Category Archives: Law

Don’t Quit! (Galatians 6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 6

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Epistle to the Galatians. Previous chapters answered enemies who attacked the doctrine of salvation by grace, and were an exposition on the Law and grace of God through Christ. You will see Galatians 6 is practical, and needs little commentary. The focus of this devotional is Galatians 6:1-9, where Paul urged the believers of Galatia to be faithful and compassionate toward others, and in particular fellow believers.

Restoring Sinning Believers (6:1)

Paul urged spiritually-minded believers to be gracious, and patient with those who were overcome by the temptation to sin (6:1). Ruling out a spirit of judgment that is too often seen in churches, Paul encouraged “spiritual” believers to address the fault of another in a “spirit of meekness” (6:1b). The goal for going to a sinning believer is not to judge and condemn, but to the end they might be restored to the fellowship of believers (6:1b). Lest a believer be tempted to be harsh or judgmental, Paul urged, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (6:1).

Loving Encouragement (6:2)

Notice restoring a backslidden believer is to be done not only with a spirit of meekness (6:1), but is also a labor of love. Paul writes, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2). The word “bear” indicates the need of coming alongside a faltering believer, and steadying them as they have stumbled. Such an effort is to be done with patience, love and compassion, which is “the law of Christ” (6:2b).

What is the “law of Christ?” It is the sum of all of the commandments stated in one directive regarding man with man, to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus quoted Leviticus when He taught His disciples, “Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). When He was questioned near the end of His earthly ministry, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36), Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

A Call to Humility and Self-examination (6:3-5)

Because the nature of man is prone to be proud, harsh and judgmental, Paul admonished the Galatian believers, “3For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (6:3). You see, when we have a right perspective on who we are, we realize we are nothing apart from Christ and His righteousness. Pride and self-righteousness have no place in the fellowship of believers.

How can believers avoid an attitude of pride and a spirit of judgment? Paul exhorted, “4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For every man shall bear his own burden” (6:4-5). We need to honestly examine ourselves, and avoid the error of fools, for comparing ourselves with other is foolish, and “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The Duty of Believers to Support Those Who Minister (6:6-8)

Continuing the practical application of our devotional, Paul challenged believers to remember those who were faithful teachers “in all good things,” and “communicate unto him” (6:6). To “communicate” meant to share in the financial support of those who dedicated their lives to instructing believers in the highest truths and moral principles of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:17).

Within the context of supporting faithful teachers, Paul taught the spiritual principle known as “Sowing and Reaping” (6:7-9). Unfortunately, those verses are seldom taught in their context, notice what Paul wrote:

Galatians 6:6–87Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Stated simply, the duty of believers is to support their ministers, knowing God will not be ridiculed (mocked, 6:6a). Taking a lesson from the farm, what a farmer sows, he reaps (i.e., sow wheat, you harvest wheat; the more you sow, the more you reap). Then, as a believer sows (in this context, supports those who minister the Word), so he will reap (6:6b). Please the flesh and you will reap the consequences. Obey the Word, feed the spirit, and your will reap eternal life (6:8).

Closing promise (6:9) – We conclude our devotional commentary with Paul’s exhortation, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (6:9). It is the promise of the harvest that encourages the farmer to labor long hours and days in his field. So it is the spiritual promise of reaping “if we faint not” (6:9b) that encourages and stirs hope. When the time is right, faithful believers will reap eternal rewards. Don’t Quit!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Redeemed, and able to cry, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4; Galatians 5)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4; Galatians 5

Today’s Scripture reading is packed with doctrinal content, and I hardly know how to begin. For brevity’s sake, I will limit our devotional to a portion of Galatians 4.

In Galatians 3, Paul presented “the law [as] our schoolmaster [instructor, teacher] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (3:24). The law of God instructs man regarding sin, and shows him how to live to please God. It is the revelation of God’s promises of grace, mercy, and forgiveness that brings sinners to saving faith. As God’s spiritual instructor [schoolmaster], the law serves to lead sinners to Christ as Savior Redeemer (3:24; 4:5).

From Slavery to Sonship as a Child of God (4:1-5)

The introductory portrait found in the opening verses of Galatians 4 contrasted a servant\tutor with the law of God. It was common in that day for a wealthy master to choose a servant who was charged with the responsibility to instruct his son. Though the son’s standing was as his father’s heir, as a child he was nevertheless subject to the servant\teacher. Only when the father declared his son mature enough to oversee his inheritance and matters of the home (4:2) was he no longer subject to the servant.

Keeping in mind the illustration of the master’s son being subject to the servant, consider Galatians 4:3-7.

Every one was born into the world under the bondage and curse of sin (for we are sinners by nature, 4:3; Romans 3:10, 23). God the Father, knowing man’s bondage to sin, sent His Son into the world when the law had fulfilled its purpose. Having instructed man concerning his sinfulness, “the time was come” on God’s timetable when Jesus was born (4:4a).

How did God’s Son come? (4:4)

The implication of God sending His Son is that He was with the Father eternally, before He was sent forth “made of a woman, made under the law” (4:4). The Son of God was in essence Eternal God, and “equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). Being “made of a woman” (4:4) he became flesh (“form of a servant…likeness of men,” Philippians 2:6), and was therefore “made under [subject to] the law” (4:5). By being “subject to the Law, Jesus was subject to the demands of the law, and yet He was “without sin (Hebrews 4:14; 9:28).

Why did God’s Son Come? (4:5)

“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (4:5). As sinners, we are born in bondage to sin, and condemned by our own sinfulness.  The law and commandments serve to convince man of his sinfulness, and bring him into a right standing with God. Because we are slaves to sin, no amount of works or “deeds of the law” can justify us in the sight of God (Romans 3:19-20; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), nor indeed ever could. The Law was never intended to save mankind. Only God can save.  The law was given to help us walk pleasing to the Father.

God the Father, seeing man’s universal need of a Redeemer, sent His Son to “redeem them that were under the law” (4:5). Who needs redemption? Every one of us, for “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:19). We also know from the Scriptures that “all the world [is] guilty before God” (Romans 3:19), “for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

What does redemption accomplish?

Those who receive the gift of God’s redemption by faith, the sacrifice of His Son, are no longer slaves to sin, but adopted as sons (4:5). We read in John 1:12, “But as many as received him [Jesus], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

Through our redemption in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin or aliens to God. We are “sons” (or children of God), and have the assurance “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into [our] hearts” (4:6). Because we are sons, we are able to cry, “Abba, Father” (4:6). We who are redeemed are no more slaves to sin, but sons and heirs “of God through Christ” (4:7). When we sin, we must confess our sin (1 John 1:9), knowing “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Closing thoughts“Abba, Father”—what a loving, wonderful expression of a believer’s personal and intimate relationship with God. We are no longer slaves bearing the burden of a spiritual debt we cannot pay. Instead, we are through Christ, redeemed, adopted as children of God, and through our relationship with Christ, able to pray, “Abba, Father!” What a wonderful, blessed relationship!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Contending for the Gospel of Grace (Galatians 2; Galatians 3)

Scripture reading – Galatians 2; Galatians 3

We are continuing our study in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our Scripture reading is Galatians 2 and 3 with the focus of this devotional being limited to chapter 2. We considered in our prior study Paul’s defense of his apostleship (1:1-2, 10-24), and a fundamental doctrine of our faith, salvation by grace (1:6-9; Ephesians 2:8-9). Galatians 2 introduces us to two events in two geographical settings. The first event recalls Paul and Barnabas’ meeting in Jerusalem with the apostles and elders of that church (2:1-10; Acts 15). The second event was the drama that unfolded in Antioch when Paul confronted the hypocrisy of Peter (2:11-21).

Galatians 2

Our study of Acts 15 considered the meeting of the Jerusalem council with Paul and Barnabas. Paul acknowledged that same meeting in Galatians 2, which had taken place 14 years after his first missionary journey through Asia Minor (modern day Turkey, 2:1).  Many Gentiles turned from worshipping idols, were saved, and churches were established. As a reminder, the subject of Paul’s teaching was the Old Testament Scripture, which laid the foundation of the Gospel of Grace he preached.

Paul’s Private Conference with Church Leaders (2:1-2)

In Paul’s absence, false brethren had entered the churches in Asia Minor and attacked Paul’s credibility as an apostle. Those same enemies taught salvation ideas that conflicted with Christ as Messiah, which included circumcision of the flesh to be saved (1:1, 6-7, 15-17). When Paul confronted the false teachers, the contention was so great he and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to conference with the apostles and church leaders (2:1-4; Acts 15:4-6). I invite you to consider three primary points in the opening verses of Galatians 2.

Paul states he went up to Jerusalem “by revelation,” and followed the leading of the Lord (2:2). Notice Paul first addressed the leaders of the Jerusalem church privately, and acknowledged they were men “of reputation” (2:2) and “pillars” of the church (2:9). His motive was to not risk being publicly discredited, though he confessed he was passionate about his ministry among the Gentiles (2:2). Paul and his peers were “received of the church,” and with that reception was an acknowledgment of his apostleship to the Gentiles (Acts 15:4). Paul observed, Titus, a peer of Paul who was a Greek, was not “compelled to be circumcised” (2:3).

Paul’s Public Confrontation with his Adversaries (2:4-5; Acts 15:5-7a)

Paul did not make the mistake of failing to define his enemies (2:4). In fact, he described them as “false brethren” 2:4), and in Acts 15:5 as “of the sect of the Pharisees. Those “false brethren” came in secretly, and demanded Gentile believers observe circumcision to be saved (2:4).  The debate was heated, for the “false brethren” caused “much disputing” (Acts 15:7). Refusing to yield to the enemies of the Gospel, Paul writes, he gave no “place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (2:5).

Public Confirmation [affirmation] of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. (2:6-10)

Paul was not awestruck nor intimidated by men (2:9). He had not come to Jerusalem to seek men’s favor. Yet, he did desire the Jerusalem leaders would acknowledge God’s grace and favor on His message and ministry to the Gentiles (2:7). The apostles and elders affirmed Paul’s ministry (2:7-8), and Peter, James and John publicly affirmed Paul and Barnabas as ministers of the Gospel to the Gentiles (2:9).

Contending for the Faith (2:11-16)

Galatians 2 also chronicled Peter’s visit to believers in Antioch (2:11). This event occurred before Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41). Following the first Jerusalem council, Peter came to Antioch where he fellowshipped and “did eat with the Gentiles” (2:12). Later, a second delegation from Jerusalem came to Antioch, and was comprised of believers who “came from James” (the leader of the Jerusalem church, 2:12). Sadly, in the company of the men from Jerusalem, Peter “withdrew and separated himself” from the uncircumcised Gentile believers (2:12).

Paul, a passionate defender of the faith, would not allow Peter’s hypocrisy to pass, and “withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (2:11). Paul observed, Peter feared “them which were of the circumcision” (2:12c). Unfortunately, others followed Peter, including Barnabas who “was carried away with their dissimulation [hypocrisy]” (2:13).

Paul’s Controversy with Peter (2:14-16)

We take away many lessons from Paul rebuking Peter. Notice his rebuke was specific, and pointed, “because [Peter] was to be blamed” (2:11). We also learn that Paul, an apostle, was Peter’s equal (2:11,14). He openly opposed and reproved Peter whose public failure demanded public correction.

Closing lesson (2:14-21) – The most important lesson was Paul’s zeal for keeping the “truth of the Gospel” (2:14). Peter had failed to walk “according to the truth of the gospel,” and Paul openly challenged his hypocrisy, saying, “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (2:14). Error demands reproof; public error demands public reproof. (1 Timothy 5:19-20)

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Marvelous Grace! (Acts 15; Acts 16)

Scripture reading – Acts 15; Acts 16

I introduced you to James, the author of the Epistle of James, in a prior devotional. He was believed to be the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), and the head of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17). That same James appears in today’s Scripture reading in the role of the senior pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem.

Acts 15

Today’s Scripture reading chronicled the growth pangs of the 1st century church. While the church began with Jewish converts, the growing number of Gentiles who believed presented a theological crisis. Because there were historic prejudices between the Jews and Gentiles, it was inevitable that conflicts would arise in the Antioch congregation that was comprised of both Jews and Greeks. The arrival of “men which came down from Judaea” (15:1a) created a conflict that threatened not only the unity of the church, but questioned the foundational doctrine of salvation by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The men of Judaea taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (15:1b).

Paul and Barnabas confronted the dissension that was created by those men, and it was determined they, along with other men, should “go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about [the] question” (15:2). The same debate soon raged in Jerusalem as believers “of the sect of the Pharisees” maintained that Gentile believers must not only be circumcised to be saved, but also be commanded “to keep the law of Moses” (15:5).

The Jerusalem Council (15:6-21)

The apostles and elders gathered as representatives of the congregation, and listened as the dispute over circumcision raged (15:6-7a). Peter finally arose, and declared what had already been agreed upon in an earlier council (15:7b). It had been determined the Gospel was not only for the Jews, but for all men (Acts 10:1-48). When Cornelius, a Roman centurion heard the Gospel and believed, God gave him the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:44-48). Peter observed how God had “put no difference” between the men of Jewish ancestry, and those who were Gentile. All sinners come to salvation by faith (15:9).  Peter declared, whether Jew or Gentile, “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (15:11).

Then, the people fell silent, as Paul and Barnabas shared how the Lord had validated their preaching and teaching by “miracles and wonders” that only the LORD could have produced (15:12). James, whom I believe was the senior pastor\elder of the Jerusalem congregation (Galatians 1:19), declared he was in agreement with Peter (i.e. Simeon, 15:14). He reminded the believers how the prophet Amos had foretold that Gentiles would be a part of God’s kingdom (Amos 9:11-12). James counseled the members of the church to accept the doctrine of salvation by grace though faith alone, and not overburden Gentile believers with instructions that were not required for salvation (15:19-21).

There was a consensus to accept James’ summary, and affirm the decision in writing. Furthermore, two men of the Jerusalem congregation were chosen to accompany the letter, and act as representatives of the church to believers in Antioch (15:20, 22-23). The letter also urged Gentile believers to, “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (15:20), truths from the Old Testament they needed to know and practice.

The Effect of the Letter Addressed to Antioch Believers (15:31-41)

The letter affirming salvation by grace alone stirred up a spirit of rejoicing among believers (15:31). Silas, one of the two men sent from the Jerusalem congregation, remained in Antioch, and became a missionary peer of Paul (15:34). Paul and Barnabas “continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord,” and “many others also” became teachers and preachers (15:35).

Closing thoughts (15:36-41) – The concluding verses of Acts 15 remind us that, though Paul and Barnabas were giants of the faith in the early church, they were nevertheless human. With the dissension over the doctrine of salvation by grace resolved, Paul announced his desire to journey and visit believers in the cities and towns where he and Barnabas had “preached the word of the Lord” (15:36). Yet, Barnabas insisted on bringing John Mark (15:37), whom Paul opposed for he had deserted them in Pamphylia (15:38). The quarrel between the two men was so great, they separated themselves, “and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus” (15:39).

There has long been a debate regarding who was right concerning John Mark, Barnabas or Paul? I could make several arguments on this point, but because Paul was an apostle and Barnabas was not, I wonder if Barnabas failed to submit to authority? Another point in Paul’s favor is, when he and Silas departed, they were “recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God (15:40). The same affirmation was not said of Barnabas and John Mark. Nevertheless, at the end of his life and ministry, Paul wrote of John Mark: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

In the providence and sovereignty of God, John Mark not only came to Paul’s aid, he would later author the Gospel of Mark! What marvelous grace!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Inquisition of Jesus, and a Cross-Bearer (Mark 15; Luke 23)

Scripture reading – Mark 15; Luke 23

The Middle East has always been a boiling caldron mixed with violence, rebellion, and nation seeking to conquer nation.  In Jesus’ day, the Romans were imposing their “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace) on Israel, but many Jews were unhappy under Rome’s oppression. They despised paying Roman taxes and disdained the presence of Roman soldiers.

For Rome, the threat of rebellion was constant and no Roman official was more efficient at putting down insurrection than Pilate, the Roman procurator appointed by Caesar Tiberius. Pilate’s harsh rule fueled rebellion and fanned revolution among the people. The news of his excessive cruelties even reached to the ears of Caesar.

Trials under the cloak of darkness were illegal, and forbidden by the law, but the chief priests, elders, and scribes were not interested in the smallest pretense of justice or law. Their goal was to see Jesus put to death, and the slightest formality would not stand in their way. The Gospel of John recorded the first trial held covertly in the darkness of the night. Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of the ruling high priest, was the presiding judge (John 18:12-23). The second trial, as illegal as the first, was held before Caiaphas, the current high priest (Matthew 26:57-68).

The Inquisition Before Pilate (15:1-15)

The third trial occurred “straightway in the morning” (15:1), and was before the Sanhedrin, the 70-member tribunal that consisted of the high priest, elders, scribes, and other wealthy Jewish leaders. Having ruled Jesus must be put to death, but lacking the authority to do so under Roman law, the “whole council” “delivered [Jesus] to Pilate” for sentencing (15:1b).

Pilate entertained the accusations against Jesus that were brought by the chief priests, elders and scribes. The powerful Roman procurator was amazed Jesus was silent, and refused to answer His accusers (15:2-5).  Pilate understood Jesus’ adversaries were not interested in justice, and were motivated by “envy” and spite (15:10). He unsuccessfully attempted to free Jesus from the entanglement of Jewish injustice (15:6-9).

Because there was a tradition to free a prisoner during the Passover, Pilate suggested Jesus be freed (15:9). Yet, the chief priests stirred up the people to demand he “release Barabbas unto them” (15:11), a notorious robber, insurrectionist and murderer (15:7, 11).

A Travesty of Judgment: Innocence Condemned (15:14-20)

Though he declared Jesus to be innocent, saying, “I find no fault” in Him (Luke 23:4), Pilate nevertheless yielded to the cry of the bloodthirsty mob (15:14). He made the fateful decision against his own soul, and “willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (15:15).

The Lord’s fate being decided, Roman soldiers led Jesus to a judgment hall called the Praetorium (15:16). They called “together the whole band” of soldiers (some 40-60 men), and began to mock and humiliate Jesus (15:16). They adorned Him in a robe of purple, “and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head” (15:17). They mocked and hailed him as, “King of the Jews!” (15:18). They struck Him about the head, spat upon Him, and made a pretense of “bowing their knees” and worshipping Jesus (15:19). Stripping Him of the purple robe, they then “led Him out to crucify Him” (15:20).

Simon a Cyrenian: Bearer of Christ’s Cross (15:21-22)

The scourging, beatings, and loss of blood had left Jesus weakened and unable to bear the beam of the Cross to Golgotha (the place of the skull, 15:22). Along the way, a man named “Simon a Cyrenian” was compelled to assist Jesus with His Cross (15:21). It is on that fact; I invite you to pause and ponder a question: “What became of Simon after he helped bear the cross on which Jesus was crucified?” 

I invite you to consider Mark 15:21 to address that question: “And they [the Roman soldiers] compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross” (15:21).

Mark gave the names of Simon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus. First century believers apparently knew those men. It is only my speculation, but I wonder if Alexander and Rufus, like their father Simon, became believers and followers of Christ. I cannot prove that point; however, of the thousands saved following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the mention of that father and his sons by name, gives me hope they were well known believers in that day.

Closing thoughts (15:27-34) – I do not know what became of Simon after he bore the cross to Golgotha, but I like to think he stood near the cross and observed Jesus, an innocent, sinless man, dying and bearing the sins of those who crucified Him.  Simon’s Passover pilgrimage from Cyrene (northwest Africa, our modern Libya) providentially led him to the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36).

Have you been to Golgotha, the place the Romans called Calvary? Have you gazed upon the man dying in the midst of two thieves (15:27-28; Isaiah 53:9a)?  Have you listened as the crowd cried for His crucifixion, listened as He prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34)?  Behold the man, not only forsaken by those whom He loved, but in the darkness praying as He bears the penalty of our sins, praying, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Is He your Savior? If not, I invite you to confess you are a sinner, and “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep (Luke 20)

Scripture reading – Luke 20

Putting today’s Scripture reading in its historical context, remember Jesus is ministering in the midst of the week He will be betrayed by Judas, face a mock trial, and be crucified.

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the introductory verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders (“the chief priests and the scribes…with the elders”), came and confronted Him in the Temple (20:1). They demanded by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2; Matthew 21:27-27; Mark 11:27-33).

Jesus, evidencing divine wisdom and discernment into the heart of man answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”  (20:3b-4). Fearing the people, the leaders refused to answer (20:5-7). Then, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (20:8).

Parable of the Wicked Tenants (20:9-19)

Jesus then turned from the hypocrites who masqueraded as devout religious men, and taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19; Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12).

The parable told the story of tenants [religious leaders] who labored in their master’s [God the Father’s] vineyard [Israel] while he was away. When the master sent his trusted servants [prophets] to collect the profits he was due from the vineyard, those who labored there refused. Those wicked men beat the servants, and sent them away. Finally, the master sent his own son and heir [picture of Jesus Christ] (20:13), and reasoned the tenants would surely pay his son respect and his due (20:13). The laborers [chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes], however, rose up and slew their master’s son (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of the parable was that those who rejected the Son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18). The application was so obvious, the chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus, and thus renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

A Question Concerning the Resurrection (20:27-38)

Over the years, I have had some ask me if the husband and wife relationship is bound in heaven. This is especially a concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.  While I am convinced the saints of God will know one another in heaven, I am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven. We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage (20:35).

Jesus, having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), turned to His audience, and warned His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation”  (20:46-47).

Closing thoughts – The proud and pious often are the same in the world, and their presence is found as much in the church as it is in the realm of education and politics. As it was in Christ’s day, so it is today—there are many who burden others with a demand to be favored, often while they ravage the poor and vulnerable.

Remember: Reject Christ, and you will surely suffer His judgment one day. He who knows the hearts of men, will see past the religious veneer and every man will receive his due according to his works (Matthew 16:27).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

The Pharisees, who considered themselves experts in the law of God, listened as Jesus said, “16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (16:16-17).

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 – “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 – “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Passion and Peril of a Faithful Witness (John 7; John 8)

Scripture reading – John 7; John 8

Today’s Scripture brings us to a pivotal moment in the life and ministry of Jesus. John 7 and John 8 reveal a change in Christ’s relationship with the religious rulers of His day.

He withdrew from Judaea (southern Israel that included the city of Jerusalem), and retreated to His beloved Galilee (7:1a). The reason for His decision was “because the Jews sought to kill Him (7:1),” and He was mindful His “time [was] not yet come” (7:6). Knowing His appointment with the Cross would fall on the Passover, Jesus took care not to fall prematurely into the hands of His enemies.

The Disbelief of Jesus’ Brethren (7:2-9)

The time is the fall of the year prior to Jesus’ final Passover, and verse 2 reveals “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand” (7:2). The feast of the Tabernacles was one of three feasts the Lord set aside for His people to celebrate annually (Leviticus 23:23-25; Nehemiah 8:18), and was a commemoration of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness (7:2).

Jesus’ “brethren” (half-brothers, and the sons of Joseph and Mary) urged Him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles(7:2-3). They challenged Him, saying, “there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly” (7:4a). You can draw your own conclusion regarding the half-brothers’ motivation, but the apostle John later reflected, For neither did his brethren believe in him” (7:5). Jesus refused His brothers invitation, and said, “Go ye up unto this feast [Feast of the Tabernacles]: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come” (7:7-8). Be assured, Jesus would obey the Commandments, but not on His brethren’s timetable. Christ’s timetable was in His Father’s hands.

An Inquiry by Jesus’ Enemies and Friends (7:8-13)

After exhorting His unbelieving brethren to go up to Jerusalem without Him, Jesus followed, “not openly, but as it were in secret” (7:10). The “Jews” (meaning the religious rulers and leaders), were awaiting Jesus’ attendance at the Feast of the Tabernacles, and not seeing Him, began to question, “Where is He?” (7:9-11).

The people, anticipating Jesus would be at the feast, fell into a contentious debate among themselves saying of Jesus, “He is a good man [loving; caring; compassionate]: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth [leads astray] the people [i.e. with His doctrine]” (7:12). There were many who believed Jesus was the Christ, but for fear of spies, they dared not speak “openly of Him for fear of the Jews” (7:13).

An Unexpected Appearance (7:14-15)

Jesus followed His brethren covertly to Jerusalem, and His enemies were unprepared when He suddenly appeared in the Temple and began to teach (7:14). The Jewish leaders had contempt for Jesus, knowing He lacked a formal rabbinic education, and were stunned by His insight and understanding of the Scriptures. They “marveled [at His teachings], saying, How knoweth this man letters [meaning an understanding of the Law and Commandments], having never learned [lacking academic credentials]?” (7:15)

A Stunning Revelation (7:16-18)

While Jesus lacked the formal training of the rabbinical schools, it surely did not mean He was ignorant or unlearned. Neither was His doctrine of His own invention. Jesus declared, “My doctrine [teaching; instruction] is not mine, but his [God the Father] that sent me” (7:16).

Closing thoughts (7:17-18) – I suggest we can derive two principles from Jesus’ response to His enemies. The first: A humble, teachable spirit is essential for knowing and understanding the Word and will of God: “17If any man will do his will [the will of God], he shall know of the doctrine [teaching; instruction], whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (7:17). Put in a different way, God gives wisdom and understanding to those who “will” to do His “will.”

A second truth is revealed in verse 18: One can judge a man’s heart and motive by whose glory he seeks: “18He that speaketh [reasons] of himself [speaks of himself] seeketh his own glory [his own fame or the favor of others]: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him [giving glory, honor and praise to God], the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (7:18).

False teachers are “glory-seekers.”  They are interested in self-promotion, and seek to advance themselves, even at the sacrifice of others. They seek glory for themselves, and not that of God.

Whose glory are you seeking?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What is in Your Heart? (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

Our study of the Synoptic Gospels continues with Matthew and Mark recording the same events in the life and ministry of Christ. Though it is doubtful either author could have read the writing of the other (this was 14 centuries before the printing press, and there were few handwritten copies of the Scriptures), we once again marvel at the proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). As you will see, Matthew and Mark complement one another in their unique perspective.

In earlier devotions we have considered the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14). Today’s Scripture reading present a similar miracle known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand or TheMiracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21). Because the miracles are so similar, I will focus instead upon the confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 15:1-20, and Mark 7:1-23).

The Accusers and Their Accusations (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:1-5)

Matthew and Mark report the scribes [experts in the Law and traditions] and Pharisees came to Jesus, and accused the disciples of transgressing “the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread” (15:1-2). Those religious leaders were offended the disciples did not practice the ritualistic washing that was a tradition in Israel.

Jesus Condemned Hypocrisy (15:3-9)

These pious leaders were focusing on their own traditions as though they were commandments of God, while ignoring what the commandments actually said. Yet, those leaders were no different than religious leaders of our day who replace commandments with traditions. Jesus ignored the premise of their question, and asked, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (15:3)

What a powerful response! Rather than waste precious time debating their ill-founded criticisms, Jesus admonished them. They usurped the authority of the Scriptures, and Jesus charged they were guilty of breaking the fifth commandment which dealt with honoring father and mother (Exodus 20:12). The LORD warned, “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death” (15:4b; Exodus 21:17).

Lip Service vs. Heart Service (Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:9-13)

The scribes and Pharisees had not only failed to instruct the people, but encouraged them to dismiss their obligation to care for the physical needs of their fathers and mothers. By their traditions, they disavowed an adult child’s responsibility for his parents’ welfare. They taught, declare “Corban” (meaning, it’s a gift; Mark 7:11-12), and saying one could dedicate his wealth and possessions to the LORD and be under no obligation to father or mother (Mark 7:12).

Jesus condemned them as hypocrites (Matthew 15:7), and quoted the prophet Isaiah: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Because they masked their hypocritical hearts with external rituals, Jesus warned their worship was in vain (Matthew 15:8-9).

Watch Your Mouth, and Your Heart (Matthew 15:10-20)

Our devotional study will conclude with a brief examination of things that defile a man. After confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (15:7), Jesus called on the people to give Him their attention, and said, “Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (15:10-11). While the Pharisees put their emphasis on whether or not a man ate with clean or unclean hands, Jesus warned it was not what a man put into his mouth, but that which proceeded out of his mouth that defiled (in other words, deemed oneself sinful and unfit before God, 15:11).

The disciples came to Jesus, but rather than express concern for the false doctrine of the Pharisees, they voiced alarm He had offended the Pharisees (15:12). Jesus rebuked His disciples, and warned God would uproot that which He had not planted (meaning the false teachers and their doctrines, and traditions of men, 15:13). Leave the spiritually blind teaching the blind, for “both shall fall into the ditch” (15:14).

Peter, often the spokesman for the Twelve, asked, “Declare unto us this parable” (15:15). What parable? The one Christ taught when He said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (15:11).

The disciples were slow learners, and missed the point: Physical food goes in and out of a man, and does not defile (15:16-17). Yet, the things which come out of a man’s mouth reflects the spiritual condition of his heart (15:18). What is the heart? In the Scriptures the heart of man is the seat of his inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. What sins lie in the heart of man? Matthew wrote, “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (15:19). Mark added, “covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (7:22).

Closing thoughts – The Pharisees focused on whether or not a man’s hands were ceremonially clean, and ignored the condition of a man’s heart (15:20). What is the condition of man’s heart? The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus confirmed the same, for evil arises within the heart of man and defiles him.

Don’t be beguiled by spiritual blindness or piety! The LORD knows your heart, and He alone can purge your heart from the filthiness that lies within.

1 John 1:7–97But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9, Luke 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

We continue our study of the Gospels and the early ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 9, Jesus not only established His authority to forgive sins, but also demonstrated His compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day. Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7).

A Miracle of Forgiveness and Healing (9:1-8)

Like Mark (2:2-12) and Luke (5:17-26), Matthew recorded the account of Jesus forgiving a paralytic man his sins, and raising him from his bed (9:1-8). Matthew took notice how the scribes whispered among themselves, saying, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3). Jesus, exercising His divine omniscience, knew “their thoughts” and asked, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4)

What a bold rebuke of those proud, religious experts in the Law! Jesus proposed to them a question, and asked: “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” (9:5) To prove His divine authority to forgive sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could: “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). Jesus not only stated the man’s sins were forgiven, He proved He had authority over sickness and disease to make the man’s body whole. The paralytic, obeying Jesus’ command, rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment! All who witnessed the miracle “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

A Friend of Sinners (9:9-13)

Matthew recorded the day Jesus invited him to be a disciple (the same was recorded in Mark 2:14 and Luke 4:27-28). That same evening, Matthew hosted supper in his home and invited his fellow publicans and sinners to dine with Jesus (9:10). “When the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Why eat with publicans and sinners? (9:11-13)

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). You see, men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and not to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent. The LORD had compassion for sinners who were humbled under the weight of their sin, and willing to repent (9:13).

Closing thoughts – In addition to the paralytic whom He healed (9:2-7), Jesus raised the daughter of a leader of the synagogue from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), healed a woman that had “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), gave sight to two blind men (9:27-30), delivered a man from a demon (9:32-33), and healed “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

With multitudes following Him, Jesus was “moved with compassion” (9:36-38), for He saw they were weary, scattered, and like “sheep having no shepherd” (9:36). He saw the potential (for “the harvest…[was] plenteous”, 9:37a). He saw the need, for “the labouers are few” (9:37b). He called upon believers to “pray…that He [would]send forth labourers into his harvest” (9:38).

In the words of Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.