Strengthened by the Grace of Christ

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Reading the Word

2 Timothy 2:1–7 (ESV)

1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Paul wrote 2 Timothy to his friend and child in the faith, Timothy. He wrote the letter from prison as he neared the end of his life. It was meant to be an encouragement to Timothy, who was ministering to the church in Ephesus.

“Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” summarized Paul’s message to Timothy. Those who have labored in ministry know it can be tempting to give up and quit when we look at the task before us. It is overwhelming and when we examine our own credentials, we know immediately that we cannot accomplish anything in our own strength. We need help and the only help that will do is the grace of Christ working in and through us. We need him to strengthen us and we need him to change the hearts and lives of his people. Searching for inner strength or clever strategies will always fail. We need the supernatural presence of Christ to accomplish the supernatural work of ministry to God’s people. Let us seek his grace each and every day.

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The Words of Eternal Life

John 668–69 [widescreen]

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 I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but do include a suggested reading from Scripture.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

Reading the Word

John 6:60–71 (ESV)

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

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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With Thankfulness in Your Hearts

Colossians 316 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I will be traveling over the next few days with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, I will not be posting extra commentary, but I will continue to post suggested Scripture readings for each day. Regular posts will resume on December 2. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Colossians 3:15–17 (ESV)

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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The Devotion of the Early Church

small church

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

Reading the Word

Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

That They May Be One

John 1722 [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 for the day. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

John 17:20–26 (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Rejecting the Cornerstone

1 Peter 27 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 21:33–46 (ESV)

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Parallel Texts: Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

The key to understanding this parable is knowing who Jesus is addressing through it. The passage gives us this information. In verse 45, we are told that the chief priests and the Pharisees perceived that Jesus was speaking about them. This is no surprise as he has been in a constant face-off with them since he entered Jerusalem for Passover week.

The parable tells us that the religious leaders and the religious system that they represented had failed the people. The leaders, who had been assigned by God to take care of his vineyard (i.e. the people of Israel), had failed to respond to the Lord’s servants that he had sent (referring to the prophets of the Old Testament). Lastly, the Lord had sent his own Son, Jesus, but the religious leaders would not listen to him either. Instead, they were planning to put Jesus to death, which they will do in just a few more days. What the religious leaders did not realize is that they were rejecting the very cornerstone of God’s salvation plans.

As a result, the religious leaders were rejected by God, as well as the system that they represented. God was moving to replace these things with something different. This new thing would prove to be the Church, made up of Jew and Gentile and no longer tied to the temple, the sacrificial system, or the priesthood. Instead, Jesus would be the great high priest who offered the once-for-all sacrifice of himself for all who believe. Big changes were coming because of Christ!

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Where Two or Three Are Gathered

steeple

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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Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity is a wonderful thing. When the people of God are working together, it is pleasant and brings great pleasure. The psalmist uses two images to illustrate the goodness of unity. It is like the precious oil used to anoint a priest that runs down from his head to his beard and to his robe. The oil spreads over the entire person. It is also like the dew running off of Mount Herman, the highest peak in Israel, and onto Zion. Zion is a dusty and much smaller mountain, but it is where the temple sits. The dew from Mount Herman gives refreshing moisture to dry Zion.

If you have ever been in a church where unity is not present among God’s people, you may have a good understanding of this psalm. Without unity, the people of God cannot prosper and thrive. It takes unity to allow the body of Christ to function as it ought to and accomplish what it is designed to. This is why there is such a great emphasis throughout the New Testament on this vital issue. We are called to love one another, forgive one another, and live in unity as we serve and build one another up. May we dwell in unity and experience its great pleasures.

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