Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:4–7 (ESV)

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fear can be paralyzing. I have experienced it myself. When I was young and had the chance to ride a roller coaster for the first time it took me several times waiting in line and backing out before I finally was able to work up the courage. Thankfully, my older sister was patient enough to keep going through the line with me each time. I have also seen it in my children in different circumstances. When they are afraid, it is almost impossible to get them to continue the task at hand.

Jesus knew that fear would be a factor in his disciples’ lives. They would be afraid because of the external pressures and consequences of living for him in a world hostile to Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus tells his disciples that the only proper fear is fear of the Lord. God is the final judge and will decide the eternal fate of every person. The world may pressure, persecute, and even kill us, but that is all it can do. Only God has the authority over eternity. And as we live our lives in fear of the Lord, we need not fear the future. God cares for the sparrows and we are of much more value than the sparrows.

What is keeping you from living all out for the Lord? What keeps you from sharing the gospel with others? Is it fear? We only need to fear the Lord and live in obedience to him. When we do that, there is nothing to be afraid of.

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Religious Hypocrisy

Luke 122 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 12:1–3 (ESV)

1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, Jesus warned the Pharisees about their religious hypocrisy. In today’s passage, he warns his disciples of the same thing. Sin will be brought to light. One may act a certain way in the light (i.e. the presence of others) while revealing sinful thoughts and attitudes in the dark (i.e. in secret and out of public view). Such things do not fool God and will be uncovered.

Religious hypocrisy is a serious offense to God. Do you put on your Sunday best and speak wonderful things in the presence of your church family and pastor and then go home and tell your spouse why you do not like “this person” or “that person” or “this decision” or “that decision”? Do you not know that all of those secret whispers will be made known? Such actions are harmful to the body of Christ, unloving, and sinful. May we repent of our hypocrisy and ask the Lord to change our hearts.

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Wash before You Eat

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Reading the Word

Luke 11:37–54 (ESV)

37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees were devout Jews who emphasized the keeping of the law as well as other rules they had put in place to make sure the law was kept. An example of such extra rules concerned washing in a certain way before meals. When a Pharisee observed that Jesus did not wash before dinner, he questioned Jesus about it. Jesus’ response was pointed and showed the hypocritical nature of the Pharisees.

Jesus replied, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” Jesus’ point was that the Pharisees might have lived according to their lists of external rules, but their hearts were far from God. The Pharisees looked great to the outside observer, but their hearts were full of sin.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day have much in common with those we would call “legalists” today. Legalists are those who make up lists of what is and is not allowed and base their spiritual maturity off of how well they can live by such lists. They also use the lists to judge the maturity of others. However, keeping a list of rules does not mean that a person’s heart is right, which is the main test of maturity and true devotion to God. May we ask the Lord to work in our hearts to desire what he desires so that he is glorified in both our actions and our passions.

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Family Ties

Luke 1128 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 11:27–28 (ESV)

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Understanding and Applying the Word

A woman commented that Jesus’ mother was surely blessed because she had Jesus as a son. We must be careful not to misunderstand what this woman was saying. Of course, children are a blessing to their parents. Mary was blessed in that way. However, the woman meant something more. In Jesus’ day, there was a great emphasis placed on family lineage and women found a great deal of value in the sons that they bore. For Mary to have a son like Jesus, she was surely blessed!

Jesus’ response was that biological connections are not what is important. The one who hears the word of God and does it is the one who is truly blessed. Our relationship with God does not come through our family tree, it comes from each individual’s response to the word of God. We must not think that our relationship with God is based on anything our parents, grandparents, or children have done. Each and every one of us must decide what we will do with the word of God that tells us of our sin and the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. Those who are blessed will hear the word, repent of their sins, and trust in Jesus Christ.

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A Clean, but Empty House

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Reading the Word

Luke 11:24–26 (ESV)

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 12:43-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

In today’s reading, Jesus warns about the necessity of making a decision about him. There is no neutral ground.

When a demon has gone out of a person (notice this is not one that has been cast out) it goes through the water less places seeking rest. The desert was believed to be the dwelling place of demons except when they had taken up residence in someone or something. When the demon could not find a suitable place to go, it decided to return from where it had come. The old house had been cleaned up and put in order so that the place was better than ever. Though it had been cleaned up, it had not been filled. As a result, the demon went out and invited others to join him in the fine accommodations. Now the situation was worse than at the beginning.

We often try to clean up our lives in our own strength. We may even feel like we have done it at times. However, personal reform does not last long. We need the life-giving presence and power of the Holy Spirit working in us to bring us true victory over evil. The Spirit is given to all who trust in Jesus Christ. Pray that Christ would send the Spirit to give you new life and remain with you to give you the power and strength you need each day to live for Jesus.

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Ask, Seek, and Knock

child_praying

Thank you for reading Shaped by the Word. If you did not already know it, this is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not include supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can continue to follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Jesus Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Luke 11:9–13 (ESV)

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Parallel Text: Matthew 7:7-11

A Pesky Friend at Midnight

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Reading the Word

Luke 11:5–8 (ESV)

5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told a parable of a person who went to his friend’s home at midnight. The reason he went was to ask for some bread. As you probably imagine, the person inside the home was already in bed, as were the children of the home. What was the result? The man got up and gave his friend what he came for. Why did he do this? Well, Jesus tells us that he did it not because he was his friend, but because of the visitor’s “impudence.” The word has the idea of persistence and urgency. It was not the friendship that was the deciding factor in getting the homeowner out of bed to help this man, but the urgency of the need.

Jesus told this parable as he continued to teach his disciples about prayer. He was not saying that we need to be persistent in our prayers to coerce God into action, but that the urgency of our needs is reflected by persistence and that God knows the urgency of the matters that we bring to him. We can be confident that God hears and answers our prayers and will not ignore us in our time of need. So, continue in persistent prayer to the Father, the one who cares for his children.

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How to Pray

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Reading the Word

Luke 11:1–4 (ESV)

1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 6:9-13

Understanding and Applying the Word

Much of Christianity is caught as much as it is taught. The disciples often witnessed Jesus spending time in prayer, so it is no surprise that one of them approached him and asked Jesus to teach the disciples to pray. Jesus’ response is what has become known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Many believers through the years have memorized this model prayer and repeat it often in their own prayer life. However, did Jesus mean for us to simply memorize and repeat his words? I do not think so.

Rather than a prayer to repeat, Jesus gave his disciples a prayer template. He gave them a sample prayer to use an example for their own prayers. Included in the sample (also recorded in Matthew 6:9-13) is praise and reverence for the Father, an acknowledgement of our reliance on God for all things, seeking forgiveness of sins, and seeking God’s protection from future sin. This template is a good reminder to us of the things that should occupy our prayer lives and serve as a corrective for those of us who tend to treat prayer as simply a time to bring our wish lists to God to fulfill. Asking God for things is not necessarily a bad thing, but we should spend a proportionate amount of time praising God for who he is and what he has done as well as dealing with the sin in our lives.

When we follow Jesus template we are constantly reminded of God’s greatness and our dependence on him. We are reminded of the grace God shows to us each and every day and we are reminded that our relationship with the Father is only made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that makes forgiveness possible. Spend time in prayer and use Jesus’ prayer as a guide as you speak to the Father.

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Choosing What Is Best

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Reading the Word

Luke 10:38–42 (ESV)

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus visited the home of Martha. While he was there, Martha put herself to work serving her guests. However, Martha’s sister Mary, who was also present, sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him as he taught. Martha thought Mary should get up and help and asked Jesus to tell her so, but Jesus would not. Instead, he told Martha that Mary had made the right choice.

This short passage emphasizes something profound. Life presents us with many choices and decisions, but they are not all equal. Sometimes, we must choose between right and wrong. In such cases, the decision is clear. However, there are other times when we must choose between what is good and what is better. Martha’s decision to serve was not wrong, but there was something more important. Jesus was in her home! Serving could wait for the moment. It was time to hear what Jesus had to say. It was time to spend time with the Lord.

We too can spend much of our time doing good things, but fail to do the most important thing: fellowship with the Lord. It is vital to the health of our faith that we take the time to sit at the Lord’s feet and hear from him through his word. We must take the time each day, even time away from doing good things, to do the best thing. We must fellowship with our Savior and grow to know him more and more. Are you taking the time to do what is best each day?

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The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 10:25–37 (ESV)

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We always try to justify ourselves. We go to great lengths to explain why we make the decisions that we do and why we are rarely, if ever, wrong. The lawyer who spoke to Jesus in this passage was no different. He knew the requirements of the law, but he wanted to justify himself by defining the word “neighbor” in narrow sense. So, when he asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ response was surprising.

In response to the lawyer’s question, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The shocking elements of the story are that the religious leaders failed to show compassion towards a man in need and a Samaritan man is the hero. Samaritans and Jews did not get along (cf. John 4:9). The Samaritans were half-Jew and half-Assyrian as a result of intermarriage after the Jewish exile at the hands of the Assyrians. The southern Jews, who had maintained their Jewish bloodlines, thought of them as second class. The lawyer who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” certainly did not think of the Samaritans as his neighbor.

Jesus’ parable taught the lawyer that we should love and show compassion towards all people, regardless of race, religion, social background, or anything else. We too must learn this lesson. Who is our neighbor? What group(s) of people do you find it hard to love? Jesus will not allow us to justify being unloving towards others. May God soften our hearts to love all people as he loves them.

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