No Reply

Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. (Matthew 27:13-14)

Pilate pressed our Lord to speak in His own defense, and I believe that we are just as astonished as Pilate to read that Jesus “made no reply.” It certainly wasn’t because He was unsure of how to respond! After Jesus preached His incomparable Sermon on the Mount, we read that “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority” (Mathew 7:28-29). In another passage of Scripture, the temple guards — who certainly were not “fanboys” of Jesus Christ — confessed that “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46). No, Jesus was not at a loss for words when He stood before Pilate; He deliberately chose not to reply.

In the life of every disciple of Christ, there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. The key is to possess the wisdom and discernment to know what time it is! So much can be said about these two simple words, “no reply,” that can bring great encouragement into the life of the Christian. Jesus made no reply when words might have well have brought a blessing to Himself, but never once did our loving Lord withhold His words when He could bless others. 

Jesus said to the fishermen He met by the shore, “Follow Me,” and they became fishers of men. 

Jesus said to the man up in a tree, “Zacchaeus, I must stay at your house today,” and the despised tax collector rose up into the ministry of the Gospel alongside his Master. 

Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Will you give me a drink?” and she received “living water.” She became the first evangelist in her town in Samaria, and as a result, many there became believers. 

Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” and she left His presence, forgiven and faithful to her Lord. 

These are just a few of the many examples of the words of Jesus blessing others. He made no reply to Pilate, refusing to provide a defense against the blatantly false accusations made against Him, but He never missed the opportunity to defend and bless others. 

Where has Jesus spoken into your life and brought you great blessing? Remember, Jesus made no reply because He chose to take our place and die on a cross. Jesus made no reply so He could drink the full cup of God’s wrath. This was the time for Jesus to be silent because His silence testified to the fact that He was the True Lamb of God who was silent “as a sheep before her shearers is silent” (Isaiah 53:7).

But when it comes to your relationship with Him, He has not stopped speaking life to you, and He will continue to do so all the way into glory.

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

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Everyone Is An Example!

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Make no mistake about this biblical truth: Your life . . . my life . . . everyone’s life will serve as either an example to follow or a warning to avoid. I have worked as a coach for decades, and I am always amazed when some high-profile athlete declares, “I’m not a role model!” I have no doubt that they may not want to be a role model, but they most certainly are one for many people who are watching them.

The same can be said for everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ. Did you know that you are the only “Bible” some people will ever read? These people who have never opened a Bible know nothing about the 66 books of sacred Scripture . . . but they know a great deal about the life they see you living. And because you are a disciple of Jesus, the way you live is all they know about the Jesus of the Bible.

So the question that needs to be asked is this: Is your life serving as an example to follow? Or is it a warning to avoid? I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not speaking about living a perfect life. Only Jesus did that. One of the beautiful things about the living and active Word of God is that it presents its heroes as sinners in need of a Savior, just as you and I are. We live every aspect of our lives imperfectly. We all think things we ought not think. . . we say things we ought not say . . . and we do things we ought not do.

What I am talking about when I say that our lives should serve as an example to follow is that our hearts should be filled with the desire to live a life that is pleasing to God, even though we know it will not be perfect on this side of the grave. Peter’s life was far from perfect; he denied knowing our Lord three times and later refused to eat with Gentile Christians, earning a sharp rebuke from Paul (Galatians 2:11). Yet the life Peter lived serves as a wonderful example of what it means to live for nothing smaller than Jesus Christ, even while living it imperfectly.

Every great saint in Scripture and in the history books had their share of blemishes and warts for all the world to see. But that just makes them more real to us! Even when others don’t see our shortcomings, we know they are there. We are painfully aware when we do not measure up. And yet, in spite of our imperfections, God has chosen us to put His glorious Gospel on display. Never forget that God uses imperfect people . . . because that’s all He he has to work with! 

Have you considered the example you are setting for those around you? Look, we’re all going to mess it up from time to time. When you do fall short of setting a good example, confess your sin and ask for forgiveness — from God and from those you may have disappointed, offended, or hurt. Then get on with your life and live it, as much as it is within your power, for the glory of God and the good of others. 

Everyone is an example. So let me ask you once again: Is your life serving as an example to follow? Or is it a warning to avoid?

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

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Sold-Out Saints

When Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. (Mark 2:1-4)

Every time I read this passage, I am confronted by two thought-provoking questions: First, do I have any sold-out friends like that — men who, finding the doorway blocked, would tear a hole in someone’s roof in order to get me in front of Jesus? Second, am I that kind of sold-out friend to anyone in my life right now, form whom I would refuse to be denied in bringing him before Jesus? 

Sold-out saints have a way of making things happen for the good of others and the glory of God. They simply refuse to be denied. Blocked doors will not keep them out. Crowded rooms will not cause them to shy away. And if they cannot bring someone to Jesus by the ordinary way that has been set before them, they will make a new way. They will not stop until they come into the presence of our Lord and bring others with them.

Luke provided this account of the actions of the four friends: “When they could not find a way to [lay their friend before Jesus] because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd” (Luke 5:19). What great risk these men took to get their paralyzed friend before the Christ! Just the sound of them on the roof would have drawn the attention of those in the home. Then, when they started tearing away at the roof tiles, everyone below would have been looking up in consternation as dust and pieces of the roof began to cascade down into the room. Many in the crowd must have angrily wondered, “Who are these madmen who are hacking away at a perfectly good roof and interrupting the Teacher while He speaks?”

I cannot think of any better phrase than “sold-out saints” in reading this account. They would let nothing –neither physical barriers nor the disapproval of others — prevent them from getting their friend an audience with Jesus. And how did Jesus respond?

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Then Jesus said, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:5, 11)       

Their sold-out faith not only brought their friend physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. So the question I want to leave you with today is this: Do you have the kind of “sold-out” faith that will refuse to let any barrier keep you from bringing someone you know before the Savior of the world?

May that be the confession of all our lives as we look for opportunities to bless those whom God has put into our lives, all to the glory and praise of His matchless name. 

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

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The Witness of Your W.I.P.

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Inasmuch as we are saved in an instant, we are conformed into the image of Christ over time — not just daily, but moment by moment, all the days of our lives. Each of us is a W.I.P. – a Work In Progress – until we cross the Jordan and enter into our promised land.

Our discipleship journey has a distinct beginning (the moment we are saved) and a determined end (the moment we are ushered into glory.) Both those moments, and everything that takes place in between, are gifts of God’s grace, given us through the power of the Holy Spirit, and it will all take place in God’s time and in His perfect way. Today’s verse assures us that God has promised to complete the good work that He has begun in each one of us, but that completion will look different in each of our lives.

Paul was absolutely assured of this promise from God, and he shared it with the Philippians as both a comfort and a challenge. It is a comfort to know God is at work in our lives and will finish what He started. It is also a challenge for us to know that we are commanded to play a role in the process. As I said, it is all of God’s grace, yet we must play our part in the process of growing and maturing in our faith. I devoted one of my last articles of 2021, titled “About Your Workout,” to discussing the Bible’s command to “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

This process of growth is called sanctification, in which the believer is progressively made holy. But it is never a straight path that leads to glory. The road of being conformed to the image of Christ has many twists and turns in it, and we will continually struggle with the “old self,” which is at war with the “new self,” as Paul so poignantly described in Romans 7. But the trajectory of this process is always progress, and it is ultimately pointed in the direction of becoming more and more like Jesus.

Can you not look back in your life and see how God has been growing you up into Christ? We all can see how God has been working in our lives, but we must always remember that He is still at work! As a W.I.P. we are not what we will be one day, and that means we must be patient with ourselves and with each other. Yes, we must do our part by engaging in the means of grace God has given us – prayer, Bible study, service, corporate worship, etc. – but we must never forget that this will take the rest of our lives to be completed, and the same goes for everyone else who is in Christ.

I closed out a recent sermon with this lovely quote from the great Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis, who was describing the transformation of Eustace Clarence Scrubb, who had once been so unpleasant, after his encounter with Aslan, the Christ-figure in The Chronicles of Narnia book series:

It would be nice to say that from that time forth Eustace was a different boy. To be accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.

The same could be said of you and me as well, could it not? We all have our relapses. We all have our bad days . . . many of them! But the cure has begun. The message of the cross is a message of living hope, because He who was crucified and rose from the dead is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, where He lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is at work both in us and through us, and He will not stop short of His intended goal of Christlikeness for all those who have trusted in His atoning work on their behalf.

So . . . have you embraced this lifelong process of being conformed into the image of your Savior? What is the witness of your W.I.P.? Remember, you will not be perfect — not even close to it — until you are home with Jesus. So, Christian, embrace all your imperfection, holding fast to the goal of perfection, knowing that when you fail Him, you are completely forgiven and unconditionally loved.  

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

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Faithful Filling Station

“My people will be filled with my bounty,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:14)

Just like our cars need to be filled with gasoline to keep running, we too must be filled with God’s bounty — His fuel — to keep doing what He has called us to do. How is it with you? Are you filled with the bounty of the Lord? Or do you feel like you are running close to empty? 

Notice that the Spirit of God inspired the prophet Jeremiah to use the word “my” twice in today’s verse, and these two words are as encouraging as they are equipping. First, the Lord speaks to “my people” in Jeremiah 31:14; these are the people God has claimed as His own, those whom God sought, caught, and bought with His precious blood. Moses wrote, “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

Is that you today? It certainly is if you have believed and received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. When you, by God’s grace, through faith, recognize that you cannot possibly save yourself and transfer your trust from yourself to your Savior, you become one of those whom God calls “mine.” 

Next, Jeremiah 31:14 promises that God’s people will receive “my bounty.” He is not speaking of the bounty of this world, which is rooted in power, prestige, prosperity, and pleasure. God’s bounty is rooted in God Himself. When God refers to “my people,” He is saying we are His portion, and when He speaks of “my bounty,” God is telling us that He is our portion. Thanks to Christ’s atoning sacrifice, God is satisfied with us, and we are to find our satisfaction in Him. We are to look to God to find everything we need. God is our faithful “Filling Station,” and you can be assured that He will never be closed or run out of the “gas” we need to fill us to do what He has called us to do. 

Think about it this way: God has promised to fill us with His bounty. If the bounty offered to us by the Sovereign Lord of all the universe will not satisfy us, what possibly can? Now, I am painfully aware that there are times when we all run to things smaller than God to find our filling. But I also know that experience has taught us all that we are left more empty after our wanderings than we were before. No matter how many times we seek refreshment from the wells of this world, we are never filled to satisfaction. And each time we try to get filled apart from God, it takes more and more to reach the previous level of filling. 

May this year be different than last year. May we rest in God’s first “my,” knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And may we also rest in God’s second “my,” knowing that our God has promised to meet our every need in His glorious riches of Christ Jesus.

There is only one faithful Filling Station for the people of God: our Faithful Savior.

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

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When Your Earth Quakes

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

Many of us have never personally experienced an earthquake, but we still know what one is from watching news reports and scenes in movies. The textbook definition of “earthquake” reads as follows:

The shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak they cannot be felt to those violent enough to propel objects and people into the air and wreak destruction across entire cities.

That definition paints an accurate picture of what happens to all of us when a significant life event suddenly confronts us: when a family member calls to tell you someone close to you has died . . . when the doctor’s office calls to tell you to come in to discuss the results of your biopsy . . . when a work email shows up in your inbox informing you of the rumored layoff . . . when your child tells you they no longer believe in the faith you raised them in. The are a great many occasions for these “earthquakes” in your life, but you are not powerless to endure them, and the cross makes this perfectly clear.

The earth quaked for our Lord Jesus Christ when He was nailed to a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus endured the judgment and wrath of God, crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Then He gave up the ghost. His body was taken down from the cross and placed in a sealed tomb,

But the story does not end there! On that first Easter morning, the ground began to shake, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus Christ walked out of the grave and into the hearts of all those who would trust in Him as Savior and Lord. The effects of that earthquake have been felt all over the world! 

Regardless of what it is you are facing today or will face tomorrow, when your earth quakes and you feel like you have lost your way, don’t look out at your circumstances. Look up to your Christ, who is the solid Rock that no life experience can ever shake. Circumstances that might cause you to tremble are no match for the Christ, who was delivered from death to cause you to trust in Him.

Remember, Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death; He can and will help you conquer anything that causes your earth to quake. As David wrote, “[God] is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62;7-8). Perfect peace is always available for those who trust in the Prince of Peace.

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

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God Is Enough

To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us . . . (Ephesians 3:20)

Those who walk by faith and not by sight have learned the deep truth that God is enough, no matter what is going on in life. Is this the foundation upon which you have built your life? Is God enough for you?

  • Is God ENOUGH when your health is failing?
  • Is God ENOUGH when your relationships are in turmoil?
  • Is God ENOUGH when you have been betrayed by a friend?
  • Is God ENOUGH when your check is returned NSF?
  • Is God ENOUGH when your nest goes empty?
  • Is God ENOUGH when you suffer loss?

One of the most important lessons we can learn in life is to realize that God IS enough. God is enough to meet our every need, both physical and spiritual. God has not only met our eternal needs through the free and full forgiveness of our sins, but He has also promised to meet our everyday needs through the faithfulness of His service.  

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

English missionary Helen Roseveare said it beautifully: “There is a wonderful truth that God has enough to supply all our needs. Enough for salvation, enough for forgiveness, enough to overcome temptations, enough to persevere in adversities, enough to calm our fears and anxieties. Enough grace, enough love, enough power. His supply is sufficient to meet not only all our needs, but the needs of everyone else in the world now and at all times.”

So how will you know that you really know that God is enough? You know when God is everything to you, in both life and death. Is this the confession of your life?

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

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Christ at the Center

To live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

Even a casual reader of the New Testament recognizes that Christ was at the center of the apostle Paul’s life. The question that each of us should ask ourselves — and answer — is this: Is Christ at the center of my life too?

It is all too easy to push Christ out to the circumference of our lives. If someone called us to account on this, we might indignantly insist that we still have Him sitting on the throne of our lives . . . but in the quietness of our hearts we would have to admit that there are times when we move His throne out to the outer edges of our lives. There are a great many voices vying for our attention and we are all too easily distracted.

You may remember how the Tree of Life was located in the center of the Garden of Eden. God’s Word is giving us a vivid picture, teaching us that God, who is the very source of life itself, must always be at the center of our lives in every way. We were made by Him and we were made for Him — for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

God created us all for worship, so everyone — both Christians and non-Christians alike — will always be worshiping something. The question is, What is that something? If God is not at the center of our lives, something else will be. And that “something” is not necessarily a bad thing. Family is a good thing. Work is a good thing. Prosperity is a good thing. Health is a good thing. Recreation is a good thing. All these things are good things, but they can very easily become bad things when they become ultimate things – when we allow them to move to the center of our lives.

What is at the center of your life right now? What are you most passionate about? Into what are you investing your time, talent, and treasure? If you aren’t sure, ask those who are closest to you, because it is impossible to hide what we worship. Our deepest passions always rise to the surface of our lives. For those of you who, like Paul, have Jesus at the center, it will be obvious to those around you. They will hear you talk about Him. They will see you walk with Him. They will recognize that your greatest goal in life is to glorify God and expand the cause of His Kingdom, not your own.

Remember, it is “the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 19:9) — the constant, reverent awareness of the presence of a God who loved us enough to die on a cross for us — that keeps Him at the center of our lives. Of course, we will do this imperfectly. We are, after all, saved sinners; we have been saved by grace through faith, but we are still sinners nonetheless. We will fail, fall, and even forsake Jesus at times. The goal is perfection, but the best we can hope for is progress. May this progress, however slow and stumbling it may be, become the confession of our lives, as we seek to keep Him at the center of our lives.

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

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No Mistakes

I know that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Psalm 119:75)

Now there is a biblical truth that every child of God — beginning with me — needs to have etched upon his or her heart when the storm winds of life are howling around us.

Everything God does is good and right. “He is the Rock,” Deuteronomy 32:4 assures us, “his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” There are no mistakes or missteps in God’s economy. Everything that happens in this world happens for only two reasons: for God’s glory and for the ultimate good of all those for whom He gave his Son.

To be sure, we all must process the challenges we face, but we are to process them in faith, not fear. When we do this, we will always reach the same conclusion that the psalmist confidently declared:

In faithfulness you have afflicted me.

You see, it is during those times of great difficulty and challenge that God is doing the most work in our lives. When I look back over the years in my walk with Christ, my periods of deepest pain have produced my greatest progress, because God was afflicting me in faithfulness. Think about it for a moment; would you not agree that this has been true for you also? Our God is too wise, too faithful, too loving, too good to do anything that is not for our ultimate good — that ultimate good being conforming us to the image of His Son. It is always in faithfulness, not fickleness, that God sends storms our way.

Now, it’s human nature that that we do not rejoice in the experience of the storms we endure in this life. Let me quickly add that the Spirit of God commands us to “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). This is the command, but I would have to be the first to admit that I am not very good at keeping it! I am far more likely to fret and fuss and fume at trials, rather than rejoice in them. Can I get a witness?

However, even when we fail to rejoice in the midst of our trials, we should rejoice in the results of them. No one likes to be buffeted by the winds and the waves of challenge that come against us, but because we understand that God is in complete control of all things, including the storms of life, we can rest in the results that He has promised. As the poet A. M. Overton wrote,

My Father’s way may twist and turn, My heart may throb and ache,

But in my soul I’m glad to know, He maketh no mistake!

So regardless of the storms you may be facing today, or the ones you may see looming on the horizon, remember that you can trust God to lead you safely through to the other side because He knows the way. And if God does not change your circumstances, it is only because He is changing you. He is faithful in His love for you! No mistakes can ever come from the hand of your Master.

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

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Our Holy Helper

The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. (Hebrews 13:6)

Did you know that you have a Holy Helper standing at the ready as the Source of every solution you seek? Because God does not change, you can count on Him to help you through every set of circumstances you face.

The Hebrew appellation Jehovah Ezrah is one of the names of God; it is literally translated as “The Lord my Help.” The psalmist tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Take a second look at that word “ever-present.” God is always available to you, no matter what you are going through. The Bible does not tell us that our God is “sort-of-present” or “half-way-present” or even “most-of-the-time present.” No! Our God is “ever-present,” and nothing can distract Him or keep Him at a distance from us.

When Jesus was preparing to finish His mission on this earth and return to His Father in heaven, He promised to send our Holy Helper:

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth . . . The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:16, 26)

What a powerful promise we have received! The One whose sinless nature makes it impossible for Him to lie has assured us that our Holy Helper is with us every step of the way through this life. He is with us through the sunshine and the rain. He is with us through the good times and the bad. He is with us through our joy and despair and every emotion in between.

Because of this Gospel truth, we will not be afraid. What is there to fear when the Creator and Sustainer of the universe has promised to be our Helper, no matter what we are facing? “Do not fear, for I am with you,” He assures us; “do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Omnipotence will guide you around every obstacle that stands in your way, because greater is the power that is at work within you than any power that can come against you.

Where do you turn in times of trouble? Friends are good; family perhaps is better. But God is the best One to go to. Remember, our Holy Helper is not only willing to help, he is able to help, and he has promised to meet your every need.

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

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