Live in Peace

2 Corinthians 1314 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 (ESV)

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is far too common that we Christians spend a great deal of time and energy fighting among ourselves. And it is all too often that our fights are over meaningless things or things so trivial that they should be easy for us to deal with. How often are grudges formed and does bitterness take hold over carpet colors, the style of seating, the use or non-use of projectors and screens, etc.? There is hardly an end to the things over which we often do battle. This should not be. Believers are called to agree and live at peace with one another. We read this instruction in today’s passage, but it appears in multiple places in the Bible. Look at Mark 9:50, Romans 12:16, and 1 Peter 3:8 as other examples. There are many more.

Why is it important for believers to live in unity and peace? Because we are called to both proclaim and embody the gospel message. The gospel tells us that sin can be forgiven and that we can find newness of life and reconciliation with God and with each other. If we proclaim that message, but our lives are lived in constant fighting and bickering, we undermine the very gospel we preach. A fighting church cannot faithfully preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. We lose our voice.

Let us call out to God to forgive us and let us go to our brothers and sisters in Christ and rebuild the broken relationships caused by our sinful attitudes. Let us preach the gospel to the world with our words, but let us also preach it with our lives.

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Confidence before God

Hebrews 1022 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Hebrews 10:19–25 (ESV)

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Scripture tells us that we are all sinners and separated from God by our sin. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and the presence of God as a consequence of their sin. This is the same consequence for all of mankind. In the Old Testament, God established a way for the people to once again draw near to him. It was through sacrifices and offerings and the priesthood. However, with Christ, God has made a better way. Christ offered himself for our sins and cleansed us once and for all. This now makes it possible for us to enter into the presence of our holy God because we are clean.

Believers can go before God is confidence, knowing that our sin is no longer a barrier to our relationship with him. Our sin has been completely dealt with through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We have full access to the throne of the Almighty. We have this access now as we go to him in prayer. In the future, we will have it in even greater measure as we stand in his presence in glory. Let us not neglect such a wonderful gift from God. We can enter into his presence with confidence knowing that God loves us and that we have been forgiven.

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The Surpassing Worth of Jesus

Philippians 38 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I publish a suggested Scripture reading only, with no additional material. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Philippians 3:1–11 (ESV)

1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Seek First the Kingdom

Matthew 633 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Do you trust the Lord? In these verses, Jesus tells us that we can trust the Father. He knows our needs and he will provide for us. Knowing this and trusting him frees us to live fully committed to doing God’s will. We can seek first the kingdom. In every situation and circumstance, we can do what brings greatest glory to God. We do not have to live like the world to survive in the world. Our Father knows our needs and will provide for us.

It can sometimes be tempting to cut corners or do things we know would not please God because we feel like we have no option if we are going to survive. Our actions in such times reveal a lack of faith that God really will take care of us. Do you trust God enough to seek first the kingdom and his righteousness? What are some areas that may need to change?

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More than Conquerors

Romans 837 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 8:37–39 (ESV)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We are more than conquerors. Believers must always remember that the war has already been won. Christ has defeated the enemy at the cross. We who belong to him have nothing to fear. Our future is secure in the hands of God and nothing can change what he has determined. Nothing.

Why do we often forget these truths? We live in fear and shame. Instead of going boldly into the word as Christ’s people with his message of Good News, we flee from the world or slip back into it. Consider the words of William Gurnall:

Few have the courage and resolution to grapple with the difficulties that meet them in the way. Israel came joyfully out of Egypt, but when their bellies were a little pinched with hunger, they were ready to fly from their colours, and make a dishonourable retreat into Egypt. Many who profess the gospel fail to endure when trouble comes, and alas! their hearts fail them. O how many depart from Christ at this crossroads!- William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

Whatever trials may come, we must remember that our future is secure in Christ. We are conquerors because Jesus rose victorious from the dead and has promised eternal life to all who believe. Let us go forward in confidence and pray that God will give us strength along the way.

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Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thessalonians 517 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Thessalonians 5:12–22 (ESV)

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses we find several exhortations from the Apostle Paul, but I want to focus on a particular one. We are told to pray without ceasing. Prayer is such an easy thing, yet it is often one of the hardest things to do consistently. However, it is consistent, regular prayer that is Christ’s will for us. It is during this time with God that we are able to pour out our hearts to him and learn to rest in his graces. It is during prayer that our wills and affections are spoken and brought into line with our Father’s. We learn to trust in his word in the midst of our circumstances, knowing that he hears us and answers us according to his will. In prayer, we get to spend time with our Father and speak to him as a child, trusting in his goodness.

Christians should be people of prayer. One of the greatest gifts of love that God has given us is prayer. We can go before our Father openly and honestly, knowing he wants to hear from us and knowing that he cares about our circumstances. Let us be the people of prayer that our Lord wants us to be beginning this year.

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If God Is For Us…

Romans 831 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 8:31–39 (ESV)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today marks the beginning of a new year. Many of us have likely made resolutions for the year with the aim of making this year better than the last. It is good to look ahead to the future and make plans, but we are also faced with the reality of uncertainty. We do not know what the future holds. It may be difficult.

Paul reminds us in today’s reading that, no matter what comes our way, we can rest knowing that God is on our side. He is for us. He is for us so much that he sent his Son to die for us. If he did that, nothing else will stand between us and him. Let us plan for the future with hope and not fear, knowing that we go in God’s love.

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Light Has Dawned

Isaiah 92 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:12–17 (ESV)

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. He was the light that had come into the world to illumine and teach us the truth of God’s will. The truth that Jesus proclaimed is that mankind needed to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This was a controversial message because Jesus said it was for all people, both Jew and Gentile. Many felt they had no need to repent. After all, they were wonderful, religious people.

Jesus’ message of repentance is still controversial today. Very few people like to think of themselves as bad. Most believe they are generally good, so there would be no need to repent. Scripture teaches us that we are all sinners and fall short. As a result, we are all guilty before God and stand condemned. However, if we listen to Jesus’ words and repent of our sins and trust in his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, we will receive forgiveness and eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came to be a sacrifice, but he also came to teach and lead us into the light. Will we listen to his voice and repent?

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Our Blessed Hope

Titus 213–14 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:1–9 (ESV)

1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Celebrating the advent of Jesus should focus our hopes on the future. Jesus came into the world as a child, lived a sinless life, gave himself as a sacrifice for sinful mankind, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. However, that is not the end of Jesus’ work. He has promised to come again. When he returns, he has promised to gather his people to be with him forever in a place without sin and its consequences of pain, suffering, and death. Paul reminds us in our passage for today that we currently wait for that day and that, even now, Jesus is at work in our lives to make sure his people make it to the finish line.

The Bible never promises that life in this world will be easy, not even for the people of God. In fact, it will likely be hard for two reasons: We live in a fallen world where everything is impacted by sin. And we live in a fallen world that is opposed to the things of God. We will face the same difficulties as everyone else and the added difficulty of persecution for belonging to Jesus. However, unlike the world, we have the blessed hope of Jesus’ return and an eternal home with him. That is enough for today and every day!

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God Shows No Partiality

Acts 1034–35 [widescreen]

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 so you can read along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Acts 10:34–43 (ESV)

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”