Obedience from Love

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:1–3 (ESV)

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It spends 176 verses telling of the goodness of God’s law and the blessings of keeping that law. The believer finds great benefit in living in obedience to God’s word. However, we must understand the type of obedience that this psalm, and the whole Bible, commends.

There are two ways to keep the word of God. The first is out of legalistic adherence. This is the person who obeys in order to earn blessing. Scripture makes it clear that no one will be saved through the keeping of the law because no one can keep it completely. In this case, the law is not a blessing, but a curse. The second way is obedience out of love. This is the person who understands the grace and mercy that has been shown to them by God and who loves the Lord and wants to obey, not to gain blessing, but as an act of love and devotion. Notice how Psalm 119 speaks of the obedient one who seeks the Lord “with their whole heart.” This is not legalistic obedience, but obedience from love. Our God has shown great love toward us and is worthy of our loving obedience.

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God Cares for You

1 Peter 57 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Peter 5:6–7 (ESV)

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Have you ever felt that you would like to take your problems to God, but you wonder if your issues are a nuisance to him? Have you ever decided that your problems are too small and that God should not be bothered with such things? 1 Peter tells us that we can go in confidence to God and cast all of our cares upon him. Why? Because God cares for us. And not only does he care, but he is the mighty and all-powerful God who can actually do something about our concerns.

It is a wonderful and amazing thing to be called a child of the living God. He loves us a father loves a child, but in an even greater way than we have ever known because God’s love is perfect. Do not hesitate to go to him. He wants his children to draw near and he wants you to share what is on your heart. He cares or you. He loves you.

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Be Doers of the Word

James 122 [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. Be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

James 1:22–25 (ESV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Desire Gives Birth to Sin

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Reading the Word

James 1:12–15 (ESV)

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Desire gives birth to sin and when sin is fully grown, it brings forth death. Sin is a serious problem. In fact, it is our greatest problem. It is why Jesus came into this world and died on a cross. He came to give us freedom from our sin and its end result, death.

So, if sin is such a huge problem, why do we treat it as such a small thing? We even put a positive spin on it when we mention that our dessert was “sinfully delicious”. The truth is we like to sin. We desire to sin, which is why James tells us our desires lure and entice us to sin. We must be aware and resist these constant temptations. We must ground ourselves in the word of God and ask him through prayer to help us to desire the things he desires. And mostly, we must repent of our sin and place our trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to save us from ourselves. It is through his death and resurrection that death is defeated and that we receive eternal life.

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Ask, Seek, and Knock

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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!”

Understanding and Applying the Word

When you pray, what is your expectation? Do you pray knowing that your heavenly Father is listening or wondering if prayer is worth the time? Do you pray expecting that God will answer your prayers or expecting that nothing will come of them? What is your attitude towards prayer? Do you pray at all?

Jesus tells us that we should ask, seek, and knock. We should go before the Lord and pour out our hearts knowing that our God cares deeply for us. He desires to hear from us and answer us. He desires what is best for us and will not withhold it. Just as earthly fathers desire what is best for their children, our Father in heaven does the same, but in an even greater way in his perfect love for us. This does not mean we get everything we ask for. God knows better what we need than we do and will not give us what will cause us harm. Prayer allows us to pour out our hearts to God in deep communion with him and show our dependence and trust in him. It is a wonderful privilege to go before our great God knowing that he welcomes us as his children.

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My Help Comes from the Lord

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Reading the Word

Psalm 121:1–8 (ESV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm pictures a battle where the writer is engaged in a fight and in need of help. He looks to the hills because help is on the way. Who is his help? The Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth! Victory is sure and the future is secure.

As followers of Christ, we know that help is always present. Our God is ever-present and all-powerful. He will never leave us alone and he is always working or us. He is the sovereign King of all the earth. We can face our circumstances with confidence knowing that the victory is sure and our future is secure because the Lord goes with us and fights for us. What trouble are you facing? Know that the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, is with you.

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Lives of Worship

Romans 121 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Understanding and Applying the Word

God wants all of us. Everything we do, every word we say, and every thought we think should be for his glory and an act of worship. This takes a transformation of our hearts and minds as we submit to the word of God and the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

We often think of worship as the singing of songs on Sunday mornings, but our worship must be much bigger than that. Singing songs on Sundays is a wonderful and needed thing for us, but all of life must be lived as an act of worship. Worship is our response to what God has said and done, whether in Scripture or in our lives. How we live in response to God is a display of our love for him and his grace towards us. May we seek to glorify him in every area of our lives, whether in thought or deed.

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Not of This World

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Reading the Word

John 17:14–19 (ESV)

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s reading comes from a prayer of Jesus on behalf of his disciples. As Jesus, prepared to depart the world and return to the Father, he knew that he was going to be leaving his followers behind to continue the ministry of the gospel in the world. In preparation for his departure, Jesus prayed that the Father would protect his disciples from the world and from the evil one through sanctifying them in the word of truth, the holy Scriptures.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to continue to live our lives in this world that is often at odds with the teachings of Christ. This can be a difficult task, but we have not been left to do it in our own strength. We have the word of God to teach us and guide us. We have the Holy Spirit at work within us. And we have Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of the Father as our advocate. Yes, we are in the world, but we are called to be different. We are called to be Christ-like. We are called to be other-worldly.

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There Is Nothing I Desire Besides You

Psalm 7325 [widescreen]

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

Reading the Word

Psalm 73:23–28 (ESV)

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

Raging Against God

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Reading the Word

Psalm 2:1–3 (ESV)

1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Reading the words of Psalm 2, one may wonder if this psalm was written recently. It is amazing to think that it was written thousands of years ago and describes the mindset of the nations and humanity then. It seems that people are not all that much different today than they were when these verses were first written down. The people still rage against God and his Anointed (i.e. Jesus Christ). People still think they would be better off if they could “burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords.” It is not uncommon to hear people say that religion and Christianity and the Bible are bad things that hold humanity and the world back from advancing to greater heights.

Contrary to the mindset of those quoted in this psalm and the attitude of so many today, the world is not better off without God. In fact, it is our rebellion against God that has caused our problems. We have rejected our Creator and gone our own way. By doing this, we have caused great harm to the world around us and to one another. It is only through returning to God that we can find the hope and peace that we desire. And it is through the promises of God to his people that we will one day live in a world without pain and suffering because sin and its consequences will be removed and there will be a new world where God dwells with his people.

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