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Christian Living

What Does God’s Grace Mean?

Jesus Offers Us the Gift Of Salvation; All We Need to Do Is Accept It

We read in scripture that we are saved by God’s grace through faith. There’s nothing else we must do. It is God’s gift to us. We can’t earn it. All we need to do is receive it (Ephesians 2:8-9). He doesn’t want any of us to die, to perish—no not one.

God’s Grace is a Gift

Grace means to receive something good that we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve to be saved, but God offers salvation to us anyway. He does this because he loves us, and he loves us unconditionally.

All we need to do to receive salvation through God’s grace is to follow Jesus. That’s what he told the people to do: “Follow me.” We do this when we believe in him. This is what it means to be born again.

It’s that simple.

There are no steps to take, no hoops to jump through, and no requirements to meet. Easy peasy. And don’t believe anyone who tells you anything different. If someone insists you must do something first or follow a bunch of rules, they’re a modern-day Pharisee or a slave to the Old Testament law that Jesus fulfilled.

Not Your Ordinary Religion

Christianity is unique compared to all other religions. This is because we don’t need to do things to earn our salvation, our right standing with the Almighty. Jesus offers it to us as a present, and all we need to do is accept his free gift.

We don’t need to change our behavior. We don’t need to take a class. And we don’t need to make sacrifices to become right with him. We just need to say “yes” and except the gift of God’s grace.

Contrary to what most people think and to how many Christians behave, Christianity is not a performance-based religion. It is grace based. Never lose sight of that.

Changed Behavior Is a Response

Once we receive Jesus’s gift of salvation, through God’s grace, our response may be to change our behavior. But this isn’t a requirement. It’s optional. And it comes later.

Changing how we act, what we say, and what we think is something we do to say “thank you” to Jesus. This shouldn’t be a burden, something we do out of guilt, or an obligation. It’s a choice we freely make for him with no strings attached.

Changing our lifestyle for Jesus once we follow him should be a natural response for receiving the greatest present anyone could receive: the gift of eternal life.

Does God Owe Us Anything?

I acknowledge that I’m saved through Jesus and by God’s grace. I don’t need to earn it—I can’t. As a result of receiving Jesus’s salvation, my response is to change my life so that it more aligns with Jesus. This is an ongoing, lifelong process which I gladly pursue day by day.

And this is also the area I once struggled with. I used to think my good behavior, right living, and efforts to grow closer to God somehow earned me his favor. That he owed me because I studied Scripture, prayed, and fasted.

The fact that I gave money to advance his Kingdom and made sacrifices for him somehow must mean I’d earned his attention and deserved his good will. I expected I should receive his blessings because I had earned them.

This, of course, was wrong thinking on my part. Though I relied on God’s grace to save me, I forgot about his grace as I moved forward in my life.

Receive God’s Grace

Remember what we covered earlier: God’s grace is to receive something good that we don’t deserve. I don’t deserve God’s favor, blessings, or protection. I can’t earn it, and he doesn’t owe it to me. But by God’s grace he does all these things for me and more.

Following Jesus and living for him is all about God’s grace. Never forget that.

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

Christians and the Bible

Most Christians Already Know More About the Bible Than What They Put into Practice

I’ve already written that most Christians don’t let the Bible get in the way of what they believe. In short, they believe things that aren’t biblical. It’s true. A related thought is that most Christians already know more about the Bible than what they put into practice.

I’ll say it again, most Christians already know more about the Bible than what they put into practice.

Does the Bible Matter?

Many people dismiss what the Bible says, even Christians. They don’t care what it reveals, not really. They assume it’s out of date or think it’s irrelevant in today’s world. Depending on what they want, they may be right. Yet, if someone wants to know the God of the Bible, the Bible is the best way to get there.

Too many people make up their own religion, doing what feels good to them or what makes sense, but a man-made religion won’t save them. It may make them feel self-satisfied, but that temporal pursuit has no eternal value.

To discover truth, they need to look beyond themselves. They need a greater authority. For me, it’s the Bible.

If you want a relationship with the God of Scripture, then Scripture is the means to get there. Nothing else will do; nothing else matters. Then we need to put into practice what the Bible says and not just stuff more knowledge into our brain.

Should We Not Study the Bible?

If we already know more about the Bible than what we put into practice, does that mean we should stop studying it? No. On the contrary.

We need to continue to read, study, and meditate on the Bible. But there’s one more step. We then need to add action. We need to put into practice what we read about in the Bible.

That’s why what the Bible says is so important. Without Scripture, we wouldn’t know what we should do, what’s important, and what matters.

Amassing knowledge about the Bible isn’t the goal of Bible study. Learning how to live, such as to love one another, is. The Bible teaches us that, saying eleven times that we’re to love one another.

Bible study for the sake of learning isn’t the goal. Bible study to reform our thinking and inform our lives should be our intent. Otherwise, our heads will be full of knowledge, but that will be all.

Paul writes that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). Too many people who read the Bible are puffed up, but they don’t build up anyone.

As James writes, faith without action is dead (James 2:14-26). Therefore, as we study the Bible, it can—and should—spur us to action, making our lives come alive in tangible ways.

We shouldn’t read the Bible to learn as much as we should read the Bible to let its words produce action. Then we won’t be a Christian that knows more about the Bible than we put into practice.

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

Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Which Part of the Godhead Do You Focus On?

Though the Bible doesn’t use the word trinity, most followers understand God as a three-in-one deity, made up of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is three persons in one. Though implicitly equal, most adherents more readily embrace one form over the other. But which is it, Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

God the Father

Some traditions focus on God the Father as their primary view of God. Yes, they value Jesus, his son, and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s existence, but in their practice, they venerate God the Father as their primary view of God.

Father God dominates the Old Testament and forms their understanding of him. Though the Old Testament alludes to the coming Savior and the Spirit does some work, the focus is on God the Father.

God the Son

Jesus arrives in person in the New Testament, with four biographies devoted to him: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He’s central in the Bible, central in faith, and even central in world history.

Therefore, other churches and their adherents place their focus on Jesus the Christ (the Messiah). They give him their attention, making him their priority. In the process, they downplay the other two parts of the trinity: Father and Holy Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit

When Jesus returns to heaven, his followers receive the Holy Spirit to guide them, teach them, and remind them of everything he said. The Holy Spirit stars in the book of Acts, leading Jesus’s church.

As a result, other faith practices place their primary emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Yes, Jesus is important because he makes the Holy Spirit’s arrival possible and Father God is the point of salvation, but these believers elevate the Holy Spirit.

Which Is It?

I’ve been to churches that fit all three camps. I understand where each comes from. But who is right? Should our focus rightly be on the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Jesus provides the way to the Father; he is not the destination. Does that make the Father more important? Also consider that after his victory over death, Jesus must leave before the Holy Spirit can arrive. Does that make the Holy Spirit—who guides Jesus’s church today—more important?

If Jesus is the way to the Father and must leave before the Holy Spirit can arrive, does that make him less important than the other two?

Or is it the opposite, with Jesus as preeminent? After all, without Jesus to make the way to the Father or open the door for the Holy Spirit nothing else matters.

We must balance our view of God, equally esteeming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

We Need Balance

Though our various faith practices elevate one part of the godhead over the other two, we need not concern ourselves with the question of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Instead, we must equally embrace all three, pursuing a holistic, trinitarian understanding of God.

The correct perspective is that we must balance our view of God, equally esteeming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

May it be so.

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

Job: Fact or Fiction?

Among those who care about such things there is a debate as to the veracity of the story of Job. Succinctly, was Job a real person or is the book about him a work of fiction?

Supporting evidence that Job wasn’t a real person:

  • Job is not mentioned in any of the historical books of the Bible and only referred to once outside of the book bearing his name.
  • Job was “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1). And despite being afflicted, he “did not sin” (Job 1:22 & 2:10). Since only God is without sin, this characterization is false. Although it could also be hyperbole, a practice that occurs elsewhere in the Bible.

Supporting evidence that Job was a real person:

  • God, as recorded by the prophet Ezekiel, refers to Job along with Daniel and Noah (Ezekiel 14:19-20). Surely, if Job was fictional, God would not mention him in the same context as two people who did live (for whom there is biblical support).
  • In that same passage, God testifies that Job was righteous. It seems unlikely that God would so affirm a fictitious person as righteous.

So was Job a real person or not? Was his story fact or fiction?

The answers to these questions will never be fully resolved, but for me it doesn’t matter. Whether he is real or imagined, whether his story is fact or fiction, Job’s account is part of God’s inspired word. So regardless we can learn from it, be inspired by it, and be strengthened in our faith because of it.

Arguing about its origin is only a distraction from the truth that in contains.

May the Bible’s account of Job teach us and point us to God.

Discover more about Job in Peter’s book I Hope in Him: 40 Insights about Moving from Despair to Deliverance through the Life of Job. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

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

Does Your Faith Depend on Signs and Wonders?

Believe in Jesus and Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4:48, NIV). It’s a warning we should all consider with care. Some people have an experience-driven faith. They need a continual dose of signs and wonders to sustain their trust in God.

What Are Signs and Wonders?

Signs and wonders refer to supernatural manifestations of Holy Spirit power. These miraculous events escape tangible explanation.

They can include healing people, receiving a prophetic word, having supernatural insight, even raising people from the dead, and so on—just as we read in the Bible and as Jesus promised we would do.

The Error of Excess

There’s nothing wrong with signs and wonders, but to expect them to occur on a regular basis in ordinary life is not reality for most people (though for some it’s normal).

These individuals continually seek out signs and wonders by traveling from conference to conference and jumping from event to event.

They need a supernatural experience to give them a spiritual boost. Yet eventually the effects of the mystical elixir fades. Dismayed over the void that is left, the spiritual adventurer goes out in a desperate search for more.

And they are often distraught until they find it, crying out for God to provide.

So continues a never-satiated cycle to sustain their experience-driven faith.

The Error of Absence

The opposite of those who need to see signs and wonders to maintain their belief in God, are those who deny the very existence of the supernatural.

They explain away Holy Spirit power in the church today because it’s not something they have personally encountered—or are willing to accept as possible.

To justify their position, they go through theological gyrations to rationalize what they want to believe—or what they aren’t willing to accept. Their explanation is weak at best.

We need a sustainable faith that doesn’t depend on experiencing signs and wonders and at the same time have a biblical faith that accepts the work of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

A Balanced Perspective of Signs and Wonders

I know people—and love people—in both camps. They are on a spiritual journey with Jesus, just like me. On our walk with our Savior, we all need to avoid the error of both extremes when it comes to signs and wonders.

We must have a sustainable faith that doesn’t depend on experiencing signs and wonders and at the same time have a biblical faith that accepts the work of the Holy Spirit.

Just as chasing an experience-driven faith is bad, so is denying it.

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

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 many 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.

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

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.

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.


Read more in Peter’s devotional Bible study, A New Heaven and a New Earth: 40 Practical Insights from John’s Book of Revelation.

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

Do You Seek God First for Healing When You Are Sick?

Azariah the Son of Oded

Azariah, son of Oded, comes to Asa, King of Judah. The prophet tells the king, “If you see God, you’ll find him. If you walk away from him, he’ll walk away from you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). That is, to seek God first.

King Asa takes the prophet’s warning seriously and acts. He decides to seek God. He implements spiritual reforms and restores worship. The nation is at peace—at least for several years.

Then Asa makes a treaty with another king and goes to war against Israel. Another prophet, Hanani, goes to Asa criticizing him for relying on another nation, king, and army instead of God. This time, instead of responding positively, Asa takes offense and throws the sage in prison.

Things go downhill from there.

Seek God Today

A few years later Asa has a disease develop in his foot. Although painful, he does not seek God for healing. Instead he relies on doctors to cure him. They don’t. Two years later Asa dies.

In all instances, we are wise to seek God first. Click To Tweet

Many Christians in developed countries today act just like King Asa. When a medical problem arises, they rush off to the nearest doctor seeking the wisdom of people to restore them to full health.

And if the first physician doesn’t produce results, they’ll pursue a second opinion from another medical professional.

They don’t seek God for supernatural healing.

I’m not sure if this is because they’re not conditioned to turn to God for their physical ailments or if they don’t believe he can heal them. At best, they may whisper a short prayer asking that God will enable the physicians to heal them.

Jesus Came to Save and to Heal

Oh, how this must grieve God with our lack of faith and unwillingness to trust him with our health and our future. Remember, Jesus came to save and to heal. If we trust him for our salvation, why won’t we trust him for our healing?

Though this isn’t a call to dismiss medical treatment, it is a plea to seek God first and then consider modern healthcare as an adjunct or secondary source. Sometimes God will heal us directly and other times he will work through physicians.

But in all instances, we are wise to seek God first.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 16-18, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 16:12.]

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.

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Christian Living

Do We Need to Obey God?

Doing What the Bible Says Isn’t a Requirement but a Response

In the post about how to be saved we realized there’s nothing we need to do (or can do) to earn our salvation; it’s a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). This means we don’t need to first obey God before he accepts us. He accepts us through no merit of our own. We just need to receive his goodness—his grace—through faith. It’s that simple.

But Don’t Abuse God’s Grace

In a spiritual sense, grace means receiving something from God that we don’t deserve. Just as we don’t deserve salvation, we don’t deserve his love either. We don’t need to obey God for him to love us. He loves us—despite ourselves and our actions—and he always has and always will. He loved us when we were still disobedient, still sinners.

He loved us so much that Jesus died in our place (Romans 5:8). And nothing can cause him to withdraw his love from us (Romans 8:38-39). It’s another example of God’s endless grace.

If we don’t need to obey God for him to love us or to save us, does that mean we can continue to live in disobedience to him? To continue to sin? Of course not.

 Paul writes, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2, NIV).

Work Out Our Salvation

In another place Paul writes that we are to continue to work out our salvation  (Philippians 2:12-13). He doesn’t say we need to work for our salvation, but to work it out. It’s something we do after he saves us, not before, as in a prerequisite.

This means that we choose to obey God as a response to him loving us and saving us. The Bible calls this sanctification. And we’ll spend our whole life doing it, moving ourselves closer to God as we obey him.

We don’t have to do this, to work out our salvation by obeying him. But we should want to. He has, after all, given us the greatest present of all, the gift of eternal life with him.

We choose to live a life of obedience to God, not because we have to but because we want to. Click To Tweet

Obey God

We don’t need to obey God as a requirement to be saved. Instead, once we follow him and receive eternal life our response of gratitude is to obey God. It’s how we say thank you to him for the gift of salvation he gave us.

We choose to live a life of obedience to God, not because we have to but because we want to.

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

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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Bible Insights

Though David Says That God Is “My Refuge,” I Doubt David Feels It

When it Comes to God, Should We “Fake it Till We Make It?”

Psalm 142 is a prayer of lament. David’s hiding in a cave, likely fearing for his life. He feels alone with no one walking alongside him or having any concern for him. He cries out that he has no refuge, no protective shelter, no safe place.

Even though it seems his hideout in his cave provides a refuge, it’s a physical safety. Perhaps he also seeks a spiritual refuge. He feels he has none.

In his despair, he cries out to God. He writes, “I say, ‘you are my refuge,’”

Note that he doesn’t proclaim that God is “my refuge.” How could he do that when he just said he has no refuge? He merely says that he said it, not that he confidently believes that God is “my refuge.”

Push Through the Doubt

This reminds me of the phrase, “Fake it, till you make it.” I’m not sure how I feel about this adage when it comes to God and spiritual matters, or when it comes to anything, for that matter. But it seems that’s what David does.

Though he says God is my refuge, he doesn’t believe it. Not at that moment. But he prays it anyway. He’s pushing through his doubt, hoping to reemerge to find confidence in God again.

David isn’t being disingenuous in his prayer. He’s being honest—bluntly honest—as honest as he can be in that moment. He’s struggling to reach out to God amid despair and overwhelming opposition.

My Refuge

Intellectually, David may know that God is “my refuge,” but emotionally he’s not feeling it. Physically he’s not seeing it. Yet spiritually he pushes through. He cries out to God, saying words in faith that he can’t yet put his confidence in.

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example. Click To Tweet

But he knows he’ll get there. He knows that his weak prayer will move him from human doubt to godly confidence. And God, I suspect, patiently waits for David to get there, for David to get to a point where he moves from going through the motions to a place of faith.

So David can boldly proclaim, “You are my refuge!” (Psalm 142:4-5, NIV).

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 140-144, and today’s post is on Psalm 142:4-5.]

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.