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Christian Living

How Important Is It to Have the Right Theology?

God Doesn’t Want Us to Study Him; He Wants Us to Know Him

When people first learn that I have a PhD and where I did my postgrad work, they assume I’m into theology. Imagine their disappointment to find out I don’t care about the concept or want to pursue a right theology, that I can’t engage in a meaningful discussion about the topic—at least not as they perceive it.

At its most basic level, theology is the study of God. I like that. But as nuances of finding a right theology layer on top of this basic understanding, the subject gets murky.

The result is too many long, multi-syllable words that few people can pronounce and even fewer can comprehend. Turning God into an academic pursuit of the right theology pushes him away and keeps us from truly knowing him.

Relationship Is Key

For many people, their spouse is their most important relationship.

Imagine if I went to my wife and said, “I’m going to devote the rest of my life to studying you.

“I’ll watch you and make notes. I’ll catalog who you are and categorize what you do. Next, I’ll read books to help me better understand you. I’ll also talk with others to gain their insights about who you are. Then I’ll tell others what I’ve learned.”

How would she react? Not well. My singular commitment to focus on her would not win me her appreciation. Instead it would stir up her ire. She would rightfully complain, “Why can’t we hang out instead? I just want you to spend time with me.”

So it is with God. He doesn’t want us to study him. He wants a relationship (Hosea 6:6). Theology keeps God at a distance when what he really wants is for us to know him.

Knowledge Puffs Up

As people pursue theology, they amass a great deal of information. Much of this forms a theoretical construct, turning God into an abstract spiritual entity.

In doing so they gather much knowledge but risk pushing God further away. This knowledge of who God is generates pride. It puffs up. Instead of knowledge, we should pursue love, which builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Pursuing theology isn’t necessarily bad, but it can distract us from what is most important: being in a relationship with Jesus. Click To Tweet

Education Distracts

The pursuit of higher learning is a noble task, but it’s not the goal. Chasing after a theology of God isn’t the end. It’s the means to the end: to know who God is in an intimate, personal way.

Jesus routinely criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees—who we could equate to ancient theologians. Instead he embraced a simple message when he said “follow me” (John 10:27).

Pursing a Right Theology

Though pursuing a right theology and even having a Bible study aren’t necessarily bad, they can distract us from what’s most important: to follow Jesus and be in relationship with him.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, 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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Christian Living

Bear Fruit

We Must Consider What Our Life Produces

The word fruit appears nearly two hundred times throughout Scripture. Coupling the word fruit with the word bear, as in bear fruit, bears fruit, and bearing fruit occurs twenty-nine times, split between the Old and New Testaments. Jesus often talks about the fruit that people bear, with the third of the Bible’s teaching on the subject coming from him.

Bear Fruit

Though people can’t produce physical, edible fruit, like a tree would, we do produce fruit in a figurative sense. It’s the output of our life, the results of what we do and don’t do.

In a spiritual sense we bear fruit when we tell others about Jesus, and they decide to follow him too.

In Jesus’s Parable of the Sower, he talks about a farmer scattering seed. The results vary depending on the conditions of where the seed falls, but the good seed produces a substantial yield of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what the farmer planted (Matthew 13:23). But this isn’t a story about farm output. It’s how we bear fruit. It’s a metaphor about growing God’s kingdom through saved lives—or not.

In this way, the fruit we produce through our daily actions and words reflect who we are as a person and the priorities of our lives. As we do this, we also impact those around us. This can be for good, or it can be for bad.

Bear Good Fruit

Though there may be rare exceptions, people want to produce good fruit. We desire to benefit others by the things we do and through the things we say. When we live a life that produces what is good, we draw people to ourselves and can point them to Jesus. They want to be around us because of the positive ripples our life produces. This is how we bear fruit, desirable fruit.

We do this by treating the people we meet with respect and kindness. These traits are lacking in today’s polarized, adversarial world. Society has lost sight of civility.

We can change this by being intentional in our interactions with others. This includes family, friends, and those we meet throughout our daily life.

We can also make a positive difference by the things we do. This includes helping others, especially when we don’t have to. It means going out of our way to demonstrate kindness, offer compassion, and assist those in need.

Bear Bad Fruit

Just as we can produce good through our lives, we can also produce bad. Jesus talks about this too. He urges us to produce good fruit and not bad. He adds that we’re known by the fruit we produce, that people don’t gather figs from thorns or grapes from briers (Luke 6:24).

May we bear good fruit and have the fruit of the Spirit overflow from our lives. Click To Tweet

Bear Holy Spirit Fruit

As followers of Jesus, we want to produce good fruit, spiritual fruit. Paul talks about the fruit we bear in our lives through the Holy Spirit. With God’s Spirit indwelling in us we will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This may be the best way for us to bear fruit.

May we bear good fruit and have the fruit of the Spirit overflow from our lives. In doing so we will worship God and serve as a powerful witness to the world.

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

Three Church Priorities: Butts, Bucks, and Buildings

The Things Religious Leaders Focus on May Not Matter to God at All

Modern church priorities look at attendance, offerings, and facility size. Perhaps this is because the world measures success by the number of people, amount of money, and size of buildings. We’re more like the world than we care to admit.

More people showing up for church each week is good. A larger campus impresses. Bigger offerings allow for more of the same. After all, churches with a sizeable attendance garner attention. They receive media coverage. Books celebrate them and elevate their leaders to lofty pedestals.

This is how the Western world defines success. And the church buys into it without hesitation. These measures of success become the focus. But this focus is off, even looking in the wrong direction.

The triple aim of most churches—attendance, offerings, and facility size—doesn’t matter nearly as much as most people think.

Said more bluntly, most church leaders focus on the three B’s: butts, bucks, and buildings. These become their church priorities.

Butts

The greater the attendance, the more popular the church and, most assuredly, the more God has blessed it. Really?

Look at Jesus. After performing a miracle to feed over five thousand people, the multitude want to make him their king, by force if needed (John 6:10-15). Jesus could let them, but he doesn’t.

Instead of playing to the masses to further his ministry and advance an agenda, he launches into a hard teaching that offends them, and most turn away (John 6:60-66). It seems Jesus is more concerned with the quality of his followers then the quantity. Maybe we should follow his example.

Bucks

The church institution needs money to operate. Ministers need their paycheck. Mortgage payments have monthly due dates. If the offering sags, the church leadership panics. Boards instruct their teaching pastor to preach more about money. Yes, it happens. I’ve seen it.

Yet Jesus says not to worry about the future (Matthew 6:34). This includes money. Although Jesus had people who financially supported him, he never took an offering. He never gave a plea for money. He trusted his Father to provide. So should we.

The church of Jesus should be about changed lives, community, and commitment. Click To Tweet

Buildings

Churches need a lot of people to give a lot of money to pay for staff, which is well over half of most churches budgets. Next up is their buildings, which is their second greatest expense.

Together, salaries and facilities account for 80 to 90 percent of most church expenses, sometimes up to 100 percent. Imagine using all that money instead to help people and address both their spiritual and physical needs.

When Jesus said, “I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), he wasn’t talking about a building but a following.

Jesus never said, “Go build me a grand building for worship, a multimillion dollar monument.” But he did say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). That’s hard to do if we’re stuck inside a church building.

The Right Church Priorities

Instead of an unhealthy, unbiblical focus on the three B’s, what if we and our churches instead looked to the three C’s of changed lives, community, and commitment?

  • Jesus wants changed lives. He says, “Repent and follow me,” so that he can reorder our priorities. In fact, most all he says is about changing our perspectives of how we live.
  • Jesus wants to build a community. He calls it the kingdom of God, but we made it into a church. Shame on us.
  • Jesus expects our commitment. He desires people who are all in. He wants us to follow him, to serve him, and to be with him (John 12:26). That’s commitment, and that’s what Jesus wants.

If Jesus focuses on changed lives, community, and commitment, so should we. These should be our church priorities. Let’s push aside butts, bucks, and buildings, because these things just get in the way of what Jesus wants for his followers.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, 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

Jesus Says “Follow Me”

The Simplicity of Faith

In Peter’s darkest moment, he denies that he even knows who Jesus is. I don’t criticize Peter for this, however. Despite a desire to respond differently, I suspect that if facing death, I could easily do the same thing.

Later, after returning to life, Jesus restores Peter to right relationship with him. Three times Jesus asks, “Do you love me?”

Three times—each one corresponding to one of Peter’s three betrayals—Peter confirms that he does indeed love Jesus.

Then, for Peter to show his love for his master, each time Jesus asks Peter to take care of Jesus’s flock, that is the Christian church.

Love Jesus, and follow him. Click To Tweet

Peter doesn’t realize the importance of repeating this exchange three times, that he must affirm his love for Jesus in equal number to his three betrayals.

Then, when his pledges of support offset his prior denials, Jesus can complete Peter’s restoration. Jesus concludes with the simple instruction, “Follow me.”

That’s the essential requirement of Jesus, the simplicity of faith: To love Jesus, and follow him. It’s that simple.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 20-21, and today’s post is on John 21:15-19.]

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.

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Christian Living

Do We Need to Ask Jesus into Our Hearts?

Discover What We Must Do to Be Saved

A recurring theme in Jesus’s biographies is people asking him what they must do. What’s frustrating is Jesus doesn’t always give the same answer. Jesus tells different people to do different things. (For this discussion, we’ll understand “kingdom of God, “kingdom of heaven,” “eternal life,” “salvation,” and “saved” as synonymous.)

Learn What Jesus Said about Salvation

Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything and give the proceeds to poor people (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22).

For Zacchaeus, giving away half was enough (Luke 19:8-9). Jesus doesn’t tell him to do anything else but deems that what Zacchaeus had already done was enough. He welcomed Jesus gladly, stopped doing wrong things (repented), made restitution, and gave away half his wealth.

Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, that is born of water and the Spirit, a spiritual birth (John 3:3-7), and then to believe in him (John 3:15 and John 3:36).

Jesus asked the Jews to listen to him and believe in God the Father (John 5:24 and John 12:44).

Another time Jesus promised all who have done good will rise to live (John 5:29). Still later, he instructed them to believe he is the Son of God (John 3:16-18 and John 9:35-37;  the “Son of Man” is a euphemism for the “Son of God” and mean the same thing).

Jesus advised the Greeks to serve him, follow him (John 12:26), and trust him (John 12:36).

Jesus encouraged his disciples (John 6:29, 6:40, 6:47, and 14:1), and later Martha (John 11:25-26)—the sister of Lazarus—to believe in him.

Later Jesus prayed that people would know God the Father—the only true God—and his Son, who he sent (John 17:3).

Jesus told the people along the road to work hard to enter the narrow door before it is too late (Luke 13:24).

Jesus taught a large crowd to put him before everything else, including their family and themselves (Luke 14:26 and Matthew 19:29), and to give up everything (Luke 14:33)—even their own life (Mark 8:34-35 and John 12:25)—to be his disciples.

Once Jesus implored another crowd to change their ways (Luke 13:3 and 5). A more common word is “repent,” which means to change your path and alter your behavior, to do a U-turn with your life.

Jesus affirmed what a teacher of the law said: to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love others too (Luke 10:25-28).

Jesus told those in the temple to persevere to the end (Mark 13:13).

And he instructed a crowd gathered on the mountainside to obey his Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

Jesus reminded the remaining eleven disciples to believe and then be baptized (Mark 16:16). Though Jesus also mentions baptism, the focus is on belief; baptism is an expression of that belief.

Jesus also taught his disciples to accept him with childlike simplicity (Luke 18:17 and Matthew 18:3).

Jesus commended the woman who cleaned his feet with her tears and hair, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50, multiple versions). The woman did not confess anything or request anything but merely worshipped Jesus the best she could.

Jesus assured the criminal next to him on the cross. It was enough for the man to simply affirm God and admit his guilt (Luke 23:40-43).

Jesus instructed the crowd to tell others about him, that is, to publicly acknowledge him (Luke 12:8)—so that they will follow him too.

Jesus commanded his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23; also Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27).

Jesus told Peter to leave everything and follow him (Luke 18:28-30).

But much of the time, Jesus simply said, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, and 9:9; Mark 1:17 and 2:14; Luke 5:27 and 9:59; John 1:43, 21:19, and 21:22). It’s up to each of us to do this in our own way, to the best of our ability, as the Holy Spirit leads us.

Learn What Jesus Didn’t Say about Salvation

Jesus didn’t tell people to:

  • pray a prayer,
  • be confirmed,
  • go to church,
  • come forward,
  • do good things,
  • raise their hand,
  • fill out a pledge card,
  • ask Jesus into their heart, or
  • jump through any of the hoops his well-meaning followers insist upon.

Most of these unbiblical actions, though well-intended, seem to have originated with revivalist preachers and evangelists over the past couple centuries. Their conclusions, however, seem to be quite a stretch from what Scripture says.

Jesus didn’t give them Four Spiritual Laws, walk them down The Roman’s Road, or give them the ABCs of Salvation.

Jesus’s most basic instruction for salvation was “follow me.” Click To Tweet

Jesus Simply Said to Follow Me

His answer was easy.

Jesus’s most basic instruction for salvation was “follow me.”

To follow Jesus carries two implications. First, we wouldn’t follow him if we didn’t believe in him. Second, to follow him means to make a change in direction, to make a U-turn with our lives, that is, to repent.

So this means that to follow Jesus includes to believe and repent.

If you’re not following Jesus—even if you’ve done some of these other (unbiblical) steps—why not start today?

[This post comes from the book How Big Is Your Tent?]

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

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 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.

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Christian Living

Does Going to Church Make You a Christian?

The World’s Answer Doesn’t Align with the Truth

I recently read an article about church attendance that vexed me. It came from a Christian magazine. It addressed going to church. The author claimed to have statistical proof that Christians were turning their backs on their faith. What was the stat that caused him to make this rash conclusion?

Quite simply that overall church attendance is down. He made the erroneous assumption that church attendance equated to faith. In his mind, no church attendance meant no faith.

Sadly, I’ve heard the same misguided assumption too many times.

Joyce Meyer, however, smartly puts this in perspective. She says, “Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn’t make me a car.”

Well said, Joyce.

Christians in Church

Many Christians attend church. Some go every week, some go once or twice a month, and a few go sporadically. That’s what good Christians do; they have a practice of going to church. At least that’s the conventional wisdom from those on the inside.

I’m there most every week, but the hour I spend at church each Sunday morning isn’t central to my faith. My faith grows most at other times of the week. The Sunday service is an ancillary practice.

Christians Not in Church

Yet not all Christians are in church on Sunday. Some stay away, either through circumstances or preference. I don’t view these folks as less than, even though most well-meaning church proponents do.

I don’t know who said it first, but many have repeated it over the years or agree with its sentiment. “I didn’t leave the church because I lost my faith. I left the church to keep it.”

Yes, there are those who stopped going to church because the experience detracted from their faith instead of enhancing it. Their meaningful spiritual experiences happen outside the four walls of the traditional church on Sunday morning.

Non-Christians in Church

There are three groups of people at most churches each Sunday:

  1. Christians
  2. People who think they’re Christians
  3. Non-Christians who want to learn more

Most churches are comprised of people in the first two groups. The third group rarely comes to church anymore. The church was once a respected institution, a safe place to go to find answers, but few in the non-churched portion of society feel that way anymore.

They may have needs, but they stay away. This brings us to the final category.

Non-Christians Not in Church

Aside from the people who think they’re Christians and aren’t, most non-Christians would never dream of walking into a church building to seek answers or have their spiritual needs met.

These people reside outside the church. If the church wants to reach them, they need to leave the comfort of their building and go out into the world to tell others about Jesus and make disciples (see Matthew 28:19-20).

Church is not a building. The true church of Jesus is the people who follow him as his disciples. Click To Tweet

The Truth about Church

In our discussion about church, we’ve not addressed the most critical consideration. That is, church is not a building. The true church of Jesus is the people. We are—or at least we should be—one united, universal collection of people who follow Jesus as his disciples.

Given this perspective, going to church each Sunday morning doesn’t matter too much. How we live our faith the other 167 hours of the week is where we need to focus.

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

How Content Are You with God’s Blessings?

The Bible Tells Us to Live a Life of Contentment

Though some people in our world struggle to have the basic requirements for life, many others enjoy an existence that meets all their needs and beyond. This is a given for many people in most developed nations. They don’t need to seek God for their daily bread; they already have plenty to eat. Instead, they seek more. These materialistic people never have enough; they are not content. They continually strive to expand what they have. Metaphorically, they’re building bigger barns (see Luke 12:16-21).

Thankful or Dissatisfied?

Though there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve our situation in life, we must make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons—God-honoring reasons. If God has supplied our needs and we still aren’t content, isn’t this an insult to God and his generosity?

If we aren’t satisfied with God’s provisions, doesn’t this suggest that we don’t appreciate his blessings? Though most of us would be quick to say we’re thankful for God’s gifts, our actions and attitudes often suggest the opposite.

Scripture Calls Us to Be Content

In the Bible, Paul shares about his life. He says he’s learned to be content in every situation. Not only is this during times of plenty but also when he’s hungry or living in want. He does this through God’s strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Not only does Paul provide this example of contentment, but he also encourages Timothy and others (including us) to be content with what they have. He even goes as far as to connect contentment with godliness. (1 Timothy 6:6-9).

A final passage to consider comes from the writer of Hebrews who tells his audience to avoid materialism (the love of money) and be content—that is, satisfied—with what we have. This is because God is with us always and will never forget us (Hebrews 13:15).

We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment?

These verses about contentment address our physical situation, our material needs: food, clothing, and shelter. But what about our spiritual situation? Should we be content with that too?

When it comes to God and living a life that honors him, we should never be content. We should always desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. God doesn’t want us to coast our way into heaven. When we say yes to following Jesus, he wants us to go all in and live every day for him. We can always love God more and should never be content with loving him just a little.

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

Does Jesus Offend You?

Though many people like an easy Jesus, not everyone accepts what he says

Jesus normally teaches the masses in parables. Though most don’t really understand what he means, they like his stories because they’re so countercultural. Inaddition, he sometimes gives them food and heals them. He’s a cool speaker who does nice things for them. What’s not to like?

Then one day he speaks to them directly. He’s blunt. There’s no compelling story, just some weird message about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He’s not talking about actual cannibalism; it’s a metaphor—of some sorts. It’s about life and death, sacrifice and reward. Jesus offends them.

The people grumble. They complain he’s hard to understand and say no one can accept his message. Many of his followers become ex-followers. They reject him and go in search for something else, but the disciples stick around; they’re all in.

When things get tough, Jesus’s disciples stick around. They’re all in. Click To Tweet

Yes, the main message of Jesus is easy. He loves everyone and opens his arms to accept us. But sometimes he’s hard to understand, too. Sometimes his message offends people. Their response is to give up on Jesus.

But I’m all in. I hope you are, too. Don’t let the message of Jesus offend you,

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 5-6, and today’s post is on John 6:53-68.]

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.

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Bible Insights

What Is Your Path?

When we focus on other people, we may lose sight of our own calling

As Jesus wraps up his stint on earth, he spends some time with his disciples, the core group he trained for three years. They will need to carry on without him, and he wants to make sure they’re ready.

First, he must deal with Peter, who, a few days earlier, denied he even knew Jesus. Jesus is gentle but sure. To counter Peter’s three denials, Jesus has his wayward disciple give three affirmations of love. After each one, Jesus tells Peter to “Care for those who follow me.”

Then Jesus tells Peter what his future will entail. It ends with execution. But Jesus tells Peter to follow him, regardless.

Likely squirming and wanting to change the subject, Peter notices John and asks Jesus what the future holds for this disciple, “What are your plans for him?”

Jesus won’t play along. He basically says, “It doesn’t matter. You must do what I told you to do: follow me.”

God says, “It doesn’t matter what others do, you must follow me." Click To Tweet

It’s easy to become distracted by other people: People who seem to have more success, at least by the world’s standards; people who radiate God’s love in a way we fear we never will; or people who pray with a faith that eludes us.

Frustrated and discouraged, we may ask God, “What are your plans for them?”

To which God says, “It doesn’t matter what others do, you must follow me.” That is your path.

Look straight ahead and follow Jesus. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with what others are doing. Don’t look to the right or to the left, but look right at Jesus (Proverbs 4:25-27).

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 20-21 and today’s post is on John 21:20-22.]

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.

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