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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A Divisive Message

Luke 1251 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 12:49–53 (ESV)

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Many have the mistaken idea that Jesus and his message were so kind and gentle that there was no way to have any other response than to love him. However, that is simply not true! Jesus rubbed many people the wrong way. That is exactly why they crucified him on a cross!

In our passage for today, Jesus told his disciples that his message would be divisive. It would even divide families. Jesus came proclaiming that all people are sinners and must repent of their sins. All people must believe and trust in Jesus for salvation. There is no other way. So, you are either with Jesus or you are against him. There is no middle ground.

As Jesus’ disciples in the world today, we are called to proclaim the same gospel message that he preached. We must call people to repent and turn to Christ for salvation and warn them that there is no other way to be reconciled to God. Just as in Jesus’ day, many are offended by such a message and wish to silence it. The gospel, while offering forgiveness and life for all who believe, is also a message that causes division. If you desire to live for Christ and proclaim the message of salvation, it will not be long before you face opposition. Do not be surprised and do not be discouraged. The same thing happened to Jesus.

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Forgiving as We Have Been Forgiven

col3-13

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 to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:23–35 (ESV)

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiving Over and Over Again

i-forgive-you-image

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:21–22 (ESV)

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 17:3–4 (ESV)

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

How many times should we forgive someone? Once? Twice? How about seven times? This was Peter’s question for Jesus and Jesus’ response reminds us that our forgiveness of others should look like the forgiveness that God shows towards us.

Jesus told Peter that we should not limit our forgiveness towards others to seven times, but seventy-seven times! Now, Jesus was not actually giving us a specific number to keep track of in some way, but using hyperbole to make the point that our forgiveness should be unending. Just as God forgives us, we should forgive others. Thankfully, though we sin against the Lord every day, he continues to forgive. That is the kind of love we are to show towards others. We are to show the same love that God has shown to us.

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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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Great Forgiveness and Great Love

Christ at Simon the Pharisee

Christ at Simon the Pharisee (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 7:36–50 (ESV)

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus went to a Pharisee’s home to eat with him. While there, a “woman of the city, a sinner” arrives and wept at Jesus’ feet, wiped them with her hair, and anointed them with oil. This was a great show of love and honor by the woman. The problem, as expressed by the Pharisee, is the woman was a known prostitute! Why would Jesus allow such a woman to touch him? If he were really a prophet he would not allow such a sinner to come near him, right?

No so! Jesus responds to the Pharisee with a parable about a moneylender. He loaned two people money and forgave both of their debts. One had borrowed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. Who would love the moneylender more? Who would be the most thankful?  Well, of course it would be the one whose debt had been greater.

Jesus used the parable to speak of the woman prostitute’s and the Pharisee’s attitude towards Jesus. The woman knew her sin was great and that the forgiveness she had been granted through Jesus was great. She loved Jesus greatly. On the other hand, the Pharisee did not believe he needed forgiveness because he was already righteous on his own. He did not need Jesus and did not feel deep gratitude towards him.

When we are able to see our sinfulness and honestly admit the deep debt we owe as a result, our love for Christ will grow. Such understanding helps us better understand the great love Christ has shown for us by going to the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Think of John 3:16 and what it means about God’s love:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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Authority to Forgive Sins

The Man Let Down through the Roof

The Man Let Down through the Roof (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:1–12 (ESV)

1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word got out that he was home. Many showed up to see and hear him. One group went taking a man who was paralyzed. They wanted Jesus to heal him. When they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd, they made a hole through the roof and lowered the man down to Jesus. They would not be stopped!

The determination of these men was a reflection of their faith in Jesus. When Jesus saw this, he declared, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This proclamation did not sit well with the scribes, who were also in attendance. They wondered how Jesus could claim to forgive sins. After all, only God had that authority! So to address their questions, Jesus performed a miracle to show he had the authority to forgive sins. He told the paralytic to “rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And the man did so.

Jesus’ miracle showed that his words of forgiveness were not just words, but were backed with authority and power. Jesus would tell the people that they too could have their sins forgiven and be reconciled to God. All they had to do was trust in him. All who would believe Jesus and trust in him would find forgiveness and eternal life. Later, Jesus went to the cross as a sacrifice for sin and then rose from the dead victorious over sin and death, once again proving that he had all power and authority to do all that he had said.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

Prepare the Way of the Lord

the voice in the desert

The Voice in the Desert (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:1–6 (ESV)

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John 1:19–23 (ESV)

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 1:1-6; Luke 3:1-6 

Understanding and Applying the Word

The prophets Malachi and Isaiah had spoken of one who would appear before the Messiah to prepare his way (cf. Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6 and Isaiah 40:3). He would be one who would prepare the hearts of the people and he would come in the spirit of Elijah. The Gospel writers quote from Isaiah to tell us that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning this one who would prepare the way of the Lord. And the description of John’s clothing and food reminds us of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8.

John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance. The Messiah was coming and the people needed to prepare for him. To “repent” means to turn from sin, which the Bible tells us is what separates us from our holy Creator. It is only through repentance and forgiveness that we find in Christ that we are able to come into a right relationship with the Lord. Let us prepare ourselves by turning from our sin and calling out to Jesus to forgive us so that we can stand before him, not as enemies, but as reconciled friends.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.