sold out

Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far.” (Exodus 8:28)

The world welcomes our faithfulness to God as long as we do not get too carried away with it. Like Pharaoh, they will let us have our religion and our relationship with our Redeemer, as long as we only go so far with it. Pharaoh did not want to let the children of Israel go too far away from his influence, his authority, and his control, and the same is true for the world we live in today. The world will tolerate our Christianity as long as our faith does not contradict its morals or infringe upon its practices. The world cheerfully welcomes the “cultural Christian” who embraces the worldly wisdom of “tolerance” and “compromise.” But it reacts harshly when we go too far and declare that the Bible commands us to live in a certain way.

The world loves truth . . . just as long as it is not absolute. The tragic truth is that many in the church today are in bondage to Pharaoh’s demand that “You must not go very far” in your faithfulness to your God.

But this is not for you! If we are going to be true to our first love, we must walk into the wilderness and separate from the wisdom of this world. The fleshpots of Egypt have nothing of eternal value to offer us and Pharaoh seeks only that which is pleasing and profitable to him. The religion of this world tells us to do whatever seems right in our own eyes; true religion tells us to do whatever is right in the eyes of God. The religion of this world says, “If it feels good, do it.” True religion says, “Regardless of how it feels, if God says it is good, do it!”

We are in this world, but we are not of this world; we are commanded to “Come out from them and be separate” (2 Corinthian 6:17). If we are to make a difference in this world, it will be because we are different from this world.

We are not called by God to separate physically from this world, but we are to separate spiritually in every way. We are to have different dreams, different desires, and ultimately a different destination. We have a new King, and His name is Jesus Christ. He has called us to live a life that is committed to expanding the cause of His kingdom in this world. On the cross, our King not only paid the penalty for our sin, He also paid to remove both its power—and ultimately, its pleasure.

So, where does this message find you today? Have you been seduced by the “Pharaohs” of polite society who demand that you only go so far with your commitment to Christ and your relationship to your Redeemer? If that’s the case with you, remember that His mercies are new every morning. Rise up and renew your commitment to your calling as a child of God. Advance confidently in the direction He is leading, regardless of how far it takes you into the wilderness.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-27)

The choice is yours: Will you live a life that is sold out for your Savior? Do you regard Him to be more precious than the things of this world? Or will you live a life that only goes so far?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!


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Satan’s Salvation


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

The title for today’s message may sound more than a little strange to you, since I frequently emphasize God’s plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. But make no mistake, Satan has a plan of salvation too. He presented his plan to Eve in the Garden of Eden, craftily convincing her to question God’s perfect goodness. The scheme worked; Eve brought Adam into Satan’s salvation and plunged all creation into a downward spiral of corruption and death.

Satan’s salvation is rooted in living for the self. It is designed to cause us to shrink our lives down to the size of our lives and to live for nothing bigger than self. Satan offers to give us the desires of our hearts . . . as long as our hearts are beating for everything other than Almighty God. The serpent convinced Eve that she could be just like God, knowing all things and able to determine all things for herself.

Don’t be fooled by the cultural caricature that Satan wants us to be down, dejected, depressed, defeated, and destroyed. That simply isn’t true! Satan wants us to eat, drink, and be merry, to happily and heedlessly “live for the moment” right up until the moment we die . . . and to die in Satan is to die down, dejected, depressed, defeated, and ultimately destroyed for all eternity. Satan says, “Serve me, and I will bring you instant gratification with all things temporal: temporal happiness . . . temporal joy . . . temporal success . . . temporal pleasure.”

Satan’s promise to you is the same promise he made to Jesus during our Lord’s wilderness experience: “You can have it all right now, Son of God, without having to carry that terrible cross.” But eventually, the temporal must end, and that end is death and destruction. Satan’s salvation is the broad road that Jesus warned against in Matthew 7:13, and many are careening down that road right now, living for nothing bigger than the self and the sensual.

What have you been living for lately? Self or Savior? There are only two options; when you live for the self, you are actually living for Satan. He is sitting on the throne of your life, leading you further and further away from God. But when you live for your Savior, He is sitting on the throne of your life, leading you further in and further up into eternal blessing. But your Savior requires that you take up your cross and follow Him, regardless of where He is leading. Jesus may lead you beside still waters, but He will also lead you into stormy seas. Where Satan promises to give you what you want, Jesus promises to give you what is best.

Jesus dealt with and ultimately defeated Satan’s offer of salvation by resting on the promises of God, which are found in the Word of God. And that is the key for you and me. When tempted to trust in the promises of Satan, we must respond as Jesus did: “Away from me Satan, for it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:10).

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Humility Honored


All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Luke 18:14)

What should be the easiest thing in the world to do—humble ourselves—eludes us at virtually every turn. We all know that godly humility is impossible without a work of grace in the heart. But we have all come to know through painful personal experience that godly humility often seems like “mission impossible,” even with a work of grace in the heart. Yet God says that humility is to be honored and we must pursue it with every fiber of our being if we are going to put the Gospel on display and reflect the character of Christ.

So how do we do it? We keep our eyes off the self and focus entirely on the Savior. When we look to our Savior, we see humility personified: humble in His birth . . . humble in His life . . . humble in His death. Humility marked every aspect of our Lord’s life from the womb to the tomb. You see the promise in our passage today reflected in the life of Christ. God the Father exalted God the Son by raising Him from death to life. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God the Father in power and authority and dominion.

Here is a great question to ponder when pursuing a life of humility: What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:7). The answer, of course, is nothing. The more you have, the more you are indebted to the One who gave it all to you. So what do we have to be proud of? Absolutely nothing! Everything we have, everything we are, and everything we will ever be is all a gift from God. Our next heartbeat is a gift from God, and that truth should keep us small in our own eyes and serving Him in sincere gratitude.

In today’s passage, Jesus was talking about two men who went up to the Temple to pray; the Pharisee kept his eyes on himself, while the tax collector kept his eyes on God. We know this by their prayers: the Pharisee thanked God that he was not like other men, but the tax collector simply cried out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The Pharisee was counting on himself and his merit before God; the tax collector was counting on Christ and His mercy alone. The Pharisee was proud of who he was and what he had accomplished in his own strength; the tax collector was humble because of who he was and what God had accomplished for Him.

Where has your focus been lately? On yourself? Or on your Savior? Remember, humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. The less you think of yourself, the more you will begin to think of Jesus and of others. And then humility will flow through you like a river to all those with whom you come in contact.

Look to the cross. Look to Christ. Look and live a life marked by Christlike humility.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Never Letting Go


When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. (Psalm 73:21-24)

May these words from the psalmist Asaph bring you eternal encouragement as you meditate on the truth that God has made a promise to never let you go. God inspired Asaph to reassure you and me that, regardless of our falling short and all the foolishness and faithlessness we put on display, we are secure in the hand of our God. Asaph freely confessed his sins, yet he knew that he was always in the presence of his God, who had promised to hold on to Asaph through good times and bad and ultimately bring Asaph into the presence of His glory.

If we could fully grasp this truth, we would live lives marked by that supernatural peace that passes all understanding. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Not Satan. Not our sin.

So the question I must ask you today is this: Is Asaph’s confession the confession of your life too? Asaph was not the least bit confused about his sinful condition. He admitted his anger, faithlessness, thoughtlessness, and ignorance; yet he knew deep down that God never wavers in His loving kindness to us.

To always be with the Almighty is to always be on His mind and always in His heart. Think about it this way: when Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” You were on His mind and in His heart. Everything He did, He did for you. Everything He is currently doing in His providence is being done for your good. All things are working toward His predetermined plan and purpose for the entire universe . . . and that plan includes your redemption and your ultimate glorification. There is no part of your welfare that God is not watching over continually, minute-by-minute, instant-by-instant, for our God never sleeps or slumbers.

So regardless of where this message finds you today—whether you are riding the crest of the wave, peering anxiously at gathering storm clouds, or buried under the waves of challenge—remember that God is always with you.

Perhaps you are in the middle of a mess that is entirely of your own making. Perhaps you’re thinking, “I can’t cry out to God about this; my sin has brought me to this point!” Please look at today’s verse one more time: “Yet I am always with you.” Christian, let that “yet” strengthen your resolve today to rise above every obstacle you face, knowing that He who began the good work in you will not only bring it to completion one day soon, He will never let you go in the midst of that work.

You have His Word on it.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Scarlet Cord Christian


“This oath will not be binding on us . . . unless you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down . . .” And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. (Joshua 2:17-18, 21)

More than 3,000 years ago, Rahab trusted in the God of Israel instead of the stone walls of the city of Jericho; and the rest, as they say, is His-story. Read on and be encouraged!

After aiding the Hebrew spies who came to scout the city by hiding them from the king of Jericho and then helping them safely escape, Rahab the prostitute was given a promise: when the Hebrew armies come to destroy the city of Jericho, you and your family will be saved . . . IF you hang a scarlet cord out of your window. Would Rahab trust in this promise from God’s people or would she trust in the protection of the walls of Jericho?

Joshua commanded the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. (Joshua 6:22-23)

Notice that Rahab’s decision to trust in the God of Israel had profound implications for all those in her family. The same is true for you and me today. Our decisions affect everyone around us. What we do and don’t do . . . what we say and don’t say . . . what we think and don’t think . . . all these impact those around us. As I’ve said here before, the well we drink from affects all those we drink with.

So . . . what well have you been drinking from lately? The well of this world or the well of God’s Word? Are you a “scarlet cord Christian,” trusting that God’s Word will come to pass, regardless of what is going on around you? Remember, as the walls of Jericho were tumbling down, Rahab held fast to her faith in the God of Israel, trusting that He would protect her and her family. The scarlet cord in her window was a sure sign of her faith in the One True and Living God.

One last thought: Rahab’s faith not only brought temporal blessing to her and her family, it brought eternal blessings as well. Rahab was ordained to be in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) and was awarded a special place in the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11:31), along with the likes of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to name just a few.

Let me present you with a second question today: What are you trusting in? The walls you have built up around you for protection? Or the Word of God, which will truly protect you from every attack of the enemy? Is there a “scarlet cord” hanging from your window? Is your faith in Jesus Christ on display for all the world to see? If not, I hope you’ll consider how you might make your faith as conspicuous as a scarlet cord to all the world. And be encouraged, because greater is the power that is in you than any power that can come against you.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Godly Gumption


As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

When was the last time you heard the word “gumption”? (In case you were wondering, it has nothing to do with the Forrest Gump movie.) I am absolutely convinced we need more gumption in the church today. That’s right, more godly gumption. Gumption is the spirited initiative or resourcefulness to confidently move in the direction God is calling, even when we do not know where He is leading.

I hope you’ll be encouraged today by taking a look at just a few of the heroes we meet in the pages of the Bible—sinners like you and me who nonetheless demonstrated godly gumption for the purpose and glory of God.

Abraham had godly gumption. God called Abraham out of his home, away from his people, and beyond the borders of his country to an unknown destination. And so, at the ripe “young” age of 75, Abraham packed up and set out with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot, ready to journey wherever God would lead them. The church needs more Abraham-like godly gumption.

Joseph had godly gumption. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and brought down into Egypt. Joseph served Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh’s officials. Joseph served so faithfully and well that Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household. But then Potiphar’s wife maliciously and falsely accused Joseph of attempting to seduce her, and Joseph was thrown into prison. But Joseph kept right on serving in excellence and once again proved himself to be a man of excellent character. Eventually he rose all the way to the position of prime minister of Egypt. Joseph demonstrated godly gumption in his rise from the pit to the palace and in all points in between. The church needs more Joseph-like godly gumption.

Esther had godly gumption. As a young Jewish woman living in exile during the Persian diaspora, Esther’s beauty and gracious behavior paved the way for her to become the queen of the Persian empire. While queen, she was made aware of Haman’s terrible plot to exterminate the Jewish people. Esther demonstrated godly gumption when she approached the king uninvited, which put her own life at risk, in order to expose Haman’s wicked, self-serving scheme. The king received Esther and ordered Haman to be executed. The Jewish people were saved. The church needs more Esther-like godly gumption . . . for such a time as this.

The Bible is full of examples of those who lived lives of godly gumption for the glory of God. Of course, there is no example greater than the one set by our Lord Jesus Christ. Every step He took was on purpose as He made His way toward Golgotha and the cross. When He set His face toward Jerusalem, nothing would keep Him from His intended destination. This was godly gumption of the highest level!

Make no mistake, the church needs more Jesus-like godly gumption. It needs it from you! If not you . . . who? If not now . . . when?

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Divine Diet


Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

The word diet can simply mean the food and drink we consume to have the nourishment we need to stay alive. “Diet” can also mean a carefully controlled regimen of food and drink that is intended to accomplish some intended goal—weight loss, weight gain, improved performance, positive change in blood chemistry, etc. Today’s word of encouragement is about a different kind of diet, one that every that every child of God should be on and never come off: that diet, beloved, is the Divine Diet.

Jesus went forty days without eating and drinking earthly food; if God so willed it, we could do the same. But how long can we go without the Word of God? Not one, single, solitary second! You see, the Word of God is Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Our next breath and heartbeat come because He graciously gives them to us. The author of Hebrews explains that Jesus sustains “all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). And that “all” includes you!

In the beginning God spoke His Word, and everything came into existence. In salvation, God speaks a Word of recreation, and we are raised from death to life. Take away the Word of God and you take away life itself. The enemy does everything within his power to keep us from that Word. He bombards us with busyness; he distracts us with delicacies; he entices us with entertainment; he sidetracks us with strongholds. But he will only succeed when we forsake our Divine Diet. A week without a diet of the Word makes us weak! And when we are weakened because we have neglected time in the Word, we are vulnerable to Satan’s slings and arrows.

So . . . what have you been feasting on lately? There is nothing that will satisfy the hunger of your soul other than the Word of God. The stuff of this world may seem to satisfy for a while, but you will soon grow faint and fall into the snare of Satan. Nothing can truly slake your thirst except the Truth Himself.

Jesus knew this truth when He did battle against Satan, and He countered every attack with the Word of God. You will remember that the devil knew the Word of God also, but here is the key difference: both Jesus and the devil were in the Word of God . . . but the Word of God was only in Jesus.

It is not enough to merely be in the Word. You must let the Word get inside of you. Meditate on it. Marinate in it. Make it your pillow at night and your guide by day. The more you get into the Word of God, the more the Word of God will get into you. Perhaps today is a good day to renew your commitment to your Divine Diet. God will be glorified and you will be blessed!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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