NEVER – NO WAY OUT

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When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)


What we all must keep in view, especially when we being assaulted by the slings and arrows of the enemy, is this: The power that is within us is infinitely greater than any power that comes against us! In other words, God will never allow more to come up against us than he has put in us to handle it. We simply must not say, as 1970’s comedian Flip Wilson liked to say, “The devil made me do it!” God promises His people that “No weapon forged against you will prevail” (Isaiah 54:17), so we can never rightly claim that we have been overcome by the enemy.

So what is God’s divinely ordained “way out” of the temptations we face? Let’s take a brief look at two simple principles.

#1. The Principle of Resistance

When our Lord commands us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), He is setting forth the principle of resistance. When Jesus raised us from death to life, He gave us a new power that operates in our lives: the Holy Spirit of God. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist the devil by means of our Spirit-given desire to be faithful to our Lord.

Throughout the New Testament, we see the Christian life described as a fight or a spiritual battle against the forces of evil and darkness in this world. Paul likens the believer to an athlete in competition and to a soldier in battle. Both are actively engaged, striving in the hope of achieving victory. They are not passive and they are not powerless, and they are called to pursue victory in the strength of their Savior.

#2. The Principle of Refocus

It’s important to understand that the Scriptures tell us to “resist the devil,” not to resist “temptation.” To resist temptation is to try to resist a thought, and that simply does not work. In fact, it intensifies it. In his sermon, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” Thomas Chalmers rightfully observed that we cannot simply stop thinking about something that has attracted our affection. Rather, we must replace it with a “new affection” . . . and that is what I call The Principle of Refocus.

Notice how Paul framed out this new affection; he wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). And, of course, “these things” can all be summed up in one word: Jesus. The author of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . .” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Remember, we naturally move toward what we focus our attention on, so the more we focus on Jesus, the more we will move toward Him.

Where in your life right now do you need to activate The Principle of Resistance? What will it cost you if you don’t? And as you engage in The Principle of Refocus whenever you face any kind of sinful struggle, shift your focus to Jesus in prayer, in His Word, and through the trusted support of a brother or sister in Christ. Know that when you are tempted, there is never “no way out.” God will provide a way out; you have His Word on it! All you need to do is look for it.

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

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SALVATION IS ABOUT THE SAVIOR, NOT ABOUT THE SAINT

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There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:6)


Inasmuch as the benefits of salvation for the saint are far too many to number—for we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)—salvation is not primarily about the saint; it is about the Savior. We have been saved by Jesus and for Jesus. We are not our own; we were bought at the incomparable price of the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Therefore, because we are His, the life we live must be lived for the honor and glory and praise of His name.

It is vitally important that we understand the difference between being saved for service and being saved by service. Far too many in the church today wrongly believe they are saved by their service to God—that is, by their good works. They believe that God will grade their lives “on a curve” of some sort, and that those who perform enough good works will be allowed into heaven. But the Bible knows nothing of this pernicious error. As Paul writes, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). You see, if we were saved by service, salvation would indeed be all about the saint, but it is not . . . which is why no one can boast.

On the other hand, being saved for service frees us to find God’s plan and purpose for our lives, so that we are able to live in a way that demonstrates our love for God and for our neighbor. A person who has truly been saved by God’s grace is a person who lives for serving God. Think about it this way: God doesn’t need us for anything. He is capable of accomplishing His will all by Himself. He hung the sun in the sky just by speaking a word! Yet God wants us, and the proof of that truth is the fact that you are reading this right now. Unlike the good thief on the cross, who went to Paradise mere moments after being saved, you are still here, which means God has work for you to do in this world.

How does knowing that salvation is all about Jesus and not about you impact the way you use your time, talent, and treasure? Are you allowing God to use you for His glory . . . or are you striving for your own glory? Are you spending the lion’s share of your time expanding the cause of His glorious kingdom . . . or are you trying to build your own kingdom?

The choice will always be yours, and please don’t forget this: Even though God does not need your service, everyone else does. If you fail to give yourself in service to your Lord, we are all diminished. Keeping in view that your salvation is about your Savior will keep you in the center of His plan and purpose for your life, and there is absolutely no better place to live in order to find the meaning and significance we all crave.

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

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CONFIDENCE DETERMINES YOUR COMMUNION

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Three times a day [Daniel] got down on his knees and prayed. (Daniel 6:10)


The confidence you have in your Triune God—that is, your belief that He is ready, willing, and able to make good on all of His promises—will determine, to an altogether unsuspecting extent, your moment-by-moment communion with Him. Let’s look at the confidence Daniel had and let it both encourage and empower you to stay in continual communion with your God.

It is recorded in sacred Scripture that Daniel—who was taken captive as a youth, exiled in Babylon, and then elevated into a position of great responsibility as one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s advisers—prayed three times every day. As God continued to bless Daniel, bitter opposition mounted against him. Some of the other administrators and princes of the king convinced Nebuchadnezzar to issue a decree that anyone who prayed to anyone other than the king would be thrown into the lion’s den.

When Daniel learned that this law had been signed, he went home and did what he always did: he prayed, giving thanks to his God. His confidence determined his communion. Nothing would come between Daniel and his communion with God.

The officials sprung their trap; they went to Daniel’s house, found him praying, and reported it to the king. When Nebuchadnezzar learned it was Daniel who had been arrested, he regretted ever signing the law, but had no choice other than to watch as Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. But the king shouted to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

The next morning, greatly distressed, Nebuchadnezzar hurried to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel, “Was your God, whom you worship continually, able to rescue you from the lions?” Notice that even this pagan king knew the confession of Daniel’s life to be one of continual communion with God! And was there a response from Daniel, who had spent an entire night surrounded by wild lions (who feed at night)? “My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight” (Daniel 6:20-21).

Daniel knew all about the decree that outlawed prayer to anyone or anything other than the king, but he prayed anyway—not in secret, but before his window for all the world to see. Why? Because his confidence determined his communion. And that is true for you and me. I am sure none of us will ever face the penalty of a lions’ den, but think about it this way: The more confident you are in God the more you will be in communion with God. It’s just that simple.

So . . . how confident are you in God? Does the confession of your current communion with God testify to your unwavering faith in Him?

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

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GRACE GROWN

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You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)


Here is a great word of encouragement set before us today! The same grace that saves us is the grace that strengthens us and ultimately sanctifies us and carries us all the way into glory. And know this truth: When Jesus gives out His grace, He is never diminished because of it, for He is the fountainhead that flows with inexhaustible, eternal rivers of grace.

Consider the depths of the meaning of the words strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Is it not the grace that continually forgives you? Is it not the grace that systematically sanctifies you by conforming you more and more into the image of the Son? It is not the grace that lifts you out of the depths of despair? Is it not the grace that empowers you in persecution? Is it not the grace that secures you in the storms of life? Is it not the grace that preserves you from beginning to end? Is it not the grace that grows you in understanding who your God truly is and what He has called you to do for His glory and the good of others? Surely we will never plumb the depths of all that our Lord’s grace does in us and for us!

God’s grace is as unfailing as it is unalterable, and it is available for all those who are in Christ. As the branch receives nutrients to grow from the trunk of the tree, so too does the Christian who is connected to Jesus Christ by grace through faith. You don’t need to ask for it; you don’t need to hope for it. This grace simply, faithfully flows from the Head to the body, strengthening you for the work God has given to you. The more you recognize this truth, the more you will rest in the power of it.

I don’t know where this message finds you today, so let me simply encourage you that this amazing grace has come to you as a gift and it can never be taken away, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Jesus purchased this grace on the cross with His precious blood, drinking the full cup of God’s wrath on our behalf, and He makes His grace available for all who are willing to trust in Him alone. Remember, Christian, grace is growing you and it will not stop until you are full mature and perfected in Christ, because He who began this good work in grace has promised to complete it in grace. You have His Word on that truth.

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

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FOCUS FOSTERS FAITHFULNESS

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


There is an old saying, “What consumes your mind controls your life.” So let me ask you: What has been consuming your mind lately? Has it been Jesus? Or have you been focused on something smaller than Him? Read on and be encouraged today!

In the history of the Christian church, there are countless stories of martyrs who died singing hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord. And their deaths were not easy deaths! Some were brought into the arena, where lions would tear them from limb to limb as the audience cheered the gruesome spectacle. Others were impaled on stakes, covered in pitch, and lit on fire. Still others were nailed to crosses that lined the roads in Rome, dying slowly and in terrible agony as a reminder to all who passed by what would happen to those who claimed Jesus as Lord. How is that possible? How did they give glory to God, even in the midst of the cruelest torture? The answer is that their focus fostered their faithfulness. Their minds were wholly centered on Jesus, and their hearts were beating solely for Him.

I don’t expect that you or I will be thrown to lions or impaled on stakes or nailed to a cross. However, we are all troubled by so many things in this life that cause us to be both fearful and faithless. We have a tendency to focus on our problems rather than our possibilities. We become consumed by our obstacles rather than our opportunities. And what consumes our minds will control our lives.

The key to rising above the challenges of daily living is to live each day in the shadow of the cross. This is where we are reminded of what God in Christ has done for us. This is the place where sin, Satan, and death were conquered on our behalf by our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the place where the eternal destiny of all who will but place their trust in the atoning death of Christ was sealed, and that is how Christian martyrs can die with songs of praise on their lips, because they know that to be absent from the body is to be immediately present with the Lord who died to save them (2 Corinthians 5:8).

With the cross in view, we will not be distracted by the cares of this world. We will be reminded, just as the martyrs were, that the power within us is far greater than any power that comes up against us. Remember, focusing on the cross of Christ keeps us faithful to the Christ of the cross. May this truth comfort and encourage you today to live the life God has called you to live for His glory and the good of others, knowing that your focus will foster faithfulness.

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

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“ON APPROVAL”

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May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 42:5-6)


If you are in the habit of buying online, you are probably familiar with “on approval” purchasing. This is an agreement in which items are provided to a prospective customer for a pre-purchase trial; if the buyer is not totally happy with the product, he or she can return it within a specified time period.

Sadly, many in the church today view God’s will in much the same way. They pray for God’s will in a certain set of circumstances, and when they sense they have received it, they decide whether they want to follow it or not. In other words, they believe God’s will is “on approval,” and if they are not totally happy with God’s plan, they devise their own.

You see this demonstrated in today’s passage. The people of Israel who survived the fall of Jerusalem came to the prophet Jeremiah and asked him to pray and ask the Lord to show them His will, promising to do whatever the Lord revealed whether favorable or unfavorable. But they had already decided in advance to flee to Egypt to escape the Babylonian invaders, and were merely looking to God to endorse their will, rather than reveal His will. When Jeremiah revealed that it was God’s will for His people to stay in the land of Judah rather than running to Egypt, the people received the Word of the Lord “on approval” and ignored it. “They entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord” (Jeremiah 43:7). Deciding to receive God’s will “on approval” proved disastrous for Israel, just as it always proves disastrous for us today as well.

In all my years as a pastor, I do not think there is any prayer more difficult to pray and act on than “Thy will be done!” Have you been wrestling with God in prayer regarding an important decision recently? Perhaps He has already made it clear what He wants you to do, but you have not acted, because you are actually seeking God’s will “on approval” and are waiting until His will meets your approval?

Remember, pray without ceasing, but pray having decided in advance not to follow your predetermined plans, but to follow wherever God is leading you. The true disciple of Christ trusts Him even when he or she cannot trace Him, regardless of the cost or circumstance. May the confession of our lives be that which is commanded in Proverbs 3:5-6 —

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

When we live and pray in this way, we will receive God’s will obediently, not “on approval.”

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

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GOD KNOWS YOUR SORROWS

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The Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” (Exodus 3:7 NKJV)


The people of Israel were held in bondage for many years down in Egypt, but their sorrows were never out of the sight of their God. And what was true for the people of God more than 3,000 years ago is just as true for the people of God today . . . and Christian, that includes you.

When David was under the fiercest attacks from his enemies, he took comfort in knowing that God not only kept track of his sorrows, but also collected his tears (Psalm 56:8). God is intimately involved in the sorrows of His people, to the extent that not a single tear falls to the ground unnoticed or uncollected. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David said that God records each one of our tears in His book. What an amazing picture! We can rest in the confident assurance that God knows all of our sorrows.

Are you facing any sorrows of Egypt in your personal or professional life today? Remember, it was God who set the time for the deliverance of His people in Egypt. His plan for their exodus out of Egypt was delivered in His time and in His way, and it was delivered to meet them in their deepest place of need. God knows your headaches and your heartaches; He has not left you to fend for yourself. Therefore His Word instructs us to “Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

There are many sorrows in this life. When broken people populate a broken world, sorrows are multiplied. Yet our God knows every sorrow we face, and He is always working His perfect plan to lift us out of it . . . in His perfect time and in His way. We must not question the Author of our Salvation, who is working all things for our good, even when the outward appearance seems to suggest that He is not. God did not forget His people in Egypt centuries ago, and He has not forgotten His people in their own “Egypts” today.

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

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