faithful to God—both now and forever. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Adultery Examples

These acts of spiritual adultery may take many forms. This includes pursuing pleasure, recreation, and even idleness.

For many there are other gods that exist too. One is materialism: earning more money, buying more things, and accumulating more wealth. This unsatiated desire for more becomes the God that we worship because it displaces our Lord from his rightful place as being number one in our life.

Human relationships—though important—also threaten our right relationship with God. Anything that distracts us from him rages as a temptation to be unfaithful.

These adulterous pursuits disrespect God just as adultery disrespects a person’s spouse.

The Bride of Christ

Metaphorically speaking, as Jesus’s followers, we will collectively become his bride—the bride of Christ. John’s epic vision recorded in the book of Revelation captures this well. In the end of this age we—Jesus’s church—will prepare ourselves for our Savior, made ready and beautifully dressed for our betrothed. (Revelation 19:7 and Revelation 21:2).

Then we will unite with Jesus and live with him forever.

Faithfulness Matters

Even more important than being faithful to our spouse is being faithful to God—both now and forever.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 1-3 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 3:20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Final Words of Jesus

Consider What Jesus Says Just Before He Ascends into Heaven

Jesus’s first recorded words in the Bible are when he’s twelve years old and disappears. His parents eventually find him in the temple. His perplexing answer explains he belongs in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49). With these as his first words, now let’s look at the final words of Jesus.

To be specific, we’ll look at the last words that Jesus speaks while on earth. Though the book of Revelation records many later words from Jesus, we’ll set these aside because they occur in a vision of the apostle John. In total Revelation records eight things Jesus says, with Revelation 2-3 being the longest passage.

Though we might think that Jesus’s seven last sayings on the cross give us Jesus’s last words in the Bible, this is incorrect. Instead, we’ll consider what Jesus says after he rises from the dead and before he ascends to heaven.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts all record passages to consider.

Matthew

The most familiar may be what many call the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Over the years I’ve heard many sermons on this inspiring charge from Jesus when he tells his followers to go out and make disciples. Though this is one of the last things Jesus says, it’s not his final words.

Mark

A parallel passage in Mark 16:15-18 repeats the same instructions, with more details included. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a message on this passage. Though it’s more comprehensive, the added text is problematic for many people, so they choose to dismiss it.

I have, however, heard some ministers who try to explain away the phrases in Mark’s account that makes them squirm, but they’re unsuccessful. (It’s worth noting that not all historical texts of Mark’s gospel have the last eleven verses, including this passage.)

John

In John’s account, Jesus’s last words are a discussion with Peter about what will happen to John. Jesus says, even if I want him to live until I return, what does it matter to you? (John 21:22).

Luke

The final words of Jesus recorded in Luke’s biography of Jesus is an explanation about the need for the Savior to die and rise from the dead. Jesus then says they’re to be his witnesses but to first wait until they receive Holy Spirit power (Luke 24:46-49).

Acts

In the book of Acts, which Luke also wrote and picks up where his gospel leaves off, we see a continuation of Jesus’s discussion about waiting for Holy Spirit power. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, his disciples are to be his witness throughout the whole world (Acts 1:4-8).

Immediately after he says this, Jesus ascends to heaven. This is the last thing he says before he leaves his disciples.

Many people overlook the essential element of having Holy Spirit power within them. Click To Tweet

Therefore, the final words of Jesus are “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).

Though many people focus on the going part and being his witnesses, they often overlook the essential foundational element of having Holy Spirit power within them.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

A Second Perspective on Visiting 52 Churches

My wife went with me to every church we visited. “What an adventure!” she said. “We had the honor of worshipping with friends, old and new.” 

Here are two key considerations to discuss: 

1. The most important thing she learned from this trek was how to—and how not to—make someone feel welcome. 

How can you better reach out to visitors and those you don’t recognize?

2. The church is the body of Christ, not a single congregation or just one denomination. We have a huge spiritual family, with varied practices. 

How should you adjust your understanding of church and Christianity to better embrace its vastness and diversity?

Learn how to make someone feel welcome when the visit your church. Embrace the fact that we are a huge spiritual family, with varied practices.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.