God Will Finish What He Started

Philippians 16 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Philippians 1:1–6 (ESV)

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these introductory words in the Letter to the Philippians, Paul gives thanks to God for the believers in Philippi and remarks that he is sure that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Who and what is Paul referring to?

When you became a believer, you were born again through the power of the Holy Spirit working in you. You were given new life. We often forget this aspect of salvation. We talk a great deal about forgiveness of sins, but for some reason our new life in Christ is forgotten. Our new life begins and is a process of growth to maturity for the rest of our lives. As we mature, we put away the old self and its world desires and ways and we become more and more like our Savior as we desire the things he desires. This all happens through the work of God in our lives and one day, God has promised, that we will stand before him complete. This is the day Paul refers to. It is the day of Jesus Christ. When Christ returns for his people and gathers us together to be with him forever. We will be with him and sin will no longer be a part of our lives in any form ever again. What an amazing promise that God has already begun to fulfill in us and we grow closer to every day.

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Spiritual Maturity

Galatians 522–23 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Galatians 5:16–26 (ESV)

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Understanding and Applying the Word

What comes to mind when you hear the words “spiritual maturity”? Perhaps you think of the person who knows their Bible really well. Maybe you think of someone who has been a Christian for many years. Or maybe you imagine the person who is at church every time the doors are open. Those are all good things. Those are all things that many spiritually mature Christians do. However, those are not the marks of maturity.

All true Christians have the Holy Spirit working in their lives. The Spirit is at work to mold us and shape us more and more into the godly people we are called to be. The spiritually mature person is the one who shows forth a godly character, the fruit of the Spirit, in their life. The spiritually mature person is the one who displays love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Notice that all of these characteristics focus on how we relate to other people. We may have great Bible knowledge, have been Christians for fifty years, and go to church three times per week, but if we do not love others, we are immature and a long way from displaying the godly character we should. Let us examine ourselves and ask if we are growing in our spiritual walk and let us ask God to help us bear spiritual fruit.

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The Promise Guaranteed

Ephesians 113–14 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 Corinthians 1:12–22 (ESV)

12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Understanding and Applying the Word

I miss the old cartoons I watched when I was young. I loved Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye the Sailor Man. My kids do not understand what they are missing. They know nothing of the power of eating your spinach!

Thinking of those old shows reminds me of the character Wimpy who used to always say “For a hamburger today, I will gladly pay you on Tuesday.” I always got the impression that Wimpy probably could not be trusted. His promises seemed empty.

How should we think of God’s promises to us? He has surely promised a wonderful future, but how do we know he will deliver? Well, God did not simply make a grand promise, but he has left us with a down payment. Paul writes that God has “put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The never-ending presence of the Spirit of God working in us is a constant reminder that God has not forgotten us. He is still at work and his promises will be fulfilled. Guaranteed!

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The Spirit Bears Witness

Romans 816 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 8:12–17 (ESV)

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When we are born again through faith in Jesus Christ, our new birth is through the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” It is the on-going work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that assures us that we truly belong to God.

Is the Spirit working in you to convict, direct, encourage, and grow you? Let this be an assurance to you that you are a child of God, a fellow heir with Christ of all that God has promised. He has given you new life and is working to help you grow to maturity.

Is the work of the Spirit missing from your life? Have you said a prayer or said that you believe, but there is no change or inner working of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that you are not truly a child of God? Jesus said that there will be many at the end who will cry out to him “Lord, Lord!” and he will respond, “I never knew you; away from me.” Take Jesus’ words as a warning, repent of your sins, and ask him to save you now and give you new life in the Spirit. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

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Give Thanks Always and For Everything

thank you heart text

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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

Ephesians 5:15–21 (ESV)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

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Boldly Proclaiming Jesus Christ

Acts 238 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:22–41 (ESV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and began to preach. This is quite a change in Peter. Remember, he is the same person who had ran away when Jesus was arrested and then denied that he even knew Jesus. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit, he stood before the crowd and declared that Jesus was the Christ and that they had crucified him. When the crowd heard Peter’s words, they were convicted of their sin and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they too would receive the Spirit and be equipped to tell others.

The disciples went from being cowards to boldly proclaiming the gospel because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them. Their transformation is amazing! We too have received the Spirit and given all we need to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to the world. We have no reason to fear, but have been called to go bravely into the world and call for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Gift of the Spirit

Acts 24 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:1–13 (ESV)

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus had promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples. In these verses, we see the fulfillment of that promise. It was a promise that God had made in the Old Testament Scriptures in Joel 2:28-29.

We read that the Spirit came in great power with the sound of a mighty wind and the appearance of flames. As a result of the Spirit’s coming, the disciples began to speak in tongues. This allowed the people around, who were from many different places and languages, to hear the disciples speak in their own native language. This was a supernatural ability to communicate in other languages!

The disciples had been told not to depart Jerusalem until they had received the Spirit. The reason for this was because they were not yet equipped and ready to go into the world with the gospel. Now they were ready. They had the Spirit and he would equip them with his great power. Since this day, every believer has been given the gift of the Spirit and empowered for the work of ministry. Jesus did not call us to go into the world in our own power and abilities, but in the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

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Casting Lots

person about to catch four dices

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Reading the Word

Acts 1:12–26 (ESV)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples that he would soon send the Holy Spirit to them. Until then, they were to wait. So that is what the disciples did. They gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer.

During this time, they realized that they were short one disciple. Judas had abandoned the group and hung himself. They needed a replacement. There were two men that fit the requirements of having been with Jesus from his baptism until his ascension. The men were Justus and Matthias. In order to decide between the two, they cast lots. The decision was Matthias.

I have heard it mentioned a few times that casting lots is the way decisions should be made in the church today. It has been argued that elders and deacons could be chosen in this way to make sure God’s choice is followed. However, I think this is a mistake.

There is nowhere else in the New Testament where the casting of lots is used or encouraged. In fact, throughout the rest of the New Testament, we are instructed to make decisions by bringing the matter before the church. We are to use the collective wisdom and discernment of the body of Christ.

It is important to note that the casting of lots was used in the Old Testament to aid in large decisions. However, with the events of Acts 2, there was a major shift taking place in the way God was working in the world. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on every believer to equip them for the work of the ministry. This was not the case in the Old Testament (or in Acts 1). Believers today have the Spirit at work within to guide in wisdom and discernment. As the collected body of Christ comes together to make decisions, we do so with the Spirit at work in our midst to guide and direct us. We have been given a great gift and a better way to make decisions than casting lots.

You Will Be My Witnesses

Acts 18 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 1:1–11 (ESV)

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we finished our look at the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. However, there are a few more verses that tell us about Jesus’ final days on earth. We find that information recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.

Acts is the second book written by Luke, which is why he begins in the first verse saying, “In the first book.” Jesus had told his disciples that when he departed that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Therefore, they were not to depart Jerusalem until that had taken place. They were called to be witnesses throughout the world, but they would not be properly equipped until the Spirit had come.

In the last moments of Jesus’ time on earth, the disciples were still confused over Jesus as the Messiah. They asked him if it was not time for him to set up his kingdom. After all, Jesus had been through so much. It must finally be time! Jesus’ response is one that we need to hear today also. He told the disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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.”

The disciples were wondering about the future and the timing of the end. Jesus told them not to concern themselves with such things. God did not intend for them to know the details of such. Instead, they needed to concentrate on what they had been called to do. They were to be witnesses. They were to go into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the gospel. That is our task as well. We must not let other things distract us from the main task at hand. The world is lost and in need of Christ. We are the ones who are called and equipped to carry the message of salvation to all.

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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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