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.”

Zealous for Good Works

Titus 211 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Titus 2:11–14 (ESV)

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we learned that we should be a people of praise in response to what God has done for us. The center of our praise should be on the coming of Jesus into the world as our Savior. However, our praise should not be with only our lips, our lives should reflect our love and gratitude.

Titus tells us that, as a result of God’s grace, we should live differently from the world. We should live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. We should be people who are zealous for good works. So, let us take time to voice our praise with our lips, but let us not fail to praise our gracious God with our actions.

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Tell of His Salvation from Day to Day

Psalm 96_2–3 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 96:1–6 (ESV)

1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Another Christmas has come and gone. If you are like me, they seem to come and go a little faster every year. Many of us have headed back to our normal routines at work or around the home. The decorations will soon go back into storage until next year.

What will we do for another year? I believe we should adopt the mindset of the psalmist in Psalm 69. We should spend our time telling the world and rejoicing in what God has done! He has sent his Son into the world to save us. That is something to get excited about! We are rightly excited to celebrate Christmas every year, but let us not allow the excitement to fade. Let us remember each and every day what God has done and let us praise him for it.

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To Us a Child Is Born

Isaiah 96 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Take time today to thank God for Jesus Christ, the child who was born into the world to lead us and save us. We have a wonderful King who rules over us in love. Praise his name!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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Christ Came to Serve

Philippians 28 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Philippians 2:5–8 (ESV)

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was God in the flesh, but he came to serve. Jesus was the promised Messiah, the King of kings, but he came in humility and gave his life for his people. He did this in order that we could have life. He went to the cross for us.

Jesus calls us to follow his example. Our lives should not be spent looking out for ourselves, but serving others in humility. We should look for the welfare of others and give of ourselves to that end. This is how Christ showed love to us and this is how we show the love of Jesus to the world.

Christmas is a time of year when people are much more giving. As Christians, we should be known for our giving spirit not only at Christmas, but every day. Let us go forth in humility as we follow the example of our Savior and give our lives for others.

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God’s Love for Sinners

Romans 58 [widescreen].jpg

Reading the Word

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV)

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is through Jesus Christ that we are reconciled to God. It is not because of anything we have done or possibly could do. It is solely and totally through the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Christ that our sins are forgiven and we obtain eternal life. On our own, we are sinners and we are the enemies of God.

Jesus died for sinners, the enemies of God. Why? Because God loves us. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), he does so because such love reflects the love of God for us. He did not call us to do anything that he did not also do. Such a love is hard for us to understand and should cause us to praise God. He had no reason to love us and make salvation available to all who would believe, but he did. Let us celebrate his love and our salvation and let us take the wonderful news of God’s love to the world!

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That You May Believe

John 17 [widescreen]

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

Reading the Word

John 20:30–31 (ESV)

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

What Is Truth?

John 1837 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 18:33–38 (ESV)

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in a world where truth is relative. Everyone decides for themselves what is right and true. If you say your truth is better than someone else’s, you are seen as intolerant. We all know this cannot really be so, but the world insists that we play along. It’s really a strange thing to insist that truth is relative on one hand, but hold tightly to the scientific method in the other. Yet that is the word we live in.

Jesus will not allow us to play such a game with truth. When he came into the world, he taught the people authoritatively. He revealed to them and us the truth. He claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. We might like to pretend that there is no absolute truth or that such truth is unknowable, but Jesus insists that we believe his words because he speaks as the Son of God, the King of kings.

The world cannot deny truth because Jesus came into the world and revealed the truth. Now we have the options of living according to Jesus’ teaching or denying him and going our own way. In your search for truth, be sure to open your Bible and read the words of Jesus.

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