Mark 7

Read Mark 7.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were careful to observe the ceremonial washings that other men had created (vv. 1-4) so they were offended when Jesus and his disciples did not follow that ceremony (v. 5).

Jesus used their complaint to charge them with hypocrisy for holding religiously to man-made traditions while looking for religious reasons to avoid doing God’s will (vv. 6-13). Christ used the specific example of “corban” to illustrate this sinful choice. Let me explain what “corban” is: One of the Ten Commandments was to “honor your father and mother” (v. 10). We teach this command to children and of course it applies to them. But the command was originally given to adults which suggests that there were responsibilities that adults had to their parents. Honoring one’s parents may mean giving them financial assistance as they get older. Their society had no concept like “retirement” and no financial way to prepare for getting older, so an elderly person would have to work until he/she died or live on the support of their children. Jesus applied the commandment to honor your parents to this kind of financial support. To Christ, if you want to honor your parents, you’d better share your home, your food, and/or your income when they have needs. This is a very logical application of the commandment to honor your parents.

BUT: the most religious people in Jesus’ society found a way to use their religious rules to render themselves unable to help their parents. They would take a portion of their income or some of their assets and make an oath to give that to God–someday. That’s what “corban” means, a gift dedicated to God.

If something has been dedicated to God, then it would be morally wrong to give it to someone else, even their own elderly parents. That’s what people did to retain wealth instead of providing for their elderly parents. That is what Jesus is objecting to in Mark 7:11.

The very religious people in Jesus’s audience here in Mark 7 intentionally applied God’s word in ways that helped them avoid the difficult applications of other portions of God’s word. In the words of Jesus, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (v. 9).

Do we do that? Do we ever apply scripture in ways that let us off the hook for obeying other passages of scripture? If we use the truth of God’s electing grace as an excuse not to share the gospel, then we are doing something like the Pharisees did. What about if we buy a large house for the good of our family but can’t tithe and pay the mortgage at the same time? What about if we volunteer to serve in one ministry in order to avoid getting into a small group or coming to the worship service?

Consider what Jesus said about this practice of the Pharisees: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Don’t apply one command of God’s word in a way that helps you avoid obeying another command. That reveals a heart that is distant from God, not one that wants to honor and obey him.

Acts 8

Read Acts 8.

Jesus said that the disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the earth back in Acts 1:8. Here chapter 8 of Acts, persecution (vv. 1, 4-5) moved the gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria.

Phillip, one of the first deacons (see Acts 6:5) went to Samaria, preaching the Gospel, and God began saving some of the Samaritans (v. 12). In verses 14-17, two of the Apostles–Peter and John–came up to Samaria to confirm that these Samaritans were genuine Christians. Many charismatic brothers and sisters of ours, and some non-charismatics, too, think that what Peter and John did is the normal Christian experience. In other words, some Christians think that every Christian needs to receive the Holy Spirit after they believe in Jesus. This is sometimes called the “Second Work of Grace” or the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t agree with the interpretation that this is the normal Christian experience. I think this passage records an important phase in the development of the early church. I don’t want to go into that here in this devotional, but at the end of this devotional I’ll link to a page that explains my belief better than I can explain it.

What stands out to me is how Simon the Sorcerer (vv. 9-11) believed the gospel (vv. 12-13), yet wanted to buy the apostles’ power for himself (vv. 18-19). Peter rebuked him (vv. 20-23) and he repented (v. 24), so it looks like he was a genuine Christian. Had he not repented, it would have shown that his confession of faith was false (v. 20: “May your money perish with you”).

Yet, despite being a genuine Christian, he desires spiritual power for selfish reasons (v. 23). Verse 9 told us that Simon “boasted that he was someone great” so it seems, based on Peter’s rebuke (vv. 22-23) that he still had this desire in him. He wanted power to do ministry so that people would look up to him as a great man.

While they may not seek supernatural power like Simon did, many Christians do ministry for the same reason that Simon wanted the power to give the Holy Spirit. Some ministries–preaching, teaching, music. leadership–give people the opportunity to be looked up to, admired, and obeyed. When we aspire to serve God for ourselves, our hearts are “captive to sin” (v. 23). It is only a matter of time before our false motives will be revealed.

Because we’re all human, we all have mixed motives at times. Just as Peter confronted Simon and called him to repent, you and I may, at times, need the corrective rebuke of other believers when our ministry motives are mixed up and sinful.

Are you serving God for the right reasons? Do you regularly assess your heart and ask God to purify your motives? Are you willing to receive godly rebuke when your sinful motives slip out?

A healthy faith–and a healthy church–is not made up of perfection. It is made up of genuine believers who are growing. Part of that growth comes from having our movies purified, even in response to the rebuke of others.


I said I would link to an article here at the end. Here is that article: https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/dealing-with-difficult-texts-acts-8-14-25

Luke 12

Read Luke 12.

In verse 1, Jesus warned the disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees” which he defined as “hypocrisy.” The hypocrisy he had in mind has four elements:

  1. Create a system of rules that define what godliness is. These can be based on biblical commands but made specific and rigid.
  2. Live by that system rigorously on the outside.
  3. Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system of rules.
  4. Sin privately, if you think you can get away with it. Your sin can be a private violation of the rules you say you live by or it can be a violation in other areas.

Let me make up an example. Here in Luke 12:21 Jesus condemned someone who “stores up things for themselves.” Let’s say I take that phrase out of context and say, “This means it is wrong to save money in a bank account. You should have no bank accounts because that is a place to store up things for yourself. Instead, you should spend money as you need it and give the rest away.” Let’s run this example through the four elements listed above:

  1. Create a system of rules: “Don’t store up things for yourself” = never have a bank account.
  2. Live by that system on the outside: I close all my bank accounts, sell all the assets I have and give the proceeds away.
  3. Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system: I start protesting outside banks with signs that say, “God hates banks.” I rail against bank customers coming in and out and, if I see someone writing a check in a store, I give that person a hard time about their sin.
  4. Sin privately: Unknown to you, I shrink-wrap thousands of dollars in cash and store it in my attic. Or maybe I do have a bank account my wife’s name or in the name of some corporation that I own.

So, personally, I don’t have a bank account. By any technical definition, I am living righteously as I have defined it. But my shrink-wrapped cash and/or my bank account in someone else’s name is a way to store value for myself. By my definition of sin and righteousness, I’m technically righteous.

But in reality, I’m disobedient to Luke 12:21 (as I have incorrectly interpreted it) by storing up value for myself in another way.

According to this example, I’m a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is like yeast in the sense that a little bit expands until it permeates everything just like yeast expands until it ferments an entire loaf of bread. Once I start feeling good about the rule I’ve made and how I’ve been able to live up to it and condemn others, I’ll make more rules.

But hypocrisy doesn’t always involve manmade rules. We can be hypocrites if we demand obedience to clear and true commands of scripture while privately disobeying them. So,

  • Are you hard on others for a sin that you secretly enjoy?
  • Do you condemn others who fail to do right even though you don’t do right in that area either?

If so, then Jesus said: “You’re a hypocrite.” While none of us is perfectly consistent, the hypocrite is harsh when condemning the failings of others yet, s/he makes excuses for their own failures in the same area.

And, since hypocrisy grows and spreads like yeast, eventually your hypocrisy in one area will invade and corrupt other areas of your life. One problem with living in hypocrisy, however, is that eventually your secrets will be known (vv. 2-3). This fact should give us greater sense of humility and a deeper compassion for sinners who may struggle more obviously with the areas where we struggle as well.

Are you living in hypocrisy? Are you projecting a life of obedience and holiness while attempting to hide sin in your own life? Repent–change your mind–and ask God to help you root out the hypocrisy in your life.

None of us is perfect. We all struggle with things we know to be sinful; that’s not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending not to struggle and being hard on those who are. It is an additional sin, layered on top of other sins you commit.

1 Kings 19, Amos 5, 1 Peter 5

Read 1 Kings 19, Amos 5, and 1 Peter 5 today. This devotional is about Amos 5.

Idol worship in Israel was a constant problem after the kingdom was divided. Not all of God’s people neglected the Lord, however. There were some who maintained their worship of the Lord. These people, apparently, were longing for God’s judgment which is often called “the day of the Lord.” That phrase is used about prophetic, end time events in the Bible that are still future to us, but it was also used for days of judgment in the Old Testament that have already happened.

Verses 18-20 warned those who wanted to see their countrymen punished: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light…” (v. 18). Those who wanted God’s judgment to fall on Israel must have believed that they would be safe. They reasoned that performing the rituals of worship that the Lord commanded would protect them for his judgment. They must have been surprised, then, when the Lord said through Amos, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps” (vv. 21-23).

It is quite surprising to see God reject the worship of his people, especially since the prophets were constantly calling them to repentance (v. 6). What was the problem with the worship of those Amos described in this chapter?

There are two problems with it. First, they joined with the rest of their idol worshipping countrymen in exploiting others in court (compare verses 7, 10, and 15a with 24). Although these Israelites may have been obedient to the Lord’s commands about worship, they were disobedient to his commands in their ethics and morals. They lived a dual, hypocritical life so that they appeared devout on Saturday but lived like pagans on Sunday through Friday.

The second problem with this group was that their worship of the Lord was not exclusive and wholehearted. Verse 26 says, “You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.” The God who had redeemed them from Egypt long before (v. 25) was now just like every other false god they worshipped. They may have kept the ceremonial law of God but they broke the very first law of his commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

We face the same kind of temptation—to worship the gods of materialism, worldliness, self-centeredness, or whatever—while showing up faithfully to church on Sunday and performing the outward acts common to Christians. We also can be tempted to worship the Lord with our lips while abusing his children in our everyday life. Let’s look within today and consider whether our devotion to the Lord is complete and whether or not it is reflected in our daily ethics and morals. That’s the kind of worship that God wants because it is the kind of worship that comes from a changed heart.

Luke 12

Today’s passage for Bible reading is Luke 12.

This chapter is really about the future from beginning to end. It starts with a command against hypocrisy (v. 1) but Jesus commanded against hypocrisy because secrets will be known at the judgment (vv. 2-3) so people should live in light of God’s judgment not the judgment rendered by people (vv. 4-12).

In the middle of this teaching, some guy in the crowd interrupted Jesus and asked Jesus to step in and help him settle his estate with his brother (v. 13). Jesus turned even this interruption back to his topic about the future when he rebuked the man for his greed (vv. 14-20) because he was thinking only about his life on this earth and not on eternity (v. 21). Then, returning to his subject, Jesus told the disciples not to worry about how their daily needs will be met but to trust God to meet those needs (vv. 22-30) while they work for his kingdom (vv. 31-34) and prepare for its arrival (vv. 35-59).

Passages like this one call us to reconsider where we put our time and money. If you knew that Jesus would return tomorrow or before the end of this year or that your death was immanent, would you worry about making every last dollar? Would you care about buying a fancy new car or house if you had your basic needs for shelter and transportation cared for? Most of these disciples of Jesus lived many decades beyond this time and, unless the Lord does come soon, most of you reading this devotional have many decades left in your life as well.

But compared to infinite time–what we call “eternity” how much does six or seven or even ten decades matter? On one hand, it matters a great deal because your eternity is settled during the time you spend on this earth. But that’s in God’s hands; he’s the one who redeems and calls. If he’s called and redeemed you, does it matter if you die with a million dollars in the bank or if you have only the one dollar in your pocket to show for your life?

I believe in living wisely and planning for the future but are we doing that to control our materialistic impulses and to be wise managers of what God has provided to us or are we doing it out of fear that there may not be enough for us in the future.

And what about God’s work–are we using retirement planning as an excuse to avoid funding God’s work through the local church, church planting and missions? If so, we are living by short-sighted standards because God tells us that investments made in this life pay dividends in eternity: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv. 33-34).

Matthew 6

Today let’s read Matthew 6

We all care what other people think of us. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps us from all kinds of obnoxious, antisocial behavior, like ignoring appointments we made or showing up egregiously, unapologetically late for them.

Our concern about others’ opinion becomes a problem when it becomes the primary driver for what we do. When our lives become too focused on appearing a certain way to others, then we start doing things for appearance sake only rather than from the heart. Do this too much and your life will resemble a studio lot–on camera things look real and amazing but in reality, it is a facade.

Here in Matthew 6, Jesus spoke to us about religious life that is done only to impress others (v. 1). Jesus warned that those who lived this way “will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (v. 1). Then Christ applied this teaching to:

  • giving to the needy (vv. 2-4)
  • prayer (vv. 5-15)
  • fasting (vv. 16-18)

These were markers of spirituality in Jesus’ culture and they are still areas that can be impressive when we consider someone’s spiritual life. I wonder, though, what kind of spiritual or religious acts impress us? Perfect attendance on Sunday morning? A long history of having devotions without ever missing a day? Bible memorization or detailed Bible knowledge? Service in some work for Christ?

Jesus was not telling us never to give to the poor or to pray. In fact he spent a good amount of time in verses 5-15 teaching us to pray so that we would know how to do it in a way that glorifies him instead of ourselves. Similarly, we should not stop doing something for God or to grow in our faith just because someone is (or might be) impressed by it. Nor should we stop serving the Lord just because we may struggle with inconsistent motivation. Instead, we need to examine our hearts and ask God to help us worship and serve him from the heart and not to impress or please others.

1 Chronicles 7–8, Hebrews 11, Amos 5, Luke 1:1–38

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 7–8, Hebrews 11, Amos 5, Luke 1:1–38. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Amos 5.

Idol worship in Israel was a constant problem after the kingdom was divided. Not all of God’s people neglected the Lord, however. There were some who maintained their worship of the Lord. These people, apparently, were longing for God’s judgment which is often called “the day of the Lord.” That phrase is used about prophetic, end time events in the Bible that are still future to us, but it was also used for days of judgment in the Old Testament that have already happened. Verses 18-20 warns those who wanted to see their countrymen punished: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light…” (v. 18). Those who wanted God’s judgment to fall on Israel must have believed that they would be safe. They reasoned, apparently, that performing the rituals of worship that the Lord commanded would protect them for his judgment. They must have been surprised, then, when the Lord said through Amos, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” 

It is quite surprising to see God rejecting the worship of his people, especially since the prophets were constantly calling them to repentance (v. 6). What was the problem with the worship of those Amos is describing in this chapter?

There are two problems. First, they joined with the rest of their idol worshipping countrymen in exploiting others in court (compare verses 7, 10, and 15a with 24). Although these Israelites may have been obedient to the Lord’s commands about worship, they were disobedient to his commands in their ethics and morals. They lived a dual, hypocritical life so that they appeared devout on Saturday but lived like pagans on Sunday through Friday. 

The second problem with this group is that their worship of the Lord was not exclusive and wholehearted. Verse 26 says, “You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.” The God who had redeemed them from Egypt long before (v. 25) was now just like every other false god they worshipped. They may have kept the ceremonial law of God but they broke the very first law of his commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” 

We face the same kind of temptation—to worship the gods of materialism, worldliness, self-centeredness, or whatever—while showing up faithfully to church on Sunday and performing the outward acts common to Christians. We also can be tempted to worship the Lord with our lips while abusing his children in our everyday life. Let’s look within today and consider whether our devotion to the Lord is complete and whether or not it is reflected in our daily ethics and morals. That’s the kind of worship that God wants because it is the kind of worship that comes from a changed heart.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 13, Philippians 4, Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95–96

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 13, Philippians 4, Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95–96. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 13.

Jeroboam led the northern tribes’ rebellion from Judah and the Davidic king Rehoboam, but the northern tribes were still Israelites, still descendants of Abraham, still under the covenants God made with them. Therefore they should have continued to worship the Lord. The idols Jeroboam set up in 1 Kings 12 were designed to keep these northern tribes from re-unification with Judah. If the northern kingdom (which retained the name “Israel”) had its own king, its own capital city and its own religious centers, there would be no need to go to Judah and both areas would develop their own national identity over time. Although the Lord allowed Israel and Judah to separate in judgment for Solomon’s sins, he still required his people to live by his laws. He therefore sent a prophet “from Judah to Bethel” (v. 1) to confront Jeroboam and prophesy judgment on his altar of idolatry (vv. 1-3). Part of his prophecy was immediately fulfilled (v. 5); in addition Jeroboam had a personal demonstration that the Lord was in this word from the prophet when his hand suffered from some kind of paralysis and immediate atrophy (v. 4). Having lost the use of his hand, Jeroboam did ask the Lord for healing which he immediately received (v. 6). This kind of immediate demonstration of God’s power should have turned Jeroboam’s heart in repentance and faith; however, Jeroboam continued in unbelief and disobedience to the Lord’s laws (vv. 33-34). Unbelief does not come from lack of evidence for God; it is the default expression of our human hearts due to the fall. God can do many gracious things for us, but apart from God’s transforming, saving grace, we will persist in unbelief.

Speaking of people who were disobedient to the Lord’s word, the passage continues by focusing on the unnamed man of God who delivered these prophecies to Jeroboam and was the agent of these miracles (vv. 7ff). King Jeroboam, happy to have use of his hand again, wanted to fellowship with and reward this prophet (v. 7), but the prophet explained that God had given him clear instructions not to eat or drink in Israel or take the same route back to Judah (vv. 8-9). He refused Jeroboam’s dinner invitation and found a new route home, just as God had commanded (vv. 9-10). But when another man came along, an older man claiming to be a prophet himself (vv. 11-14), the younger prophet disobeyed God’s word to him and accepted the lie of the older prophet (vv. 16-19). Although the older man lied and deceived the younger man, God spoke through the older man and prophesied judgment for the younger prophet (vv. 21-22). The judgment the older prophet foretold was vague: “Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors” (v. 22c). This was probably not welcome news, but it certainly did not sound like an immanent threat or a high price to pay for his disobedience. God did not delay, however, in executing this sentence as the younger prophet died before he even reached home (vv. 24-25). The older prophet completed the Lord’s word and buried his new friend (vv. 26-30). He even changed his estate plan and insisted that his children bury him with this younger prophet (v. 31) and affirming that his original prophecy to Jeroboam would be fulfilled (v. 32).

It is strange, isn’t it, that this older prophet would deliberately lie to the younger prophet, then be used by God to deliver the news of judgment against the younger man. Why would he tell such a lie? Was he so lonely in his service for the Lord that he would deceive God’s man for his own selfish reasons? And why was the older prophet not judged by the Lord for his lie? The scriptures do not answer these questions, nor do they tell us why the Lord bound the younger prophet by the seemingly arbitrary commands to not eat or drink or use the same route in Israel. What the passage seems to be telling us, however, is to be careful about our own obedience. It was hypocritical for the younger prophet to condemn Jeroboam’s disobedience then disobey the Lord himself. Yes, Jeroboam’s disobedience was much more serious than the younger prophet’s was. And, yes, it is true that the younger prophet was deceived by someone he thought he could trust and should have been able to trust. But the younger prophet had God’s clear word to him. He had already seen God confirm his word to Jeroboam so he should have taken God’s personal commands to him just as seriously. Furthermore, he should have known that God does not arbitrarily change his mind or his commands; the right thing to do, the wise thing to do, was to remain obedient to what God had told him despite a convincing word from a trusted older prophet. It didn’t matter if Jeroboam was the one issuing the dinner invitation (vv. 7-10) or if a trusted older prophet invited him (vv. 16-19), it was sin either way to disobey the Lord’s word. This is what we should cling to when someone we trust departs from God’s clear commands. It is always awkward and confusing to see someone we respect and admire sin or contradict God’s word, but if you walk with God long enough it will happen to you. The challenge in that moment is to cling to God’s word yourself instead of being disenchanted or falling into disobedience yourself.

One final thought: the younger prophet could have repented when he was confronted with his own disobedience. Why he didn’t repent is unknown to us; however, my understanding is that when God prophesies judgment he is giving his people the opportunity to repent. This is how we ought to receive confrontation, if it is biblical. Don’t ignore it, minimize it, make excuses for yourself, or try to refute it; embrace it as the Lord’s grace to keep you from greater sin and the consequences that come from sin. When verse 33 says, “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways…” I think we are to understand that Jeroboam heard of the demise of this young prophet and the circumstances behind it. In other words, the younger prophet’s life and death were another illustration to Jeroboam of the danger of disregarding God’s word. Yet, despite all this, he did not repent. May God give us the grace to respond properly to his word in ways the men in this passage refused to do.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.