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

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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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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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