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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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 I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading.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.”

Jesus Established a New Covenant

Jeremiah 3133 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV)

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the time of the Old Testament, God promised that there would be a future day when he would do something new. He was going to forgive the sins of the people and establish a new covenant with them.

At the end of Jesus’ life, as he celebrated the Passover with his disciples, Jesus told them that he was establishing a new covenant in his blood. It was through the sacrificial death of Jesus that sin would be dealt with once and for all. And for those who trusted in him, Christ promised to give new life through the Holy Spirit. The old covenant was no longer. The new had come.

Praise God that our sins are forgiven in Christ. We now live in freedom and can live our lives without fear of condemnation for the honor and glory of our Savior. What a wonderful gift!

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Do You Love Me?

IMG 0242

Reading the Word

John 21:15–19 (ESV)

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus’ resurrection, there probably was no one more ashamed of their actions than Peter. He had promised to stand at Jesus’ side come what may, but when Jesus was arrested, Peter had run away and left Jesus alone. When Peter was asked by others if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he denied that he even knew Jesus. And Jesus knew this was the case. He had predicted it and had witnessed Peter’s actions. So, while Peter was happy that Jesus was alive, he was surely feeling great remorse for what had transpired.

Jesus spoke with Peter and asked him if Peter loved him. He asked him three times, which is the same number of times that Peter had denied being one of Jesus’ followers. Each time, Peter affirmed his love for Christ and each time Jesus instructed Peter to care for his followers. Jesus used these questions and instructions to encourage Peter that, even though he had failed, Jesus was not done with him. He was still very important to Jesus and he was still going to play a vital role in the days ahead.

We must not think that just because we have failed in the past that we are no longer useful to Jesus. We too can acknowledge our sin, turn our hearts to Jesus, and serve him with our lives. We all fail. Thankfully, we have a Savior who stands ready to forgive us and restore us. What a wonderful savior!

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Father, Forgive Them

1 John 19 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 23:32–34 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27; John 19:18

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was crucified as a criminal though he was innocent of any crime. An innocent man hung on a cross between two men who were truly criminals. But this was the plan and purpose of God. Jesus knew this. He knew he had to die as a sacrifice for our sins. So, when he looked out from the cross at those who were responsible for his suffering, he did not seek vengeance. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus sought forgiveness for the guilty, which was his mission from the very beginning.

Today, Jesus seeks the same for you and me. We too have sinned against God and are guilty. We deserve the wrath of God. However, Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins to pay the penalty that we cannot. When we repent of our sins and turn to him in faith, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them.” And the Father does. What a wonderful and merciful Savior!

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Denying Jesus

The Sorrow of Saint Peter

The Sorrow of Saint Peter – Public Domain

 

Reading the Word

Luke 22:54–62 (ESV)

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus’ arrest, Peter followed along at a distance to keep an eye on what was happening. This is the same Peter who, just a few hours earlier, had promised to never abandon Jesus, even if it meant he would die at Jesus’ side. When others recognized Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples and began questioning him about it, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. He did this not only once, but three times. After the third denial, Peter heard a rooster crow and realized he had done exactly what the Lord had said he would do. He had denied Christ.

Before we come down too hard on Peter, we need to ask ourselves if we have ever done anything similar. I believe, if we are honest, that most of us are guilty. We have been in conversations where we failed to speak up when Jesus was being discussed. We have had opportunities to share the gospel with others, but instead remained quiet. We have tried to remain in the shadows rather than be identified with Jesus because we believed that if we spoke up, we would face mocking, ridicule, or persecution. We have failed Jesus just as Peter did.

It is wonderful to know that Jesus went to Peter later, after the resurrection, and restored him. Jesus let Peter know that he was forgiven and that there were many things for Peter still to do in the plans and purposes of God. Peter would testify to the world about Jesus. Jesus also stands ready to forgive us and use us for his glory in this world. We are also called to continue to testify to the wonder and truth of the gospel. Let us take the message of Christ to a world that is desperately in need of Jesus, forgetting our failures and focusing on the grace and love of our Savior.

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True Peace

John 1427 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 14:27–31 (ESV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus’ words here were meant to comfort and encourage his followers before his time with them came to an end. He told them that he was leaving peace with them and it was a peace that the world could not give. Jesus’ peace must be understood in light of the cross. His sacrificial death brought peace to all who believe through the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Those who belong to Jesus no longer have to fear the wrath of God because of sin, but have the hope of eternal life in a new creation without sin. The world can never offer peace because it is steeped in sin and evil that only bring pain and suffering and heartache.

Peace with God. What a wonderful thing! Consider the words of the old hymn, A Mind at Perfect Peace with God:

A mind at perfect peace with God;
O what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood;
This, this indeed is peace.

By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God;
Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.

So nigh, so very nigh to God,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of His Son
I am as near as He.

So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me.

Why should I ever anxious be,
Since such a God is mine?
He watches o’er me night and day,
And tells me “Mine is thine.”

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The Return of the Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son The Return

Prodigal Son, the Return (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 15:11–24 (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The third and final parable of Luke 15 is one of the most well-known passages in the New Testament. It is the parable often referred to as The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” is not one that we often use today, but it speaks of a person who is wasteful and spends money in a reckless manner. It is easy to see how this parable earned its popular title.

The amazing part of the parable is that when the prodigal son returns home after wasting all he had, his father is happy to have him back. Not only does he welcome him, but he restores him to complete standing and throws a party to celebrate. Jesus told this parable to teach the Pharisees and scribes about God, who is represented by the father in the parable. God celebrates when a sinner returns home. It is a grand and joyous occasion! No matter where the person has roamed or what he has done while away, when a sinner repents and goes to the Father, the Father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates.

Know that God’s love for you is the same. He stands ready to welcome you home no matter how far you have gone or what you have done. Turn from your sins and go to him now. He is waiting for you.

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Repent or Perish

The Tower of Siloam

The Tower of Siloam (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 13:1–5 (ESV)

1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, Jesus addressed the mindset that some had, and some continue to have, that when bad things happen it is the direct result of something the victim did. Evidently, there were some who thought the Galileans who were victims of Herod’s attacks were proven to be great sinners because of the evil that fell on them. Likewise, when a tower fell and killed eighteen people, some believed it was because those who died were greater sinners than others. Do we think like this today? Have you ever heard someone ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” How often do people today say “what goes around comes around” or “karma will get you?” These are not biblical truths.

The Bible teaches that we all live in a fallen world that is greatly impacted by sin. As a result, tragedy, disease, sickness, and death fall on us all. We cannot assume that someone who suffers great harm is any worse of a sinner than a person who lives a long, prosperous, and healthy life. The truth is, we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and we all stand condemned by our sin (Romans 6:23). There is no place for thinking that we are good and others are bad. We are all in the same boat and it is sinking!

When we understand that we stand condemned by our sin, we are in a place where we can do something about it. We can repent (i.e. turn away from it) and call out on Jesus to forgive us as we trust in his sacrificial death as the payment for our sins. When we do that, our sins are forgiven and, instead of condemnation, we receive eternal life. Will you repent and turn to Christ today?

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Settle Your Debt Today

silhouette of a man in window

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 12:57–59 (ESV)

57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Getting entangled in a legal battle can be a costly affair. This is why it is best to settle matters before they go to court. It is of great benefit to work things out between the parties rather than allow a judge to make the decision, who may even sentence an offender to prison.

In the same way, it is better to settle matters with God before standing before him as Judge. Jesus’ message was that sinners can be reconciled to God through repentance and faith in Jesus and his teachings. Those who repent and believe are pardoned of their sins. Those who do not believe will stand before God and be judged. The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and that the punishment for sin is eternal separation from God in a place called hell.

So, we are given two options: We can settle our sin problem now by trusting in Christ. Or, we can stand before God later and be judged for our sin. It is much better to repent and turn to Christ now.

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