Your Time Is Here

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue

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Reading the Word

John 7:1–9 (ESV)

1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read that it was the time of the Feast of Booths and Jesus was ministering in Galilee because those in Judea were seeking to kill him. Jesus’ brothers wanted Jesus to go to Judea to attend the feast. His brothers had witnessed some of his miraculous works, but they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah (cf. Mark 3:21, 31-35). They did not come to belief until after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14). His brothers included James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (i.e. Jude; cf. Matthew 13:55). James and Jude would later write the New Testament books that bear their names.

According to verses 3-4, Jesus’ brothers wanted him to go to Judea to display his signs and wonders more openly, but Jesus told them that it was not yet time for such displays. He went on to tell them that while it was not time for him to show himself to the world, their time had come and was always present.

What did Jesus mean by his statements to his brothers? They had seen Jesus. They knew him. They had grown up with him. They had witnessed some of his miracles. Jesus was telling them that they could believe in him. They had no need to wait. We too must make a decision on who Jesus is and today is the day. We should not think we will make a decision in the future. The question of Jesus’ true identity is too important to put off. 2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us, “Now is the day of salvation.” Will you believe in him? Will you tell others about him?

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Following Jesus

steps dune dunes sand dunes

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Reading the Word

Luke 9:57–62 (ESV)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 8:18-22

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage emphasizes the cost of following Jesus. The word “follow” is repeated three times (vv. 57, 59, and 61) and considers three different scenarios. The first man wanted to follow Jesus and Jesus told him that it was going to cost him daily comforts. Jesus had no place to lay his head, so the man could expect the same for himself. Jesus called the second man to follow him, but the man desired to first go and bury his father. Jesus’ response seems cold, but his point was that the proclamation of the kingdom must take priority over everything else. The third is another man who went to Jesus and desired to follow him, but first wanted to say goodbye to his family. Again, Jesus emphasized that following him means putting Jesus and the work of the kingdom before all else, including family.

Most of us are happy to “follow” Jesus if it does not really interfere too much with our lives. We simply want to add him to everything else we are doing and give him our spare time, money, resources, and effort. That is not what Jesus desires from us. He wants all of us and he wants to be the top priority in our lives. This does not mean that we neglect every other area of responsibility we have been given, but it does mean that every area of life is changed and comes under our relationship to Christ. In all that we do and with all that we have, we seek to honor our Lord and proclaim his kingdom to the world. This commitment is costly and will turn your life upside down. Are you ready to follow him?

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Forgiving as We Have Been Forgiven

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:23–35 (ESV)

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiving Over and Over Again

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Reading the Word

Matthew 18:21–22 (ESV)

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 17:3–4 (ESV)

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

How many times should we forgive someone? Once? Twice? How about seven times? This was Peter’s question for Jesus and Jesus’ response reminds us that our forgiveness of others should look like the forgiveness that God shows towards us.

Jesus told Peter that we should not limit our forgiveness towards others to seven times, but seventy-seven times! Now, Jesus was not actually giving us a specific number to keep track of in some way, but using hyperbole to make the point that our forgiveness should be unending. Just as God forgives us, we should forgive others. Thankfully, though we sin against the Lord every day, he continues to forgive. That is the kind of love we are to show towards others. We are to show the same love that God has shown to us.

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Where Two or Three Are Gathered

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Reading the Word

Matthew 18:18–20 (ESV)

18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage is often quoted out of context. Jesus did not give us a definition of what constitutes a church with his words “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Many quote these words and apply such a meaning, but Jesus’ words have to be understood in light of the entire passage, which begins in verse 15.

Verses 18-20 complete Jesus’ instruction regarding how to handle a divisive situation between two believers. First: go to the other person. Second: take along one or two others. And last: if there is no repentance, take the matter to the church. See yesterday’s post for more on verses 15-18.

After his instruction on bringing the matter to the church, Jesus tells us that the authority of heaven stands with the church. Whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven. The church (on earth) and God (in heaven) stand in agreement. Not only that, but when the people of Christ gather (two or three gathered in Jesus’ name), Christ is with them. The church represents Christ on earth and his authority stands with his people. So, when the people of God come together and seek his will in such a matter as the discipline of an unrepentant believer, Christ’s authority stands with his people.

We must never forget that the church is not a man-made institution, but was ordained by God. The church is made up of the people of Christ and serves as his representatives in the world. It is the church that has been given the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel to the world and it is the church that Christ has given the Spirit, the gifts, and his authority. May we never despise what he has established and may we seek to do his will in all matters as his people.

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Working on Forgiveness

True Forgiveness

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:15–18 (ESV)

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage serves as a basic template of how to handle sin and forgiveness between two believers. The first step is to speak directly to the other person. If that does not work, then getting one or two other believers involved to help is step two. The final step is to bring the matter to the entire body of Christ, the church. If that fails, the person who refuses to repent and who continues to allow sin to cause division is to be removed from the fellowship of believers.

It is important to understand that the removal of a person is a last step. The person should be given every opportunity to turn from his sin and the offended party must stand ready to forgive. Unrepentant sin that causes division between Christians is a serious matter and can have a damaging impact on a church and its ability to be a witness to the world of the redemption found in Christ. This is why such sin must be dealt with and not ignored. Have you ever been part of a church suffering from great division? Chances are the church has let unrepentant sin go unchecked.

Is there a division between you and a fellow believer? Has someone offended you or have you offended someone? Have you gone to the other person to try to work things out? If not, go to the other person. Do not let sin continue to drive a wedge between the people of God. We must be an example of love and forgiveness so we can preach the message of the gospel to the world.

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Every Single Sheep

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Reading the Word

Matthew 18:10–14 (ESV)

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As in the previous passage (cf. Matthew 18:6), the “little ones” Jesus spoke of here are his followers. One should not look down on Jesus’ disciples, regardless of the disciple’s background, social status, financial status, ethnicity, etc. Jesus mentioned in verse 10 that there are angels that attend such things and who stand before the Father in heaven as both witness and ready to do the Father’s will. We must be careful not to think that this verse means that there is a guardian angel for each individual believer, but the Bible does teach that angels are actively involved in the world (cf. Psalm 34:7).

Jesus used an illustration of a lost sheep to make his point clear. A shepherd who lost one sheep out of one hundred did not just forget about that one lost one. He left the ninety-nine on the mountains where they were safe and searched until he found the lost sheep. When he found it, the shepherd rejoiced. In the same way, the Father does not wish to lose any of his sheep.

As Christians, we must see others as God sees them. Every single person is valuable and loved by the Father. We are told that God loved the world (i.e. all people) so much that he sent his only Son into the world to die for each and every person who would call out for salvation (John 3:16). The Shepherd came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

As Christ’s followers in the world today, we must also seek those who are lost and not look down on any because we do not think they are worthy. Let us tell the world of the love of the Father who rejoices at the salvation of each and every one who turns to Christ.

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Causing Others to Sin

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Reading the Word

Mark 9:42–50 (ESV)

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 18:6-9; Luke 17:1-2

Understanding and Applying the Word

In our current world, we often hear people say things like “Do whatever makes you happy” or “I can do whatever I want.” However, in our passage for today, Jesus warns us that our actions are judged in a greater way than that. Everything we do has an impact on others. Every choice we make affects not just us, but others. Jesus’ words warn us that we will be held accountable if we cause others to fall into sin.

Jesus’ description of the punishment awaiting those who lead others away from Christ tell us how serious of a matter this is. The punishment is described as “unquenchable fire” and a place “where their worm does not die.” It would be better to cut off a hand, lose a foot, or gouge out an eye than to fall into sin that leads us and others away from Christ. We must maintain our saltiness (i.e. distinction from the world) as we live in this world.

When you think about your life, is it one that would please Christ? Is it one that young believers should emulate? Is your life one that shines as a light in the world that points unbelievers to Jesus? If someone were to follow in your steps, would those steps lead them closer to Jesus or away from him? May we live in such a way that Jesus is glorified in all we do.

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They Are Not Against Us, but For Us

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Reading the Word

Mark 9:38–41 (ESV)

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Parallel Text: Luke 9:49-50

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, the disciples argued about who was the greatest among them. In our passage for today, they reflect a mentality that they are an exclusive group and anyone that is not one of them must not be worthy. They saw someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Their response was to try to stop him because he was not one of them.

Jesus’ response to the disciples is one that we need to hear today. Those who minister in the name of Jesus are not enemies, but allies. Those who serve and minister to fellow believers because they are believers prove that they too belong to Christ. Churches can sometimes develop a mindset that believers in other churches are second class believers or not truly believers at all. If we are not careful, we can develop a mindset that thinks that only our own small group of believers is doing it right and others need to join us if they are to please Christ.

Praise God that there are fellow believers and ministries all over the world who are proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. They are our allies, not our enemies. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be an encouragement to one another as we work together for the glory of our great God!

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Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?

Luke 245–6 [widescreen]

Today is a special day as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. May we all be encouraged as we consider what this event means for all of mankind. Be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day as we read through the life of Jesus.

Luke 24:1–12 (ESV)

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.