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1 John Bible Study, Day 15: Destroying the Work of the Devil

Today’s passage: 1 John 3:6–10

Focus verse: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)

Our passage for the day is one that troubles most people. It talks about sin. John writes that when Jesus lives in us, we won’t keep on sinning. If we know him, we can’t. By doing what is right, we prove we’re a child of God.

But if we don’t do what’s right, we’re not his children.

Ouch! That’s convicting.

Some well-intentioned teachers try to explain this verse away. They say it doesn’t mean all sin. Instead, it refers to habitual sin or intentional sin.

Yet even with these rationalizations, we may still have a reason to worry. But John doesn’t give us those explanations. He says sin, period. Therefore, it’s wrong to try to reinterpret this passage through our perspective or what we wish it said.

Paul, however, gives us some help. He says we are spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). That is, we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body.

When we repent of our wrongdoing (our sin) to follow Jesus, our spirit is immediately and permanently made sinless.

The spirit part of us is sanctified—that is, made right and set apart as holy—as soon as we believe in Jesus as our Savior. Theologians call this positional sanctification. 

Yet this doesn’t address our soul and our body.

Our soul—comprising our mind, will, and emotions—begins to align with our sanctified spirit. This is a process of ongoing sanctification. 

Our body is the last to move toward the sinless condition of our spirit. This is a lifetime process, but through God’s grace we can inch closer to it each day.

Tucked in the middle of this passage, however, is the key to this issue of sin. John reminds us that Jesus—the Son of God—came to destroy the work of the devil. Jesus came to overcome sin.

He sets this in motion when he dies on the cross as the ultimate sin sacrifice. As a result, he takes away our sins—past, present, and future—to make us right with Father God. This is the first phase of destroying the devil’s work.

Yet it won’t become final until we reach the end of time when Satan is tossed into the lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20:10) so that God can usher in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

The work of Jesus to defeat Satan began two thousand years ago, yet it remains in process today. So too is our sanctification, our moving from a sinful life to a sinless future. God will complete this for us, just as he will one day conclusively deal with the devil. 

God will sanctify us through and through (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

John later writes that when we acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son, he lives in us and we in him (1 John 4:15). John doesn’t mention sin in this verse. This is because through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, sin no longer needs to be an issue for us.

Questions:

  1. What is your view of sin?
  2. How can we better deal with our struggle with habitual or intentional sins?
  3. How should we let God’s Word inform our perspective about sin? 
  4. What are we doing to allow the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit move us toward sinlessness?
  5. What does sanctification mean to you?

Discover more about sanctification in John 17:17–19, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and 1 Peter 1:1–2.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.


Discover practical, insightful, and encouraging truths in Love One Another, a devotional Bible study to foster a deeper appreciation for the two greatest commandments: To love God and to love 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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Christian Living

The Concerns of Martin Luther

Martin Luther Studied the Bible to See If It Supported Church Practices

As Martin studied the Latin translation of the Bible, he grew worried about the lack of biblical support for the Church’s misuse of indulgences, of essentially allowing people to buy their salvation.

Instead, he found the Bible overflowing with grace. This disconnect alarmed him.

The practice of indulgences confuses many outside the Catholic Church. A simple explanation is that an indulgence offers a way to reduce the amount of punishment for sins by taking a specified action.

These acts might include repeating a prayer a certain number of times, traveling to a specific place on a pilgrimage, or performing an assigned task, such as doing a good deed.

Indulgences can tie in with the sacrament of penance, which involves remorse, confession to a priest, acceptance of punishment, and absolution. Among other things, penance is a partial indulgence that can reduce the time spent in purgatory for a sacramentally absolved sin.

Though his view seems to have changed later, Martin viewed the practice of indulgences as acceptable. His alarm centered on their abuse.

Here’s What Happened

Some overeager church leaders had turned the concept of indulgences into something more. Taking indulgences to an unhealthy extreme, they offered them in exchange for money to raise funds for a church building project—rebuilding Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This overzealous application changed indulgences from taking a conciliatory action to making a monetary payment.

This fundraising scheme escalated out of control and further impoverished already poor people, as they spent what little money they had trying to make themselves right with God.

Also, these misguided church leaders sold a full indulgence, which guaranteed a quick release from purgatory upon death—a complete pardon, if you will. In effect, they sold the promise of eternal salvation.

Martin objected to the idea that people could essentially buy their way into heaven, with no need to repent. This led the concerns of Martin Luther

This, and the heretical teaching that accompanied this abuse of indulgences, prompted him to act.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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 Study

John Bible Study, Day 29: The Advocate

Today’s passage: John 16:6–15

Focus verse: “When he comes, he [the Advocate] will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8)

Jesus tells his disciples he will soon leave. This dismays them. But he says his departure is for their good. Unless he leaves, the Advocate can’t come. Why must Jesus go before the Advocate can arrive?

From a practical standpoint, maybe while Jesus is with them, they don’t need the Advocate’s help. Another thought is that the full release of the Advocate won’t occur until Jesus redeems humanity’s death sentence through his sacrificial death. Regardless, Jesus leaves, and the Advocate will appear.

Who is this Advocate? We mentioned him in Day 26, “Holy Spirit Power.” There we confirmed the Advocate is none other than the Holy Spirit of God, whom John calls the Spirit of truth. John 16:7 uses the name Advocate.

Other translations of the Bible provide other helpful labels. These include Comforter, Helper, Intercessor, Counselor, Companion, Strengthener, Paraclete, and Holy Ghost. These help us better grasp the work, range, and power of the Holy Spirit.

Not only is the Advocate for our benefit, but Jesus also says the Holy Spirit will speak to the world. He will convict them and reveal truth to them about sin, righteousness, and judgment. Jesus explains each of these three items.

First, the Advocate will show people their sinful nature. This is because they don’t believe in Jesus. Left on our own, we fall short of Father God’s perfect standard. But Jesus bridges that gap, providing a path to reconcile us with his Papa.

Next, the Advocate will instruct people about righteousness. This is the opposite of sin. For those convicted of wrongdoing, we want to do better. Left to our own strength, we may make progress in moving from sinful living toward right living, but we can only do so much.

Regardless of how hard we try, we’ll never live perfect lives and satisfy Old Testament expectations. Instead, we need Jesus to save us and the Advocate to guide us. This is the New Testament solution to the limits of the Old Testament, which can’t save us.

Third, the Advocate will address judgment. Just as the prince of the world, Satan, stands condemned, so too are those who don’t place their trust in Jesus to save them from the sentence they have earned through their less-than-perfect behavior.

Our wrong actions (sin) prods us to repent, which then moves us toward holy living (righteousness). In doing so, the condemnation we deserve turns into the salvation that we can’t earn.

Our rescue only comes from trusting in Jesus. And the Advocate—God’s Holy Spirit—will guide us into that.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit.

Questions:

  1. What does sin mean to you? 
  2. What does righteousness mean to you?
  3. How do you reconcile sin with righteousness?
  4. What does judgment mean to you? 
  5. How does the Advocate influence who you are and what you do?

Discover more about judgment in Romans 2:1–10. Read about sin and righteousness in Romans 3:21–26 and Romans 6. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.


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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 6: John the Baptist’s Perspective

Today’s passage: John 3:22–36

Focus verse: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

We live in a world that wants more. We desire more money. We seek more possessions. The newest of this and the best of that. And regardless of where we fit into society, we want more power and wish for more prestige.

How much is enough? The answer is always the same: just a bit more. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and wanting to improve our life, but we must keep things in perspective—God’s perspective. More isn’t always better. 

Consider John the Baptist.

John has a successful ministry. He calls people to repent. Next, he baptizes them as a public display of their commitment.

Though he doesn’t want to, he baptizes Jesus too—even though Jesus doesn’t need to repent of one single sin or undergo baptism. But by embracing baptism, the Holy Spirit anoints Jesus and prepares him for ministry.

Jesus now invites people to follow him as his disciples, even taking two of John’s followers. Jesus begins his ministry, and he baptizes people too.

John’s remaining disciples see this and become indignant for him, worried that Jesus is taking away from John’s ministry. “Look!” they complain. “Jesus—the one you baptized—is now baptizing people too. Everyone’s following him instead of you.”

“I can only do what God has called me to do,” John says. “Don’t you remember? I told you I am not the Messiah. My role is to prepare the way for him.

He is like the groom at the wedding, and I am his attendant. I’ve waited for him and listened for him. Hearing his voice fills me with much joy—complete joy. Now that he has arrived, he must become more, and I must become less. Don’t be jealous on my account. This is how it should be.”

John doesn’t want more. He is content to become less. This is an example we can follow. As we point people to Jesus, we do so for his glory and not ours.

More of him and less of us. Never forget that.

Questions:

  1. How can you adopt God’s perspective as your own?
  2. How well are you at doing what God has called you to do?
  3. How might you take an ungodly pride in the ministry roles God has given you? 
  4. What can you do to elevate Jesus, even if it means you become less?
  5. How can you bring glory to Jesus?

Discover more about another of Jesus’s followers, Paul, and how he views his ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:18, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Ephesians 3:8, and Philippians 1:15–18. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.


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
Christian Living

Make a U-Turn to Follow Jesus

Discover the Key to Be Saved and Inherit Eternal Life

In the Bible, when people seek Jesus to be saved and have eternal life, he gives them different instructions. This is perplexing. Let’s dig into it. The most common direction he gives them is to “follow me” (Luke 5:27). That is, we must follow Jesus.

Other times Jesus adds the precursor to repent. To repent is to make a U-turn with our life. We make a U-turn to follow Jesus.

When we make a U-turn in our life, we stop moving in one direction and change course to head in a different direction. This is a good illustration of what it means to repent. When it comes to eternal life, we change directions to follow Jesus. It’s that simple.

But what about those times when Jesus tells people to do other things as a prerequisite to following him? For some he said to give away their money. To others he said to change their ways or persevere or obey God. Then there’s the command to take up their cross and follow him.

Do we need to do all these things to receive eternal life through Jesus? It’s an exhausting list if we heap all these requirements together.

Yet each of these instructions was to a particular person or group. It’s specifically how Jesus instructed them to make a U-turn in their lives. The direction they were going was taking them away from him—not toward him.

He needed them to change course so they could follow him. They needed to make a U-turn to follow Jesus.

To continue our understanding of repenting as making a U-turn with our life, know that it’s not about reaching a destination. Instead, it’s that initial act of heading in a different direction. That’s what it means to repent.

We repent and follow Jesus to be saved and inherit eternal life. This means we don’t need to do anything else; we can’t do anything else to earn our salvation.

We don’t need to follow a bunch of rules or check off things on a lengthy to-do list. All other religions carry the expectations of a performance-based solution.

Christianity does not—even though too many Christians wrongly pursue their faith as a performance-based religion. In Christianity, however, we are saved by grace, through faith and it’s not something we must work for to earn (Ephesians 2:8-9).

All we need to do is to make a U-turn to follow Jesus. Everything else is secondary.

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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10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Christian Living

What Are the End Times?

Discover What the Bible Says about the End of Time

Some Christians give a lot of attention to the end times. Others choose to ignore it. Interestingly, the phrase end times doesn’t appear in the Bible, at least not in the NIV. Though four subheadings, added later, do carry this phrase.

The End Times

These passages about the end times are Daniel 12, Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21:5-36. Surprisingly, John’s epic end-time prophecy in the book of Revelation doesn’t mention that phrase. This is despite containing most of the Bible’s text about the subject.

What does the end times refer to? We might think of it as the judgment day or Armageddon. Other understandings are the end of the world, the day of reckoning, or the Apocalypse.

The End of Time

If these things are the end of time, what happens after it? Do all things, including us, cease to exist?

This might be a logical conclusion, but it’s the wrong one.

When God created our world and the cosmos that surrounds it, he also created time. Remember that scientists teach that time and space exist on a continuum. This means we can’t have one without the other. So, if God created space, he had to have created time along with it.

This means that the end of time doesn’t signal the end of everything, just the end of our temporal existence and the space that surrounds it. We will live on in the spiritual realm.

Revelation ends with a glorious look at a new heaven and a new earth, ushered in when time as we understand it ends. Eternity awaits.

Eternal Life

To those who reject Jesus and don’t accept his gift of eternal life (John 3:14-17), they’ll encounter an unpleasant outcome. They had the chance. And they’ll have more chances.

According to the book of Revelation they’ll have multiple opportunities to repent of their wrongdoing and follow Jesus. But many won’t. They’ll receive an eternal reward instead—eternal punishment. This is something to fear.

Yet to those who follow Jesus (Luke 9:23), whose names appear written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 21:27), the end time is nothing to dread. We are on the winning side, and good will prevail over evil. We’ll spend eternity with Jesus.


Read more in Peter’s devotional Bible study, A New Heaven and a New Earth: 40 Practical Insights from John’s Book of Revelation.

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

Three Church Priorities: Butts, Bucks, and Buildings

The Things Religious Leaders Focus on May Not Matter to God at All

Modern church priorities look at attendance, offerings, and facility size. Perhaps this is because the world measures success by the number of people, amount of money, and size of buildings. We’re more like the world than we care to admit.

More people showing up for church each week is good. A larger campus impresses. Bigger offerings allow for more of the same. After all, churches with a sizeable attendance garner attention. They receive media coverage. Books celebrate them and elevate their leaders to lofty pedestals.

This is how the Western world defines success. And the church buys into it without hesitation. These measures of success become the focus. But this focus is off, even looking in the wrong direction.

The triple aim of most churches—attendance, offerings, and facility size—doesn’t matter nearly as much as most people think.

Said more bluntly, most church leaders focus on the three B’s: butts, bucks, and buildings. These become their church priorities.

Butts

The greater the attendance, the more popular the church and, most assuredly, the more God has blessed it. Really?

Look at Jesus. After performing a miracle to feed over five thousand people, the multitude want to make him their king, by force if needed (John 6:10-15). Jesus could let them, but he doesn’t.

Instead of playing to the masses to further his ministry and advance an agenda, he launches into a hard teaching that offends them, and most turn away (John 6:60-66). It seems Jesus is more concerned with the quality of his followers then the quantity. Maybe we should follow his example.

Bucks

The church institution needs money to operate. Ministers need their paycheck. Mortgage payments have monthly due dates. If the offering sags, the church leadership panics. Boards instruct their teaching pastor to preach more about money. Yes, it happens. I’ve seen it.

Yet Jesus says not to worry about the future (Matthew 6:34). This includes money. Although Jesus had people who financially supported him, he never took an offering. He never gave a plea for money. He trusted his Father to provide. So should we.

Buildings

Churches need a lot of people to give a lot of money to pay for staff, which is well over half of most churches budgets. Next up is their buildings, which is their second greatest expense.

Together, salaries and facilities account for 80 to 90 percent of most church expenses, sometimes up to 100 percent. Imagine using all that money instead to help people and address both their spiritual and physical needs.

When Jesus said, “I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), he wasn’t talking about a building but a following.

Jesus never said, “Go build me a grand building for worship, a multimillion dollar monument.” But he did say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). That’s hard to do if we’re stuck inside a church building.

The Right Church Priorities

Instead of an unhealthy, unbiblical focus on the three B’s, what if we and our churches instead looked to the three C’s of changed lives, community, and commitment?

  • Jesus wants changed lives. He says, “Repent and follow me,” so that he can reorder our priorities. In fact, most all he says is about changing our perspectives of how we live.
  • Jesus wants to build a community. He calls it the kingdom of God, but we made it into a church. Shame on us.
  • Jesus expects our commitment. He desires people who are all in. He wants us to follow him, to serve him, and to be with him (John 12:26). That’s commitment, and that’s what Jesus wants.

If Jesus focuses on changed lives, community, and commitment, so should we. These should be our church priorities. Let’s push aside butts, bucks, and buildings, because these things just get in the way of what Jesus wants for his followers.

Read more about this in Peter’s thought-provoking 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
Christian Living

You Can’t Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

Some of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses Counter the Practice of Buying Salvation

Martin Luther objected to the abuse of indulgences; you can’t buy salvation. Though he mentioned the Church and the pope in some of his theses, he focused on the unbiblical excess of this one practice.

Here’s the background:

In a creative, though misguided, fundraising effort, some church leaders began selling full indulgences. Through the purchase of indulgences, people could essentially purchase their salvation. They could also secure the eternal deliverance of others, both dead and alive.

They could buy their way into heaven.

The money raised was supposed to go to Rome to build the new Saint Peter’s Basilica (Church), replacing the old Saint Peter’s. It had stood over a millennium and reportedly served as the burial site for Jesus’s disciple Peter, also recognized as the first pope.

Historians debate how much of the money collected actually made it back to Rome to help erect this shrine, but the promise of payment secured the permission to sell indulgences.

The pope granted this authority to peddle eternal pardons to archbishop Albert of Brandenburg. Albert in turn tapped John Tetzel, among others, to carry this out. Tetzel pursued his assignment with much zeal. In the process, he earned Martin’s ire.

In the years leading up to this approval to market indulgences, Church decisions began to depart from a biblical understanding of salvation. This became a slippery slope that made their latest ruling feasible. The Church headship at that time had become corrupt and greedy.

Ambitious religious leaders no longer saw the papacy as a way to serve God and lead his people. Instead they viewed it as a means to live a life of luxury and wield unrestrained power.

Martin Luther Had Concerns

But Martin objected to the Church selling what Jesus died to give away with no strings attached. You can’t buy salvation.

Martin’s main concern was that a full indulgence removed the need to repent to become right with God. Instead of professing remorse for sins, a person could pay a fee to secure their eternal reward. The price was often disproportionate to their economic condition.

Beyond that, people could purchase the release into heaven for loved ones who had already died. They could also secure a future liberation for those still living.

For these souls, their salvation happened without any action on their part. It wasn’t an act of personal repentance or their decision to purchase forgiveness.

Martin advocated that we become living temples through our bodies instead of constructing church buildings. He placed Saint Peter’s as the least important of all Church structures.

Martin may have considered Saint Peter’s Church last as a matter of hyperbole. However, as the costliest of Church facilities, he saw it as the biggest distraction to people from becoming living temples.

Martin Luther Looked at What the Bible Said

He based this view on what he read in the Bible. Paul wrote that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we’re built on the foundation formed by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as our chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Ironically, Peter—for whom the building was named—wrote that we are like living stones, which are being built into God’s spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5; also see Ephesians 2:22).

Martin also noted that the wealthy pope already had enough money to finance the new Saint Peter’s Basilica. He had no reason—other than greed—to approve a fundraising campaign.

Yet by him granting authority to Albert to sell indulgences, even more money could pour into the Church’s treasury. This essentially grew the pope’s personal wealth.

Instead of building this grand shrine, Martin advocated giving the money to the poor. These were the very people Tetzel and others fleeced when they hawked indulgences.

Besides, few of Martin’s fellow Germans would ever make a pilgrimage to Rome. They would never see the building they helped finance with their purchases of indulgences.

Martin provided a voice for their simmering angst.

This message resonated with the German people. They had suffered under the corruption of Church leadership and felt the Church in Rome overlooked their plight in Germany.

They also rankled under Martin’s revelation that they had wasted money to purchase indulgences. He said the certificates they received held no value, either in this world or the next.

But Martin Luther had more to say…to be continued.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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

Do We Need to Ask Jesus into Our Hearts?

Discover What We Must Do to Be Saved

A recurring theme in Jesus’s biographies is people asking him what they must do. What’s frustrating is Jesus doesn’t always give the same answer. Jesus tells different people to do different things. (For this discussion, we’ll understand “kingdom of God, “kingdom of heaven,” “eternal life,” “salvation,” and “saved” as synonymous.)

Learn What Jesus Said about Salvation

Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything and give the proceeds to poor people (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22).

For Zacchaeus, giving away half was enough (Luke 19:8-9). Jesus doesn’t tell him to do anything else but deems that what Zacchaeus had already done was enough. He welcomed Jesus gladly, stopped doing wrong things (repented), made restitution, and gave away half his wealth.

Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, that is born of water and the Spirit, a spiritual birth (John 3:3-7), and then to believe in him (John 3:15 and John 3:36).

Jesus asked the Jews to listen to him and believe in God the Father (John 5:24 and John 12:44).

Another time Jesus promised all who have done good will rise to live (John 5:29). Still later, he instructed them to believe he is the Son of God (John 3:16-18 and John 9:35-37;  the “Son of Man” is a euphemism for the “Son of God” and mean the same thing).

Jesus advised the Greeks to serve him, follow him (John 12:26), and trust him (John 12:36).

Jesus encouraged his disciples (John 6:29, 6:40, 6:47, and 14:1), and later Martha (John 11:25-26)—the sister of Lazarus—to believe in him.

Later Jesus prayed that people would know God the Father—the only true God—and his Son, who he sent (John 17:3).

Jesus told the people along the road to work hard to enter the narrow door before it is too late (Luke 13:24).

Jesus taught a large crowd to put him before everything else, including their family and themselves (Luke 14:26 and Matthew 19:29), and to give up everything (Luke 14:33)—even their own life (Mark 8:34-35 and John 12:25)—to be his disciples.

Once Jesus implored another crowd to change their ways (Luke 13:3 and 5). A more common word is “repent,” which means to change your path and alter your behavior, to do a U-turn with your life.

Jesus affirmed what a teacher of the law said: to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love others too (Luke 10:25-28).

Jesus told those in the temple to persevere to the end (Mark 13:13).

And he instructed a crowd gathered on the mountainside to obey his Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

Jesus reminded the remaining eleven disciples to believe and then be baptized (Mark 16:16). Though Jesus also mentions baptism, the focus is on belief; baptism is an expression of that belief.

Jesus also taught his disciples to accept him with childlike simplicity (Luke 18:17 and Matthew 18:3).

Jesus commended the woman who cleaned his feet with her tears and hair, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50, multiple versions). The woman did not confess anything or request anything but merely worshipped Jesus the best she could.

Jesus assured the criminal next to him on the cross. It was enough for the man to simply affirm God and admit his guilt (Luke 23:40-43).

Jesus instructed the crowd to tell others about him, that is, to publicly acknowledge him (Luke 12:8)—so that they will follow him too.

Jesus commanded his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23; also Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27).

Jesus told Peter to leave everything and follow him (Luke 18:28-30).

But much of the time, Jesus simply said, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, and 9:9; Mark 1:17 and 2:14; Luke 5:27 and 9:59; John 1:43, 21:19, and 21:22). It’s up to each of us to do this in our own way, to the best of our ability, as the Holy Spirit leads us.

Learn What Jesus Didn’t Say about Salvation

Jesus didn’t tell people to:

  • pray a prayer,
  • be confirmed,
  • go to church,
  • come forward,
  • do good things,
  • raise their hand,
  • fill out a pledge card,
  • ask Jesus into their heart, or
  • jump through any of the hoops his well-meaning followers insist upon.

Most of these unbiblical actions, though well-intended, seem to have originated with revivalist preachers and evangelists over the past couple centuries. Their conclusions, however, seem to be quite a stretch from what Scripture says.

Jesus didn’t give them Four Spiritual Laws, walk them down The Roman’s Road, or give them the ABCs of Salvation.

Jesus Simply Said to Follow Me

His answer was easy.

Jesus’s most basic instruction for salvation was “follow me.”

To follow Jesus carries two implications. First, we wouldn’t follow him if we didn’t believe in him. Second, to follow him means to make a change in direction, to make a U-turn with our lives, that is, to repent.

So this means that to follow Jesus includes to believe and repent.

If you’re not following Jesus—even if you’ve done some of these other (unbiblical) steps—why not start today?

[This post comes from the book How Big Is Your Tent?]

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

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

Two Kinds of Baptism

John Baptizes with Water and Jesus Baptizes with the Holy Spirit

The third chapter in the book of Matthew focuses on John the Baptist and makes the transition to Jesus, the star of the rest of the book. This chapter also contains some teaching from John. He quotes Isaiah and calls for the Jewish people to repent.

Then he tells us some information about himself in contrast to Jesus. He says Jesus is more powerful than he, and that he’s not even worthy to carry Jesus’s shoes (Matthew 3:11). Later on Matthew quotes Jesus as he talks about John.

Jesus says no man has ever lived who is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). When we combine these two verses, we see John the Baptist as the most important man ever, yet he is nothing compared to Jesus.

Reading that John isn’t worthy to carry Jesus’s shoes has always grabbed my attention. However, this causes me to miss something more significant in this verse.

John says he is baptizing people with water to signify the repentance, that is, their sorrow for the wrongs they have done and their commitment to turn things around and make a fresh start. Many churches treat baptism this way. This isn’t bad, but they could do better.

This is because John talks about a second type of baptism, it comes from Jesus. John says Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. We later see the Holy Spirit connected with fire, tongues of fire, in Acts 2:3–4, the baptism from Jesus.

Jesus’s baptism is a Holy Spirit baptism. Too many churches miss this in their sacrament of baptism. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s easier and less confronting to focus on the baptism of John the Baptist instead of the more confusing, risky, and powerful Holy Spirit baptism from Jesus.

It’s time we give more attention to Jesus’s Holy Spirit baptism and consider what it means to the way we understand our faith and apply it to our lives.

When we baptize people, we must baptize them with Holy Spirit fire.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 1-4, and today’s post is on Matthew 3:11.]

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.

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.