The Self-Righteous

Luke 157 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 15:1–7 (ESV)

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Parallel Text: Matthew 18:12-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we enter into chapter fifteen of Luke, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling about Jesus spending time with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus tells three parables to challenge the mindset of these religious leaders who felt they were more worthy of God’s favor because of their superior righteousness.

The first parable is about a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd had one hundred sheep, but lost one. Unwilling to lose any of his sheep, the shepherd searched until he found the lost one. Upon finding the lost sheep, the shepherd threw a party. Jesus said this is what heaven is like when a sinner repents. There is much celebration over the lost person who is now found.

Why did Jesus say that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance? Understanding this last verse is the key to understanding this parable. The message of Scripture is that there are no righteous persons who need no repentance. In fact, Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus’ statement then was to address the mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. They believed they were righteous and had no need to repent. In actuality, they too were sinners and no better off than the tax collectors and sinners that they looked down on. Heaven does not rejoice at those who believe they are righteous because it means they are still lost and in need of salvation.

It is clear that no one is good enough to please God. We are all sinners and must call out for forgiveness. It is the only way to be saved and the Shepherd is seeking out every lost sheep.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Wash before You Eat

person washing his hand

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 11:37–54 (ESV)

37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees were devout Jews who emphasized the keeping of the law as well as other rules they had put in place to make sure the law was kept. An example of such extra rules concerned washing in a certain way before meals. When a Pharisee observed that Jesus did not wash before dinner, he questioned Jesus about it. Jesus’ response was pointed and showed the hypocritical nature of the Pharisees.

Jesus replied, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” Jesus’ point was that the Pharisees might have lived according to their lists of external rules, but their hearts were far from God. The Pharisees looked great to the outside observer, but their hearts were full of sin.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day have much in common with those we would call “legalists” today. Legalists are those who make up lists of what is and is not allowed and base their spiritual maturity off of how well they can live by such lists. They also use the lists to judge the maturity of others. However, keeping a list of rules does not mean that a person’s heart is right, which is the main test of maturity and true devotion to God. May we ask the Lord to work in our hearts to desire what he desires so that he is glorified in both our actions and our passions.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

 

I Was Blind, Now I See

John 925 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 9:13–34 (ESV)

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees interrogated the blind man whom Jesus healed and the blind man’s parents. How was he healed? Was he really blind? Who is Jesus that he could do such a thing? The religious leaders were witness to all of Jesus’ signs and wonders, yet they refused to acknowledge who he was. They sought instead to condemn him. The blind man (now healed) and his parents simply accepted that Jesus was from God. How else could he do such wonderful things. When the Pharisees reached their full frustration, they kicked the healed man out of their midst.

For some, truth is not really what they are after. Some will question, argue, and debate with no intention of actually engaging in a search for the truth. In fact, no amount of truth will matter because their minds are already made up. This was the case with the religious leaders who wanted Jesus killed. It is the case with many today who spend time arguing over Jesus. Their minds are made up and no amount of discussion will ever be enough.

So what are we to do? As the man who had his sight restored, we must simply tell the truth that we know: we once were blind, but now we see. Through Jesus, we have had our eyes opened. We have been born again. Whatever the Pharisees thought of Jesus, they could not deny that the blind man could now see. Whatever people may think of Jesus today, they should see that his followers are changed people because of his powerful work in our lives.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Beware of False Teaching

MG 7695

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:5–12 (ESV)

5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:14-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign and he refused, Jesus and the disciples departed by boat (Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13). When the boat landed, the disciples realized that they had forgotten to bring bread to eat. Jesus, knowing the disciples were worried about bread, used it as an opportunity to teach. He warned them about the “leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Leaven is yeast, which is a key ingredient in bread. It causes bread to rise and is often used as a symbol for evil in the Bible. The disciples did not understand Jesus’ lesson at first, but were stuck on literal yeast and bread. Jesus had to tell them that he was not talking about actual bread, but speaking figuratively (verse 11). The disciples then realized Jesus was speaking about the things that the Pharisees and Sadducees taught. Like yeast, the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees had permeated all of Jewish society and had led many people astray. Jesus warned his followers not to be taken in by such teaching.

As we reflect on Jesus’ words, we must realize that false teaching is dangerous. It can lead people away from the true gospel. When someone teaches something contrary to the central doctrines of the Christian faith it is a serious matter and should be addressed rather than ignored. Far too often, undiscerning Christians fall prey to teachers who twist Scripture and sprinkle just enough truth into their teachings to sound believable. This is why it is so important to learn doctrine and theology and why belonging to a church that is committed to the teaching and preaching of Scripture is vital to a healthy Christian life. If you hear something that sounds wrong, look into it and be sure to attend a good church.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

A Matter of the Heart

person operating smartwatch

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Mark 7:1–23 (ESV)

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 15:1-20

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus’ followers were eating without washing their hands properly. This is an example of how the religious leaders had established their own rules about how things should be done that were not a part of God’s word. Jesus responded by quoting from Isaiah 29:13 and accusing the Pharisees with going through the outward motions of holiness while their hearts were not in the right place. Jesus then stressed that what goes into the body does not defile it. It is the things that come from the heart that defile a person. Sin is ultimately a heart issue.

With these words, we find a warning against religious activity and legalism. Both of these concern themselves with external actions and measure themselves by adhering to such actions: regular church attendance, financial gifts, not watching TV or going to the movies, not drinking alcohol, not working on Sunday, etc. While there may be good reasons for some of these actions listed, the religious person and the legalist uses lists of dos and don’ts to show they are spiritual and in a right relationship to God. They fail to see that their hearts are desperately wicked and that they are in need of grace and forgiveness.

Religious activity and the ability to keep rules will never save anyone. We must realize our sinfulness and call out to Christ for forgiveness. It is only by the righteousness that he gives to us and the penalty for sin that he pays for us that allows us to stand before a holy God. In this passage we are forced to ask ourselves what we are counting on to make us right with God. Only Christ will do.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

In the Face of Opposition

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:15–21 (ESV)

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Parallel Text: Mark 3:7-12

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus has been moving around, teaching, and performing miracles before the people, two things have happened. First, He has become more and more popular. And second, he has met greater and greater resistance from the Jewish religious establishment. We saw in yesterday’s reading that the Pharisees wanted to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14).

In today’s passage, we are told that Jesus was aware of the desire to kill him, so he left there and went somewhere else. Matthew tells us that this fulfilled the words of Isaiah, who prophesied that the servant of the Lord would have a ministry among the Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews). Mark’s account of these things tells us that Jesus’ crowds were not only coming from Israel, but the land beyond the Jordan, which was predominantly Gentile.

There is much we can learn from Jesus in these verses. The one thing I want us think about is how Jesus handled the opposition because we all have and will face opposition to the gospel message and to living according to God’s word. We are told that Jesus proclaimed the word, but he did not get involved in quarrels and loud arguments. He remained gentle while still speaking the truth. Matthew, quoting Isaiah, said, “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.”

Jesus preached the word and refused to engage in fruitless arguments with those who did not accept him. Let us be known for our gentleness as we proclaim the word of God in a world that is often at odds with our message. May we guard our tongues, our attitudes, and our social media interactions for the glory of the Lord.

**Do you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word each day? Please consider sharing with your friends on social media. Just use the buttons below. Thanks for your help as we desire to encourage the daily reading of God’s word!

I Came Not To Call the Righteous

The Meal in the House of Matthew

The Meal in the House of Matthew (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage we read that Jesus called a tax collector named Levi (aka Matthew) to come and follow him. This means that Jesus was calling him to be his disciple. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people because they collected taxes for the Roman authorities and often collected a dishonest amount. Tax collectors were thought of as traitors and the worst kind of sinners. It would have amazed many and offended others that Jesus would call a tax collector as a disciple and even share a meal with such a scoundrel!

The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were especially ready to condemn such behavior. Jesus’ response to these religious folks is that he had come to save the sick, not the healthy. He had come to call sinners to himself, not the righteous.

What did Jesus mean with his response to the scribes and Pharisees? The religious leaders were self-righteous and looked down on the sins of others, while ignoring or denying their own sin. The tax collectors and sinners were listening to Jesus preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin and they were responding to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders did not feel a need for such a response of their own. They were righteous already, in their own minds. So, Jesus’ response is one of condemnation towards the scribes and Pharisees. They too needed to understand their own sinfulness and respond to the message of repentance that Jesus was preaching.

Jesus’ message is still the same today. All of us are sinners and need forgiveness. When we repent of our sin and call on Christ to forgive us, he will. Take a moment and call out to him now.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

The Fruit of Repentance

luke 39 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:7–10 (ESV)

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Parallel Text: Luke 3:7-9

Understanding and Applying the Word

John the Baptist’s ministry was focused on calling people to repentance. When the Pharisees and Sudducees show up, he has harsh words for them. He calls them a “brood of vipers.” And warns them to bear fruit consistent with repentance. The Pharisees and Sudducees prided themselves in their ability to keep the Mosaic Law and follow religious rules. For this reason, they would have felt little need to repent. In their minds, they had done nothing wrong! They also would have thought, “We are biological descendants of Abraham. We are fine with God!” However, John warns them that being the physical descendants of Abraham will not be enough.

John’s warning to these two groups to bear fruit in keeping with repentance tells us that God is looking for more than external religious activity. He is looking for sincerity of heart. True repentance may be symbolized through baptism, but it is only real if there is a heart change. And when there is a heart change, it is reflected in how we live.

The gospel calls us to repent and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. When we do that we are saved. Have you done that? Does your life reflect it? If not, take the time right now to repent and call on the Lord. He is faithful and gracious to all who will turn to him.

**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.