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Christian Living

Jesus Is the Way, Not the Destination

Our Focus Should be on Our Heavenly Father

Most Christians revere Jesus and place him at the center of their faith. Indeed, all of history revolves around Jesus’s saving work that he did for us—for everyone—when he died in our place, sacrificing himself for the wrong things we’ve done.

The Old Testament builds up to this, the four biographies of Jesus explain this, and the rest of the New Testament—along with everything that has happened in our world since then—flows from what he did. Yet Jesus is not the end. He is the means to the end.

Jesus Is the Way

In the Bible, Jesus often implores people to “follow me”. If he expects people to follow him, this mean that he knows the right way to go.

In the gospel of John, Jesus directly says that he is the way (John 14:6). He is not the destination, but simply the path to reach the destination. In fact, he says he is the way, the truth, and the life.

Peter explains that we can find our salvation through him and only through him (Acts 4:12). This means that Jesus is the way.

Jesus Is the Gate

In another place in the book of John, Jesus calls himself the gate for the sheep. All who enter through the gate will be saved (John 10:7-9).

He is our shepherd, our Good Shephard. We, as his sheep, know his voice and follow him. He protects us from evil, from thieves and robbers intent on doing us harm. (Read Jesus’s full teaching on this in John 10:1-18.)

In another place, Jesus calls himself the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). He urges us to take this path.

What Is the Result?

Since Jesus is the way to—and the gate of—the sheep pen, what does the pen symbolize? It has both present and future significance.

For now, the sheep pen—with Jesus as the gate—represents our spiritual community, our fellowship with others who believe in and follow him. He is the gate that lets us into this existence here on earth today.

For later, we can take assurance that the sheep pen represents our eternity in heaven. Jesus is also the way and the gate that opens the doors for heaven, where we’ll live with him forever.

Jesus is the way, and the Father—our heavenly Father—is the destination. Click To Tweet

The Father Is the Destination

The result of following Jesus as the way—and going through him as the narrow gate—is heaven. Yet this misses one thing that’s even more important: the Father. After Jesus says he is the way, he adds that no one can come to the Father if they don’t go through him (John 14:6). Jesus is the way to the Father.

Jesus dies as the solution to our sin problem. In doing so, he makes us right with Father God and reconciles us into a right relationship with him. Yes, we will live forever in heaven, but we will live there with the Father. The Father is the focus of heaven.

Jesus is the way, and the Father—our heavenly Father—is the destination. May we never forget this.

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

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 must make a U-turn with our lives and follow Jesus to be saved and inherit eternal life. Click To Tweet

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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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

A Light to the World

Jesus Comes for Everyone: All Nations, All People

The phrases God’s people, the chosen ones, the chosen, and other similar references appear in multiple places throughout the Old Testament. This designation certainly makes the Jewish people feel special. After all, God chose them to be his people.

This must mean he likes them better than everyone else. Or to extend this thought a bit further, it must mean he doesn’t like any of the other nations as much.

It’s easy for God’s people to assume that he loves them and hates everyone else. Therefore, when God’s prophets tell of rescue, salvation, and favor, the Hebrew people (the Jews) surely assume he directs his words to them, his chosen ones. They are in, and everyone else is out.

A quick reading of the Old Testament supports this exclusive perspective. But if we slow down and read carefully, we see that God has a different point of view.

Yes, he wants a relationship with his chosen people, the Jews. But he also wants a relationship with everyone else, all nations and all people, regardless of their ethnicity or country of origin. He wants to be a light to the world. God is inclusive. Never forget this.

Jesus comes for everyone: all nations and all people. Click To Tweet

We first get a glimpse of this in Genesis. God says he will bless Abraham and through him God will, in turn, bless all nations. What will this blessing through Abraham look like?

We could interpret this as material blessing—and there is some argument for that—but a more enlightened understanding is that God wants to spiritually bless everyone through Abraham. Jesus, a direct descendant of Abraham, fulfills this by dying to make all people right with Father God.

We find this salvation for all nations repeated throughout the Old Testament. The Psalms mention it, along with several of the prophets: Jeremiah, Daniel, Joel, Obadiah, and Haggai.

But Isaiah leads them all in reminding God’s chosen people that he wants to save everyone, not just the Jews. This means Gentiles too. The Jews—through Jesus—will be a light to the Gentiles, a light to the world. I’m so glad to hear this because I’m a Gentile. I suspect you are too.

Jesus comes for everyone: all nations, all people—the Gentiles. He is s light to the world. And to make sure we don’t miss this, John’s epic revelation about the end times confirms that all nations will come to God and worship him.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 49-51 and today’s post is on Isaiah 49:6.]

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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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 time is nothing to dread for those who follow Jesus. Click To Tweet

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.

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

Work Out Your Salvation

Consider Your Response to Receiving the Greatest Gift Anyone Could Ever Get

Paul tells the church of Philippi to work out your salvation (Philippians 2:12). He doesn’t say to work for your salvation. They’ve already received eternal life as a free gift through God’s goodness (his grace), and there’s nothing they need to do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Tell God Thank You

Jesus died in our place and took on our punishment for all the things we’ve done wrong. In doing so, he made us right with Father God. It’s a gift he gives us with no strings attached. There’s nothing we need to do to earn it. We just need to receive it. It’s a gift of salvation, of eternal life.

What do we do when someone gives us a gift? We show our appreciation. This starts by saying thank you, and we might follow-up with a note or card. Depending on the gift, we may proudly wear it, use it, or display it for everyone to see. In doing so we honor the giver.

If we follow Jesus as his disciple, he’s given us the ultimate gift that anyone could ever give. It’s a gift of salvation and of eternal life with him and through him.

This deserves the best thank you we could ever offer. This isn’t a once-and-done show of appreciation. Receiving salvation deserves our regular and ongoing acknowledgment of having been given the best gift of all time.

Work Out Your Salvation Every Day

Receiving the greatest gift anyone ever could, warrants that we say thank you every day. We do this with our words, our thoughts, and our actions, making sure they align with God’s instructions in the Bible and his will for our life. This is how we work out our salvation. This is how we honor the giver.

Working out our salvation isn’t a requirement, but it is a warranted response. It’s a show of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and we should want to live a changed life as an ongoing display of appreciation.

And so that we don’t dismiss this as a trivial task, Paul tells us to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. This trepidation isn’t because God could take back his gift; it’s a reflection of his almighty power, which we should be in awe of and never presume.

Work Out Our Salvation Corporately

Implicit in Paul’s instruction to work out your salvation is to do so not only as a personal response, but also as a corporate response. As his church, we should work out our salvation together with other followers of Jesus as we gather on Sunday morning and throughout the week.

We do this in tangible terms by our worship of him and through our service to him and for him. In practical terms we do this by coexisting in harmony with one another, letting our words and our actions serve as a powerful witness to a world who doesn’t yet know Jesus.

We don’t have to work out our salvation, but we should want to. This is because eternal life is a gift that surpasses all others. Click To Tweet

Work It Out

We don’t have to work out our salvation, but we should want to. This is because eternal life is a gift that surpasses all 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

Freedom through Jesus

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

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

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

Freedom through Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

The Old Testament Law

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

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

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

Modern-Day Pharisees

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

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

Freedom in Christ

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

Jesus’s Expectations

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

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

Responding to Our Freedom through Jesus

We need to keep this in balance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Martin Luther objected to the idea that people could buy their way into heaven, without repenting. Click To Tweet

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

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.

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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’s most basic instruction for salvation was “follow me.” Click To Tweet

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.