Categories
Christian Living

Freedom in Jesus

Our Right Standing with Christ Frees Us from Rules, but Don’t Abuse This Freedom

Jesus’s sacrificial death releases us from the obligation of Old Testament laws. We have freedom in Jesus and don’t need to follow rules. Instead, we follow Jesus.

Yet we need to guard against getting carried away with our freedom. The Bible has much to say on the subject.

Free in the Spirit

Paul writes to the church in Corinth that Jesus (the Lord) is Spirit. Through his Spirit we have freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Free in Christ

Paul reminds the church in Galatia, that Jesus has set them free, free from sin. Therefore, they aren’t obligated to be weighed down by being slaves to rules and regulations.

Free to Do Good

Yet some of the people in the church in Corinth overreach when they pursue their freedom through Jesus. They claim that they had the right to do anything, but Paul points out that not everything is beneficial. Not everything is constructive.

Instead of doing whatever they want to do, they should seek to use their freedom to do good for others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

Free to Love One Another

In similar fashion, Paul writes to the church in Galatia. He reminds them that they are free through Jesus. But this doesn’t give them the freedom to pursue self-gratification, that is, to indulge in human desires. Instead, they should use their freedom in Jesus to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Free to Live

Peter also confirms what Paul says, writing that we are to live as free people (that is, not under the law or bound by rules). We must take care, however, not to use this freedom in Jesus as a cover for evil living, that is, as an excuse to sin (1 Peter 2:16).

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others. Click To Tweet

Freedom in Jesus

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others, not out of obligation but as a response to what Jesus did for us.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Who Says We Should Give 10 Percent to the Local Church?

Fundamentalist preachers twist what the Bible says and misapply it for their own benefit

I was taught to give 10 percent of my money to church. I’ve heard many evangelical preachers assert that their followers had to give 10 percent to the local church. It was a tithe, an obligation. You could, of course, give more.

That was a voluntary offering, but the 10 percent baseline was a requirement. If you failed to do so, it was a sin.

Says who?

It turns out the preachers who proclaim the 10-percent-to-the-local-church rule made it up. They want to fund their operation and ensure their paycheck.

Seriously, it’s not in the Bible.

The Bible never says to give 10 percent of our money to the local church. It’s not a command or even a guideline. Any place the New Testament mentions a tithe it’s in reference to the Old Testament Law, which Jesus fulfilled.

And don’t forget that the Old Testament tithe was from the harvest, not a paycheck. It was to the national temple, not a local assembly. Besides that, how many of the other 613 Old Testament Laws do you follow? Not many, I suspect.

So if you want to re-interpret the Old Testament and forget that Jesus fulfilled it, go ahead and tithe as a legalistic requirement. Just don’t act like it is an obligation or command others to do so.

The New Testament never says to give 10 percent to the local church. Click To Tweet

Here’s what the New Testament has to say:

In the New Testament we see a principle of stewardship, of carefully using what God blesses us with to help those around us. If you feel God calling you to give 10 percent to your local church, than go ahead and do it. But know that the Bible doesn’t command it. (It doesn’t prohibit it either.)

What I see in the Bible is a clear principle to help the poor and assist those who go outside the church to tell others about Jesus.

May our focus be on advancing the kingdom of God more so than on perpetuating the manmade institution of what many today call church.

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Give Generously and Not Begrudgingly

We Must Take Care of the Poor Among Us

As we read through the law of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy, we come across a command that says that we are to “give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:10).

We might have the inclination to dismiss this command as part of the old covenant, which Jesus came to fulfill, but remember that he modeled and taught generosity. For example, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says to give to those who ask and don’t ignore those who want to borrow (Matthew 5:42).

This Old Testament command says to give generously to “them.” But who does them refer to? The context in Deuteronomy is other Israelites. We can extend this concept to us today and apply it by saying that it means those in our church or other followers of Jesus.

This is an ideal place to start, but Jesus’s command to give doesn’t limit us to our own congregation or spiritual community. The context of the passage in Matthew seems to include everyone.

Applying Moses is teaching in Deuteronomy to Jesus’s call to give, adds the stipulation to not do so begrudgingly, that is, without a grudging heart. To give generously with the wrong attitude is disobedience.

There’s one more item from Moses’s teaching. He promises a reward for those who give generously and not grudgingly. He promises God’s blessings to those who give. The blessings apply to their work and everything they do.

May we give generously to those in need. Click To Tweet

But Jesus doesn’t promise a blessing when we give. He just says to do it. This should be enough. If we receive a blessing for our generosity, that’s a bonus.

May we give generously to those in need without thought to a reward, because Jesus says to—and it’s the right thing to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 13-15 and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 15:7-10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

When You Make a Vow to God

Be Sure to Follow Through on What You Promise to Do

Have you ever promised God that you’d do something for him? Sometimes these occur from the Holy Spirit’s stirring within our souls. Yet other times, these come at a traumatic moment in a person’s life when they’re in the middle of a crisis. They bargain with the Almighty. They make a conditional vow to God: “If you get me out of this jam, then I will do ______ for you.”

What goes in the blank varies. It may be an act of service, to give money, or to change a behavior, either to start doing something good or to stop doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Regardless of the promise they make and the fact that it contains a stipulation for God to act first, the result is they are making a vow to God.

I’m not sure how God views these provisional pledges. On one hand it seems a bit manipulative by the person making the promise. Yet there is the potential for good to come out of it, providing the person making the pledge keeps their vow to God.

Lest there be any doubt about it, God expects us to follow through and keep our vow. In the book of Numbers, Moses writes that when we make a vow to God or promise to do something we must keep our word and not break our pledge (Numbers 30:2).

Though the Bible doesn’t require us to make a vow to God, it does clearly state that if we choose to do so, we must follow through and do all that we promised.

Moses later writes an additional command on the subject. He adds that when we make a vow to God, we must not be slow in fulfilling that promise. To procrastinate is a sin (Deuteronomy 23:21). A delayed obedience is disobedience.

Don’t make a rash vow to God. Instead, live a life where you don’t have to. Click To Tweet

Jesus repeats this instruction in his Sermon on the Mount. Then he adds a wise addendum, telling the crowd that the better solution is to not make a promise in God’s name (Matthew 5:33-34).

This last part is wise advice for us to follow. Don’t make a rash vow to God. Instead, live a life where we don’t feel we have to.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 28-30 and today’s post is on Numbers 30:2.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Freedom through Jesus

Stop Asking If You Can Do Something and Start Asking If You Should

We have freedom through Jesus. Do we believe this is true? How does this idea inform our day-to-day actions? We’ll do well to consider this thought to determine the best way to apply it to our lives.

As children, our parents taught us what was right and what was wrong. Our churches built upon this. The result is that we’ve formed a list of what we can do and another list of what we can’t. These lists become rules that guide our behavior and inform our life.

Freedom through Jesus

Rules can be good, and rules can be bad. It all depends on how we apply them. When rules become law—spiritual laws—those who follow the law become legalistic. This is not good. How do we balance the rules we’re supposed to follow with our freedom through Jesus?

It’s our nature to try to push against rules, against the law. We want the liberty to do as much as we can, making our list of what’s permissible as long as possible and the list of what’s prohibited as short as we can. We want freedom.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes to them that everything is lawful for him to do, but not everything is profitable; not everything builds up (1 Corinthians 10:23). Stated another way, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Based on this verse, I’m working to reorient my thinking from “Is this something I can do” to “Is this something I should do?”

Let’s consider what Scripture has to say about this topic.

The Old Testament Law

Once we read past Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible, we move into the law of Moses. It’s an exhausting, mind-numbing list of what to do and not do. Bible scholars have catalogued 613 rules from the law of Moses that prescribe right behavior and wrong behavior. To be right with God, people needed to follow every one of these rules.

And for situations not covered by these 613 items, religious leaders began to interpret Moses’s original instructions to apply them to every area of life. Over time this resulted in more than 20,000 additional rules to guide the most diligent in proper living.

The Pharisees pursued all these rules with great diligence. Though we criticize them for their hypocrisy, we often miss their righteousness. They were more righteous—more God honoring through their right living—then perhaps any other.

Modern-Day Pharisees

Pharisees still exist in our world today. These modern-day Pharisees, however, don’t follow the Old Testament law. Instead, they’ve made their own list of things that they can’t do. Yes, their focus is on what they can’t do. It’s legalistic, and it’s bad. They forget that they have freedom through Jesus.

Instead, they become slaves to a list of man-made laws that they feel-duty bound to follow if they are to be a true disciple of Jesus. This is restrictive, and it’s wrong. They’re following the philosophy of the Old Testament law and the example of the New Testament Pharisees. They forget they’re saved by grace through faith—not actions (Acts 15:11 and Ephesians 2:8-9).

Freedom in Christ

In another of his letters, Paul writes to the Galatians that we have liberty because Jesus set us free. Paul contrasts this freedom through Jesus to being entangled by a yoke of bondage, that is, slaves—not slaves to sin—but slaves to the law (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus’s Expectations

Jesus, on the other hand, teaches that his yoke is easy—that is, his expectations for us when we follow him is minimal. This results in a light burden for us to bear (Matthew 11:30). We have the freedom through Jesus to push the law aside and not struggle under the burden of a heavy yoke.

Does that mean we can do anything, especially since our salvation comes through God’s grace? Paul writes about this in his letter to the church in Rome. He asks the rhetorical question, “Shall we continue in our sin so that we may showcase God’s grace?” Of course not. Paul makes it perfectly clear. “No way,” he says (Romans 6:1-2).

Responding to Our Freedom through Jesus

We need to keep this in balance.

We must avoid the two extremes—absolute law and complete grace. Neither are what Jesus has in mind. We need to land somewhere in the middle. Only following rules leads to failure and results in guilt. And only relying on God’s grace means that we fall short of who we can be through Jesus and diminishes the witness of our actions to a world who needs him.

In still another letter, this one to the church in Philippi, Paul encourages them to pursue what is noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. We should think of these things. And let these thoughts turn into actions (Philippians 4:8).

Jesus set us free, not to satisfy our own desires, but to do that which is spiritually profitable and builds up others. Click To Tweet

We have the freedom through Jesus, but not the obligation, to do these things. Jesus set us free, not to satisfy our own desires, but to do that which is spiritually profitable and builds up others.

May we use this principle to guide our daily living. This is what it means to have freedom through Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

What Do We Do When God’s Commands No Longer Make Sense?

Contrary to the Law of Moses King David Reassigns the Duties of the Levites

In the book of Numbers, Moses details the assignments and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi, mentioning them over fifty times. Though the priests, descendants of Aaron, are from this tribe, the rest of the Levites have God-assigned responsibilities too.

Chief among them is taking down, moving, and setting up the tabernacle and related elements of worship. They must do this each time God’s people move camp as they wander about in the wilderness.

The nation of Israel spends about four decades in the desert, sometimes moving frequently and other times not so much. This keeps the Levites busy.

Then they get to the promised land, conquer it, and occupy it. No longer is there a need to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. What do the Levites do now that their primary job is irrelevant? That’s a good question.

Over four hundred years later, some four centuries with the Levites having nothing to do, King David arrives on the scene. He reassigns the Levites to new tasks that relate to worshiping God.

Who does David think he is to countermand the commands of Moses, as received from God? It seems ill-advised to ignore what’s in Scripture—God’s written word—and replace it with something that makes better sense to us. But this is precisely what David did.

Though we could concoct a principal from this and say that when Scripture—God’s past commands—no longer makes sense in the present, we are free to change them. Just like David did. Yet, I’m not going to go there. I think it’s an overstretch, a misapplication.

Remember, after all, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That’s significant.

Hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best we can to our life and culture today. Click To Tweet

Whenever I encounter something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t ignore it. Instead I meditate on it. I ask the Holy Spirit to supernaturally explain it to me.

Sometimes he does so right away, in other instances it takes a few days, and on occasion I wait for years. But until God instructs me otherwise, I’ll hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best I can to my life and our culture today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 24-26, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 24:3.]

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.

Categories
Bible Insights

Don’t Fight Against God

Too many people fail to see God at work and instead oppose those who follow him into his new ways

Jesus warns his followers what awaits them. First, they’ll get kicked out of their church and then people will kill them. Their opponents will do so in the name of religion, thinking they’re acting in service to God, but their actions fight against God.

This means the killers aren’t coming from the world but from within the family of God.

Historically this happens whenever a new move of God occurs. The biggest movement of God was Jesus coming to fulfill the Old Testament Law. Most people miss this, and so they oppose him.

Moses

There is also Moses who leads the people from slavery to freedom. He gives them instructions on how to live as a free people. They oppose him—for forty years. Though they don’t kill him, they provoke him so much that sometimes he wishes he was dead (Exodus 32:32 and Numbers 11:15).

The Prophets

The Old Testament prophets likewise suffer opposition and death. It seldom goes well for them.

Today’s Church Can Fight Against God

The pattern of religious conflict continues since the time of Jesus. Most notably the Reformation. Christians oppose other Christians. Christians hate other Christians. And Christians kill other Christians.

Another momentous time of Christian versus Christian hostility happens at the birth of the Charismatic movement in the early 1900s and again at its rebirth in the 1960s.

Instead of arguing, let’s listen. Click To Tweet

Each time God is at work doing a new thing. Each time, many of his people mount a significant opposition. And God’s messengers usually suffer for it.

Gamaliel’s Wise Advice

Don’t label the people who follow God into his new way of doing things as heretics and oppose them. Instead, we would be better off heeding the words of Gamaliel who told the religious leaders, “Don’t bother with them.

If they’re doing this on their own, they will fail. But if it’s of God, we can’t stop them—and could end up fighting against God himself,” (see Acts 5:38-39). That is, don’t fight against God.

Instead of kicking the people we disagree with out of church, we would be better off seeing if God is at work. Instead of arguing, let’s listen.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 16-17, and today’s post is on John 16:2-3.]

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.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Save

Categories
Bible Insights

Discover What the Bible Says about Drinking Blood

Don’t Drink Blood versus Drink My Blood

Among the many “laws” (that is, rules and regulations for right behavior), that God—through Moses—gave the nation of Israel was an unconditional prohibition against drinking blood.

Every Hebrew would have been taught this from early childhood. Breaking this law would have been unthinkable to them, a repulsive act to even consider. Drinking blood was strictly verboten.

Then Jesus came along with his radical teaching that shocked many. He told his followers that they needed to drink his blood. His followers—all Hebrews—were appalled. Viewing his statement as heresy, many turned their backs on him and left (John 6:54-55).

The idea was so repulsive to them that they were unable to get past the shock of a literal interpretation to consider that it might just have a figurative meaning. Instead many of his followers saw this statement as an act of heresy, and they left him in a huff.

In making this bold statement, Jesus foreshadowed his sacrificial death. Succinctly, his blood would be spilt as a redeeming, life-restoring sacrifice.

Jesus wasn’t contradicting the laws of Moses. Instead, he voiced his intention to fulfill it.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 16-18, and today’s post is on Leviticus 17:10-12.]

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

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Is Our Relationship With God More Important Than Obedience?

The Old Testament Law talks a lot about offering sacrifices to God, but what if he really wants something more?

King Solomon writes in the book of Ecclesiastes that we need to be careful when approaching God. “Guard your steps,” he says. This is wise advice.

Then he adds something more: “Go near to listen.” He even places listening over offering God the prescribed sacrifices. Though the Old Testament Law gives many commands about offering God our sacrifices, I don’t recall one that tells us to listen.

Yet Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, places listening to God over offering sacrifices to him.

Listening is about connecting. Solomon realizes God wants a relationship with us. He talks to us, and when we listen, we hear his voice, his words.

A deeper relationship with God starts when we listen to him. Click To Tweet

Communication with God isn’t a one-way street, with us just asking him (praying) for things. God can communicate to us, too, through the Bible and through his Holy Spirit, “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, NIV) or his “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV).

In Psalms we read we need to “be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). That is the best way to listen to God. That’s what he wants from us: our ears, our attention, a relationship.

Our relationship with God starts when we listen to him.

Ask yourself: How do you listen to God? How does God speak to you?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ecclesiastes 4-6, today’s post is on Ecclesiastes 5:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

See How Jesus Fulfills the Law and the Prophets

Jesus does three things to complete what the Old Testament started

Jesus draws people to him. The words he speaks and the hope he communicates attract them. Some people assume he had come to replace the Old Testament Law and the work of the prophets. Instead, Jesus fulfills it.

Jesus doesn’t come to do away with what the Old Testament teaches. Instead his mission is to bring the Old Testament into fruition, according to God’s plan from the beginning.

Jesus makes this clear. He says, “I have not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). How does Jesus do this?

Jesus Becomes the Ultimate Sacrifice

The Old Testament is packed with instructions for making sacrificial offerings, commands that showed the people’s relationship with God. These sacrifices had various meanings, but one key sacrifice occurred to redress sin.

An animal had to die because the people had sinned. Because the people continued to sin, animal sacrifices continued to be required. These sin sacrifices happened over and over, year after year, century after century.

Jesus, in his sacrificial death on the cross, becomes the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sin sacrifices. In his once-and-for-all sacrifice, he dies to make us right with God, to reconcile us into right relationship with the Almighty.

Jesus Turns Law into Love

Despite Jesus’s fresh way of looking at the understandings of his people, most of his followers struggle to fully comprehend what he means. They wrestle to reconcile his teachings with their traditions.

One such person asks Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Jesus’s answer is love. He says to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.”

This stands as the greatest commandment, but then he adds one more. He says to “love others as much as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:36-40). These two simple principles summarize all the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets.

Jesus removes a set of impossible-to-please laws and replaces them with one principle: love.

Jesus Changes Our Perspectives

Jesus likes to review what the Hebrew Bible says, and then he expands on it. He often makes this transition by saying “but I tell you…” Then he gives his enlightened explanation about what God meant.

We’ll do well to carefully study what Jesus says immediately after his words “but I tell you…” Read about what he says in this post.

Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. Click To Tweet

What’s important to understand when we consider that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament law and the writings of the prophets is that we must put the Old Testament in proper perspective.

This doesn’t mean to ignore the Old Testament because Jesus fulfills it, but it does mean we need to consider the Old Testament in the context to which it was given. In addition to teaching people how to live back then, the Law and the prophets also points them to the coming Savior, Jesus.

As we read the Old Testament we see allusions to Jesus and the freedom he represents. And if we read the Old Testament with care, we will also see that this future revelation about Jesus applies to all people, not just God’s chosen nation of Israel.

Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament Law and Prophets

Yes, Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. And we are the benefactor of that.

Thank you Jesus.

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.