The Self-Righteous

Luke 1813–14 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This parable addresses the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Jesus tells of two men who went to the temple to pray. The first, a Pharisee, thanked God that he was not like the sinners of the world. He even commented on his own righteousness by mentioning that he fasted twice per week and tithed on his earnings. The second, a tax collector, could hardly bring himself to the temple to pray. He stood far away and kept his eyes to the ground in shame and humility. He called out to God for mercy for his sins. Jesus ended the parable by saying that it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee.

The reason for this parable is given in the opening verse. It was to address those who were self-righteous and looked down on others. Those who are in a right relationship with God have acknowledged their own sin and repented of it. We have asked God to forgive us based not on what we have done, but solely on what Jesus has done for us. He went to the cross as a sacrifice for our sin. If we believe we are righteous by our own doing and somehow deserve God’s blessing, we deceive ourselves and do not belong to God at all. Salvation comes only by grace to sinners who are undeserving.

When we acknowledge our own sin, it should make us humble. We should not look down on others. Instead, we should point fellow sinners to Jesus Christ and tell of the forgiveness and grace that are available to all who will believe.

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A Life of Humility

Luke 1410 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 14:7–11 (ESV)

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Notice that Jesus spoke this parable to those who were choosing the places of honor at the home of the Pharisee (cf. Luke 14:1). Jesus was not just giving theoretical advice with his teaching. He was addressing a real mindset as it was happening! Through this parable, Jesus warned against pride and arrogance. Such a mindset will ultimately lead to shame and embarrassment when the place of honor is taken away and given to someone else. It is the humble person who finds true honor when the master invites him to take the place of honor.

Jesus’ teaching concerned the place of honor at a meal, but it also spoke of the religious leaders’ mindset about their relationship with God. They were proud and arrogant about their righteousness. They believed they were superior to others and had earned their right to be a part of the kingdom of God. To their surprise, Jesus told them that it is the humble person who puts others first who will finally be honored by the Father. The pride and arrogant will be humbled.

The Christian life is one of recognizing the worth in others while also recognizing our own shortcomings. We do not think of ourselves as better than others because we are not. All that we have is simply by the grace of God and the sacrificial death of our Savior. Instead of elevating ourselves above others, we are called to put them first and serve them. We do this by showing others love and through the proclamation of Christ’s love for sinners. When we do that, we follow in the footsteps of our Savior (cf. Philippians 2:1-11).

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The Woman Caught in Adultery

I am away at a conference for a few days and will not be able to post devotional content. I will post daily Bible readings from the life of Christ. Thanks for reading!

John 7:53-8:11 (ESV)

53 They went each to his own house, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Judge Not!

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Reading the Word

Matthew 7:1–5 (ESV)

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Parallel Text: Luke 6:37-42

Understanding and Applying the Word

Have you ever heard someone misapply a passage from the Bible? Well, Matthew 7:1-5 may be the most misunderstood and misapplied passage in the entire Bible. Most of us have heard people quote verse one as a way of saying “we should not say whether someone is right or wrong in their views or actions.” That is not what Jesus was saying!

Throughout the Bible, God’s people are told to live according to his word and to not live like the world. And God’s people are supposed to help each other do just that. We are supposed to do it through encouragement, through teaching, and even through rebuke (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2). In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul even tells the Corinthian church to expel a certain man because of his improper sexual relationship. Yes, throw him out! No one replied, “Well, Paul, judge not that you be not judged.”

Jesus’ words are a warning about being judgmental, not about being discerning. When we look down on others with a self-righteous attitude and demand that they suffer severe consequences for their sins and errors, we do what Jesus is warning against. We need to first examine our own lives and realize our own sin (the log in our eye) before we attack someone else’s. When we do that, our response to others is more gracious and humble. When we are filled with humility and grace, then we are ready to help others deal with their sins. Let us pray that God would help us rightly discern our own sins so we can be better prepared to help others with their’s.

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Jesus, the Submissive King

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Reading the Word

Luke 2:41–52 (ESV)

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Outside of the birth narrative, we do not get much information about Jesus’ childhood. The only other details we have come from the passage we are reading today in Luke’s Gospel. This takes place when Jesus was twelve years old. He and his parents had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, but they had become separated when the family began their trip home. Jesus stayed behind. His parents eventually realize that he is not with them on their return trip (likely a caravan of travelers). So, they return to Jerusalem and find him in the temple interacting with the teachers.

This brief passage gives us a quick glimpse of Jesus as a young boy, but it also gives us a sneak preview of who he will be as a man. The people in the temple were amazed at how he interacted with the teachers. He knew so much about the Scriptures! Of course, as the author, we would expect him to!

We also see how he interacted with his parents. He knew who he was and what his purpose in the world was. When his parents found him he said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house.” He was God in the flesh, yet we are told that he returned to Nazareth and was submissive to Mary and Joseph.

Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, humbly submitted to his parents. Later, he would humbly submit to the will of the Father as he went to the cross to bear the sins of mankind. Paul reflects on Jesus’ humility in Philippians:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1–11, ESV)

**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.

The Mighty Has Done Great Things for Me

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Reading the Word

Luke 1:39–56 (ESV)

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel regarding the birth of Jesus, she went to see Elizabeth. Elizabeth was also going to have a child, John the Baptist. When the women greet each other, their joy is evident as Elizabeth praises Mary and Mary reflects on how the Lord has chosen her for such a great role.

Notice Mary’s words in verses 46-55, often called “The Magnificat” or “Mary’s Song of Praise.” She speaks of her humble estate and how the Lord had given her honor. From now on, people would call her “blessed.” She was the one who would carry the child Jesus in her womb and give birth to the Savior and Messiah. She was the one who God had chosen to use to fulfill his promises from the Old Testament Scriptures. She was blessed indeed and she humbly praises the Lord for choosing her.

As we reflect on how God blessed Mary in such a unique way, we must not forget that God uses all of his people every day to fulfill his plans for the world. He uses each of us right where we are to reach our family, friends, and neighbors with the message of hope that comes through Jesus Christ. He uses us to show his love and grace in a world where darkness and evil, pain and suffering, are the norm. Let us also praise the Lord for blessing us and using us for his purposes.

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

Let Us Worship and Bow Down

shallow focus photography of white sheep on green grass

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Psalm 95:5–7 (ESV)

5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses call for us to “worship and bow down”. Why? Because the same God who made the sea and formed the dry land is the God who made us. He is our God! We belong to him as sheep belong to a shepherd.

We need to have a proper understanding of who God is and who we are. Worship gives us a proper perspective. When we come before God in worship, we are forced to humble ourselves knowing that we are under the authority of One who is greater than us. Worship forces us to realize our need for God’s care and provision. And worship moves us to thanksgiving for God’s love and grace in our lives. Come, let us worship and bow down before our God!

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The Lord Leads the Humble

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Reading the Word

Psalm 25:8–14 (ESV)

8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. 11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. 12 Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. 13 His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. 14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Humility is not easy. It requires us to admit that we do not know it all. It also requires us to admit that we need help. This psalm teaches us that it is the humble that the Lord instructs and leads. The proud do not receive instruction nor are they willing to follow.

For those who are able to turn to God, he offers to teach them what is right and instruct them in the choices they should make. The Bible tells us that when we turn to God in faith that we are given new life through the work of the Holy Spirit and that God begins to work in us to transform us into people who love what is pure and holy. And one day all of God’s people will be with him for eternity and our transformation will be complete. There will be no more sin and the children of God will be holy as he is holy.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Clothe Yourselves with Humility

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Reading the Word

1 Peter 5:1–5 (ESV)

1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Understanding the Word

Peter now shifts his focus from telling his readers how to live in the world with unbelievers to giving them instructions on how to live with one another. He instructs the “elders” to shepherd the flock of God. The picture here is that of shepherds caring for their sheep. The elders, as we learn elsewhere in Scripture (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9), are to be the spiritually mature who are able to guard the true gospel from corruption and care for the less mature. They are not to rule over the flock, but live as examples.

Peter also gives instructions to the “younger”, that is, the less mature believers. He calls on them to be subject, or submit, to the elders. In essence, he calls on them to follow the leadership of the elders.

This passage ends with a call to both the elders and the younger to live in humility toward one another. There is no place for one feeling superior over another for any reason.

Applying the Word

Humility is contrary to our nature. It is seen as the opposite of self-esteem. We embrace the opposite and call it self-confidence. But in the Church, there is no place for one person or group feeling superior to another. In Christ, all are children of God and stand on equal footing as heirs to the kingdom. May Christians never allow things like race, social class, education, or roles in the church to divide the people of God. May we live in humility as we serve one another through the grace of God.

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