A Matter of the Heart

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Reading the Word

Matthew 5:27–32 (ESV)

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus pointed back to the Ten Commandments in yesterday’s reading, he does again when he speaks of adultery. He quotes from Exodus 20:14. However, he does not simply repeat what the people had been told through their traditions and other teachers. He tells them that not only is the actual act of adultery a violation of the law, but so is lust. Sin originates in our hearts. It is not only something we do outside of ourselves. Jesus goes on to say that we should treat sin very seriously. He uses the extreme examples of removing our eyes and cutting off our hands to keep from sinning. While Jesus was using hyperbole to make his case, it is clear how Jesus thought of sin.

In verses 31-32, we read about the issue of divorce. In these verses, Jesus addresses the “easy divorce” culture of the time. It was common for men to divorce their wives for any reason they wanted, even if it was trivial. Jesus swings the pendulum the other way and tells them that marriage is supposed to be lasting. It was designed to be life-long. Divorce should be rare and only in extreme circumstances.

In these verses, Jesus teaches us that sin is ultimately a matter of the heart. We do not please God simply by going through all of the external motions of religion. That is what the Pharisees did and Jesus told his disciples, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” God desires true righteousness and holiness from his people. He desires pure hearts.

If we are honest, we know that we do not measure up to the standard that Christ lays out in his sermon. However, he told us that he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He fulfilled it on our behalf. When we admit our need of a Savior and turn to Jesus, we receive his righteousness and he takes our sin upon himself. That is why he went to the cross. He went to pay for the sins of the world.

Praise the Lord for our righteous Savior whose righteousness belongs to those who trust in him. Now, as we walk in the forgiveness of Christ, let us set our hearts on holiness and righteousness as we show our love for him.

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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.

Fools, Sin, and Thanksgiving

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Reading the Word

Psalm 107:17–22 (ESV)

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. 21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Understanding and Applying the Word

The third group that God has delivered are described as “fools through their sinful ways”. Though they were foolish in their sin, when they cried out to God he delivered them. The right response is to praise God in thanksgiving.

When we consider our own lives, it is an amazing thing that God, who is holy, would save any of us. We are sinful. Scripture says that we have all fallen short and rightfully deserve condemnation and death for our sin. Yet, when we call out to God, he responds in grace and love. He gives us salvation through the atoning sacrifice of his Son, who died as a payment for our sins. God gives foolish sinners eternal life. If you have not done so, call out to him today. He will save. And then let us offer our thanksgiving!

**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!

They Soon Forgot His Works

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Reading the Word

Psalm 106:13–18 (ESV)

13 But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. 14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; 15 he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them. 16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, 17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. 18 Fire also broke out in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Even after all God did for the Israelites in delivering them from Egypt, “they soon forgot his works”. They complained about the food and the leadership and longed to return to their former lives of slavery. As a result, God sent them the food they desired and punished them for their sinful attitudes.

These words are a warning for us because the people of Israel are a reflection of the human heart. God does great and wonderful things for us, but we quickly forget and desire more and more. At the same time, we grumble and complain in our hearts wanting our never-ending appetites to be satisfied. Let us learn from the words of this psalm to be thankful and content with the good things God has done. And may we replace our desires for more with praise and thanksgiving to the One who causes his grace towards us to overflow.

**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!

Jesus, Our Champion

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Reading the Word

Psalm 94:16–23 (ESV)

16 Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? 17 If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. 18 When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. 19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. 20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? 21 They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. 22 But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. 23 He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses begin with two questions: “Who rises up for me against the wicked?” and “Who stands up for me against evildoers?” The answer is “the Lord”. God is the One who proves to be the help the writer needs. It is God who is a stronghold and a refuge. And it is God who will destroy the wicked because of their sin.

Believers have a Savior we can count on. Jesus Christ not only paid the price for our sins, but he also promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He bought us at a high price (the price of his own life) and he will never let us go. It is Jesus who will stand as our Champion in the end as he defeats Satan and destroys evil once and for all. Let us, as his people, find assurance in our Savior and know that the days of the wicked are numbered.

**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!

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!

Will We Listen?

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Reading the Word

Psalm 81:11–16 (ESV)

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. 13 Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! 14 I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. 15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever. 16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Even after all God had done for his people and even after his promise to be their God and bless them, they still did not obey him. They followed their own hearts and their own sinful ways. Even so, God promises to restore them if they turn to him. He stands ready to bless them.

Israel is a picture of all of mankind. In the Garden of Eden, man was placed in a paradise with all of the blessings of God, but sinned by disobeying the word of God. Likewise, Israel was rescued from slavery and brought to the Promised Land and offered the blessings of God, but sinned through disobedience to God’s word. And we do the same thing. God saves us from our sins through his Son, Jesus Christ, but we would rather follow our own way than submit to him as Lord. Even so, God stands ready to forgive and restore those who will repent and turn to him. What a patient and 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!

Living for Jesus

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Reading the Word

Psalm 81:5–10 (ESV)

5 He made it a decree in Joseph when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a language I had not known: 6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. 7 In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah 8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! 9 There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god. 10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

Understanding and Applying the Word

God brought he people out of slavery in Egypt. In doing so, he had relieved their daily burden of extreme labor. God had heard the groanings of the people and had delivered them. In response, the Lord expected the people to worship him alone and become conformed to his likeness as they followed his instruction to them. As their God, he stood ready to feed them and meet their needs, which he demonstrated by supplying manna in the wilderness.

In John 10:10 Jesus states, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” This verse describes the  work of Satan in the word to tempt mankind and keep people enslaved to their sins. Through false promises, Satan convinces us that we are better off without God. In reality, his schemes only steal true joy from us and lead us to death.

On the other hand, Jesus came to free us from our bondage to sin. Through him, we have the weight of sin removed and we are given eternal life. When we trust in Christ, we follow him as our Lord and he, as our Creator, knows exactly what we need and how we ought to live to bring fulfillment and joy to our lives. Living for Jesus is the abundant life!

**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, O God!

Psalm 803 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 80:1–7 (ESV)

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! 3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! 4 O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. 7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Understanding and Applying the Word

The theme of this psalm is captured in the repetition of the words “Restore us, O God; let your face shine that we may be saved.” The psalmist understands the circumstances facing Israel to be punishment for their sins and now he is crying out for restoration.

Restoration is the heart of the story of Scripture. In the beginning, God created all things, including mankind, and we are told that he looked upon his creation and pronounced it “good”. However, mankind sins against their Creator through disobedience and all of creation suffers as a result. Evil and sin and death entered into the good creation. The resulting circumstances seemed to be hopeless because of mankind’s sinfulness, but God provided a way for us to be saved. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to suffer and die in our place so that we could have life. God made a way that we could be restored. All who acknowledge their sin and turn to Christ will be saved. Will you call out to God for restoration today?

**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!

Let Your Compassion Come Speedily

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Reading the Word

Psalm 79:1–8 (ESV)

1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. 2 They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the heavens for food, the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth. 3 They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. 4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us. 5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? 6 Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name! 7 For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation. 8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm is a lament that most likely connected to the fall of Jerusalem and exile of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. The verses describe the defiling of the temple, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the killing of many Israelites by the enemy. Why did this happen? Because God was angry with his people because of their sin.

Scripture tells us that all who place their trust in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ are forgiven of their sins and will not be condemned before God. However, Scripture also tells us that God does discipline his people for their benefit. It is through discipline that our hearts and minds are transformed as we learn to love the things God loves and hate the things he hates. Let us be thankful that God is a gracious and forgiving God. And let us also be thankful for the discipline we receive that helps us as we become more and more like Christ.

**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!