Categories
Bible Insights

God’s Book of Life

Is Your Name on the List?

Chapter 2 in the book of Ezra overflows with names. We often skim it or may face the temptation to skip it altogether. Buried among this dizzying array of names is a sidenote that’s easy to miss, but it carries an important lesson.

Many of the Israelite exiles prepare to return to God’s promised land. Among them is a group of people, but they can’t prove their heritage. They search for their family records but do not find them. As a result, they can’t serve as priests because their inability to prove their lineage to Aaron makes them unclean for service.

Someone did not keep good records, and the price for their sloppiness is exclusion from the priesthood. They didn’t value their heritage and that makes them ineligible to serve.

The Good List

Although Santa Claus has a good list and a naughty list based on behavior, God does not—even though some people believe differently. True, the Old Testament values genealogies and lineages to determine who is in and who was out, but Jesus did away with that.

Instead, he saves us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It’s open to everyone. God’s grace and our faith puts us on God’s list. Our family tree doesn’t matter to God.

The Lamb’s Book of Life

The only list God has is the book of life. David talks about it (Psalm 69:28), and so does Paul (Philippians 4:3). But most of the references to the book of life occur in Revelation, which is fitting because Revelation concludes with us going to meet Jesus in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

Usually, John calls this the book of life, but twice he refers to it as the Lamb’s book of life. That is, Jesus’s book of life.

Jesus’s book of life is the only book we need to be in. It’s the only list that matters. Click To Tweet

It’s the only book we need to be in, the only list that matters. We don’t need to keep our own records to prove we’re on this list because God maintains it. He enters our names when we follow Jesus, and never crosses them off.

Thank you, Jesus for saving us and entering our names in the Lamb’s book of life.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezra 1-3 and today’s post is on Ezra 2:59-62.]

Check out the parallel passage is in Nehemiah 7:61-65.

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.

Categories
Christian Living

What is the Kingdom of God?

Eternal Life Begins Today (Not When We Die)

Jesus often talks about the kingdom of God (the kingdom of heaven). He talks about how close the kingdom of God is, saying that it’s near and even that it’s here. How do we understand this immediacy of the kingdom of God in our life today? Is this just a euphemism for heaven? Does it mean eternal life?

If so, how could it have been near 2,000 years ago but now something we anticipate for our future?

The Kingdom of God is More Than Heaven

Though an aspect of the kingdom of God looks forward to our eternity with Jesus in heaven, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who follow Jesus, we must view eternal life as both a present and a future reality. But this is just the beginning.

The Kingdom of God is Jesus

When Jesus tells his disciples that the kingdom of God is nearby and even that it has arrived, he could have been talking about himself. After all, if Jesus personifies the kingdom of God, then he is in fact close by and present.

We will do well to consider Jesus as the kingdom of God, but we limit our understanding if we don’t expand our comprehension of it.

The Kingdom of God is Salvation

Jesus’s arrival on earth is good news. It’s still good news today. If we follow Jesus as his disciples, this good news is ours. It’s our salvation, both present and future. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and the salvation he provides, but there’s more.

The Kingdom of God is a Lifestyle

The kingdom of God is also about us. Just as Jesus and the salvation he offers is part of the kingdom of God, so too are we. However, this isn’t an intellectual standing for us to enjoy, it’s a lifestyle. To be part of the kingdom of God means living a life for Jesus, to honor him, glorify him, and point people to him.

The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today, not when we die and go to heaven. Click To Tweet

Embracing Eternal Life

Yes, the kingdom of God is about our eternity in heaven, but it’s also about our present reality on earth. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and his salvation, along with a life we lead in response to his free gift to us.

The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today, not when we die and go to heaven. Heaven is just phase two of eternal life.

We’re living in phase one today—at least we should be. Are you?

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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.

Categories
Bible Insights

What is Eternal Life?

When Does Eternal Life Begin

The phrase eternal life occurs forty-two times in the Bible. But what exactly does this mean? Do you know that eternal life begins now?

Some think that it is a synonym for heaven. If we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven when we die. That is what eternal life means. That’s a good start to our understanding of the phrase, but that’s not all there is to it. There’s more, much more.

As we read the Bible, we get a sense of our life eternal beginning now, here in this world. We learn this from the apostle John, whose references to eternal life are often present tense. This means that it begins now.

Eternal life begins here on earth through Jesus. Click To Tweet

When we follow Jesus, our life eternal with him, and through him, begins immediately. Right now. Today. It begins here on earth through Jesus and continues into heaven when our physical bodies die.

If you follow Jesus, you can begin enjoying his eternal life today.

[See verses about eternal life in the NIV Bible, John 5:24, John 3:14-21, John 5:39-40, John 3:34-36.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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.

Categories
Christian Living

Raised from the Dead: More Biblical Mentions of Resurrection

Raised from the Dead: More Biblical Mentions of Resurrection

Discover What the Scripture Says About Overcoming Death

Last week we talked about the ten times the Bible records people raised from the dead. Now we’ll expand that thought and explore more Biblical references about people rising from the dead.

Valley of Bones

Ezekiel records a vision in which he sees the bones of a human army reassembling themselves and coming back to life. Although we could interpret this as a literal resurrection, it’s better seen as an allusion to what God plans to do in a spiritual sense.

Attached to this evocative vision is a prophetic word to the people of Israel telling them that God will bring them back to life and return them home to the promised land. It’s also a pledge of restoration into a spiritual afterlife (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Two Witnesses

In similar fashion, John’s epic vision of the end times talks about two witnesses raised from the dead after three and a half days. Their resurrection terrifies all who see them. Then God calls them to join him in heaven.

Though we could interpret this vision in a literal sense that two people will come back to life at the end of time, we may be better off understanding the whole vision as allegory with us being raised from the dead and joining God in heaven (Revelation 11:1-14).

All Who Are God’s Children

As followers of Jesus, we carry a hope of being raised from the dead, too, and spending eternity in heaven with our creator and our Savior. Paul confirms this in his letter to the church in Ephesus when he reminds them that we’ll be raised from the dead through Jesus to join him in heaven (Ephesians 2:6).

Paul again addresses this in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. When Jesus comes again we’ll rise from the dead, be caught up in the clouds, and live with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Women Who Received Back Their Dead

In the book of Hebrews, we have one short sentence that states a fact without explanation. In the chapter about faith, the writer references women who received back their dead, people raised to life again. (Hebrews 11:35).

We don’t know who these people are or how many. It could refer to the son of a widow in Zarephath and the Shunammite woman’s boy, raised from the dead by Elijah and Elisha, respectively. Or could refer to other instances we aren’t aware of.

Regardless God raised people from the dead in the Old Testament.

Enoch

We must mention the Enoch, even though God didn’t raise him from the dead. This is because Enoch didn’t die. He skipped that step. He faithfully walked with God, and God took him away, presumably to join him in heaven (Genesis 5:24).

Elijah

Similar to Enoch, Elijah didn’t die either but went up to heaven in a whirlwind when his time here on earth was over (Elijah 2:11).

Isaac

We have the Old Testament story of God telling Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Though Abraham is willing, God provides an alternative to stave off Isaac’s death (Genesis 22:1-19).

The New Testament adds clarity to this passage. It says that Abraham was willing to carry out God’s command confident that God could resurrect Isaac, in effect raising him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When Jesus comes again, we’ll rise from the dead and live with him forever. Click To Tweet

Jesus Raised from the Dead

God provided Abraham with a ram, an alternate sacrifice instead of Isaac. For us today, Jesus is our alternate sacrifice.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved he was more powerful than death. Don’t miss this truth. And through him we, too, can move from this life to death to life again—eternal life.

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.

Categories
Christian Living

How Much Did Jesus Suffer When He Died for Us?

Jesus Died as the Ultimate Sacrifice So That We May Live

The Old Testament of the Bible overflows with instructions about offering sacrifices to God and how his people but them into practice. One of those sacrifices served as an annual sacrifice for the sins of the people.

The people had to repeat it each year because the sacrifice offered only partial coverage.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Jesus came as the ultimate sin sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He accomplished for all time what the Old Testament sacrifices could only cover annually.

When followers of Jesus look at his sacrifice, some celebrate him as the suffering Savior who died for our sins and others laud as the risen Savior who overcame death. Which is it? Both. Jesus died and defeated death so that we may live.

In his death as the ultimate sacrifice for all the mistakes we’ve made, Jesus suffered greatly. Each of the Bible’s four biographies about Jesus include the account of his sacrificial death: Matthew 27:32-61, Mark 15:21-47, Luke 23:26-56, and John 19:28-42.

Physical Pain

The first-century people who read these passages knew too well about the physical pain and suffering that crucified people endured. They witnessed it firsthand many times. Therefore, the writers of these accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion didn’t need to give details of the agony he endured.

The people understood it. They comprehended what Jesus underwent.

For us in the twenty-first century, we lack this firsthand understanding of the physical pain brought about by death through crucifixion. Yet a medical description of what Jesus underwent is truly horrific. But there’s more.

Emotional Pain

Beyond the physical trauma of receiving a beating beyond recognition, being nailed to a cross to suffer, and then dying, Jesus also endured emotional pain. All around him people mocked him, taunted him, and belittled him and his mission.

He worried about the future of his mother, Mary. He carried concern about his disciples wondering if they could manage without him. And when Jesus needed it most, his Father had to look away.

Spiritual Pain

Yet even more than the emotional agony and the physical trauma of his execution, Jesus endured a spiritual pain. It was most horrific.

Recall our embarrassment over the most shameful thing we’ve ever done. If you’re like me, you’d rather not. Now multiply that over a lifetime of mistakes. It’s a huge weight to shoulder. When King David considered this, he said that his guilt overwhelmed him. It was a burden he couldn’t bear (Psalm 38:4).

Now multiply one lifetime of shame times several billion people. That’s what Jesus bore when he died as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. At that one moment, the sins of everyone who ever lived and ever will live all fell on Jesus.

What an overwhelming, incomprehensible weight to bear. Yet Jesus took all of our sins, for all people, for all time and sacrificially bore them so that we wouldn’t have to.

Jesus suffered, died, and overcame death so that we may live with him forever. Thank you, Jesus.

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.

Categories
Christian Living

Can You Be a ____ and Still Be a Christian?

We Must Be Careful Not to Judge Others Based on Who We Are or What We Do

Over the years I’ve heard many people wonder out loud about the validity of another Christian’s faith based on what they do or some aspect of their life. Often this takes the form of, “Can you be a ______ and still be a Christian?” What goes in the blank is both varied and wide-ranging.

Can You Be a Christian?

Lately, here in the United States, I’ve heard political party affiliations inserted into the blank, namely Republican or Democrat. Other times it’s economic philosophies, such as socialist, communist, or someone advocating democracy.

For those with a legalistic perspective, various personal activities and lifestyle choices are apt to find themselves inserted into this question. And in other instances, assorted occupations end up in this blank.

And I’ve even heard specific theological perspectives used with this question. Such as, “Can you embrace predestination and still be a Christian?” Of course, the alternate query is, “Can you embrace free will and still be a Christian?”

Come on. Give me a break. Yet I’ve heard these types of questions asked, along with many more, some of which are even more ridiculous.

Wrongly Judging Others

In each instance there is a similar underlying concern. The person asking the question finds living a Christian life—that is, being a follower of Jesus—incompatible with a specific philosophy, lifestyle, action, or vocation—which others espouse, and they avoid.

From their perspective, from their worldview, they see a disconnect they can’t reconcile. Yet they are judging others with wrong motives. James warns against this (James 4:11-12).

Therefore we should not concern ourselves with others, but focus on our own behaviors, placing our trust in God. Only he should judge us. Only he can save us.

Jesus Wants Us to Follow Him

Jesus calls everyone to follow him. He doesn’t care about our politics, philosophy, or occupation. He gives us love and offers acceptance. He embraces those who have a sincere interest in pursuing a relationship with him. Even those who remain undecided receive a gentle answer.

A Personal Decision

Yes, there are certain types of work I would not do and certain lifestyle choices I avoid, but these are personal decisions based on how I determine to best pursue my faith in God and what it means to me to be a follower of Jesus.

It would be wrong for me to apply my ideals to other people who may make other decisions about how to best pursue their faith.

We will all fall short and miss the mark. But Jesus offers us mercy and grace when we do. Click To Tweet

The key point is that we have Jesus in common. The essential consideration is that we’re doing our best to follow him on our journey of life. Along the way, we will all fall short and miss the mark. But Jesus offers us mercy and grace when we do.

Through Jesus we will spend our afterlife with him—regardless of some of the secondary decisions we may have made along the way as we navigated our journey.

Thank you, Jesus!

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 4-5, and today’s post is on James 4:11-12.]

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Inherit Eternal Life

The Bible tells the story of a rich young ruler who asks Jesus the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

His use of the word inherit is interesting—and a bit confounding.

His question implies that salvation is inherited. Is this a misconception of the man posing the question? Surely we cannot inherit a right relationship with God from our parents or relatives. This is not a condition that is passed on to us, but one we need to seek and receive on our own.

The man’s use of the word inherit, however, does imply that eternal life is a gift given after the death of a benefactor and it can’t be earned. These conclusions are both true.

We do not earn our future life in heaven; it is given to us.

And, yes, someone had to die before we could receive this inheritance, but it’s not a relative; it’s Jesus.

Jesus died so we could have life. Thank you, Jesus!

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 16-18 and today’s post is on Luke 18:18.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now 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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Do You Have Life?

Whoever has the Son has life

In the first of John’s three letters, he writes to the early followers of Jesus, reminding them of God’s essential message about Jesus, light, and life. Jesus, by the way, is the light and he gives life. So amid John’s poetic flare, his words all revolve around Jesus. And the Son has life.

As John winds down his letter, he writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” He makes it so simple.

We take this word life to mean eternal life, that is, our future life in heaven.

Yes, it is that. But this future begins today, not later after we die. The life Jesus gives us is physical life, too. And this might be just as important. Really.

Too many Christians plod through this life, placing all their hopes in a future life in heaven. Their exclusive future focus robs them of what God wants to give them today.

We need to make the most of this life that Jesus gives us. Live for him. Love others as he does. Point them to Jesus, the Son of God.

Seek Jesus and you will have him. It’s that simple. Click To Tweet

John makes it clear: Whoever has the Son has life.

Do you have the Son?

If so, the life he gives starts here, now.

If not, seek Jesus and you will have life. It’s that simple.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 John 5 to 3 John and today’s post is on 1 John 5:12.]

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.

Save

Categories
Christian Living

How Can We Be Children of God if Jesus is the Only Son of God?

Discover How God Can Have One Son and Have Many Sons (and Daughters) Too

The Bible calls Jesus the Son of God. We see this in forty New Testament verses from speakers ranging from his disciples to his detractors, including evil spirits and even Satan.

Saying that Jesus is the Son of God suggests there’s only one Son. Indeed, other verses—such as John 3:16—call him God’s one and only Son.

This means that God is Jesus’s father, and Jesus is his only Son.

But if Jesus is the only Son of God, why does the Bible also call us sons and daughters (children) of God? If we receive him (John 1:12), are led by his Spirit (Romans 8:14), and have faith (Galatians 3:26), then we become children of God.

As his children, is that why we pray to him as “Our Father” (see Matthew 6:9) or should only Jesus get to do that?

The Bible is not contradicting itself. Jesus can be the one and only Son of God and at the same time, we can also be sons and daughters of God. Here are two ways to understand this.

The Bride of Christ

Jesus talks often about the groom (bridegroom) and his bride, implying that he is the groom and his followers are his bride. John the Baptist testified that he came to pave the way for the Messiah: Jesus, the bridegroom. The bride belongs to the groom (John 3:27-29).

The apostle John reinforces this in his epic vision that includes a future wedding of bridegroom and bride. Jesus is the Lamb, and we are his bride.

As the bride of Christ, we become God’s children through marriage. God has one Son, and through our marriage to his Son, we, too, become the children of God.

However, this idea of being spiritually married to Jesus is hard for many people to accept, especially men. Fortunately, there’s another analogy that’s easier to grasp.

Through Adoption

Another illustration of our relationship with Father God is adoption.

Paul writes that by receiving God’s spirit we’re adopted into God’s family, becoming his sons and daughters. Through God’s spirit, we can then call him, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Being adopted as his sons and daughters was God’s plan from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4-6).

Adoption is a beautiful image. As adopted children, God selects us; we’re chosen. The act is intentional. Through adoption we then become God’s heirs, co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 4:14). As heirs, we receive eternal life from him (Titus 3:7).

As God’s children we are heirs of all he has. This includes the gift of spending eternity with him. Click To Tweet

We Are Children of God

Through our spiritual marriage to Jesus, we become children of God. Through our spiritual adoption into his family, we also become children of God. As God’s children we are heirs of all he has. This includes the gift of spending eternity with him.

Praise Father God.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

God Gives Us Living Water

Living Water Flows from God’s Temple and Is for Our Benefit

In the Old Testament, the people perceived that God lived in the temple. They saw this as his residence on earth. To connect with him meant they had to go to the temple.

As Ezekiel winds down his lengthy prophecy, the man in his vision brings him to the doorway of the temple. And we go there with them. The man is about to reveal something extraordinary to Ezekiel—and to us: living water.

Water flows from the temple and produces a river. It’s wide and deep. Many trees grow along its banks, finding sustenance in its life-giving water. Living creatures thrive wherever the river goes. And not just a few.

Ezekiel says that swarms of God’s creation will make their home in this pure water that comes from him.

What’s more, God’s water has restorative properties. When it encounters saltwater, God’s flowing river will make the salty water fresh. Saltwater has little value. It can’t sustain human life. So, God will take something unusable and make it usable. That’s what he does.

When he makes salty water fresh, he redeems it to make it pure again, to make it good, and to make it capable of supporting life. That’s what God’s water does.

We also see this idea of life-giving water elsewhere in the Bible.

Living Water in the Beginning

During creation, God proclaims that the water will team with living creatures (Genesis 1:20). As part of God’s amazing creation, he places within it life-giving water.

Living Water at the End

In Revelation, we see Jesus sitting on his throne as a shepherd. He will lead us to springs of life-giving water (Revelation 7:17). In doing so he brings us back to God’s perfect, idyllic creation. To the world as he met it to be.

God’s living water gives us eternal life. Click To Tweet

Living Water through Jesus

Jesus—who was there at creation and will be there at the end—connects these two bookends. He says, “If you’re thirsty, come to me, and I will give you something to drink. If you believe in me, living water will flow from you” (John 7:38).

Imagine that. God’s living water flowing through us because we came to Jesus and believed in him.

And when Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well, he offers to give her a special kind of water (John 4:9-14). She—and everyone else—who drinks of Jesus’s water will never be thirsty again. A spring will well up inside her, and us, to produce eternal life.

God’s living water gives us eternal life.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 46-48, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 47:1-9.]

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.