Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Reading the Word

Proverbs 14:34 (ESV)
34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Righteousness, or doing what is right, is always important. We often think of doing what is right in our own personal lives, but how often do we think of this collectively, as a society? It is to our advantage as a nation to submit ourselves to God’s word. This applies to how we deal with our own people and how we deal with people from other countries. God’s ways are the best ways because they are the right ways. To follow our own ways, which is sin, is always to our disadvantage.

God’s word stresses that we are to love our neighbors and do to others as we would have them do to us. We are to strive for justice and peace. We are to look out for those who are in need and vulnerable. We are to be people of integrity who keep their word. We are to be fair and honest. These are the values that we should strive for as a nation. Let us pray for our leaders that they would seek the same.


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Seven Things the Lord Hates

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Proverbs 6:16–19 (ESV)

16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

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The Chief of Sinners

1 Timothy 115 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Timothy 1:12–15 (ESV)

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The writings of Paul seem to dominate the New Testament. It is through his letters that we truly gain our understanding of most of our foundational Christian doctrines. God certainly used Paul in a great way. As Paul reflected on this truth, he did so with humility. Paul understood that it was only by God’s grace that he had been able to do anything at all for the Lord. After all, he was a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” of God and God’s people, but God had saved Paul and chose to use him.

 Paul knew that his salvation was fully by grace. He was the “foremost” sinner. He was not in any way deserving of salvation. It was only through Jesus Christ, the one who came into this world to save sinners, that he was saved. Paul never forgot this truth and we must not forget it either. We owe everything to God’s grace. It does not matter how much we may accomplish for the Lord in this life. We may accomplish great things or remain unknown. Regardless, all that we are and all that we are able to do are only because of what God has done for us. Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners and use them for his glory. Let us praise his name!

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We Will All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 1555–57 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 15:50–58 (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in uncertain times. The world is in constant turmoil due to political division, economic stress, natural disasters, and the sinfulness of the human heart. It can become overwhelming if we let it. However, as Christians, we know the future is bright. The things we face today are only temporary because God has a plan in place and his plans never fail.

What is the plan God has for the future? It is the same plan that we saw in the days of Jesus. The will be resurrection and new life for all believers. The dead will rise and those who have not died will be transformed. We will be made new and ready for an eternal existence in a new heaven and new earth. When that day comes, there will be no more death because sin will be no more. The troubles of this world will be gone and we will live in the presence of our Savior forever. What a wonderful future is waiting!

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Do Not Hide Your Sin

Psalm 325 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 32:1–5 (ESV)

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unrepentant sin weighs on a person. The psalmists speaks of his sin causing his bones to waste away resulting in groaning all day. He felt like God’s hand was heavy on him and his strength was dried up. He was miserable and he needed relief

Relief from sin comes when we confess it to God. He has told us that he is gracious and merciful and ready to forgive. We only need to repent. When we do that, our burdens are lifted and our lives are restored. Do not try to hide your sin from the all-knowing God. He is ready to show you grace if you will go to him.

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The Love of God at the Cross

Romans 58 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV)

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Take out a pen and piece of paper. Write down a list of people that you would be willing to sacrifice your comforts and freedoms for. Now, make a second list of the people you would even be willing to die for. Who is on that list? Family? Loved ones? How many of your enemies are on that list?

Consider this: Jesus Christ gave up his life for us while we were sinners. This means that he died for us while we were the enemies of God. Why would Christ die for his enemies? Because that is how much he loves us! He went to the cross to die because that is what was necessary for our salvation. Do not fail to see the love of God displayed at the cross. The Savior who died for us.

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Are You Just Seeking Attention?

Matthew 66 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:5–8 (ESV)

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Why do you do the things you do? When you do good for others, is it so you will receive a pat on the back? When you go to church, is it so others will see you in attendance and think better of you? When you give of your finances, is it so people will view you as generous? When you pray, are your prayers directed to God or are you more concerned with others who are listening?

We are sinful people. It is most evident in how we can take the very things that should focus our attention on God and use them to draw attention to ourselves. This is what some do with religious practices. This is what many of the religious were doing in Jesus’ day with prayer. They used it as a show to capture the attention of others. Unfortunately, this still happens today and it may be something that we all need think about. Why do we do the things we do? Are we seeking God or the attention of others?

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God Does Not Play Favorites

James 412 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 2:1–11 (ESV)

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Understanding and Applying the Word

God does not play favorites. All people will be judged equally and completely for all they have done. This means that no one should look down on another person in judgment. All of us are guilty as sinners and deserving of condemnation. None of us should feel superior to anyone else.

Paul spends a great deal of time throughout the letter of Romans explaining why salvation for every person is only possible by grace, not what we have earned. Our salvation is only possible because we have a sinless Savior who gave his life in exchange for ours. And because of what Jesus has done for us, our sins can be forgiven of we place our faith in him. This truth should not cause us to become puffed up and conceited, but should bring humility into our lives. The priority of the Christian is not to look down in judgment on others, but to point them to Jesus, the one who took our sin away and can take theirs away too.

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The Crucifixion

Wondrous Cross Quote

Reading the Word

John 19:16–30 (ESV)

16 …So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

All four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus. I would encourage you to read the account of each of the four books. It is truly incredible to read what Jesus Christ endured and suffered as he was hung on a cross to die.

When we come to these passages, we must reflect on the seriousness of the matter. It is a reminder of the ugliness of our sin for it is for this reason that Jesus had to die. He went to the cross as a sacrifice for us so that we could be saved. It took the infinite worth of the blood of Christ to pay our debt. We should never treat sin as a small matter.

Christ’s death at Calvary also reminds us of how great our God loves us, despite our sin. He has gone to the greatest lengths to rescue us. The Father gave his Son for us. That is incredible to think about. Why would the Father do that? Love.

As we spend this Good Friday thinking about Jesus’ death at the cross, let it serve as a reminder of the serious nature of sin and let it also remind us of God’s great love for us.

If you are wondering why Jesus had to die, know that the Bible teaches us that all people are sinful and deserving of condemnation. There is nothing that we can offer to make up for our sin. We cannot buy forgiveness or do religious rituals or do enough good deeds. But God has done something for us. He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for us by going to the cross and dying as a sacrifice for us. If we repent of (turn away from) our sin and trust in what Christ has done for us (and not trust in our own merits), God promises to forgive us and give us new life. Would you do that as you think about why Jesus had to die?

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Jesus Pronounces Woes

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 23:1–7 (ESV)

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus saved his harshest words for the religious elite of his day. They were the ones who thought they were favored by God because they spent their lives dutifully living by the law and holding others to the same. They were the religious legalists of their day. There was just one problem. It was all for show. Their religious devotion was to look good in the eyes of others and to gain favor from God.

The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and that we need to be saved from our sins. We cannot just try harder to do better because we are sinful to the core. Even our best efforts are as filthy rags. Even if we could keep all of the rules, our attitudes and motivations would be wrong. We need grace not better rule keeping. Jesus preached that grace was available to all who would repent of their sin and believe.

The scribes and Pharisees could not admit that they were sinners who needed to repent. Instead, they stood in their pride and resisted Jesus and tried to persuade others that Jesus was a fraud. Jesus warned these leaders of their failures throughout Matthew 23 in an unforgettable confrontation. Take the time to read the entire chapter in your Bible. How do you respond to Jesus’ teaching about repentance and faith?

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