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Christian Living

Jesus Is the Way, Not the Destination

Our Focus Should be on Our Heavenly Father

Most Christians revere Jesus and place him at the center of their faith. Indeed, all of history revolves around Jesus’s saving work that he did for us—for everyone—when he died in our place, sacrificing himself for the wrong things we’ve done.

The Old Testament builds up to this, the four biographies of Jesus explain this, and the rest of the New Testament—along with everything that has happened in our world since then—flows from what he did. Yet Jesus is not the end. He is the means to the end.

Jesus Is the Way

In the Bible, Jesus often implores people to “follow me”. If he expects people to follow him, this mean that he knows the right way to go.

In the gospel of John, Jesus directly says that he is the way (John 14:6). He is not the destination, but simply the path to reach the destination. In fact, he says he is the way, the truth, and the life.

Peter explains that we can find our salvation through him and only through him (Acts 4:12). This means that Jesus is the way.

Jesus Is the Gate

In another place in the book of John, Jesus calls himself the gate for the sheep. All who enter through the gate will be saved (John 10:7-9).

He is our shepherd, our Good Shephard. We, as his sheep, know his voice and follow him. He protects us from evil, from thieves and robbers intent on doing us harm. (Read Jesus’s full teaching on this in John 10:1-18.)

In another place, Jesus calls himself the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). He urges us to take this path.

What Is the Result?

Since Jesus is the way to—and the gate of—the sheep pen, what does the pen symbolize? It has both present and future significance.

For now, the sheep pen—with Jesus as the gate—represents our spiritual community, our fellowship with others who believe in and follow him. He is the gate that lets us into this existence here on earth today.

For later, we can take assurance that the sheep pen represents our eternity in heaven. Jesus is also the way and the gate that opens the doors for heaven, where we’ll live with him forever.

Jesus is the way, and the Father—our heavenly Father—is the destination. Click To Tweet

The Father Is the Destination

The result of following Jesus as the way—and going through him as the narrow gate—is heaven. Yet this misses one thing that’s even more important: the Father. After Jesus says he is the way, he adds that no one can come to the Father if they don’t go through him (John 14:6). Jesus is the way to the Father.

Jesus dies as the solution to our sin problem. In doing so, he makes us right with Father God and reconciles us into a right relationship with him. Yes, we will live forever in heaven, but we will live there with the Father. The Father is the focus of heaven.

Jesus is the way, and the Father—our heavenly Father—is the destination. May we never forget this.

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 Trinity Do You Focus On?

The Bible talks about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We intellectually know that these three parts of the Trinity exist, but what is the reality of our spiritual practice? Most Christians prefer one part of the godhead over the other. They make that facet of God their primary focus, while diminishing or even forgetting the other two.

Churches, too, tend to emphasize one part—Father, Son, or Holy Spirit—in their religious practices. I’ve gone to all three types of churches, have friends in all three, and understand all three.

In what follows, I’ll speak in generalities; that means there are exceptions. If one part of my summary offends you, ask yourself if I may have hit too close to home.

In our discussion of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, I outline three considerations:

Father God

The first group of Christians focus their faith on Father God. They worship him and serve him. He is the reason for their existence—intellectually so—and the center of their worship—albeit more stoic in nature. Though he is their Heavenly Father, they are more apt to refer to him as God than as Father. He also tends to be a more distant deity in their faith practice and daily living.

Jesus is a secondary part of their faith. They revere him as a good man, a wise teacher, and a worthy example. Mentally they acknowledge him as Savior, but it doesn’t often go beyond that. And they give the Holy Spirit minimal attention, treating him like an eccentric relative that they know exists but try to ignore.

Jesus, the Son

Another group of Christians celebrate Jesus as the center of their faith. Having a personal relationship with him—according to their specific theological constructs—is the only thing that matters. Once they’ve done that, their card is punched, and they’re going to heaven, where they’ll spend eternity with him. Oh, and Father God will be there too.

The Heavenly Father is part of their faith, But in practice and in thought, he’s often secondary to Jesus. They forget that Jesus is the way, not the destination. They acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit but have scaled back their acceptance of his work from what the Bible proclaims to what better aligns with their own practices and experiences today.

Holy Spirit

The third group of Christians put the work and power of the Holy Spirit in the center of their faith and daily practices. It starts with a relationship with Jesus and culminates with the infilling power of the Holy Spirit in their lives—often proved by speaking in tongues. Once a rigid expectation, speaking in tongues is now more a preferred—but not required—outcome for most practices.

Though Jesus and the Father are part of their faith, the extreme emphasis on the Holy Spirit tends to diminish them in the process.

Our perspective should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we move forward to embrace all three. Click To Tweet

A Holistic Perspective

Though you might insist on some exceptions, you likely identify with one of these three camps over the other two. But before you affirm your perspective as right and the other two as wrong, let me suggest that despite the good aspects of each group, none are correct. It is not an issue of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but a holistic call to equally embrace all three in our theology, worship, and service.

It should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we move forward to evenly embrace all three.

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

Learning from Jesus’s First Words

When Christ Speaks, We Should Be Ready to Listen

What Jesus says is important to us as his followers. The passages in the Bible that we need to pay the most attention to are the words of Jesus. Some Bibles even highlight Jesus’s words by putting them in red. We call these red-letter editions. People often focus on the final words of Jesus. But what about Jesus’s first words?

Let’s look at what the Bible records as Jesus’s first words. This doesn’t occur when he first learns to talk, and it’s not the first words he speaks when he begins his ministry. Jesus’s first words recorded in the Bible happen between these two times.

Twelve-Year-Old Jesus

Jesus’s first recorded words occur when he’s twelve, and it’s the only story the Bible gives us about Jesus’s youth. In this account we see the balance between his divine side and his human side.

Jesus goes with his parents to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. When the festival ends, his parents head home, traveling with a group of others headed in that direction. They assume Jesus is with the caravan. He isn’t. He stays behind without their knowledge.

After traveling all day, Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is missing. They’ve lost their son, one of a parent’s most dreaded nightmares. Yet for them it’s even worse. They also lost the Son of God.

Panicked they head back to Jerusalem. They search. And they search. After three days they finally find him.

He’s in the temple having a deep spiritual conversation with the religious teachers. He listens to what they say and asks insightful questions. The twelve-year-old amazes everyone with his depth of understanding.

His parents are astonished too. Yet they’re also irritated with him for causing them needless worry.

Jesus’s First Words

Young Jesus responds incredulously. “Why were you searching for me?” he asks. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, NIV).

These are the first recorded words of Jesus.

From the perspective of tween Jesus, his parents shouldn’t have spent three days looking for him. The temple should have been their first stop. In his mind, it was a given. In their mind, it was the last place they expected to find their twelve-year-old son.

Jesus doesn’t address the fact that he didn’t head home with them and caused them untold worry for three days. Like many who aren’t yet fully mature, he knew he was safe, so there was nothing for anyone to worry about.

Where do we go to best connect with God and spend time with other like-minded believers? Click To Tweet

The human side of Jesus missed spending time with his Father, Father God. The temple may have been where he best felt he could make a spiritual connection with Papa. It was also an ideal place to find other like-minded Jews who could teach him about Scripture and guide him forward on his spiritual journey.

But Jesus’s parents don’t understand what he means. Regardless Jesus obediently returns home with them. He grows in wisdom and stature, enjoying the favor of both God and men. This prepares him for ministry, which he’ll start in eighteen years, when he’s thirty years old.

Where do we go to best connect with God and spend time with other like-minded believers? When our friends look for us, where will they find us?

Discover more about Jesus in Peter’s upcoming book, The Advent of Jesus, which will release in October 2022.

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 as our Father

A Word Picture of What a Good Dad Is Like

The sixth word picture is God as our father and we as his children.

Although not everyone had a good biological father—in fact all human fathers make mistakes in raising their children—our spiritual father, God, is without fault, raising us out of perfect love and without error.

With God as our spiritual father, that is our father in heaven, we see him as being wise, loving, disciplining, and patient. Also, as our father there is the hope of us one day receiving an inheritance from him.

For us as God’s children, we are loved, cared for, given generous gifts, and protected. We are also heirs, looking forward to an inheritance that we will one day receive from him—eternal life for all who follow him.

Lastly, just as adult children have the potential for friendship with their earthly parents, we too, are poised to become a friend with our heavenly parent, God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 7-9 and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 7:14.]

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

3 Images to Explain God as Trinity

The Great Three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Most Christians comprehend God as Trinity, a singular entity existing as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. This is confusing, but recall that Jesus says, “the Father and me are one” (John 10:30). Another time Jesus tells his disciples to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Though the Bible never uses the word Trinity, it connects Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are two common illustrations that explain God as Trinity.

Each part of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is interconnected, essential, and equal. Click To Tweet

God as Water

Compare God to water. Water exists in three forms: ice, liquid, and vapor. Each part is still water, albeit a different manifestation of it. Each form has unique characteristics but is still the same compound. So it is with the triune God: three forms; one God.

God as an Egg

The second image is that the three-in-one God is like an egg. An egg has three principal parts: the shell, the white, and the yolk. These parts make up an egg. In the same way, a singular God exists as three parts.

God as a Tripod

Here’s a third image for consideration: Consider God as a tripod. A tripod has three legs. Each of the three legs are part of the tripod. Each leg connects to the tripod. And each leg is essential for the tripod to work. Remove one leg and the tripod falls over. For a tripod to work properly, each leg must be equal. No one leg is more important, and no one leg is insignificant.

So it is with God as a tripod. We see each leg—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—interconnected, essential, and equal. Remove one and our perception of God becomes incomplete. Overemphasize one and our view of God becomes unbalanced. There may be three parts (three legs), but it is still one God (the tripod). The tripod reveals God who is a three-in-one Trinity.

God as Trinity

May we recognize each part of the godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to inform our connection with God. Consider how understanding God as Trinity can affect our faith.

In my next post I’ll cover how God’s trinitarian nature can inform our prayers.

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

God’s Guardrails Are to Benefit Us and Not Limit Us

Running Barefoot in the Snow

In my book Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide, I tell the story of our children running barefoot in the snow. Here’s what happened.

One day I painfully realized that whenever our children asked for anything, the default answer of my wife and me was no. It mattered not how legitimate their request was; we dismissed it.

Though we would sometimes relent and grant permission, the negotiation that occurred between their question and a positive response was time-consuming and unneeded.

I gathered our two children and apologized for my error. I pledged that going forward I would tell them yes every time I could. I would only say no to keep them safe, keep them healthy, and teach them what was right.

I doubt they believed me. A couple days later they tested my promise. “Dad, can we go outside and run around barefoot in the snow?”

“Yes!”

Incredulous, they kicked off their shoes and socks. They donned their winter coats, hats, and gloves. With unbridled enthusiasm, they dashed outside.

Seconds later they returned exhilarated, overflowing with glee, and with cold feet. It was a memorable experience for all three of us. Going forward, our children heard me say yes much more often.

How Our Heavenly Father Treats Us

I suspect God is a lot like this. He tells us yes whenever he can. The only time he says no is to keep us safe, keep us healthy, and teach us what is right. He tells us no for our own good. It’s how he shows his love for us. And I try to appreciate that, even if it’s not what I want to hear.

But many people have the opposite perspective. They perceive God as mean, restrictive, and grumpy, saying no to all the things they want to do. They think he limits their life and keeps them from having any fun. They push against his restrictions, even though these are for their own good.

God gives us instructions through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We’ll do well to obey what he says. If we don’t, we risk pursuing what is unsafe, unhealthy, and wrong. And for that, we’ll suffer with the consequences.

Guardrails for Our Life

I view this as his loving attempt to put guardrails on our life, which keep us from plunging over the cliff to our doom. Guardrails keep us on the road and direct us forward.

Yes, we can do whatever we want, and he won’t love us any less. Regardless of our actions—or inactions—our eternal standing with him remains secure.

But, oh, what heartache we endure when we ignore the loving guardrails he has erected for us on our journey through life and elect to do things our own way.

God’s instructions to us are like guardrails, which are to benefit us and not limit us. Click To Tweet

We don’t need to follow the rules he gives us to get his attention or earn our salvation. We can go through life however we please. But we’re so much better off when we do things his way and not our own.

God intends for his rules to keep us safe, keep us healthy, and teach us what is right—not to limit us or be mean.

God sometimes says no because he loves us. May we embrace his directives, follow them, and thank him for them.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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 is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

The source of life, truth, and the way to Father God is through Jesus

The disciple Thomas wants to go where Jesus will go but doesn’t know how to proceed. He seeks clarification. Jesus gives him a five part answer, which another disciple John records for us.

Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6, NIV).

I Am

In the Old Testament God the Father effectively tells Moses to think of him as “I am.” When Jesus repeats this phrase in his concise answer we are reminded that Jesus also exists as God, in the form of God the Son.

The Way

Jesus is the path to God the Father. Jesus points us in the right direction and provides the means for us to get there.

The Truth

Jesus personifies truth. He exemplifies truth, proclaims truth, and models truth. We can rely on the words of Jesus as true.

The Life

Not only does Jesus give us life, he is life. As taking part in creation, he emerges as one with life eternal.

As God the Son, Jesus provides us with the path to God the Father. Click To Tweet

The Door to Father God

The first four parts of Jesus’s answer, culminate in his conclusion: it is through him that we are reconciled with God the Father.

Jesus is the way. He provides all that we need for our journey in this life and into the next.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 13-15, and today’s post is on John 14:5-6.]

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

Holy Trinity: The Great Three in One

3 Illustrations of the Trinity

A commonality among most who call themselves Christian is the understanding of God as Trinity—the Holy Trinity— that is, a singular entity existing as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Spirit. That is confusing, but recall that Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” (John 10:30).

Two common illustrations explain God as Trinity:

God Is Like Water

Water exists in three forms: ice, liquid, and vapor.

Each form is still water, albeit a different manifestation of it. Each form has different characteristics, but is still the same compound. So it is with the triune God: three forms, but one God.

God Is Like an Egg

God has also been likened to an egg.

An egg is composed of three main parts: the shell, the white, and the yolk. Collectively, they are an egg. In like manner, a singular God exists as three parts.

God Is Like a Tripod

I’d like to suggest a third image for consideration.

A tripod has three legs. Each leg is part of the tripod; each leg is connected to the tripod; and each leg is essential for the tripod to work.

Remove one leg and the tripod ceases to function. Also, each leg of the tripod is equal; no one leg is more important and no one leg is insignificant.

The Holy Trinity

So it is with God as a tripod. Each leg—Father, Son (Jesus), and Spirit—is connected, essential, and equal. Remove one and our perception of God becomes incomplete. Overemphasize one and our understanding of God gets out of balance.

There may be three parts (legs), but it is still one God (the tripod). The tripod reveals God as Trinity.

May we worship God as a Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

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

God is the Great I Am

Characteristics of God

In the Bible, Jesus makes several declarations of who he is and his character. In the book of John alone, he says:

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).

I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7).

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1).

He also provided insight into his relationship with his Father and his followers:

I am in my Father” (John 14:20).

I am in you” (John 17:21).

I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).

May these verses better inform our view of Jesus, what he does for us, and his relationship with Father God, the Great I Am.

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

Does God Really Answer All Our Prayers?

We Can Believe That God Hears and Answers Our Requests

When you pray do you think God hears you? Does he answer your prayers? All of them? The Bible says so. Consider what Scripture teaches.

God Hears Our Prayers

First, we can have assurance that God does indeed hear our prayers.

John writes that we can be confident that God will hear everything we ask for, and we will receive it. The only requirement is that we must align our requests with his will (1 John 5:14-15).

The challenge for us then is to determine his perspective and pray according to his will. But this may not be as hard as what we think. Paul writes that we already have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Jesus Says God Answers Our Prayers

Jesus teaches that we can ask whatever we wish, and he will do it for us. There is, of course, the requirement that we maintain our focus on him and his word (John 15:7). But aside from that, he’ll do whatever we request.

Another time Jesus teaches that we can ask for anything in prayer. If we believe that we have received it, then we will (Mark 11:24).

Parents Give Their Children Good Gifts

These verses seem to say, that given some basic requirements, God does hear our prayers and will answer them. Yet, there are times when I haven’t received what I asked for, and other times he seemed to ignore my pleas. Have you ever felt that way?

The problem, however, isn’t that God didn’t answer our prayers. It’s that he didn’t answer them the way we wanted him to.

Consider a child asking their parents for something. A loving parent will do whatever they can to respond to the child’s requests. Yet a wise parent will sometimes say no because it’s not in their child’s best interest.

For example, if a child wanted a steady diet of candy, we would say no, instead providing a well-balanced and nutritious meal. Giving our kids junk food—even when it’s what they ask for—isn’t good for them. So we give them what’s best for them, even if that’s not what they want (Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13).

God does hear and will answer our prayers. Click To Tweet

God Provides What’s in Our Best Interest

Parents, however, sometimes make mistakes when it comes to raising their kids. God, however, doesn’t. He loves us fully and perfectly. As our loving Heavenly Father, he gives us exactly what we need, when we need it, to accomplish the best possible outcome for our lives.

We can be confident in him to do that. God does hear and will answer our prayers. Though the answer may not always be what we want, it’s always what’s best.

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.