A Living Dog Is Better Than a Dead Lion

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 9:4–6 (ESV)

But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read of the reality and consequences of death. It is the end. It is the end of everything for the dead person. The dead no longer partake in the things of life and they are soon forgotten by all. As the writer says, “…for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” A dog was considered a dirty scavenger while the lion was a noble predator. Yet, with the realty of death, it is better to be alive than dead.

Many Christians seem to minimize death, but the Bible does no such thing. Scripture teaches that death is the consequence of sin. It is not the way God designed the world, but is an intruder into creation. If sin is the disease then death is the final outcome of our sickness. Scripture calls death our final enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It takes away the life that was given by God and separates us from those we love.

Thankfully, God has done something to cure our disease and free us from the sentence of death. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die in our place. Jesus died and was buried, but he rose from the dead to conquer death for us and promises eternal life to all who will trust in him. The end of the Bible tells us of a new creation where sin and death are no more and all of the pain and suffering of death are removed. This is the hope of Christianity.


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Desire Gives Birth to Sin

photo of tombstones on grass field

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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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Joy Inexpressible

1 Peter 18–9 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Peter 1:3–9 (ESV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Understanding and Applying the Word

O the future that awaits the people of God! It is beyond our comprehension how wonderful it will be. Christ’s resurrection from the dead assures us that his promise of eternal life is true. We will be with our Lord for eternity! No matter what we may face now, we are assured that there is a glorious future and we can “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible.”

As those who belong to Christ and who have an inheritance that can never be taken away, we should be the most joyous people around. We have been given a wonderful gift. We have received the promise of eternal life in a world without sin and death and pain and suffering. The Son of God loves us and died for us to bring us life. Let us rejoice in our Savior and our future!

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The Free Gift of God

Romans 623 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 6:20–23 (ESV)

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Mankind has a problem. It is a sin problem. We are all guilty and our sin has separated us from God. We are condemned to death and eternal punishment and there is nothing we can do on our own to make things right. We cannot do enough good deeds. We cannot donate enough money. We cannot attend enough church services. We have nothing to offer to God.

Praise be to God because he has done what we could not! God has offered us life as a free gift. We cannot earn it or buy it, but God gives it to us by grace. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the debt we could not. He died in our place and defeated sin and death through his resurrection. Through all that Jesus has done for us, when we trust in him, we receive life. Eternal life. Praise God for his mercy and grace!

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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.

For the Glory of God

John 174 [widescreen]

Due to my schedule, I am not able to publish devotional thoughts on today’s passage. However, I have included the day’s suggested Scripture reading. Thanks for reading along each day!

Reading the Word

John 17:1–5 (ESV)

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

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The Resurrection and the Life

John 1125–26 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 11:17–27 (ESV)

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Jewish custom was to bury the dead on the same day the person died. We were told in yesterday’s reading that Jesus waited two days before he set out to go to Lazarus. The reason for the delay and the mention of Lazarus having been in the tomb for four days seems to be in order to make the upcoming miracle unquestionable. There would be no way to say that Lazarus was only sleeping or not really dead.

As Jesus arrived in the area, Martha rushed to meet him. Her words tell us that she believed Jesus could have saved Lazarus had he been there sooner. Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise, but Martha assumed he meant in the last days when all believers would rise. Jesus had something more immediate in mind and replied to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

“Do you believe this?” These are the concluding words of Jesus to Martha and they are the words that we must answer as well. Jesus promises resurrection and eternal life to all who believe in him. Do you believe? Jesus went on to raise a man from his tomb who had been dead for four days to prove that he had the power to fulfill his promises. Yet, his greatest miracle was still to come. Soon Jesus would be in the tomb after being put to death on a cross and, on the third day, he would rise from the dead. The One who promises resurrection to all who believe is the resurrected One who has power over death and the authority to give life. Do you believe?

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The Bread of Life

John 648 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 6:22–71 (ESV)

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

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.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Evidently, some who had been in the crowd when Jesus miraculously fed thousands from a few few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, continued to seek him out. When they found Jesus, his words to them were, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” It seems these followers were simply after another free meal. Jesus then warned them not to seek food that only satisfies for a short time, but to seek food that satisfies forever.

In Jesus’ exchange with the people, he calls himself the “bread of life.” Unlike the bread that the people ate, Jesus was fully and eternally satisfying. Bread sustains life, but a person constantly needs more of it and it can only sustain life for a short time. When a person finds Jesus, however, he is filled and his life is sustained forever. There is no lack or need to refill. Those who find themselves spiritually hungry will find that Jesus is the bread they have been looking for.

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The Easy Way or the Hard Way?

fashion footwear grass outdoors

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Reading the Word

Matthew 7:13–14 (ESV)

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Parallel Text: Luke 13:23-24

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these two verses, Jesus speaks of two “ways” or two “gates”. One way, which Jesus says is wide and easy leads ultimately to a place where no one would want to go. It leads to destruction. The other way is narrow and hard. Few find it, but it leads to life.

When Jesus speaks of the narrow way that leads to life, he speaks of the path of the true disciple of Jesus. To walk the road of a disciple will lead to persecution and suffering. The way will be difficult because it will be contrary to what the majority are doing, but it will prove to be the right way because it does lead to life.

One the other hand, going the way of the world, while easy because everyone is doing it and it will be easy to fit right in, will lead to destruction rather than life. It may be the easy way, but it is not the right way.

Jesus tells us that he is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one can come to the Father except through him. It is Jesus who is the Son of God and came into this world to pay the price for the sins of mankind. It is Jesus alone who went to the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. And it is Jesus who rose victorious from the grave and conquered sin and death on behalf of all who will believe in him. It is through Jesus Christ alone that we can find eternal life. There is one narrow way. Living for Jesus in this world may not be easy, but it is the right way. It is the way that leads to life.

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He Must Increase

increase

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish extra material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019 as recorded in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Reading the Word

John 3:22–36 (ESV)

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.