When Asked about Salvation, Jesus Said, “Follow Me”

When people talked to Jesus, the discussion was often about the same thing, whether broached with the phrase “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of heaven,” “eternal life,” “salvation,” or “saved.”

When asked about salvation, Jesus told people to "follow me."Sometimes the people asked, what must we do? How can we receive it? And Jesus responded.

Although his instructions varied with the person and situation, the thing he said most often was simple: “Follow me.”

There were no steps to check off or hoops to jump through.

How Big Is Your Tent?In the centuries that followed, especially the last few, well-meaning people added requirements. They took something simple and inserted their own twists. But there’s little biblical support to insist upon these man-made expectations.

Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.


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We Must Listen to God and Do What He Says

God Promises Rewards for Obedience and Punishment for DisobedienceWe must listen to God.

As we read through the book of Leviticus, which is a struggle for most of us, we read instruction after instruction of what God expects from his people. With precise detail, his commands come forth one after another. Then, in chapter 26, the book begins to wrap up. Here we see the prior chapters put into perspective. The key concept here is that we must listen to God and follow him.

The chapter opens with a detailed list of rewards for those who listen to God, follow his decrees, and obey his commands. He promises favor, peace, and fruitfulness. Isn’t this a life we all want to experience?

But then the tone of the chapter changes. The word “but” signals a transition. For those who refuse to listen to God, don’t carry out his commands, and reject his decrees, he adds a list of threats (Leviticus 26:14-16) that contrast to the comforting promises in the first half of the chapter. He talks about terror, disease, and enemy oppression. We all want to avoid these things. God doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to turn to him. Click To Tweet

However, these aren’t to punish us but to get our attention.

After a few verses he says, “If after all this…” It’s like he’s taking a breath and giving his people—and us—a second chance. We must grab this opportunity. Because if we don’t, more punishment will follow, with dire repercussions.

What follows in the rest of the chapter is a series of chances: a third chance, a fourth chance, a fifth chance, and so on.

God doesn’t want to punish us. He wants us to turn to him, follow him, and obey him. His message is clear. We must listen to God and do what he says. Then we will receive the rewards he wants to give us.

And this all starts when we listen to God.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 25-26, and today’s post is on Leviticus 26:14-16.]

How Does the Old Testament Law Fit Our New Testament Faith?

The Old Testament Law gets us started and points us to Jesus

Why is the Old Testament Law in the Bible? How is it relevant for us today? Many followers of Jesus ignore the Law they read in the Old Testament, and a few people pick which parts of it they want to follow and dismiss the rest. As for me, I’m searching for a way to connect the Old Testament Law with my faith and make sense of it without being weighed down by it.How Does the Old Testament Law Fit Our New Testament Faith?

Courtesy of Matthew, we know that Jesus came to fulfill the Law but not eliminate it (Matthew 5:17). In addition, Paul writes that the Law of the Old Testament served as our “guardian” until Jesus came (Galatians 3:24). Does this mean we can get rid of the Old Testament Law? Not so fast.

The word guardian is interesting. Let’s dig into it. In considering some fifty translations of the Bible for this verse, Guardian occurs in 17 of them. Here are some of the words used in other versions: tutor (12 times), schoolmaster (7), disciplinarian (7), custodian (4), “in charge of us” (4), teacher (3), guide (3), governess (2), trainer (1), chaperone (1), babysitter (1), child-conductor (1), master (1), and gateway (1). And just to be thorough, we have pedagogue (1), under-master (1), and “watching over us” (1). Finally, the Message says, “we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law,” that is, the Old Testament Law.

Education and the Old Testament Law

Let’s consider the theme of education (tutor, schoolmaster, teacher, guide, trainer, and more). In elementary school I learned the basics from my teachers. In junior high and high school, we built upon our basic education to more fully understand our lessons. And in college we expanded our understanding further. Then later still, our life lessons built upon all our formal education.

What my elementary school teachers taught me wasn’t wrong, but it was incomplete. The same goes for high school and college. Even now, I continue to build upon my initial levels of education as I grasp for a deeper understanding of the basics I once learned. This same concept applies to most of the other words that the various translations use for this verse. We shouldn’t view the Old Testament law as wrong or as irrelevant, but it is incomplete. Click To Tweet

In the same token, we shouldn’t view the Old Testament Law as wrong or irrelevant, but it is incomplete. We must build upon it. The Law moves us forward in our faith in Jesus. Then, as we mature, our understanding transcends into something more, something much more.

It’s as if the Old Testament Law gets us started and points us in the right direction. Then Jesus furthers our education by building upon it. The Law isn’t something we should ignore, nor is it the goal. The Law is the beginning, and Jesus is the end.

42,000 Protestant Denominations

Christianity Today recently reported that there are 42,000 Protestant denominations. That is shocking.42,000 protestant denominations

However, given that in the United States we have a consumerism mentality, this development is hardly surprising. Consumerism says that if you don’t like the church you are at, you keep shopping until you find one. If you can’t find one that fits, you start your own.

Compounding consumerism is the celebration of the individual. Individuals don’t value community or the collective good. Instead, blazing one’s own trail is celebrated and exalted. But individualism is selfish and self-centered. The attitude is, “it’s all about me.”

However, 42,000 Protestant denominations are not what Jesus had in mind at all. His intent was one—and that includes the other streams of Christianity, too.

How Big Is Your Tent?Why can’t we just be one in Jesus and forget about our denominations, our disagreements, and our doctrines?

Consumerism and individuality is not the goal, unity is.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 

Be Holy Because God is Holy

The Bible Gives Us a Framework for Why We Should Be HolyBe Holy Because God is Holy

Reading through the book of Leviticus challenges most people. Its words fail to engage our imagination as they drone on with seemingly repetitious commands. But there are gems buried within its verses—if our minds aren’t too glossed over to see them. In today’s verse, God tells us to be holy, but then he tells us why.

The idea to be holy—to live with God-honoring words and actions—both compels and confounds me. I like this ideal, but I fall short on the implementation. Holiness is easier said than done. Sometimes I wonder why I should even bother to try to be holy—as if I can accomplish it on my own, anyway.

Fortunately, Leviticus gives us some insight into this holiness thing.

Following another string of things to do and not to do, God inserts this overarching thought. He says, “Therefore be holy, because” . . . wait for it . . . “because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45, NIV).

Be Holy Because . . .

Notice that God doesn’t say, “Be holy because I said so,” even though he has every right to. Instead he gives an explanation. Knowing the why behind the command helps me a lot. I’ll take an explained instruction over a blanket edict any day.

In this explanation we have a reminder that God is holy. As we pursue a relationship with him, we’ll become more like him. A bit of God will rub off on us. We will, in fact, become more holy. As we seek to be in relationship with God, we will become more like him. We will become more holy. Click To Tweet

This doesn’t mean we must be perfect before we approach him, but it does remind us that he appreciates a little bit of holiness. Our motivation to be holy doesn’t come because God says so. It comes from a desire to be more like him and be in a closer relationship with him. And that’s a holiness I want to strive for.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 11-12, and today’s post is on Leviticus 11:45.]

Not Another Communion Sunday

We Should Celebrate the Lord’s Supper to Remember What Jesus Did for Us

Holy Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is a time of celebration. In this we remember what Jesus did for us when he died in our place for the things we did wrong. In doing so, he reconciled us with the Father. His act of ultimate love for us is the foundation of our Christian faith.Celebrate Communion

Given this, you’d think I’d look forward to another Communion Sunday. I don’t.

Though I try to anticipate the Lord’s Supper, enjoy its rich symbolism, and connect with God, I struggle. I most always fall short. When I take communion, God seems distant—at the very time we should be the closest

The problem for me is the ritual. I know that some of you relish the ritual of the Eucharist. You find deep, profound meaning in its practice. I’m so happy for you. Unfortunately, the repetition of the ritual pushes me away. It serves as a wedge between God and me.

Not Another Communion Sunday

A few weeks ago, I walked into church and saw it configured for communion. I groaned inwardly. “Not another Communion Sunday.” At least I hope it was inwardly.

This church seems to practice communion about once a month. Sometimes the message connects with it, albeit in a tangential form, and other times it doesn’t—or if it does, I miss it. The Lord’s Supper unfolds not so much as a celebration but as an obligation. It’s mechanical. It’s something to check off our to-do list before we wrap up the service.

I’ve been to other churches that have Communion about once a quarter, while others do it weekly. And I went to one church that tried doing it every other week. There they worked to make it significant, but the effect was a mini sermon about communion after we already heard a full-length sermon about something else. My mind wasn’t in a listening mode.

No schedule seems right to me. This is why, when I looked at the biblical history behind communion, I suspected it should be an annual event, just like Passover.

Frequency Isn’t the Issue

At first, I suspected that I’ve simply been to too many Communion services over the years for it to ever be something I’d anticipate and that would connect me with God. Often the church liturgy—whether a formal one or merely a rut that leaders have slipped into—uses the phrase “celebrate Communion.” Often the church liturgy uses the phrase “celebrate Communion,” but it doesn’t seem like much of a celebration. Click To Tweet

Celebration, however, seems far from what takes place. If someone told me they wanted to celebrate my birthday and it proceeded like a typical communion service, I would say, “No thank you,” as politely as I could. Then I would do my best to avoid it.

Friday Night Pizza

Something I do look forward to in our family is Friday night pizza. Most every week we get together with our children and grandchildren to share a meal, celebrate life, and enjoy each other’s company. This is the highlight of my week. And for those few weeks where our schedules don’t align, I have a weighty dread that something profound is missing.

Why can’t I anticipate Sunday communion the same way I anticipate Friday night pizza? The reason is they are completely different. One is boring, and the other is exciting. One unfolds like a solemn funeral march (in the way it is, because, after all, Jesus did die), and the other is a raucous embrace of family. One lasts a few minutes before we leave the church service, and the other can go on for hours as we enjoy community.

The Next Step

If only Sunday Communion could be more like Friday night pizza, then my attitude would be different. I’d approach Communion with expectation and make sure I never missed it.

While some may find offense that I compared the ritual of another Sunday Communion to the joy of my family’s weekly practice of Friday night pizza, we can learn from this. We need to make the first more like the second. Then communion—which, by the way, started out as part of a meal—can become the celebration it should be.

How we make this happen in a church service, however, presents a significant challenge. There is simply too much ingrained historical baggage to overcome. That’s why I advocated we bring the celebration of communion into our homes to enjoy with family and friends, as part of a meal, just like the first communion and just like Passover that preceded it.

When we do this, our attitude will shift from moaning “Not another Communion Sunday” to exclaiming “It’s another communion Sunday!”

Take a Step Toward Christian Unity

In my neighborhood, a fair number of people attend church. None of them go to the church I attend and, as far as I know, no one else attends the same church as their neighbors. Even more confounding is that there are two churches within a mile, but no one attends them either. In fact, we all drive by other churches as we motor to our own church of choice.We must pursue Christian Unity

How sad.

Even though we are all of the Christian faith, we fail to abide in that reality. Instead we denominate ourselves into disparate subgroups based on our individual traditions, preferred practices, and pet perceptions of what it means to be Christian.

This wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. He wants us to be one—just as he and his father are one.

Unity was the intent, but disunity was the result.

Although our enemy would prefer that we not follow God at all, his backup plan seems to be to hold us in adamant disagreement. This may be almost as an effective ploy.

How Big Is Your Tent?While we can’t quickly repair these centuries old rifts, a good first step is to be open-minded towards our brothers and sisters, willing to listen to what they have to say and accept them regardless. This would show God’s love to another, something that is also important to Jesus.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

Walk with God and Do Not Stumble

The righteous walk in God’s ways, while the rebellious trip over his wordsWalk with God and Do Not Stumble

As the prophecy of Hosea winds down he urges Israel (and us) to turn from our shortcomings and return to God. When we do this, blessing will follow: blessings for us and for others through us. Once again, we have this concept in the Bible of being blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

After this conclusion to his message, Hosea tacks on a final thought. He says that God’s ways are right. Those who are righteous walk with God; they follow him. Those who rebel against God will stumble (Hosea 14:9).

If we find ourselves stumbling over what God tells us to do, this could imply we’re rebellious. This doesn’t mean we can’t have questions. In fact, I think God enjoys our questions—as long as we’re sincere and ask with the right motives. But if we disregard what he says, we shouldn’t be surprised when we trip over it.

Walk with God and Do Not Rebel

Some people read the Bible and delight in it. They’re happy to follow God and walk in his ways.

Other people read the Bible and mock it. They think it’s outdated and irrelevant for their lives in today’s world. Yet in ignoring it, they end up stumbling over it. Then they can’t figure out why their lives are a mess. “Why don’t things work out for me?” they ask. “Why can’t I catch a break?” But this happens when they rebel against God and stumble over what he tells them to do. Walk with God, and do not stumble. Click To Tweet

They can’t have it both ways.

Though God doesn’t force himself on anyone, a person can’t rebel against him and ignore his words and then expect to receive his blessings. People who don’t know God stumble over his ways and fall. Ironically, these rebellious people then often blame God for their troubles. But he didn’t cause them. They did.

Walk with God, and do not stumble.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hosea 13-14, and today’s post is on Hosea 14:9.]

Love Is the Greatest Command

The Most Important Thing in the Bible Is Love

Though the Bible has many commands, love is the greatest command of them all. Check it out:The greatest of these is love.

The Old Testament Law

In the first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the Torah or Pentateuch, God gives instructions to Moses. The people refer to this as the law. These rules, or guidelines, are numerous. In fact, there are 613. Though I once considered counting them myself, I decided not to. Plenty of Jewish scholars already have, and they come up with 613. I’m fine with that.

Bible students divide these 613 instructions into two categories: things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. Some people call these positive commands and negative commands. In case you’re wondering, yes, there are more things we shouldn’t do than things we should do. Furthermore, some Bible academics group these 613 commands by topic, such as worshiping God, making vows, offering sacrifices, and so forth. Even with these divisions and categorizations, the number of instructions is still unwieldy. Besides there’s not too many people I know—okay there’s no one I know—who follows all 613 rules.

The Ten Commandments

In the middle of the 613 instructions, we find the Ten Commandments. Ten is much more manageable than 613. Most people I know affirm the Ten Commandments—even if they can’t list all ten. (Though I can come close, I can’t either. But this doesn’t trouble me because different faith traditions can’t agree on what the ten are anyway.)

Again, scholars divide this list. The first four commandments relate to our relationship with God, and the last six relate to our relationship with others. Also, if you’re keeping track, the majority of the Ten Commandments tell us what not to do, only a few tell us what we should do.

Jesus Summarizes the Law

Someone asks Jesus to identify the greatest commandment. But he doesn’t give one answer. He gives two. The first is to love God fully and completely. The second is similar, to love others as much as we love ourselves. Then Jesus adds that the Law and writings of the prophets all hinge on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36–40).

Though Jesus gives two answers, they have a common theme. The theme is love. Love is the greatest command. Love is the greatest commandment. Click To Tweet

Paul Writes about Love

In the first letter Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he devotes a whole section to love. He tells them how important love is and gives them a description of how love behaves. Then he says that love never ends, even though prophecies—and other things people think are important—will cease. He concludes this famous passage with a succinct phrase, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13).

Love Is the Greatest

So, we start with 613 instructions, focus on the ten big ones, and then Jesus narrows it down to two, which have a common theme of love. Paul confirms that love trumps everything.

Instead of focusing on what we should and shouldn’t do—following a list of requirements with religious fervor—we should instead turn our attention to the greatest commandment: love.

Love God, and love others.

If we do this everything else should fall into place.

Feasting on the Religious Buffet

The Western World, especially the United States, is largely an individualistic, narcissistic society.

In applying this mindset to religious matters, the in thing is to seek spirituality in an individualistic, narcissistic way. We pursue the formation of our religious convictions as if we were at a buffet, a religious buffet. We pick a little bit of one thing, try a tad of something else, combine two things that were never intended to go together, and so on.Eating from a religious buffet, produces a feel-good religion that means nothing

The result of our religious buffet is that we end up creating a God that is who we want him to be. We effectively make God into our image. We dumb down the divine. This is not wise, and just because we feel justified in the process, it doesn’t render the results as right or worthy.

In college, I learned that there are two theories for how electricity moves through a conductor. (If you care, they are electron theory and hole theory—and they move in opposite directions.) Each has its relative merits in aiding in the understanding of all things electric, but mixing the two together only results in confusion and consternation. They are mutually exclusive; when combined, the results are untenable.

How Big Is Your Tent?Likewise, with our religious buffet is untenable. Attempting to live in a religious amalgamation won’t work. We need to pick one thing and go with it, fully and without reservation. For me, it is the God who is revealed in the Bible. Adding anything to that is only a distraction.

Use the Bible as your faith foundation to pursue the God—and his Son—who are revealed in and through it.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

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