Tag Archives: salvation

There’s No Shortcut to Heaven: Buying Full Indulgences Won’t Help

Martin Luther worried that buying full indulgences served to hinder salvation

What most raised the ire of the Church against Martin Luther and his ninety-five theses, however, was not his claim of salvation through Jesus alone or the pope having no power over purgatory, but his bold statement that indulgences served to hinder salvation.Follow Jesus as his disciple.

Martin realized indulgences instilled a false sense of spiritual security in those who bought them. It was as if they had purchased a pass to enter heaven; they were good to go. Then they could live their life as they wanted, without regard for what God wanted. Instead, the people’s complete trust in papal indulgences to secure their salvation removed the requirement of repentance and damned them for eternity.

With their certificate of indulgence in hand, a full indulgence, the people no longer felt a need to repent, Mark 1:15, or to work out their salvation by doing good and helping the poor, Philippians 2:12.

Jesus, however, commends those who clothe the naked and care for the sick, Matthew 25:34-40. Yet all the attention given to buying indulgences removed the focus from those in need. Jesus didn’t say, “Sell your cloak and buy an indulgence.” (He said to “sell your cloak and buy a sword,” Luke 22:36.)

Martin noted that when people paid for their indulgences, they in effect diverted money from the poor and even the needs of their own family. Instead, they redirected it to the Church. Full indulgences had the direct impact of producing less charity for those who needed it most. Instead it provided more money to those in power who already had too much. The Church wanted the people’s money. They had already downplayed helping the poor so they could receive more. The sale of indulgences advanced their unethical quest to get more of their followers’ cash.

Full indulgences were also dangerous because they encouraged complacency.

God’s work in the lives of his creation unfolds in a strange way. Only when a person feels completely lost can the light of God provide the needed illumination. Yet the crutch of indulgences kept people from ever feeling utterly lost and in need of God. True peace comes from faith in Jesus, not by receiving absolution through the purchase of an indulgence.

As a response to placing faith in Jesus comes the need to carry our cross to follow him as his disciple, Luke 14:27. We die to self to live for God. We deny our wishes and become crucified with Jesus, just like Paul, Galatians 2:20. The cross of Jesus, not an indulgence from a pope, provides the way to cover our wrongs. In response to placing faith in Jesus, we need to carry our cross to follow him as his disciple. Click To Tweet

The German people had long lived under the financial tyranny of the Church. They sought relief. Martin’s theses demanded financial liberation and resonated with them. They understood it. It became their manifesto against the Church’s corrupt money grab.

What most of the German people didn’t grasp, however, was Martin’s call to be crucified with Jesus. The people rallied around a vision of financial release from the Church’s practices, thanks to some of Martin’s theses. Read about full indulgences in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

As a result, the other theses accompanied them. This pushed the group of ninety-five theses forward, even if the people didn’t understand them all.

Though Martin understood his theses, he had no idea of the problems they would cause.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Martin Luther Supported the Sacrament of Penance

But Luther believed the Pope had no power over purgatory

Martin Luther’s second group of ninety-five theses addressed the pope’s authority over purgatory, or to be more correct, the pope’s lack of authority. Martin asserted that the pope had no power when it came to remitting sins and their penalty in purgatory. Though some accounts claim Luther found no biblical support for purgatory itself, as well as the Sacrament of Penance, his ninety-five theses don’t support this position.Martin Luther Supported the Sacrament of Penance

He agreed that the Sacrament of Penance allows for forgiveness of sins to those who are truly sorry for their actions. He didn’t criticize penance. The difference between the Sacrament of Penance and the pope’s greatly expanded extension of the concept may not be immediately apparent, but the distinction is significant.

The essential aspects of penance reside in admitting mistakes and being remorseful for them. After meeting these conditions, the priest offers forgiveness for the confessed sins.

What the pope had approved, however, was far different. He removed the elements of confession and repentance. Then he replaced them with a monetary payment. Next, the scope of forgiveness expanded to cover all sins, not specific ones. And last, instead of addressing forgiveness in this life, the pope authorized a future forgiveness in death.

Martin made his view clear: The pope had overreached. The papal indulgences didn’t, and couldn’t, remove guilt. These full indulgences fell short of being able to reconcile people with God, which comes solely from sincere repentance. The extent of the pope’s actual authority was limited to what he imposed, not what God established.

The pope didn’t have a stockpile of eternal credits. He couldn’t subjectively transfer salvation to others. Even if one person could go beyond what God requires, they couldn’t save their excess to use later for someone else, as some people believed. Only Jesus can do that. And he did. He freely offered forgiveness to all who believe, without any involvement of the pope. Martin Luther concluded that the pope had no real authority over purgatory. Click To Tweet

From this Martin concluded that the pope had no real authority over purgatory. Martin argued that if the pope truly did have power to release one person from purgatory that he should release all people. That out of love he could free everyone. This would effectively abolish purgatory. And if the pope intentionally left people in purgatory merely to raise money, his actions accounted for nothing more than greed.

Martin did, however, identify one thing the pope could do in relation to purgatory. He could pray for the early release of the people there, an action any member of the clergy could exercise.Sacrament of Penance in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

Prior to Martin, others had proclaimed salvation only through Jesus and questioned the pope’s authority over purgatory. They did this without being charged with heresy. Had Martin restricted the focus to these points, he might have escaped the firestorm of attacks that followed. But he took one more step.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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

Some of Martin Luther’s 95 theses counter the practice of buying salvation

Martin 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.You Can't Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

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.

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.

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).

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 Luther based his views on what he read in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Martin provided a voice for their simmering angst.

You can't buy salvation. Read 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanThis 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 had more to say…to be continued.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

How Do We Respond to Jesus?

We should show our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us

The Bible records many things Jesus did when he was here on earth. A reoccurring action is Jesus healing people from their physical and spiritual maladies. Matthew 8 records several of these instances, and we will focus on one of them.Live for Jesus

Jesus goes to Peter’s house; his mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. (Note the reference to Peter’s mother-in-law. This tells us Peter was married.) Though we may not think too much about a fever today, this illness was bad enough to keep this woman in bed. She wasn’t merely resting, waiting to get better. She was incapacitated and not able to do anything. The situation was serious.

Jesus walks up to the bed and touches her hand. When he does her fever leaves her body. The next phrase is curious. It says she gets up to wait on him.

The cynic might say that Jesus healed her with selfish intentions, that he made her well only so she could take care of him, likely preparing some food for him to eat. Though this is a humorous thought and one many women likely nod their head in agreement with and might make men snicker, this misses the point.

Instead, I see Peter’s mother-in-law taking care of Jesus as a response to show her gratitude to him for what he did to make her better. Her example is one for us to follow.What do we do to show our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us? Click To Tweet

Jesus has done so much for us. What do we do to show our gratitude to him?

It’s too easy for us to move from day-to-day and take Jesus’s work in our lives for granted, to not bother to show him our appreciation.

Jesus saved us, forgave us, and restored us to right relationship with his father. Plus, Jesus loves us, teaches us about God, and shows us how to live.

For all Jesus has done, what should our response be? What can we do to show Jesus how much we appreciate him?

Perhaps we should live for him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 8, and today’s post is on Matthew 8:14-15.]

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Put Your Faith in Action

Good deeds and right living don’t earn our salvation, but they do confirm it

Paul writes to his friends in Thessalonica. He reminds them—and us—that salvation is a gift from God. We can’t earn it and can only receive it through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). But it seems that many people do try to earn their salvation through their actions, by living in right ways and doing good works for others.Put Your Faith in Action

James helps us put this into perspective. Though our actions don’t earn our right standing with God, they do prove it. He asks, “How can I see your faith apart from your actions?” He goes on to say, “I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice. You’ll know my faith is real by the things that I do,” (see James 2:18).

From God’s perspective, our actions don’t earn us anything. Yes, doing good may earn us attention from other people. We can receive appreciation from those we help and admiration from those who watch us. Yet to God our good works don’t matter.

Then why should we bother?

It’s through our right behavior and what we do to help others that we prove we have faith. By putting our faith into action, we demonstrate that it’s real. Faith without works is dead.Our actions say thank you to God for what he has done for us. Click To Tweet

We don’t act in certain ways to garner God’s favor. Instead, the things we do emerge from our gratitude for what he has done for us. Think of our actions as a tangible way of saying “thank you” to God for the gift he gave us.

By his grace and through our faith, we receive salvation. We need nothing more. But if we truly appreciate this gift of what he has done for us, then we show him by what we do.

We put our faith into action. And that honors God.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is James 2, and today’s post is on James 2:18.]

A Criminal Makes a Deathbed Confession

While we shouldn’t wait to follow Jesus, it’s nice to know that he’ll give us up to the last minute to make a decision

A Criminal Makes a Deathbed ConfessionIn Luke’s biography of Jesus, the author sometimes shares details not found in the Bible’s other three accounts of Jesus’s life. One such example is about the two criminals who are executed with Jesus. One of them mocks Jesus, but the other one doesn’t. Instead this second criminal rebukes the first. He says knock it off. We’re guilty and getting what we deserve, but Jesus is innocent.

Then the man makes a simple request of Jesus: remember me in your kingdom. What a simple statement, one filled with faith. This man, whose life is about to end because of a serious wrong he has committed, knows there is something more awaiting him after death. Yet through no merit of his own and with nothing he can do to earn it, he asks Jesus to be part of Jesus’s future kingdom. It’s bold, and it’s sincere.

Jesus could have said, “Sorry man, but you messed up.” But no. Instead Jesus lovingly says “Yes!” And not only is the answer affirmative, but it is also timely. Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

How cool is that? Follow Jesus today to live for him in this life and live with him in the next. Click To Tweet

While we can wait until the last minute and make a deathbed conversion with full confidence that Jesus will say yes, the risk is too great. We don’t know when our last breath will come and if we’ll have time to ask Jesus to remember us.

So don’t put it off. Follow Jesus today so you can live for him in this life and live with him in paradise in the next.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 23, and today’s post is on Luke 23:39-43.]



The Near Death Experience of Jonah

Live a life of obedience and without regret in order to finish strong

The Near Death Experience of JonahMost people know the story of Jonah: God sends Jonah to help Nineveh. But Jonah gets in a boat headed in the opposite direction. God sends a storm to get Jonah’s attention. Jonah implores the crew to throw him overboard in order to calm the storm. After some prodding they toss him into the water. A fish swallows Jonah. God gives Jonah a three-day timeout. The fish spits out Jonah on dry land. Jonah obeys God.

But what happens between the crew throwing Jonah into the sea and the fish swallowing him? Jonah nearly drowns. It isn’t as if the fish is hanging out by the boat waiting to rescue Jonah.

No, Jonah goes in the water and fights to survive. He flails as long as he can. Out of strength he can fight no longer. He sinks. Water fills his lungs. He can’t breathe. Jonah is dying. His life flashes before his eyes. Then the fish comes and saves him. He doesn’t die after all.

How do I know this? I don’t. But Jonah’s prayer to God suggests his watery rescue comes at the last possible moment. He says, “When my life was ebbing away…,” (Jonah 2:7). In other words, he is about to die. His final thoughts are of God and God’s holy temple. Jonah prays. He affirms God and promises to make good. Jonah acknowledges that salvation comes from God – in this case, his salvation is both literal and figurative.Will our final thoughts be filled with regret over unfinished business and disobedience? Click To Tweet

When we get to the end of our life, what will we think about? Will our final thoughts be filled with regret over unfinished business and disobedience? Will we recall good times with family and friends? Perhaps we will anticipate eternity with God. Or maybe we will pray. Will our final prayer be one of desperation or of peace?

Living in obedience to God and without regret is the surest way to make sure we finish this life strong. Then God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). May it be so.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jonah 1-4, and today’s post is on Jonah 2:7-9.]


Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

The source of life, truth, and the way to Father God is through Jesus

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the LifeThe disciple Thomas wants to go where Jesus will go but doesn’t know how to proceed. He seeks clarification. Jesus gives him a five part answer, which another disciple John records for us. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6, NIV).

I Am: In the Old Testament God the Father effectively tells Moses to think of him as “I am.” When Jesus repeats this phrase in his concise answer we are reminded that Jesus also exists as God, in the form of God the Son.

The Way: Jesus is the path to God the Father. Jesus points us in the right direction and provides the means for us to get there.

The Truth: Jesus personifies truth. He exemplifies truth, proclaims truth, and models truth. We can rely on the words of Jesus as true.

The Life: Not only does Jesus give us life, he is life. As taking part in creation, he emerges as one with life eternal.As God the Son, Jesus provides us with the path to God the Father. Click To Tweet

The Door to Father God: The first four parts of Jesus’s answer, culminate in his conclusion: it is through him that we are reconciled with God the Father.

Jesus provides all that we need for our journey in this life and into the next.

What does Jesus mean to you? How do you understand Jesus?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 13-15, and today’s post is on John 14:5-6.]

We Must Choose to Follow Jesus Every Day

Each morning we decide how we will live that day: for ourselves or for a greater purpose

We Must Choose to Follow Jesus Every DayIn highschool a friend caught me off guard when she said with confidence that “once you’re saved you can’t lose your salvation.” I asked her where the Bible said that; she didn’t have an answer.

Instead she just insisted it was true; her minister said so. “Once saved; always saved,” she spouted. She was as sure of that as her own name. She had prayed a prayer asking Jesus into her heart and that was all that mattered. End of discussion.

I worried about her conclusion and her eternal destination. I implored her to not treat something so important with casual indifference. She began acting less and less like someone who followed Jesus. I watched as she turned and walked away from him.

Before long she was talking and acting like someone who didn’t know Jesus at all. She believed she had her eternal get-out-of-jail-card, and nothing else mattered.

People who study such things call “once saved, always saved” the “doctrine of eternal security.” Grabbing a spattering of carefully selected Bible verses they build a case for their conclusion. I’ve spent time with such people who consider eternal security as an unquestionable, absolute truth. I kind of see their point but think the evidence they present is far from conclusive.

I’ve also spent time with people equally convinced that the principle of eternal security is an errant conclusion. They have their own verses to support their contention. I kind of see their point, too, but I think the evidence they present is far from conclusive.

I agree with both camps, though I hold both of their conclusions loosely. By faith I have a certainly of what life after death holds for me, but I will not treat this confidence carelessly. Too much is at stake.Every day I choose to follow Jesus again. I’d be foolish not to. Click To Tweet

When my wife and I married, we agreed it was for the rest of our lives; divorce would not be an option. However, each day we also make this decision again. We choose to remain committed to each other and love each other. Most days we do this well and other days, not so well. Yet in each of these days we move forward as a married couple.

Only a fool would claim that saying “I do” one time at a wedding ceremony was enough and that actions from that day forth mattered not. So, I choose to say “I do” every day to my wife.

I do the same with Jesus, too. Each day I say “I do” to Jesus again; I choose to follow him anew. I’d be foolish not to.

What are your thoughts on “once saved, always saved?” What do you do to say “I do” to Jesus every day?



Moses Dies Before He Reaches His Lifelong Destination

Even one sin is enough to disqualify us from attaining God’s perfect standard; Jesus bridges the gap

Moses Dies Before He Reaches His Lifelong DestinationThe book of Deuteronomy concludes with the death of Moses.

Moses faithfully leads God’s people as they wander in the desert for forty years, brings them to the border of the land God had promised to give to them, sees it from afar, and then dies before he can step into it.

It’s not fair!

How could God treat his dedicated servant this way? Yet this is what God had decided to do.

Years before Moses has a tiny slip-up. He disobeys God. God tells Moses to speak to a rock and water will gush forth. Instead Moses hits the rock with his walking stick – twice. Perhaps he’s frustrated with the people’s grumbling; maybe he wasn’t listening to God’s instructions; possibly he didn’t think it mattered.

It did.

As punishment for his mistake, God says Moses will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, his final destination (Numbers 20:7-12). That’s the penalty for not meeting God’s exacting expectations.One mistake disqualified Moses. The same applies to us, but Jesus provides the solution. Click To Tweet

We all fall short, so death is our penalty as well. But Jesus makes us right with God, bridging the gap between our failings and God’s gold standard.

Through Jesus we will make it to our final destination, the presence of God and eternity with him.

Thank you Jesus!

Do you think God was fair with Moses? Is he fair with you?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 31-34, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 34:1-5.]