I Am Sending You

John 2021 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 20:19–23 (ESV)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. Understandably, they were surprised and had a difficult time accepting what they were seeing. To convince them, Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side where the nails and the spear had pierced. This brought joy to the disciples as they now realized that Jesus was really alive again.

As Jesus met with his followers, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was preparing to depart from them and ascend to the Father, but they would not be left alone. The Spirit would be with the disciples to equip and empower them for the task of proclaiming the gospel to the world. You can read more about the Spirit’s coming in Acts 2.

Jesus also said to the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” As Jesus’ representatives in the world, the Spirit-empowered disciples were also given the authority of the Lord. This does not mean they could do whatever they wanted, but that as they spoke for Christ their words carried the same force as if Christ himself were saying them. Christians today carry this same authority. When we speak the truths of God’s word to the world, the world is accountable to respond as if God himself were speaking. Christ has called all of his followers to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. This is a great task, but we have not been left alone to do it in our own power. We have been given the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the task.

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The Spirit of Truth

John 1613 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 16:5–15 (ESV)

5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, Jesus encouraged his disciples concerning his pending departure. Jesus had to go in order for the Helper to come. Jesus’ death and resurrection was inaugurating the last days prophesied of in places like Joel 2:28, where the Spirit of God would be poured out on all of God’s people to empower them for God’s purposes in the world.

The Spirit’s activity in the world would lead people to conviction of sin and of righteousness and of judgement. This would happen as the Spirit-empowered disciples proclaimed the truth of the gospel to the world and as the power of the Spirit worked in the lives of those who heard. We see this happening in Acts 2, where the Spirit falls on the disciples and they immediately begin to preach. As they proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, many of the hearers are converted.

The same Spirit empowers Jesus’ followers today. We have been called to go into the world and make disciples through preaching and teaching, but we are not called to do it alone or in our own power. We have been given the Holy Spirit who works in and through us for God’s purposes. Therefore, we need not go out in fear or feeling hopeless. We go to the world with the power of God at work with us. This truth makes all of the difference.

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Our Helper

Acts 18 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 15:26–27 (ESV)

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus promised his followers that he was not leaving them alone. They would receive a Helper, who was the Holy Spirit. The Helper would be with the disciples as they bore witness to all Jesus said and did. The Holy Spirit would equip and empower the disciples to take the message of Christ to the world. Jesus reminded the disciples of this important truth in the moments before he left this earth and ascended into heaven. We find Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

All believers have been called to be witnesses. We are to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. This proclamation includes telling the world of all that Jesus said and did with a central focus on his death and resurrection. This is an overwhelming responsibility, but we have not been left alone. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, was a promise to all believers. He continues to work in our lives today to empower and prepare us for all that God desires from us. It is not in our own power that we go into the world, but in the power of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

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Another Helper

John 1416 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 14:15–26 (ESV)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus prepared his disciples for his departure, he promised that they would not be left alone. A Helper, the Holy Spirit, would be with them. The Spirit would be a teacher and empower Jesus’ followers so that they could keep his commandments.

Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit was not just a promise for the believers in his day. Every believer has the indwelling presence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, even today. The Spirit gives new life, gives gifts of ministry, and leads the people of God into the truth. We must not take the presence of the Spirit for granted. The Spirit even helps us when we pray (cf. Romans 8:26).

Jesus encouraged his disciples that they would not be left alone when he departed from this world. We must not think that we have been left alone either. We have God with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is with us at all times and gives us the gifts we need to do all that the Lord has called us to do. What a wonderful gift!

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Will You Deny Jesus?

Luke 128 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 12:8–12 (ESV)

8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30

Understanding and Applying the Word

Living for Christ in a hostile world will bring trouble. In verses 9-10, Jesus warns his disciples about denying him to avoid persecution. In yesterday’s passage (Luke 12:4-7), Jesus told his disciples not to fear persecution and death, but to fear God alone because he alone is the final judge. Therefore there is no reason to fear if one belongs to God and there is no reason to deny Jesus.

In the next verses, Jesus speaks of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. He calls this the unforgivable sin. Many often wonder what this means and also if they might have committed this sin. In the context, it really is not that difficult to determine what this sin is. It is the hardening of one’s heart against the work of the Spirit of God (cf. Acts 7:51). When one hears the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, but rejects it and continues to do so, it is sin and will not be forgiven. Rejection of Jesus leaves one in sin and without forgiveness.

It may be difficult to live in the word for Jesus, but Jesus told his followers that they need not worry about what they would say. The Holy Spirit would teach them what to say. God does not leave us alone in the world to live for him. He is with us always to give us strength, and wisdom, and encouragement. May we go into the world with the message of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners.

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A Clean, but Empty House

staircase area

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Reading the Word

Luke 11:24–26 (ESV)

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 12:43-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

In today’s reading, Jesus warns about the necessity of making a decision about him. There is no neutral ground.

When a demon has gone out of a person (notice this is not one that has been cast out) it goes through the water less places seeking rest. The desert was believed to be the dwelling place of demons except when they had taken up residence in someone or something. When the demon could not find a suitable place to go, it decided to return from where it had come. The old house had been cleaned up and put in order so that the place was better than ever. Though it had been cleaned up, it had not been filled. As a result, the demon went out and invited others to join him in the fine accommodations. Now the situation was worse than at the beginning.

We often try to clean up our lives in our own strength. We may even feel like we have done it at times. However, personal reform does not last long. We need the life-giving presence and power of the Holy Spirit working in us to bring us true victory over evil. The Spirit is given to all who trust in Jesus Christ. Pray that Christ would send the Spirit to give you new life and remain with you to give you the power and strength you need each day to live for Jesus.

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Living Water

landscape photography of water flowing

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but 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

John 7:37–39 (ESV)

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 3:16

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Reading the Word

John 2:23–3:21 (ESV)

2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

A Pharisee, Nicodemus, goes to Jesus under the cover of night to speak to him. Nicodemus knows that Jesus is a teacher from God so he desires to learn from him. Jesus tells him, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This seems to have confused Nicodemus because he wonders how one can be born a second time. Jesus explains that the birth he is referring to is one that comes through the Spirit. Those who have been born again will have eternal life.

We are not told what Nicodemus does with this teaching. However, we are told what one must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells us in John 3:16 that, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Those who believe (i.e. trust / put their faith) in Jesus Christ are born again through the Spirit and receive eternal life. This means we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he came to save us from our sins by going to the cross and paying our debt. Through Jesus, we find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. And through him we have the promise of life in a new world where sin and death is no more. Do you believe in Jesus?

**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!

God’s Plans or Our Plans?

matthew 118 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Joseph found out the Mary was pregnant, they were not yet married. They were what we might call “engaged” in our current world. This presented a big problem. Pre-marital sex was not acceptable behavior in Jewish culture. The couple would be looked upon with suspicion and face ridicule from the community. Also, a who was the father? Joseph had to be wondering who Mary had been seeing behind his back. So, Joseph was ready to do what we would probably expect. He was ready to end the relationship.

As Joseph considered what he would do, an angel appeared to him and told him about Mary’s pregnancy and the importance of this child. Mary had not been unfaithful, but the child was of the Holy Spirit and was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 7:14. So, when Joseph awoke, he remained with Mary and they named the baby Jesus.

We should not quickly look past the impact the birth of Jesus likely had on Joseph. Mary’s pregnancy would have been a shock to the community and would have caused whispering and confrontation over improper sexual conduct. Joseph’s reputation likely suffered and he probably faced pressure to admit his sin or divorce his adulterous wife. Yet Joseph heard the word of God through the angelic messenger and accepted that this was the Lord’s plan for him. It would be difficult, but he was willing to do what God had called him to do. Would we be willing to do or go wherever God might call us, even if it meant difficulty for us? Do we trust the plans and purposes of God even when they interfere with our own plans?

**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.