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Bible Insights

How to be Saved

Discover What the Bible Says about Salvation

Paul, in writing to the church in Ephesus, shares a succinct and essential truth about salvation. He tells them how to be saved, which reminds them how they were saved.

He writes “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).

By Grace

Our salvation starts with God’s grace. Grace gives to us what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve our right standing with Father God that came to us through Jesus when he died in our place for the wrong things we have done

As we explore how to be saved, it doesn’t start with us but with God and his grace.

Through Faith

The second related item is faith. This is our part. We must receive the grace that God offers to us through faith. We must believe.

It doesn’t make sense to most people. It seems too easy. So they pile more requirements upon it, as if making it hard will make it mean more.

Yet through faith we can receive God’s grace. This is how to be saved.

A Gift

Lest there be any doubt, salvation is a gift that God freely gives to us. It’s a no-strings-attached present from the Almighty. That’s what God’s grace does.

Not Works

We can’t earn our salvation anymore than we can earn a gift that’s already been freely offered to us. Yet when many people consider how to be saved, they think there’s a list of requirements they must meet, that is, there are a set of prescribed steps they must go through to earn their salvation.

But we can’t work to become eligible to receive a present from God that he’s already given to us. All we need to do is open that gift.

To be saved, we make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus. Click To Tweet

How to be Saved: Follow Jesus

When we consider how to be saved, we must acknowledge that God’s gift of grace is something that we receive through faith. But how do we do that?

It’s simple. We make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus. That’s the essential message that Jesus tells people when they ask him how to be saved, how to have eternal life. He simply says follow me (Matthew 9:9, John 1:43, John 8:12, John 10:27, and many more.

I follow Jesus. Do you?

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

Can We Have a Superhuman Spirituality?

Don’t Be Merely Human

Paul reprimands the church in Corinth for many things. One time he points out that they envy one another and argue a lot. There is jealousy and quarreling in their church. It happened then and it’s still happening now.

We want what others have. Although this often relates to money, possessions, or prestige, we can also envy the faith of others, their spiritual journey, and even their intimacy with God. Though it seems spiritual, it is just as wrong. Jealousy is jealousy, regardless of what we long for.

Next is their quarrels. We disagree and fight with words. It seems no church is immune to arguing, yet Paul decries this as wrong. Don’t do it.

Jealousy and quarreling are worldly traits. They are not godly, but worldly. By allowing these conditions to persist, we are mere humans.

By saying mere humans, Paul implies there is another way, a higher ground we can take. We don’t need to be merely human; we shouldn’t be merely human.

Superhuman Spirituality

Through Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit we can rise above being mere humans. We can become more than human, superhuman, if you will: not superhuman in physical strength but superhuman in a spiritual sense, a superhuman spirituality.

As followers of Jesus, being merely human is who we were, but our future is a superhuman spirituality.

Are we willing to pursue it?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 1-4, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 3:3.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

Can We Be Baptized For Dead People?

Understand How to Respond to This Perplexing Practice

A perplexing verse in Paul’s letter to his friends in Corinth mentions being baptized for dead people. What in the world does this mean? It sounds heretical.

Can we be baptized for dead people? Well, I suppose so, but we shouldn’t expect it to accomplish anything. Should we be baptized for dead people? No.

Though the meaning of this verse is unclear—and I won’t attempt to clarify it—we should keep two things in mind:

First, it is likely a reference to an issue confronting only the church in Corinth since it is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Though we don’t know the background for this particular issue, we do know the Corinthian church had many issues, with this being one of them.

Let’s not make this our issue by adopting their misguided practice. After all, they had many unwise practices.

Second, and most importantly, is that Paul shares this procedure in a descriptive manner. He is simply describing something other people are doing. Paul does not command we do this; he does not recommend we do this; and he does not model this.

If we did everything the Bible described, we’d be a sorry lot. Instead let’s look at what the Bible commands. That will keep us busy for a long time.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14-16, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 15:29.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

Be a Peacemaker

Do What You Can to Promote Peace

In Jesus’s best-known sermon, which we call the Sermon on the Mount, he proclaims that “Blessed are the peacemakers.” They’ll be known as God’s children (Matthew 5:9).

Though Jesus doesn’t explicitly command us to advocate for peace, he proclaims blessings on those who do. And the blessings are most significant. Peacemakers will be “called children of God.” The inference is that those who do not promote peace are not his children, or at least not known by others as his children.

In similar fashion, James writes that peacemakers will plant peace and then reap righteousness (James 3:18). Again, James doesn’t command that we be peacemakers. He merely says that a significant reward awaits those who are: righteousness; a great harvest of righteousness.

Here are some ideas of what we can do to be a peacemaker.

Guard What We Say

The first step to be a peacemaker is to avoid saying things that stir up dissension. James writes that if we can’t control what we say, our religion is worthless (James 1:26). Paul says that our speech should be gracious (Colossians 4:6) and to block unwholesome speech from our mouths (Ephesians 4:29).

There are many more verses, too, such as asking God to guard our mouth (Psalm 141:3), a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and letting our speech be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14), along with scores more.

Focus on Silence Not Speech

Just because we can say something, doesn’t mean we should. We often celebrate a right to speak, that is, freedom of speech. We live in a world where much of it abuses their speech.

Social media overflows with people who proclaim opinions as fact and vilify those who disagree with them. The more outrageous they are, the better. The more adamant their pronouncements, the more that like-minded people celebrate them—and the more that they hurt others.

News sources do the same thing.

Next consider reality TV. It seeks those with outrageous behavior. The more shocking they are, the more airtime they receive. The rest of the entertainment industry follows, pushing the envelope with what many view as offensive behavior, treating outlier perspectives as normal.

The result is a polarization of society.

As followers of Jesus, we should avoid promoting division whenever possible. The easiest way to do this is to not add to the fray, but to keep our mouth shut. We should listen first and then speak (James 1:19)

Jesus modeled silence, even when it seemed in his best interest to defend himself (Matthew 26:63).

We should guard what we say, exercise silence instead of freedom of speech, and speak the truth in love. Click To Tweet

Speak the Truth in Love

If we feel we must speak out about a subject, we should cover our speech in love (Ephesians 4:15) but only after first praying and seeking insight from the Holy Spirit. Too often—especially in the church and religious circles—people decry evil, but they do so in the most unloving way.

We judge, we condemn, and we withhold forgiveness. Instead, Jesus tells us to do the opposite (Luke 6:37). The world is watching, and they rightly dismiss us as a result.

Peacemaker Tips

Following these three ideas can move us closer to becoming a peacemaker. We should guard what we say, exercise silence instead of pursuing freedom of speech, and when we must talk to speak the truth in love.

If we all did this, our world would be a much better place. And our witness for Jesus would have much greater impact.

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

Who Are We to Judge? We May Have It Backwards

Though the Bible Tells Us to Judge, Who We’re Supposed to Judge May Shock You

When Paul writes to his friends in Corinth, he has much to say because they struggle with many things, including judging others. He spends a whole chapter in his first letter addressing sin within their assembly: sexual sin, specifically incest.

In reading between the lines, it seems the people involved think God’s grace gives them the freedom to pursue this lifestyle, to live as they wish, while the rest of the church remains quiet on the issue.

Judge Ourselves

Paul is concerned one bad example will infect others and embolden them to go wild as well. As the saying goes, “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel,” though Paul’s first-century version says a little bit of yeast affects the whole batch of dough.

He tells them how to deal with this issue and the perpetrators. Though he expects them to assess the situation and take action, he places limits on the scope of their role of judging others.

The world fails to see the love of Jesus, because his followers fail to show the world his love. Click To Tweet

Not Judging Others

Specifically, he says not to worry about those on the outside, that God will deal with them. Instead, they need to worry about the people within their group, that self-policing is in order. Paul reminds them that they should judge folks within the church but they have no business judging others, the people in the world.

Much of today’s church has this backward. We delight in pointing a condemning finger at the actions of the world, all the while ignoring the behavior within our own community.

It’s no wonder the world thinks the church is comprised of close-minded, judgmental, hypocrites—because it is.

It’s no wonder the world fails to see the love of Jesus, because his followers fail to show the world his love. Instead, they show judgment, mean, hateful judgment.

Though we need to judge ourselves, we have no business judging others in the world in which we live. So stop it.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

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.

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Christian Living

Take Every Thought Captive

Discover How to Control Your Thoughts

Our brain is our most powerful organ, which makes our mind a significant part of us. That’s how God created us. With our mind we can accomplish much, but through it is also the potential to lead us into wrong thinking, guide us into sin, and take us away from God. That’s why we must strive to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Yet most people struggle to control their thoughts. Here are three encouragements from Scripture to guide us in how we can take every thought captive.

1. Set Our Hearts and Minds on Things Above

Jesus warns that from our heart can come evil thoughts. He lists murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:19). But this doesn’t mean our hearts are always set on evil, we can establish our attention on what is good too.

Paul says to focus on what is above—on heavenly things where Jesus resides with Father God—and not on earthly concerns (Colossians 3:1).

After telling us to set our hearts on heavenly things, Paul adds a parallel element. He also says the set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2).

Our hearts and our minds connect, with the priority of our heart directing the focus of our mind. What our heart yearns for, our thoughts take us there.

2. Think About Right Things

To the church in Philippi, Paul tells them to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). These are 8 things we should think about.

If we’re contemplating these positive ideas, we’re not thinking about the opposite ones that Jesus listed and we already covered: murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:19).

3. Fix Our Hearts on Jesus

We’re best to follow the advice we find in the book of Hebrews, to fix our thoughts on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1). He is the ultimate of all heavenly things, of all things above. He exemplifies whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

We can watch our words and exercise care over what we say when we first take every thought captive. Click To Tweet

This Is How to Take Every Thought Captive

When we do these things—set our hearts and minds on things above, think about what is good, and fix our hearts on Jesus—we prepare ourselves to guard our tongue and control what we say.

In this way, we can watch our words and exercise caution over what we say. And it starts when we take every thought captive.

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

Don’t Let Your Prayers Be Hindered

Understanding the Weaker Vessel

When Paul talks in the Bible about marriage, I struggle with his words because he was a bachelor. What does he know about the subject? Peter, on the other hand, was married so I give more credence to what he says on the subject. Even so I struggle a bit when he talks about women as the weaker vessel in 1 Peter 3:7.

This verse is specifically about husbands and wives. It’s part of a longer passage that talks about the marriage relationship. Let’s breakdown what Peter says.

The Weaker Vessel

In looking at multiple versions of this verse, most use the phrase weaker vessel. It offends my sensibilities because I strive to view men and women as equals. Some verses clarify that this weakness refers to physical characteristics, which I understand to be true, even if I don’t want to dwell on it.

The Message translation doesn’t use the phrase weaker vessel. Instead. it says, “as women they lack some of your advantages” (1 Peter 3:7, MSG).

The Expanded Bible clarifies this even further using the phrase as “the less empowered one” and explains that in the society of that time, women tended to have less power and authority (1 Peter 3:7, EXB).

Can we expand our understanding of this teaching beyond marriage to produce a general principle? Or is that taking the verse out of context?

If we choose to extend Peter’s instructions beyond marriage, we should all—men and women—take care in how we treat others who may be a weaker vessel to us: those who lack our advantages, who aren’t as empowered, and who possessed less authority.

As we do so we promote a God-honoring justice.

Joint Heirs with Jesus

Not only is this verse about husbands and wives, but it also refers to a Christ-centered marriage. Husbands and wives who follow Jesus are his heirs.

Some translations say co-heirs or joint heirs. The rendering I appreciate most, however, is that we are equal partners (1 Peter 3:7, NLT).

As heirs of Jesus, we receive an inheritance from him, both now and later. That is, we inherit eternal life.

So That Your Prayers May Not Be Hindered

The outcome of husbands treating their wives properly, as joint heirs with Jesus, is a more effective prayer life. In this way, Peter gives a command with a promise: treat your spouse well and your prayers won’t be hindered. Other renderings say “blocked” (1 Peter 3:7, CJB) and “ineffective” (1 Peter 3:7, AMP).

Peter gives a command with a promise: treat your spouse well and your prayers won’t be hindered. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward

Putting this all together, when husbands treat their wives properly—when everyone treats everyone else with respect—our prayers will be more effective.

Don’t we all want a more vibrant, effective prayer life? Then we should take care how we treat others.

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

Why We Shouldn’t Take God’s Grace for Granted

We dishonor God by persisting in sin because we assume his grace will cover it

A highschool friend heard about the doctrine of eternal security—which some people shorten to the more accessible mantra of “once saved, always saved”—and latched onto it. She took God’s grace for granted.

She reasoned this creed allowed her to act any way she wanted, that she and God were in a good place in their relationship, and her behavior didn’t matter anymore.

In short she took this as a license to sin.

She thought she had her get-into-heaven card, and that was all she cared about. She disconnected her reality on earth from her future in eternity.

Though she rightly embraced God’s grace, she incorrectly assumed it came with endless abundance. This didn’t feel right to me. Surely she overreached and grabbed onto an unwise conclusion.

I tried to talk her down from her extreme position, but she wouldn’t listen.

Instead she clung to her steadfast belief that nothing she did from that point forward would have any bearing on her spiritual future. After all, she had said the prayer, so she was in.

I wish I had read Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. I wish I had known about the sixth chapter.

The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. Click To Tweet

In it Paul addresses this topic of sin and grace. The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. This is true. Yet some go too far and claim our ongoing sin serves to elevate God’s grace.

Paul says, “No way!”

When we follow Jesus we turn our back on our wrong behaviors (Romans 6:1-2).

I wish I had known that to tell my friend.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 5-7 and today’s post is on Romans 6:1-2.]

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.

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Bible Insights

What Does It Mean to be Yoked With Unbelievers?

The Apostle Paul presents a series of contrasting situations for us to avoid

Paul writes to the church in Corinth. He warns them not to yoke themselves, that is, to pair themselves, with people who don’t believe. The image of a yoke applies to two animals paired together to pull a load. He tells them: ” be yoked with unbelievers.”

They need to be of equal strength, and they certainly need to move in the same direction if their efforts are to be effective.

This verse is often applied to marriage, for a person who follows Jesus to not marry someone who does not believe. While this may be a sound application, I don’t see it as absolute.

I’ve also seen this misapplied by asserting, for example, that a Baptist can’t marry a Lutheran or a person of one race can’t marry someone of another race.

A secondary application relates to business, for a Christian businessperson to avoid forming partnerships with non-Christians. Again, there is wisdom in this as well, yet it is not unconditional either.

Look at some of the contrasts that follow the allusion of a mismatched yoke:

  • Right living versus wrong living
  • Light versus darkness
  • Jesus versus those opposed to him
  • A believer versus an unbeliever
  • God versus idols

Instead of applying this passage to marriage or business, let’s focus on the final contrast of God versus idols. What if the primary intent of Paul’s writing is a warning to not yoke the God of the Bible with other religions?

Do not pair God with other religions. Click To Tweet

This mixing of diverse spiritual practices is a popular trend these days. People take what they like about Christianity, stir in some Eastern religions or add a bit of Judaism or Islam, and season with some ideas of their own.

The result is a manmade religion, an idol of their own making. It’s being yoked with unbelievers. God is not pleased.

The Bible warns us not to place God and idols under the same yoke. Don’t mix God with anything else.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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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