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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

Go and Prepare a Place

How Engagement and Marriage Worked in the New Testament

In Bible times, when a couple became engaged, the groom-to-be with go home and prepare a place for them to live by adding a room to his parents’ house. As soon as he finished the construction, he would go to his fiancée, the marriage ceremony would take place, and they’d go live in the room he built for the two of them.

Though the Bible doesn’t detail this practice, history does. I’d heard this before, so it was nothing new to me to hear it again in the minister’s sermon.

Joseph and Mary

The message was about Joseph and Mary in the book of Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25). At this point in the narrative, Joseph and Mary are engaged. This means Joseph is building a room for them, adding on to his parents’ house. Once the room is complete, they’ll marry and begin their life has husband and wife.

This is the point at which the Virgin Mary becomes pregnant under Holy Spirit power. Joseph doesn’t break their engagement, and he continues building their home. Once it’s done, they get married. But they don’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus is born.

This explanation helps us better understand the story of Joseph and Mary. But then my mind took off and found other situations where the practice applies as well:

Peter and His Wife

It’s always bothered me that Peter, a married man, would leave his wife alone while he traveled with Jesus. How could she provide for herself while he was gone?

But realizing this ancient practice—where a young married couple would live in a room attached to the house of the man’s family—gave me a better understanding. Yes, Peter’s wife would stay home as he travelled with Jesus, but she wasn’t by herself. She was with her in laws, since the room she lived in was attached to their house.

She wasn’t alone when her husband traveled. She was with family. Knowing this lessens my concerns over Peter’s wife.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In Jesus’s parable of the ten virgins, these young ladies wait for a wedding ceremony to take place, but they don’t know when it will be. Though this seems strange to us now, it makes sense when we understand the custom of the day.

Their friend is engaged. Her wedding will take place once her fiancé completes the room for them to live in. Since no one knows for sure when this will happen, the wedding ceremony guests wait in expectation.

We can imagine the groom working late into the evening putting the last touches on the room. He finishes at last and in eager expectation he goes to get his bride-to-be, even though it’s the middle of the night.

The virgins hear he’s on his way. Five of them are ready to join the happy couple in their wedding feast and marriage celebration. The other five aren’t ready, and they’re left out (Matthew 25:1-13).

The lesson here is to be ready for Jesus to return. This leads us to the next observation.

Jesus and His Church

Jesus tells his followers that his father lives in a big house. He’s going there to prepare a place for them, to build a room for them to live. Once he completes the construction, he’ll come back to get them. Then he’ll take them to live with him so they can be where he is (John 14:2-3).

Though this may perplex modern day readers, two thousand years ago, the inference made sense to Jesus’s audience. They saw it as an allusion to marriage, to a spiritual wedding.

Jesus will build a bridal suite for his church. When it’s complete, we—collectively as his church—will marry him (Revelation 21:1-4). We will be the bride of Christ.

One day Jesus will come back to earth to get us. Then our wedding ceremony with him will take place, and we’ll live with him forever.

But right now, he has gone to prepare a place for us. And we wait for him to come back. We must be ready, for he could return at any moment—even in the middle of the night.

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

May You and Your Family Have a Blessed Christmas

Make Jesus the Focus of Your Celebration

With Christmas falling on Sunday this year, I planned to wish you a blessed Christmas on my weekly Sunday post. Alas, I’ve already wished you a merry Christmas in the past—three times.

So, instead of repeating what I’ve already written or reprising an old post, I’ll give you a round-up of some of my top Christmas posts from the past.

May you have a blessed Christmas. Click To Tweet

May you receive them as my Christmas gift to you and carry them with you throughout the day—and the year. May you have a blessed Christmas.

Not surprisingly, I write about Christmas a lot. Over the years, I’ve mentioned it in 62 posts.

As you celebrate Jesus this year, may you have a safe, happy, and blessed Christmas.

Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his birth in Peter’s new book, The Advent of 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.

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Bible Insights

Do You Offer God a Sacrifice of Praise?

Embrace a Different Way to Worship God

The term “sacrifice of praise” is only found in one verse in the Bible. It’s a curious phrase. What does it mean?

Whatever it may refer to, the first thing we see is we are to do it continually. We are to offer a constant sacrifice of praise to God. To do this, we must adopt a wider understanding of praise as more than just singing.

It certainly includes the things we say, as well as the things we don’t say—praising God with words we use as well as the words we keep to ourselves. This offering of praise could also encompass our attitude as we go about life, even our demeanor.

A sacrifice of praise could include everything we give up for God as an act of praise. Click To Tweet

While sacrifice of praise could include everything we give up—that is, what we sacrifice—for God as an act of adoration, I don’t think that concept ties in with this verse because we can’t continually offer sacrifices.

We can indeed praise God through our sacrificial living and giving, but this isn’t what phrase means.

Let’s look at the Old Testament for insight. Prior to Jesus, animal sacrifices are common—and commanded according to the law of Moses. Those sacrifices must be repeated because their covering is only temporary.

When Jesus comes along to become our sacrifice it is permanent. It doesn’t need to be repeated. It’s once and for all. This means that in the New Testament, the sacrifice of animals is obsolete. Could it be that a sacrifice of praise replaces it?

May we continually offer our praise as a sweet sacrifice that to God the Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit for their glory.

How do you praise God? Should you add anything to your practice?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 11-13, and today’s post is on Hebrews 13:15.]

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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Christian Living

One Body with Many Members: Correct the Church Membership Fallacy

Instead of Joining a Church, Align Yourself with Jesus

Most churches talk about church membership—a lot. Some treat it as the next step after salvation, even as if it’s salvation part two. It’s not. And if your church is part of a denomination, membership in the local church is automatic membership in the denomination.

Church Membership

With membership, many carry a smug pride of religious superiority. Others expect their membership to provide them with benefits.

Some church membership benefits are explicit, carrying specified privileges. These include being able to vote at meetings, eligibility for certain church positions, and enjoying a higher status than nonmembers, who are mere attendees.

Other church membership benefits are assumed. Basically, this means our ministers must be available whenever we need them. This includes celebrating our special events, dealing with any crisis we may encounter, and listening to our “concerns” about some church issue or theology. When we say “jump,” they’re supposed to act.

Denomination Membership

Church denominations used to be much more important than they are now. Church members were loyal to their denomination.

When they moved, they sought out a church in their same denomination. And as a member of the denomination, they’d be accepted without question at the new church—even though no one knew them. It was a simple matter to transfer their membership to the new congregation.

Most denominations struggle today. They’re losing members (and affiliated churches) at an alarming rate. Some had scandals. Others faced a theological rift between polarized perspectives, where it was impossible to please everyone. And the dissenters voiced their frustration by leaving.

Most denominations have become nothing more than institutions fighting for survival. Membership numbers are the way they gage their battle.

What Does the Bible Say?

Scripture never mentions church membership. There are no commands to join a local church. The apostle Paul, however, does talk about members. He repeatedly says that we are members of one body. That’s right. Not a church or a denomination, but a body—one body.

He writes that there is one body. He tells this to the church in Rome (Romans 12:5), Ephesus (Ephesians 3:6 and Ephesians 4:25), and Colossae (Colossians 3:15). He even gets more specific, saying we are members of his body, that is Jesus’s body, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:19-20, Ephesians 5:29-30 and 1 Corinthians 6:15a).

There is one body with many members, each with their own function (Romans 12:3-4).

What Does Jesus Want?

In his final prayer before his execution, Jesus prayed that we—his future followers—would be one, just as he and Papa are one. Why is this? By being one, we become the optimum witness to the world so that they may believe (John 17:20-21).

Jesus wants us to be members of one body, the universal body of Christ. Click To Tweet

Jesus knew that if we divided ourselves by forming denominations, we would divide ourselves and our witness, fracturing the ideas of one body in the process.

He knew that by establishing church memberships, we would divide ourselves—and his one body—into two levels of followers, with some in and others second-class.

Jesus wants us to be members of one body, the universal body of Christ. We automatically become a member when we follow Jesus. Local church membership doesn’t matter.

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

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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Bible Insights

Protection From the Evil One

Protection From the Evil One

To the Thessalonians Paul writes that God will strengthen and protect them from the evil one. He will give them protection from evil.

This excites and comforts me, because I want to be protected.

We don't need to endure hardships alone, for God gives us the strength we need. Click To Tweet

But that’s only half the of the promise. The other part is that we will be strengthened.

To be protected is passive. It is easy and safe.

To be strengthened is more active. It reminds us that we will undergo trials, temptations, and attacks from the enemy—and for this, we will be made strong in order to withstand it.

Standing strong is not easy or safe. It is hard and risky. But we don’t need to endure it alone, for God gives us the strength we need and protection from evil.

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

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 You Worship Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Which Part of the Trinity Most Receives Your Attention?

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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Peter DeHaan News

New Book: The Advent of Jesus

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh, new way with this Advent devotional.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of Christmas and miss its true meaning. Why not make this holiday season a special time for preparation to reflect on the Messiah’s birth?

In The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior, Peter DeHaan leads readers through a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging way.

In this Advent devotional, you will:

  • draw closer to Jesus
  • celebrate the season with a deeper, more biblical outlook
  • focus on the meaning behind the holiday
  • celebrate Jesus’s arrival throughout Advent and into Christmas
  • marvel over the birth of our Messiah

If you’ve been longing to grow closer to Jesus this holiday season, pick up this illuminating devotional that will guide you through Advent. Each day’s brief and impactful reading includes thought-provoking questions and a meaningful prayer.

The Advent of Jesus will prepare your heart to worship and celebrate with a new passion. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of amazement for the season.

Get your copy of The Advent of Jesus today.

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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