A Matter of the Heart

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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.

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Do You Need To Be Noticed?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 6:1–4 (ESV)

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Why do we do the things we do? Motivations are important. They are important to God. Jesus tells us that we must be careful not to do good things so that others will see us. If our motivation is to be recognized by others and receive a nice pat on the back or lofty praise, we have it all wrong. This does not please the Father and we should expect no reward from him. The only reward we will receive is the pat on the back or praise we have received from others.

Instead, we should practice doing right, but without expectation or need to have others notice. Our only motivation is that we want to please the Father, the one who created us and the one who sent his Son into the world for our salvation. In the end, he will reward us even if no one else ever notices the things we have done. And in the end, that is all that will truly matter.

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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 Lord Is Righteous and Kind

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Reading the Word

Psalm 145:10–21 (ESV)

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm proclaims the Lord’s goodness and tells us why he is deserving of praise. The Lord lifts up those who are low, he provides food to all, he is near to those who call, and he saves those who cry out to him. He does what is right and he is kind in all he does.

As we reflect on the words of this psalm it is Christmas Eve. This is a wonderful time of the year to reflect on God’s righteousness and goodness. Christmas is the time of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is through Christ that we find salvation from our sin and hope for the future. It is at this time of the year when we can especially see that the Lord is truly righteous and kind in all he does. Let us remember to give him the praise he deserves.

**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.

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.

Your Law Is True

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:137–144 (ESV)

137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules. 138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness. 139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. 140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. 141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. 142 Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. 143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. 144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The psalmist declares, “Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules…Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true…Your testimonies are righteous forever.”

We live in a world that believes truth is relative. What is true for you may not be true for me. Truth depends on our backgrounds and circumstances. Truth depends on our feelings and beliefs. This is the claim of the world, but it stands in conflict with the word of God.

God’s word tells us that there is absolute, universal truth. There are truths that are not dependent on our backgrounds, circumstances, feelings, or personal beliefs. They are true for all people in all times. They are true because the righteous Creator and Lord of all has told us they are true. We do not get to decide what is true, but we can choose to submit to or rebel against God and his word. May we delight in the truth and live according to the what God has written in his word.

**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!

Light for the Righteous

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Reading the Word

Psalm 97:10–12 (ESV)

10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11 Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. 12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Those who love the Lord should hate evil. As we look at the world around us it might sometimes seem as if the wicked prosper. They may seem to have the best that life has to offer: money, possessions, fame, and power. Yet, we can be sure that judgment will one day come. In that day, it is the righteous who will be preserved and the wicked will be destroyed.

Verse 11 tells us that “Light is sown for the righteous”. This may seem like an odd statement, but taken in the context of this psalm, the meaning is clear. There is coming a final day when God will judge the world. The wicked will be condemned, but for the righteous, light is sown (rather than judgment). The righteous will be delivered and given life filled with joy and delivered from evil once and for all. This is truly worth our rejoicing!

**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 Lord Reigns!

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Reading the Word

Psalm 96:10–13 (ESV)

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Lord reigns. He rules over all things. This is established by the fact that he is the Creator who established the world. It is also established in the fact that it is the Lord who judges all people. The judgment of God is an occasion for joy and praise because God judges perfectly. He is fair and right in all of his judgments.

While this psalm is focused on the present truth that God rules over all things, it also points to the future when God’s rule will fill the creation completely. Sin and wickedness will be judged and removed from the world and perfect righteousness will prevail. This is why the creation itself is called to rejoice: the heavens, the earth, the sea, the field, and the trees. The creation, along with God’s people, will be finally released from the curse of sin and its consequences and we will dwell with the Lord forever. That is cause for great rejoicing!

**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 Righteous Flourish

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Reading the Word

Psalm 92:10–15 (ESV)

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. 11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. 12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Verse 12 states that the “righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Both of these tree are symbols of strength and vitality (cf. Isaiah 2:13; 65:22; Hosea 14:5–6; Zechariah 11:2). This is a great contrast to the evil, who will be swept away (vv. 9-10). We are also told that these trees are planted in the house of the Lord, which tells us of the nearness to God that the righteous will experience.

This psalm began declaring the praise of the Lord. God is deserving of worship because of his great deeds. As the psalm ends, we are once again reminded of why it is good to praise the Lord. It is God who gives life and gives it abundantly to his people. He is the God who will judge evil and give life to the righteous. The Lord is upright and he is a rock to those who trust in 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!

Salvation Is Near

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Reading the Word

Psalm 85:9–13 (ESV)

9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Righteous is near to those who fear God. Through this salvation there is restoration. Verses 9-13 describe the restoration that is pictured throughout the Bible. It will be characterized by the steadfast love of God and the faithfulness of his people. It will be a time of righteousness and peace. God, in his goodness, is will restore the land.

In the Book of Revelation, the eternal state is described as a new creation where sin and the curse of Genesis 3 have been finally dealt with and eliminated. In the new world there is no more pain or suffering or death. Instead, there is righteousness and peace and life eternal. This is the hope of the gospel and the what salvation is about. One day, all who fear the Lord will dwell in his presence in the new world.

**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!