Working on Forgiveness

True Forgiveness

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:15–18 (ESV)

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage serves as a basic template of how to handle sin and forgiveness between two believers. The first step is to speak directly to the other person. If that does not work, then getting one or two other believers involved to help is step two. The final step is to bring the matter to the entire body of Christ, the church. If that fails, the person who refuses to repent and who continues to allow sin to cause division is to be removed from the fellowship of believers.

It is important to understand that the removal of a person is a last step. The person should be given every opportunity to turn from his sin and the offended party must stand ready to forgive. Unrepentant sin that causes division between Christians is a serious matter and can have a damaging impact on a church and its ability to be a witness to the world of the redemption found in Christ. This is why such sin must be dealt with and not ignored. Have you ever been part of a church suffering from great division? Chances are the church has let unrepentant sin go unchecked.

Is there a division between you and a fellow believer? Has someone offended you or have you offended someone? Have you gone to the other person to try to work things out? If not, go to the other person. Do not let sin continue to drive a wedge between the people of God. We must be an example of love and forgiveness so we can preach the message of the gospel to the world.

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Woe to the Unrepentant

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Reading the Word

Matthew 11:20–24 (ESV)

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Parallel Text: Luke 10:12-15

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, Jesus spoke of how he had been rejected by the people. He now denounces those who continue to reject him, even though they had the benefit of seeing the mighty works of Jesus. They had witnessed more of Jesus’ works than anyone, yet they did not believe. The miracles were not an end in themselves, but were to authenticate Jesus’ ministry, but the hearts of the people remained hardened.

Shockingly, Jesus goes on to say that the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have repented in sackloth and ashes had the same signs and wonders been done in them. These cities were notorious for their sin. However, the punishment that would fall on the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida in the day of judgment would be greater than that reserved for those other cities.

With greater revelation comes greater responsibility. We live in an age where God’s word is readily available to us along with access to different resources to help us study and understand it. The chief resource being the Church empowered and gifted by the Holy Spirit. That word bears witness to the mighty acts that God has done and culminates in the Resurrection. When we stand before God, we will not have the excuse that we did not know. There is no reason for not knowing. God has revealed himself in his word and he will judge us according to all that is in it. Let us make it a priority in order that we might know God and know how we ought to live.

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What then Shall We Do?

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Reading the Word

Luke 3:10–14 (ESV)

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In yesterday’s reading, John the Baptist proclaimed, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). He warned them that judgment would come. Not surprisingly, after his warning, the people come and asked, “What then shall we do?” In effect, they were asking, “What does it look like to bear such fruit?”

There are three different groups that approach John and he gives three answers for us to consider. The first group, the crowd, is the first to ask what they should do. His reply is in verse 11: be willing to share with those who are in need. The second group are tax collectors. John tells them in verse 13 to be fair with the people. They are not to take extra from them. The last group, soldiers, also want to know how they should live. John tells them to be content with their wages and not to extort the people through threats and lies (verse 14).

The people of God are called to live differently from the world. We are to be generous towards others, fair in our dealings, and content with what we have. How are you living your life in Christ? Do your life bring glory to your Lord?

**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 Fruit of Repentance

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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.

Prepare the Way of the Lord

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The Voice in the Desert (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 3:1–6 (ESV)

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

John 1:19–23 (ESV)

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 1:1-6; Luke 3:1-6 

Understanding and Applying the Word

The prophets Malachi and Isaiah had spoken of one who would appear before the Messiah to prepare his way (cf. Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6 and Isaiah 40:3). He would be one who would prepare the hearts of the people and he would come in the spirit of Elijah. The Gospel writers quote from Isaiah to tell us that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning this one who would prepare the way of the Lord. And the description of John’s clothing and food reminds us of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8.

John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance. The Messiah was coming and the people needed to prepare for him. To “repent” means to turn from sin, which the Bible tells us is what separates us from our holy Creator. It is only through repentance and forgiveness that we find in Christ that we are able to come into a right relationship with the Lord. Let us prepare ourselves by turning from our sin and calling out to Jesus to forgive us so that we can stand before him, not as enemies, but as reconciled friends.

**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.

A Defense Against Sin

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Reading the Word

Psalm 141:1–10 (ESV)

1 O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this psalm, David calls on God to protect him from sin. He asks that the Lord would guard his mouth and his heart that he might not speak or desire evil (vv. 3-4). He also asks that God would make him receptive to the correction of the righteous (v. 5).

It is difficult to admit when we are wrong. It is especially difficult to admit we are wrong when someone else lets us know it. We immediately become defensive and seek to justify our words and actions. We must remember that God has placed others in our lives to help us defeat sin. Others are able to see things that we may be blind to or help us deal with sin that we have become callous to. Let us pray that the Lord would keep us from sin and that we would be receptive to the words of others who are there to help us grow and turn from sin.

**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.

God Speaks Peace to His People

Colossians 119–20 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 85:1–8 (ESV)

1 Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah 3 You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. 4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses describe a restored relationship between God and his people. God, in his grace, forgave the people of their sin and showed his love for them.

Our sin is a great offense to God because he is holy. We are told that our sin separates us from God and that we stand condemned as a result. Yet, God is gracious and forgiving towards those who will repent of their sin and call out to him for forgiveness. He speaks peace to the repentant and restores the lost relationship. No longer does our sin condemn us, but we are called the people of God.

How is this possible? Because of the cross. Jesus Christ suffered and died in our place. He paid for our sin so that we could go free. The cross is the reminder that peace with God has been made possible for all who believe. Praise the Lord for his salvation!

**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!

Restore Us!

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Reading the Word

Psalm 80:14–19 (ESV)

14 Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, 15 the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. 16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! 17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! 18 Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! 19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Understanding and Applying the Word

The phrase “turn again” in verse 14 is translated from the same Hebrew word in verses 3, 7, and 19. In those verse, the word is translated “restore”. The idea is to “turn us again.” This is the central theme of the psalm. Israel once occupied a place at the right hand of God, but had fallen as a result of sin. Now the people are calling out for mercy and restoration.

Reading this psalm reminds us of the Messiah who is the true Son who sits at the right hand of the Father. Through him, we find the salvation and life that we are longing for. It is through Jesus Christ that our sins are forgiven and that we find restoration with God.

**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!

Our Idols

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Reading the Word

Psalm 78:54–58 (ESV)

54 And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won. 55 He drove out nations before them; he apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. 56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. 58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Even after God showed his power and compassion to the people of Israel by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt and settling them in the Promised Land, they turned away from him. The people did not keep the covenant that they had made with God and they turned to idolatry.

Before we ask how the Israelites could do such a thing, we need to ask ourselves if we do the same.How often do we adopt the gods of our culture? Some examples of the false gods of our culture are celebrities, sports, money, and self. We may not set up high places and idols carved from wood or stone, but we certainly make things more important than they should be, even more important than God himself, in our lives. Let us repent and thank God for his grace for saving sinners like us. He is certainly a gracious God!

**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!

Considering Our Prayers

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Reading the Word

Psalm 66:17–20 (ESV)

17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses conclude Psalm 66. Here we read that the psalmist called out to God. This is a way of saying that the psalmist prayed for God’s help. This is no surprise, especially given the verses that we have been reading in the rest of the psalm. But notice what accompanies the psalmist’s petitions: praise and repentance.

Praise and repentance should always be a part of our prayer lives. When we come before the holy God of creation, He is deserving of praise and it is through our praise that we are reminded of the privilege of prayer as it produces humility in our hearts. Also, when we confess our sin with a sincere desire to turn from it, our focus shifts from ourselves to God’s grace and His overflowing love. When we come before God in this manner, we can be sure that God does not reject our prayer, but that He hears and He answers according to His will.

**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!