Division over Jesus

John 11 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 10:19–21 (ESV)

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again the people were divided over Jesus. Some believed he was demon-possessed and that he was insane because of the things he was saying. This was not the first time he was accused of being possessed (cf. John 7:20 and 8:48). Others questioned how Jesus could teach such things and work great wonders if he was under the influence of a demon. Demons did not have such power. He must be from God.

John’s Gospel was written to give us the evidence of who Jesus was. He was God incarnate (cf. John 1:1, 14; John 20:30-31). As we examine this Gospel, we are not only presented with the evidence for Jesus, but also told of the reasons some resisted him. However, as in these verses, the reasons for doubt quickly fall away when the evidence is examined more closely. “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” Take the time to read the four Gospels, especially John. Ask yourself, given all that is recorded for us, who is Jesus?

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God Has Visited His People

Widow's Son at Nain

The Resurrection of the Widow’s Son at Nain (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. We are currently reading through the life of Christ and I invite you to subscribe to this page so you can follow along. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include the day’s suggested Scripture reading.

Reading the Word

Luke 7:11–17 (ESV)

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

God in a Manger

luke 27 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 2:1–7 (ESV)

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses we read of the Jesus’ birth. The whole thing is recorded in seven verses. The most startling thing, and the thing we overlook because we are so used to reading it, is that Jesus was placed into a manger. A manger is an animal feeding trough. Think about that for just a moment. Jesus, the divine Son, came into this world as a baby and was placed into a trough that animals ate from.

Would you do that with your child? Would you expect anyone to do that with their child? Consider this: Jesus was not any child. Jesus was the Messiah. He was the King. He was God in the flesh; the King of kings and Lord of lords! Would any royal family place their newborn child into a manger? No way!

When we meet Jesus in a manger, it tells us something about him. Yes, he was the Messiah, but he was different than other kings. Jesus is the King who came to save the lowly of the world. Jesus was the King who came to serve his people. Jesus was the King who came to give his life for his people that they might have life through him. What an amazing King we have!

**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.

God Dwelt Among Us

John 114 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 1:1–18 (ESV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we read through the life of Jesus throughout this year, we will be taking a chronological approach. Three of the four Gospels, Mark being the exception, speak of Christ coming into the world. Matthew and Luke give us the events surrounding his miraculous birth. The opening words to John’s Gospel also tell us of Jesus coming into the world, but in a much different way.

John tells us that Jesus is divine. He is the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. How amazing is that! The eternal Creator came into the world as a man to reveal to us the truth about God (v. 18). It is through Jesus that we know definitively that God exists, what he is like, what he desires from us, and how much he loves us.

Jesus, the man who lived, died, and rose again from the dead, confirmed that our Scriptures are the word of God. He taught us that God is loving and gracious and will forgive those who repent of their sins. And he went to the cross to show us just how great a price God was willing to pay for our salvation. The Resurrection confirmed that Jesus was who he claimed to be and that what he taught was true. God really came and dwelt among us! That makes all the difference in the world!

**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.

What Is Man?

Paper Christmas Title

 

Reading the Word

Psalm 144:1–8 (ESV)

1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

3 O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
8 whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, David gives credit to God for his strength and military successes. It is only because of God that David has accomplished all that he has. In verses 5-8, David once again calls on God to come to his assistance.

In verses 3-4, we find David asking an important question: “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” In other words, why does God care about mankind? In the vast scheme of all of creation, why does God take interest in the affairs of humanity. We are so small and seemingly insignificant!

Have you ever wondered about this? Why does God care so much about us? Christmas is a wonderful time to think about this. After all, this is the season when we remember and celebrate the incarnation. God came into the world as man. This is amazing in and of itself, but when we also consider that Jesus gave up his life for the salvation of mankind, it is truly a cause for wonder and worship. God entered the world and died to save mankind from our sin. What is man, O Lord, that you regard him? As the great hymn asks:

What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

**Want to read the Bible every day? Be sure to subscribe to this page and follow along! We are currently reading through the Book of Psalms. In 2019, we will focus on the Life of Christ for our daily readings.

The Lake of Fire

fire

Reading the Word

Revelation 20:11–15 (ESV)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we near the end of Revelation, and the Bible as a whole, we find one last judgment. This is the Great White Throne Judgment. At this time, all non-believers throughout history will be gathered before Christ who will sit as their final judge. All of these will be judged according to what they have done and cast into the lake of fire where Satan and his followers were cast in Revelation 20:10. Death and Hades are also thrown into the lake of fire.

Those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ to save them will stand and be judged for their actions. The Bible tells us that all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There are none found not guilty at this judgment. May believers praise God for his grace and for the salvation we have in Christ. May we take the opportunities that we have to proclaim the good news that salvation is free to all who will call on the name of Jesus!

**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!

The Church in Laodicea

Laodicea 1201

Pipes from the ruins at Laodicea.

Reading the Word

Revelation 3:14–22 (ESV)

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage is a good example of why we cannot force our modern usage of words onto the Bible. When we say someone is hot or cold about something today, we mean they are either passionate or disinterested. Is that what Jesus means when he tells this church that he wishes they were hot or cold rather than lukewarm? Is he saying he wishes they were either for him or against him rather than riding the fence? Does that not seem odd?

To better understand what Jesus means we need to understand the historical background. Nearby Hierapolis had hot springs while nearby Colosse was known for its cold pure water. What did Laodicea have? It was infamous for the lukewarm water that was piped in via an aqueduct built by the Romans. The hot springs were desirable for bathing. The cold water was great for drinking. And the lukewarm water was good for nothing!

Jesus’ statement about being cold or hot is about being useful for something. Lukewarm water is undesirable and useless. May we never be found useless to our Lord. Let us serve him and have a deep fellowship with him as we await his return.

**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!

The Church in Sardis

Sardis 6613

Gymnasium at Sardis.

Reading the Word

Revelation 3:1–6 (ESV)

1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Understanding and Applying the Word

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Have you ever heard that saying? Well, you can’t judge a church by its reputation. Often times, what one thinks about a church can be deceiving.

For instance, a church that is growing quickly, or one that has a new building, or another that has a well-known pastor may have a reputation for being the best church around. However, this may not be the case. False teaching or failing to put into practice what the Bible says can be the reality even in a church that looks on the surface to be wonderful.

Here, we are warned that Jesus knows the true condition of our churches and he will judge. May we seek the Lord and his will in all we do. And when we get caught up in doing our will instead of his, may we repent and return to him.

**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!

Beware of Deceivers

John 11 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 John 7–13 (ESV)

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

Understanding the Word

This letter is a warning to its recipients about being deceived through false teaching. The false teachers are those who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The Apostle John, an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry, has written elsewhere that Jesus is God (John 1:1) and that he become flesh (John 1:14). This means that God came into this world as a man.

However, there were those who denied this truth in John’s day, just as there are people who deny it today. But John warns that believers must remain in the truth that they have received and not be deceived.

Applying the Word

Christians sometimes differ on their beliefs about certain biblical things. That is okay. However, we must never compromise and think it is okay to deny the central teachings of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He became a man and entered this world. He lived a perfect, sinless life and then died on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus rose from the dead physically. All who trust in him will be saved from their sins and given eternal life.

May we never depart from these truths as they are the very source of life for those who believe!

**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!

Test the Spirits

Open Book Bible

Reading the Word

1 John 4:1–6 (ESV)

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Understanding the Word

John tells his readers that there will be false teachers who will come. Believers need to know how to test the teachings of these teachers so they can avoid them.

How does a person identify a false teacher? Do they affirm or deny the truth regarding Jesus Christ? Specifically, do they hold to the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world as a man? If not, they are false teachers and should not be listened to.

Applying the Word

Every generation of Christians faces false teaching that claims to be Christian, but is not. For John, Gnosticism and the belief that matter was by nature evil caused many to deny that the Son of God could become a man. How could sinless perfection take on a physical body if the physical world is evil? Of course, the Bible teaches that the physical world is God’s creation. Evil springs from our sinful hearts, not the world outside of us.

Many false teachings that distort the gospel are present today. Many are willing to admit that Jesus was a man, but they deny he was divine. Others teach that everyone will be saved because a loving God would never send anyone to hell, even though Scripture plainly says otherwise. And still others teach that if you just have enough faith nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will have great wealth, and good health, and God will give you your heart’s desires. Again, contrary to what Scripture says about taking up your cross and following Jesus.

We have God’s word as recorded in Scripture so that we may know the truth. May we test the spirits behind every teaching we hear by that word and may we never be deceived by those who would lead us astray.

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