E Pluribus Unum


You may be familiar with the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unumout of the many, one. You see this 13-letter phrase on the Great Seal of the United States, carried in the beak of the Bald Eagle. It was intended to communicate the message that out of the many states emerges one single nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I’d like to use that phrase to offer you a word of great encouragement: there is an eternal E Pluribus Unum that has been given to the church by its leader, our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explains it to us in the following passage.

As a prisoner for the Lord I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Here we see the eternal E Pluribus Unum: out of the many, one. To be sure, we are diverse in countless ways:

  • Race
  • Class
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Appearance
  • Social standing
  • Gifts, talents, and abilities

But at the same time, we are to find our unity in our diversity. All of us who have placed our trust in Jesus Christ are totally united because of the One who has united us. Notice in the passage above that Paul says, “Make every effort to keep [maintain] the unity of the Spirit.” This unity is not something we create when we are brought into the church; it is a gift that has been given to us from on high. Our role within the body is simply to maintain our unity because, as the church of Jesus Christ, we are one body and one spirit united by a common purpose: to glorify God and expand the cause of the kingdom of Christ.

Think about it this way. As a member of this “one body,” you are part of something bigger than just your own life. You are part of the kingdom of God. You have been called by God to expand the borders of your life out to the boundaries of God’s kingdom. Never are you to shrink the borders of your life down to the borders of your life! Living for the Savior (rather than for self) is living a life of transcendence. It is living a life of meaning, purpose, and significance. It is living a life that truly matters.

So . . . how does that make you feel today . . . knowing that you were made to live for something bigger than your own life? I hope you feel encouraged today to live in the light of eternity—today and every day until you are received into glory.

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

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Faithful Finisher


We all live lives marked by unfinished business. How often we start out well, only to find our dreams unrealized and our goals unaccomplished. But this is not so for our Lord. God always finishes everything He starts . . . and that includes what He starts with YOU!

The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” (Isaiah 14:24)

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8 ESV)

These are words of incredible comfort for the people of God. Our God does not abandon the works of His hand. What God begins, He finishes. His every purpose will be accomplished exactly as He has planned. His promised purpose of a new heavens and a new earth will one day be accomplished. His promised purpose of a new humanity—a people for Himself—will one day be accomplished. Nothing can thwart the purposes of God. He who begins . . . will bring to completion. He who starts . . . always finishes.

There certainly would be no comfort in thinking that it is up to us to complete what God begins in our lives. If this were true, our faith would falter and our hope would be hollow. We would experience no lasting victory against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We would be utterly lost! But God does not get our salvation started and expect us to keep it going by the spiritual sweat of our brow. God begins in grace, He carries on in grace, and He will one day complete in grace. The same grace that saves us also sanctifies us, and God will not stop one step short of the finish line, when we will be perfected and received into glory.

He will complete what he appoints for me . . . (Job 23:14 ESV)

Regardless of where this finds you today, let this truth set you free from anything that is hindering your forward progress. Yes, our lives are often marked by taking one step forward and two steps back. At times we find ourselves standing atop the summit and at others we are wallowing in the depths of the valley. But through it all, our God is conforming us more and more into the likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

Remember, it is God’s perfect plan to adopt imperfect people and perfect them. He takes our mess—all of our mess—and turns it into His masterpiece. He takes what is broken and makes it whole, and He does it for the praise and glory of His name. It is His faithfulness to us, not our faithfulness to Him, that makes this promise sure. Do not doubt that your God will finish what He started in you. Trust Him to make good on His promise, and trust Him to do it His way and in His timing.

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

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The True Overcomer – Part III


This is the final article in our series on Jesus, the True Overcomer. I’ve stated that we are often urged to be overcomers ourselves; in order to do that, we must first fix our gaze on the One who overcame our sin, our unbelief, and even death itself. On Monday we discussed the first pillar of The True Overcomer: the active obedience Jesus displayed in His life. On Wednesday we examined the second pillar: the passive obedience He demonstrated in His death. Today we will look at the third and final pillar of the True Overcomer: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The angel said to the woman, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6)

Job asked one of the most profound questions that can ever asked: “If someone dies, will they live again?” (Job 14:14). The answer to that suffering saint’s question is a resounding “Yes,” and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is indisputable proof. It is God’s stamp of approval on both the active and passive obedience of His Beloved Son. The Father demonstrated that He fully accepted the atoning sacrifice of the Son. And because the Son was raised from the dead, all those who have, by grace through faith, placed their trust in Jesus Christ will be raised from the dead as well.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

This is the fifth of Jesus’ seven great “I AM” statements recorded in the gospel of John, all of which point to the deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus was asserting that He has the power of both life and death. Jesus not only gives us life; He IS our life. Jesus not only gives us the resurrection; He IS our resurrection. By believing in Jesus Christ, we have life in His name. The resurrection of Jesus is the final, ultimate proof of His assurance in John 16:33—“Take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The German Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide once said this:

I accept the resurrection of Easter Sunday, not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event. If the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on that Easter Sunday were a public event which had been made known . . . not only to 530 Jewish witnesses but to the entire population, all Jews would have become followers of Jesus.

Let me close out this week of eternal encouragement about Jesus, the only True Overcomer the world has ever seen, with these words:

Jesus entered this world through a door marked

“NO WAY IN” – a Virgin’s womb . . .

And exited this world through a door marked

“NO WAY OUT” – a dead man’s tomb!!

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

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The True Overcomer – Part II


As I wrote in Monday’s blog, we all hear a lot of talk about “being an overcomer.” I said that before we can begin to understand the process of being an overcomer, we must first take a good look at The True Overcomer: Jesus Christ. Just hours before He was to be arrested and ultimately put to death, our Lord told His disciples:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

This series of articles was drawn from a sermon I preached at Cross Community Church, which outlined the three pillars that point to the True Overcomer: On Monday I discussed Pillar #1, His life, which was marked by His active obedience. Today I’d like to showcase Pillar #2—His death.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

In theological circles, this aspect of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ is called His “passive obedience.” The sinless Lamb of God took our place on the cross . . . He took your place and mine . . . He took our scourging . . . He took our nails . . . He took our crown of thorns . . . He took our death . . . and He did it all in complete passive obedience to the will of the Father. You’ll recall that in the Garden of Gethsemane . . .

Jesus fell with his fact to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus did not turn away from the cup that was handed to Him on that first Good Friday; He drank the full cup of God’s wrath and judgment for the forgiveness of our sins. In His passive obedience, Jesus overcame the world and there is no better place to see this truth than in the supernatural event that took place in the Temple at the moment of His death:

When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.(Matthew 27:50-51)

Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, our sins have separated us from God, blocking our vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father. The Temple curtain was a visible symbol of this truth: only the High Priest could go past this curtain into the presence of God and this only one day each year to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. But Jesus overcame the world in His death and He has given us—both Jew and Gentile alike—unlimited access to God . . . any time, any place!

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.  (Hebrews 10:19-20)

The death of our Lord Jesus was the death of death. Jesus overcome it all by His active obedience—living the perfect, sinless life—and also by His passive obedience. He died in our place and paid the penalty for our sin . . . all of our sin . . . past, present, and still to come.

On Friday, we’ll examine the third and final pillar of the True Overcomer: His Resurrection.

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

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The True Overcomer – Part I


I hope to encourage you this week by expanding on a portion of a sermon I preached last month at Cross Community Church, entitled “The True Overcomer.” There is a lot of talk these days about overcoming this and overcoming that, but before we can begin to understand the process of being an overcomer, we must first take a good look at the One who is the True Overcomer: His name is Jesus Christ.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Notice first what our Lord did not say; He did not say, “I will overcome the world” or “I hope to overcome the world.” He simply stated, “I have overcome the world.” And remember, Jesus spoke these words just hours before He would be betrayed, arrested, beaten, nailed to a cross. When Jesus announced that He had overcome the world, He knew—He had told His disciples several times—that before the sun set on the next day He would be dead and buried.

In the eyes of the world and the disciples, Good Friday did not look like Jesus had overcome anything! Rather, it looked like the world had completely overcome Him. And yet . . . three days later, when Jesus got up and walked out of that tomb, the world was turned upside down!

This week we’ll look at the three pillars that point to the True Overcomer: Today we’ll examine Pillar #1, which is His life; on Wednesday, I’ll show you Pillar #2, which is His death; and on Friday, we’ll look at His resurrection, which is Pillar #3.

Pillar #1 – His Life

Jesus overcame the world by the life He lived. As you know, Jesus was not born on Good Friday; He was born on Christmas morning, so that He could live the life we could not live and fulfill the demands of the Law that we could never hope to meet. He fulfilled the Law of God completely—every jot and tittle of it—in order that we could receive His perfect righteousness, because we have no righteousness in and of ourselves. As Isaiah said, even our righteous acts are no more than filthy rags when compared to the perfect holiness of Almighty God.

In theological circles, Jesus’ perfect, sinless life is called His “active obedience.” In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)

In fulfilling the Law of God, Jesus earned for us the righteousness we could never get on our own. Scripture tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Despite every temptation that the world, the flesh, and the devil could throw at him, Jesus’ perfect life—His active obedience—makes Him the True Overcomer.

One final note of encouragement for you before we close for today: during His wilderness experience and battle with the devil, remember what Jesus used as the source of His strength to overcome temptation: the Word of God. For each of the three temptations the devil threw at Him, Jesus responded each time by quoting Scripture—IT IS WRITTEN . . . IT IS WRITTEN . . . IT IS WRITTEN! That is the key to being an overcomer like our Lord. Study the Word of God—marinate in it and memorize it—and you will be well on your way to becoming an overcomer.

I hope you’ll be back on Wednesday, when we will look at Pillar #2—His death.

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

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Exchanging the Creator for Created Things


When was the last time you considered just how easy it is to fall into the trap of exchanging the Creator for created things? And I am not just speaking about those created things that we would put under the heading of “Bad”—possessions that possess us, worldliness, and instant gratification. We often exchange the Creator for some very good created things, such as . . .

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Finances
  • Success
  • Work
  • Church service
  • Hobbies
  • Possessions

Can you think of other “good” created things that we exchange for the Creator? Our selfish, sinful human hearts can begin beating for the good gifts God has given us rather than the Giver of those good gifts Himself. Because we are created to worship, if we are not worshipping our Creator, we will find some created thing to worship. We simply cannot live without an object to worship! So it’s not a question of whether we worship, but rather what we are worshipping.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created tings rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:25)

But this is not for you! Let the words that follow bring you strength and courage today to rise above a life given over to created things, stopping at nothing short of keeping the Creator on the throne of your life.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2}

In this very first of the Ten Commandments God gave to His delivered people, He reminded them what their first priority in both life and death is to be: GOD! And what God told His people then He is telling you and me today.

Worshipping created things is not as strange as it might sound. To be sure, we think it strange to bow down to a sacred cow or a golden calf. We are far too sophisticated for that! What we do is make gods out of everything else.

God knows the sinful nature of the human heart and just how easy it would be for our hearts to begin beating for something smaller than God. So after having freed His people from over 400 years of bondage and slavery in Egypt, God reminded His people of His deliverance as a means of making the Creator the object of their worship. Notice the language: I am the Lord your God . . . I brought you out of Egypt . . . I brought you out of the land of slavery. Our God wants us to remember how He and He alone has delivered us. Now, I know we have not been delivered out of bondage in Egypt; but make no mistake, we have been delivered out of bondage to sin, Satan, and death. These no longer reign in the life of the believer, but they still remain, which is why we must keep our focus on our Deliverer. Our deliverance should be a source of continual comfort, courage, and strength to encourage us to love God and use things, rather than love things and use God as a means to an end.

Take a moment to consider . . . where in your life right now have you exchanged the Creator for created things? Remember, these can be really, really good things. But good things become bad things when they become ultimate things. Does your work sit on the throne of your life? How about a relationship or family? For parents, it can be children who become their object of worship. Perhaps your money or possessions?

God will tolerate no rival, nor should He. Give God His rightful place on the throne of your life, and your good gifts will become great gifts because the Giver of them is glorified!

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

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An Unholy Hatred



Did you know that hate is a very good thing . . . when it is directed at the right object and delivered in such a way that it does not cause us to sin?

Let those who love the Lord hate evil. (Psalm 97:10)

Here we see the positive aspect of a holy hatred. All those who love God must hate every evil. To be sure, the longer we walk with our Lord and the closer we get to Him, the more we will hate the things He hates. This is one of the surest proofs that we are in Christ. As we become increasingly more conformed to His image, we will increasingly hate all the things God hates. God hates sin . . . we are to hate sin. God hates injustice . . . we are to hate injustice. God hates death . . . we are to hate death. These are holy hatreds; as the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NKJV). We can hate and still not be in sin.

An unholy hatred, however, is a poison that leads to death by slowly eating away at us from the inside out. What starts as an infection, if left untreated, winds up a malady. Make no mistake, the Scriptures remind us that hatred left unchecked becomes a “root of bitterness” that springs up within our hearts (Hebrews 12:15). An unholy hatred destroys both our walk with Jesus and our witness to others. That “root of bitterness” is like a time bomb, just waiting to explode and devastate our testimony. The key to keep this from happening is to keep short accounts with everyone about everything and to actually live out the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer:—“Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors”—for the glory of God.

The model for living out this forgiveness, of course, was supplied to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Does Jesus hate evil? You need look no further than His cleansing of the temple to see that He most certainly does!

He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  (John 2:15-16)

But Jesus was the perfect, sinless Lamb of God. He never once sinned in His anger. And when He was on the receiving end of a hatred more unholy than anything in all humanity’s history . . . He showed the amazing grace of God. Was there ever a being so lovely, so kind, so gracious, so merciful, and so loving as Jesus? And yet from the moment of His birth—when the sword of Herod sought to end His divine life, throughout His three-plus years in ministry—right up to His dying breath on the cross, an unholy hatred followed Him everywhere He went.

This unholy hatred was hurled at Him by both enemies and friends. You will remember that the cries of the crowd changed from “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “Crucify Him!” in less than a week. Before the fresh-cut palm fronds they were waving during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem had even turned brown, the crowd swung from exaltation to execution.

They hated me without reason. (John 15:25)

Never was there a reason to hate our Lord. Yet from the religious leaders to the Roman authorities to the common and the poor, their voices were unified in their unholy hatred for Jesus Christ. They laughed and mocked Him as He hung in agony on that cross. And how did Jesus respond? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Here was the vilest, the unholiest hatred the world has ever conceived; yet instead of calling down fire from heaven, Jesus called down forgiveness!

If you should one day find yourself on the receiving end of some kind of unholy hatred, take it to the cross. Keep firmly in your mind what our Lord did when confronted with it; the most unimaginable unholy hatred could not conquer His holy love!

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

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