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Christian Living

How to Work Out Your Salvation

Don’t Work to Earn Your Salvation

Now, back to my original thought from last week: The teaching pastor at the church I attend is good at what he does. He communicates effectively, digs deep into the biblical text, and provides new information. He prepares well, and it shows.

His passage was Philippians 2:12-13 where Paul tells the church in Philippi to “work out your salvation.” It’s a challenging text.

You’ve got to work out what God works in,” he says by way of introduction. He talks about grace, integrity, accountability, and obedience.

As he speaks, another person comes up front and begins kneading some dough to make bread. He talks; she kneads. The dough takes shape, beginning to resemble a loaf.

You’ve got to work out what God works in. Click To Tweet

“Before she started, all the ingredients were there,” he says. “But she had to work with them to make it become all that it could be.” Of course he was more elegant than my simple paraphrase in my notes.

The point is that from now on, every time I read the command to “work out your salvation,” I’ll recall the visual of my friend kneading bread, working it out to produce something good. And I will remember what that verse means.

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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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: True Story

True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In

By James Choung (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Caleb is questioning God, faith, and what he has been taught. “What if we’ve settled? What if Jesus did more than we think?” Pastor Dave is unnerved by the questions, wanting to give pat evangelical answers—or to dismiss the questions altogether.

Caleb’s friend Anna isn’t helpful either; she is skeptical and antagonistic.

So begins James Choung’s narrative story of a young follower of Jesus who yearns for more. Fortunately, he finds a willing mentor in Shalandra, one of his professors. She patiently takes him on a spiritual journey to rediscover and reinvigorate his faith.

The good news about Jesus is much more than just about going to heaven when we die; the good news starts here and it starts now.

Shalandra helps Caleb deconstruct the incomplete gospel that he has been taught, rebuilding it on the foundation of Jesus and the whole Biblical narrative, that is, the “true story.” Although Caleb is a willing traveler on this journey, it is at times too intense, too much for him to absorb, yet he keeps going.

Anna’s a different story. Having rejected Christianity for the hurtful things that some of Jesus’ followers have done, she doesn’t want to hear what Caleb has been learning, even though the causes she is passionate about nicely fit into the “true story.”

Will Shalandra’s tutelage succeed? Will Caleb accept this new gospel of “a Christianity worth believing in?” Can the rift between Dave and Caleb be mended? And what about Anna; will she ever be open to listen?

True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In is a cleverly woven narrative, providing insightful instruction in story form. True Story is ideal for the postmodern thinker who is seeking real answers and practical solutions to their place in this messed up world.

It also aptly serves the modern thinker who wants to understand today’s younger generations. Either way, if you want to have a Christianity worth believing in, check out James Choung’s True Story.

[True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, by James Choung. Published by InterVarsity Press, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-8303-3609, 231 pages.]

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

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Bible Insights

Do You Need a Doctor?

Jesus said, “It is not healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came for the sick. (Since he came to heal and to save, we may be able to comprehend this both literally and figuratively, that is, the physically sick and the spiritually sick.) Jesus came for sinners—those who miss the mark.

Conversely, Jesus did not come for the healthy, the righteous. What exactly does that mean? Perhaps:

  • People who are righteous (good and law-abiding) don’t need Jesus. (Is Jesus implying their path is through the Old Testament covenant and following the Law of Moses?)
  • People who think they are on the right track will never know they need Jesus, so he is dismissing them.
  • Everyone needs Jesus, but some people delude themselves, thinking they are the exception.
I need a doctor and his name is Jesus. Click To Tweet

None of these ideas is an adequate explanation for me of what this text means. Although the first one seems heretical, it is also the most direct understanding of Jesus’ actual words.

The other two responses require an interjection of ideas, some assumptions to be made—of basically reading the text through our own theological glasses.

Fortunately, I don’t need to understand this text completely. What I do know is I need a doctor—and his name is Jesus.

[Mark 2:17, Matthew 9:12-13, and Luke 5:31-32]

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

Jesus Took the Hit For Us

I sat in a coffee shop with a new friend who had just begun to follow Jesus. As we talked about what that meant and how it intersected with life, he suddenly digressed, blurting out, “I don’t really get this whole deal about Jesus dying for my sins.”

I knew the answer, but could I sufficiently strip away the religious jargon and tired rhetoric to provide a simple explanation?

I paused, searching for the right words to clarify and not confuse. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit intervened. I looked my friend in the eye and calmly said, “Jesus took the hit for you.”

I was shocked. I had never consider those words before and wasn’t even sure if I used them correctly. But it clicked with my friend. After a couple seconds of contemplation, a comprehension shown in his eyes and a smile appeared on his lips. The smile turned to a grin, and he began to beam. “Now I get it!”

I’m glad, because I don’t think I could have said it any better.

Since that time, I’ve pondered this phrase quite a bit. Yes, Jesus took the hit for me. Thank you 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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Bible Insights

How Does Salvation “Work”?

How Does Salvation “Work”?

In one Paul’s letters, he says something that is quite curious and strange. He tells readers to “work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12).

Ugh? Didn’t Paul also write that we are saved through faith and not by our “works” (that is, not of our own doing or striving)? (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So, if we can’t earn our salvation, why do we need to work it out? Is Paul confused? Is he schizophrenic? Is this a paradox?

Paul wrote that we are saved through faith and not by our 'works'. Click To Tweet

Actually, I think it’s a matter of timing.

First, we need to follow Jesus—by faith. We don’t need to do anything else to get God’s attention or earn his affection. There is no working involved in being made right with God. That means it’s a gift—we didn’t buy it and can’t earn it; it was given.

The second part is our response. Out of sheer gratitude for the gift, we can opt to respond by behaving differently. I think this is what it means to “work out our salvation,” that is, to cultivate it or complete it.

Consider what if I gave you a million dollars. Would your attitude towards me change? I think so. You might want to find out more about me, learn why I did it, and maybe help me in my future philanthropic efforts.

In essence you might be working out my gift to you. It’s still a gift, but one that evokes a grand response.

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

The Armor of God is For Protection

The Armor of God is For Protection

In the Bible, there is the instruction to “put on the full armor of God.”

To the casual reader, this might seem like a call to arms or a provocation for military action.

Yet I don’t see this as a militant statement, but merely a memory aid to help people remember key items needed to prevail in spiritual conflict, namely: truth, righteousness, sharing the gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God (the only offensive tool of the group).

It's not about a physical fight ,but instead a spiritual conflict. Click To Tweet

Paul, in Ephesians 6:11-17, seems to be painting a word picture using the soldier of the day (which readers would have been most familiar with) connecting his essential gear with these key spiritual elements.

Then, to recall Paul’s list of six items, readers needed only to envision a soldier in uniform and associate each spiritual element with its physical counterpart. For example:

  • Belt: truth
  • Breastplate: righteousness (that is, right living)
  • Shoes: a readiness to share the gospel of peace
  • Shield: faith
  • Helmet: salvation
  • Sword: the word of God (the spoken word of God)

It’s not about a physical fight (which many people have missed throughout the ages), but instead a spiritual conflict for which followers of Jesus must be prepared to engage in using: truth, righteousness, sharing the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Bible.

This is what is meant by the metaphor of the armor of God.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ephesians 4-6 and today’s post is on Ephesians 6:11-17.]

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.