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Christian Living

Do We Need to Obey God?

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

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

But Don’t Abuse God’s Grace

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

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

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

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

Work Out Our Salvation

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

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

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

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

Obey God

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

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

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

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Bible Insights

Following a Father’s Example

Walking in our Parents’ Footsteps

The books of 1 and 2 Kings are filled with the accounts of many rulers who reigned over the nations of Israel and Judah. Most of them were bad kings, with varying degrees of disobedience to God’s laws and exhibiting evil.

A few, however, were good rulers, mostly following God and doing what he commanded.

Amaziah was a good king.

A Father’s Example

The son of Joash, another good king, Amaziah followed his father’s example (2 Kings 14:3). He was not, however, as good as King David. The chief criticism of King Amaziah is that he did not remove the high places and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

This was contrary to God’s expectations of right worship, and Amaziah took no steps to correct their inappropriate action.

Nevertheless, the Bible characterizes Amaziah as a good king. He followed his father’s example of seeking God and obeying (most of) his commands.

Amaziah’s son, Azariah, did the same thing. He, too, followed his father’s example and did what was right in the eyes of God. But he also failed to remove the high places, allowing the people to continue to worship there (2 Kings 15:1-4).

In this respect he followed his father’s example, both the positive ones and the negative. This repeats what Amaziah did when he made the same mistake.

This pattern goes back another generation to Joash, when Amaziah followed his father’s example in both good and bad ways. Joash, too, failed to remove the high places (2 Kings 12:1-3).

Here we have a string of three overall good Kings, with the similar fault of not removing the high places where inappropriate worship took place.

As parents we are to train our children in God’s ways, teaching them to do what is right, to obey him, and to worship him. Click To Tweet

As parents we are to train our children in God’s ways, teaching them to do what is right, to obey him, and to worship him. We also need to model godly behavior to them. This is because they will mimic us in both positive and negative ways.

With God’s help, may we be good examples for our children to follow.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Kings 14-16 and today’s post is on 2 Kings 14:3.]

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

Listen and Obey

Be Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

I write a lot about the importance of reading Scripture and studying God’s Word. But reading and studying the Bible is not enough. We must apply what the Bible teaches to our daily lives for it to matter, for it to change us and impact the world. We must listen and obey what Scripture teaches.

If we hear the Word of God and don’t apply it to our lives, we’re deluding ourselves. Paul, a most knowledgeable man himself, writes to the church in Corinth that knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Today’s church focuses on knowledge and rarely mentions putting that knowledge into action. Often this knowledge righty focuses on the Bible, but if we don’t do what it says, if we don’t obey, it accomplishes nothing. Instead, through our knowledge, we become puffed up people.

James writes that merely listening to the Word of God isn’t enough. If we only listen, we deceive ourselves. His prescription is clear: do with it says (James 1:22). The requirement is obedience. Action should be the outcome of our Bible study.

Over the years, many people have told me they want to join a good Bible study. That’s a God-honoring desire, yet for most of these folks, they think that merely reading and studying and talking about Scripture is enough. They don’t realize that they must listen and obey.

Their Bible study, they reason, will honor God. And it will, to some extent. But what God wants us to do is to read his word and apply it to our daily living. He wants changed lives more so than informed minds.

Read God’s Word and then do it. Listen and obey. Click To Tweet

We can read about loving our neighbor, but until we actually do it, what does it matter? If we know we need to love others and don’t follow through, what good is that to them? And what good is it to us? Knowing and doing are two different things.

I think it was Joyce Meyer who said that most Christians already know more Bible than they’re putting into practice.

Don’t be one of those Christians. Read God’s Word and then do it. Listen and obey.

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

We Need to Take God’s Instructions Seriously

Understanding the Background behind the Death of Uzzah

The book of Numbers contains details that are easy to gloss over or dismiss as irrelevant, even boring. Yet they’re in the Bible for a reason, and we can learn something from each one of these verses, no matter how trivial they may seem. Such is the case with Numbers 7:9. It includes one of God’s instructions that they shouldn’t have dismissed.

The Ark of the Covenant

This passage details what Moses does after he sets up the tabernacle, according to God’s instructions. Since the people are nomadic at this time, everything must be portable. Easy transportation is key. To accommodate this Moses accepts gifts of carts and oxen from the tribes so that the Levites can move the items they’re responsible for.

The Levites have three clans: the Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Kohathites, each with specific duties. Moses gives two carts with four oxen to the Gershonites and four carts with eight oxen to the Merarites. But the Kohathites receive none. This doesn’t seem fair. Why not give each clan two carts and four oxen? This would keep everything even.

But Moses has a good reason. The Kohathites are supposed to carry the holy things they’re responsible for on their shoulders. This means no carts drawn by oxen. One of the holy things they’re responsible for transporting is the ark of the covenant (the ark of God).

God had already specified the ark of the covenant was to be carried by two poles (Exodus 25:14). This means no carts and no oxen. God’s instructions are clear.

The Death of Uzzah

Fast-forward about four centuries. The people have settled in the promised land, and David is their king. He wants to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.

With great fanfare they put the ark on a cart. As the processional makes its way to Jerusalem, one of the oxen stumbles. One man, Uzzah, reaches out to steady the ark. I’d have had the same reaction. I’m quite sure he did this without thinking, desiring to keep God’s ark safe.

God sees things differently. Uzzah shouldn’t have touched the ark, and God strikes him dead. Uzzah dies on the spot (2 Samuel 6:6).

David’s angry at God. Frankly, I’m a bit dismayed as well.

Yet the ark shouldn’t have been on a cart. Levites should have carried it using poles, just as God had instructed. And Uzzah shouldn’t have been nearby.

Uzzah’s death was unnecessary and could have been avoided had David and his people followed God’s instructions. Click To Tweet

Uzzah’s death was unnecessary and could have been avoided had David and his people followed God’s instructions.

This is a solemn reminder for us to never dismiss what God says.

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

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 Know What Your Mission Is?

How Closely Do You Do the Things God Tells You to Do?

Paul travels to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus. This is his mission, a mission for God. As a Jew it seems logical that he would go to his own people first to share this good news. He does. He goes to the local synagogue, where he spends three months boldly telling them about Jesus.

However, some of the Jews don’t like what they hear, so Paul leaves the synagogue, but he doesn’t leave Ephesus. Instead he goes to the local lecture hall, presumably a Greek hangout. There he speaks daily about Jesus. It apparently goes well, because he sticks around for two years.

In the end, everyone in the area—both Jews and Greeks—hear about Jesus (Acts 19:8-10).

I’m glad Paul goes to his own people first. And I’m glad he has a backup plan when his first one doesn’t work out. He seems to do this often when he enters a new city. He starts in the Synagogue, with his own people, and then expands his target audience when some of them oppose him.

In each city Paul goes to the Jews first, to give them a chance. Click To Tweet

Yet, why does he do this?

Paul’s assignment is the Gentiles, not the Jews. Ananias knows this at Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion (Acts 9:15), and Paul confirms this when he shares his conversion experience while on trial (Acts 22:21).

Yet to the Romans, Paul shares his deep love for his people. He writes that he is willing to be damned forever if his people could be saved (Romans 9:3-4).

Does this mean that Paul puts his own personal agenda before God’s command? While it might seem so, consider Peter when he quotes Psalm 118:22 to say that (most of) the Jews reject Jesus and then he becomes the cornerstone, presumably for everyone (Acts 4:11).

Perhaps Paul goes to the Jews first in each city to give them a chance. And when they reject his teaching about Jesus, he can freely go to the Gentiles, with scripture to back him up.

What may at first seem like disobedience may actually be a sound strategy.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 18-19, and today’s post is on Acts 19:8-10.]

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.

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Bible Insights

Submit to God and Resist the Devil

James offers a solution to those who face disappointment with their life

I like the words of James in the Bible. His concise writing packs a lot of practical teaching into five succinct chapters. In chapter four he opens with a string of negative outcomes that often plague people.

He lists fights, quarrels, envy, covetousness, and the kicker of all disappointments: unanswered prayers. Ouch.

Why do we suffer from such things? The cause is spiritual adultery, of being so friendly with worldly pursuits that we become estranged from God. Double ouch. God wants our full attention, undivided.

What’s the solution? James’s two-part answer, both direct and succinct, says to submit to God and resist the devil. But are these dual initiatives for us to pursue or opposite sides of the same coin? By submitting to God do we automatically become empowered to resist evil?

Perhaps by turning our back to sin, we effectively submit to God. Yet it matters not if we resist first, submit first, or do both. The main thrust of James’s instruction is to effectively focus our actions on God and turn from worldly pursuits.

Submission is not a popular concept in today’s society. Neither is resisting temptation. With our self-sufficient, do-it-myself mindset, no one wants to acquiesce to another, to defer our desires to another person’s wellbeing.

Yet the Bible teaches us to do just that. James says to submit to God. So does Job (Job 22:21), as well as the wisdom literature (Psalms 81:11 and Proverbs 3:6).

Plus Peter tells us to submit to the elders (1 Peter 5:5), and Paul teaches us to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and to authorities (Romans 13:5). And there is more.

The Bible teaches us to submit to God and others. Click To Tweet

How do we do this submitting to God and resisting the devil? James says we need to be close to God, wash our hands (figuratively speaking), purify our hearts, repent (grieve, mourn, and wail), and humbly approach God. Then he will lift us up.

Implicitly our disagreements will cease, our materialism will end, and we will enjoy answered prayer. It starts when we submit to God and resist temptation.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 4-5, and today’s post is on James 4:1-10.]

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.

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Bible Insights

When God Calls Do We Answer? When He Speaks Do We Listen?

Punishment May Await Us If We Fail to Listen to God

Isaiah wraps up his lengthy prophecy talking about judgment. He prophesies that God has destined the people for death. That they will be slaughtered. There will be consequences.

Why would a loving God want to kill his people? Through the mouth of Isaiah, God explains why. He says that when he calls his people, they don’t answer. It would be like you and me passing each other on a path. You say, “Hi,” but I ignore you. That would be rude. It would disrespect you. And that’s exactly what God’s people do to him. They’re rude and disrespectful.

And to make sure we don’t miss his point, God rephrases it. He adds that when he speaks, his people don’t listen, either. That would be like you telling me, “Wait! Don’t step into the road.” But I ignore you, walk into traffic, and blam! A car hits me. So it is with God’s people. He tries to warn them, but they don’t listen.

Our Actions Have Consequences

Instead of answering, instead of listening, they do the exact things that God says are evil. They intentionally do what displeases him. That’s premeditated disobedience. They may figure they’re free to ignore what God says because they don’t think it matters or because they assume there will be no consequences. At least they haven’t seen any consequences for a long time.

But God’s patience is at its breaking point. He says, “Enough is enough; your time is up. You ignored me and disrespected me long enough. You’re about to enter the punishment phase,” all because they didn’t listen to God.

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen. Click To Tweet

We may have a similar view of God, perhaps not directly but indirectly. We may choose to ignore God because we think it doesn’t matter, that we’ll still get into heaven. We may assume there will be no consequences because we haven’t seen any yet. However, just because God loves us and will forgive us doesn’t mean our wrong actions won’t have negative outcomes.

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 64-66, and today’s post is on Isaiah 65:12.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah available 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 Speaks to the Prophet Amos through a Vision

Regardless of How God Speaks to Us, We Should Listen to What He Says

The words of the Old Testament prophet Amos appear in the book of the Bible that bears his name. The words the God speaks come to Amos in a vision. But the Bible doesn’t tell us the circumstances surrounding the vision or how it occurred.

The vision may have come to Amos at night in a dream or in that early-morning time between the unconsciousness of sleep and the consciousness of being awake. Or perhaps the vision came to Amos as he was praying or fasting or meditating. Regardless of the details, God speaks to Amos in a vision.

Some of the other prophets also have visions but not all. For other prophets, such as Jeremiah, the Bible simply says that the word came to them. And God spoke directly to Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Job, and Isaiah. Other times, angels serve as messengers to carry God’s word to his emissaries.

Regardless of the process, however, God speaks to his people. It may be through a vision, words, or thoughts. It may be through an angel, a person, or another means. The method doesn’t matter but the message does.

Are we ready to listen to what God says to us? Click To Tweet

Be Faithful to What God Says

When Amos receives his vision, he proclaims it to the people. A scribe records it for us to read in the Bible. In this way, Amos is faithful to his vision. God speaks to him, and he shares it with others.

I wonder if God spoke to other people who weren’t faithful with his message. They didn’t proclaim it to others and therefore those words didn’t make it into the Bible. We’ll never know, but it’s worth considering.

God speaks to us, too. Are we ready to listen to what he says? And when we hear, are we faithful to say or do what he says?

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

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.

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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.

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Bible Insights

Be Careful What You Say

Advice for Prophets and to Us

The book of Deuteronomy has a curious passage about prophecy. It teaches if a prophet says something God didn’t instruct him or her to say, the prophet must be executed. That should certainly cause prophets to be careful with their words, saying only what God commands and nothing else.

A few verses later, it says if a prophet declares something that doesn’t come true, to just disregard that person. There seems little distinction between these two situations, but with drastically different outcomes: killing versus ignoring.

I wonder if the distinction might be intent, where the first instance is willful and the second, accidental.

A third situation, which this passage doesn’t address, is the opposite of the first. Instead of saying what God doesn’t tell them, they don’t say what God tells them.

They are disobedient, but in this case their error isn’t public. Only they and God know about it, so there cannot be a response from the people. Yet I suspect that not saying what we should say is almost as bad as saying what we shouldn’t.

While not everyone is a prophet, most of us do talk about God—and we must take care in what we say as well as in what we don’t say. Much is at stake.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 16-18, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 18:20-22.]

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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