Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. (James 3:16)

The dictionary definition of DNA is “the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something, especially when regarded as unchangeable.” As it relates to the title of today’s message of encouragement, the DNA of sin—that is, the fundamental characteristic of sin—can be summed up in one word: SELF! There is a great deal of biblical truth to the old adage that the letter “I” appears right in the middle of the word sin. Sin occurs when you and I allow self to assume occupancy on the throne of our lives.

You see this malignant root of sin in many words that begin with self . . .

  • Self-centeredness
  • Self-righteousness
  • Self-absorption
  • Self-rule
  • Self-love

The first thing we must remember about the DNA of sin being rooted in self is this: people who are self-centered are completely unable to please God in any way. Romans 8:8 warns us that “Those controlled by the sinful nature [that is, the self] cannot please God.” When self is in competition with the Savior, we want what we want . . . we want it right away . . . and we want it in precisely in the way we desire.

This sinful striving to satisfy the self began at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and appears throughout all of sacred Scripture, beginning with Cain murdering his younger brother Abel. We see the DNA of sin in the scheming of Jacob, the larceny of Achan, the adultery of David, the treason of Absalom, the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, the disobedience of Jonah, the denial of Peter, and the murderous hatred of Saul.

But this is not for you! When we review the definition of DNA, we see the words “regarded as unchangeable.” That is a truth we must receive as it relates to the self: we cannot change ourselves. Oh, we can change behaviors for a period of time, and on the surface it may appear that we are a better person. But unless the Lord changes us from the inside out, we have accomplished nothing more than behavior modification. But when Jesus shows up, we are made new, by grace through faith, and behavior does indeed change because the heart has been transformed by an outside agent: the Holy Spirit of God.

Remember, Jesus uses our own self-interest as a grid to gauge our love for others. He has commanded us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). But that will only happen after our selfish heart of stone has been replaced by the selfless heart of Spirit, a heart that now beats for nothing smaller than our Lord Jesus Christ. To be sure, there will still be times when the self rears its ugly, sinful head. Yet Jesus has promised that no temptation can overcome us unless we give in to it, because the power of the Holy Spirit in us is greater than any power in the world that comes up against us.

Be encouraged, Christian! Your DNA has been changed by the One who loves you unconditionally. And when you do lapse back into exalting “I” instead of the great “I AM,” He forgives you completely and His eternal love for you is utterly unchanged.

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

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Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Everyone in the world has the exact same number of hours in a week—168. So how do we explain the difference in the production level of the high achievers? The answer is found in a single word: priorities. It has been well said that “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” What have you been aiming at lately? And is your goal in line with God’s plan and purpose for your life?

For the Christian, the order of priorities is not something we need to ponder or even pray about. The Scriptures make it perfectly clear what our priorities are to be in life. If you are married, loving your spouse is a high priority. If you are a parent, nurturing your children is a high priority. If you are working, working for the glory of God and the good of others is a high priority. But regardless of our circumstances, we are children of God, first and foremost, and our highest priority in life is Jesus.

We see our Lord’s words in our verse for today, that we are to be seeking God first in life. When we do that, we can rest assured that all the other priorities in life will fall into place . . . but only when God is seated upon the throne of our lives. When we allow anything to displace God from the throne of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure. We may be putting in lots of hours and working with a disciplined effort, but the results will always be less than God’s best for our lives, because we are seeking less than God’s best.

The apostle Paul helps us recognize the importance of making the most of the time God has given to us: “Do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

Remember this powerful precept: When you spend an hour, you have one less hour to spend . . . so spend it wisely. Who would argue against this truth? The less time there is in life, the more valuable it becomes. As Paul said, we are closer to our salvation than we were when we first believed. We are nearing the Jordan; soon we shall cross it and enter into our Promised Land. But before we do, let us take the time to evaluate our priorities and make sure we have them in the right order: God first and everything else after Him.

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

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Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:12)

It is inevitable that storms will stir up chaos in our lives. As I often say from the pulpit, each one of us is either in the middle of a storm, coming out of a storm, or on the verge of going back into another storm. Chaos is simply a part of life on this side of the grave. Yet we can find great comfort in our seasons of chaos because of the One who is with us in every storm we face.

Our passage today comes from David’s prayer of repentance after having been confronted by the prophet Nathan for his dreadful sins. You will remember that David seduced another man’s wife, got her pregnant, and schemed to cover it up. When that plot failed, David arranged for her husband to be killed on the battlefield. This was a storm that stirred up chaos in David’s life and in the lives of many others, and David was solely responsible for all of it.

This is not always the case, of course. Some storms are a result of our rebellion, but others are simply a result of the brokenness in our world and in each other. But either way, chaos will come, and the only way through it is to cry out to Christ for the comfort only He can bring.

David’s plea for forgiveness was a plea for comfort. David’s plea for mercy was a plea for comfort. David’s plea for cleansing was a plea for comfort. And what was “comfort” for David? It was a restoration of the joy of his salvation. Do you remember when you were first saved? Do you remember the overwhelming joy you experienced? If you were saved as a child and cannot remember a particular experience, surely you can remember a time when you experienced the joy of salvation—the joy of walking closely with God through the details of life.

If you find yourself in a storm of your own making, do as David did and confess your sins. You will be on your way to restoring the joy of your salvation. And if you find yourself in a storm that God has sent for your good and His glory, do as David did and ask that God would grant you a willing spirit to rise above the waves of challenge. No matter the circumstances, Christian, know that your father in heaven delights in giving good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). He will sustain you from chaos to comfort.

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

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God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

Oh, the comfort of this inspired inscription from the pen of the apostle Paul: our Lord Jesus Christ knows those who are His! All those who, by grace through faith, have trusted in Christ alone for their salvation can be fully assured that Jesus knows you intimately . . . Jesus knows you savingly . . . Jesus knows you lovingly . . . and Jesus knows you eternally.

God’s solid foundation is built on none other than the chief Cornerstone, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And what is built upon the foundation of the Rock of Ages stands firm forever and ever. Sin cannot shake this foundation. Satan cannot splinter this foundation. Death cannot destroy this foundation. He who became flesh and dwelt among us . . . He who took our sins in His own body nailed to a tree . . . He who walked out of the grave on the third day . . . this is the One who knows all those who are His, for He is their God and they are His people.

If this is your truth today, does it not offer you great encouragement, regardless of where this message finds you? Perhaps you are being buffeted by storm winds; rejoice in the truth that Jesus knows you and is your solid foundation. Perhaps you are facing a very difficult decision; rest in the truth that Jesus knows you and is your solid foundation. Maybe you are being hammered by waves of daily challenge and feel like you are facing them all alone. Rejoice in the truth that Jesus knows you and is your solid foundation.

A final word about being “sealed with this inscription.” In the ancient world, the seal was a distinguishing mark that denoted a number of things, including approval, authenticity, and authority. Within the context of this passage we are to understand the seal as the marking of ownership, and with ownership comes provision and protection. Think about it this way: because the Lord knows you as His, you can be absolutely certain of His continued provision and protection, no matter what you are facing.

Greater is the power that is within you than any power that can come up against you. Let that truth set you free today to do all God is calling you to do and to be all God is calling you to be.

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

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Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

We all have a tendency to delay doing any difficult task, but we do without delay those things in which we delight. Because of this truth, let today’s word encourage you to do both—the difficult and the delightful—without delay.

We can glean much in this regard from the lives of two of the central figures of the Old Testament: Abraham and David. When God called Abraham to offer up His only son Isaac, as inconceivably difficult as that must have been, Abraham did not delay in responding obediently.

God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-3)

In the end, as you know, God spared Isaac by providing a sacrifice in his place, providing a clear and lovely picture of the substitutionary atonement that was accomplished for us at the cross of Christ. When God called David into His service through Jesse’s request to bring provisions to David’s brothers out on the battlefield, David did not delay in responding obediently.

David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. (1 Samuel 17:20)

David did not hesitate to go where God had called him, and God used David to defeat the giant Goliath and deliver the entire Israelite army from the hands of the Philistines. In today’s verse we read that Jesus got up early because He delighted to be in communion with His heavenly Father. Jesus provides the model for all that we delight in doing, but don’t forget Abraham and David, the models for all that we find difficult to do. To be sure, both tasks were difficult—unimaginably so in Abraham’s case—but both tasks were done without delay. The point is that Abraham, David, and Jesus all rose early to get on with the business of their Lord, and this is what God has called us to do in both the difficult and the delightful.

Someone famously quipped, “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” It’s not that funny; some people actually live that way! Think about the last time you delayed in doing the difficult. Did it not negatively affect everything else you were doing? We should dread the day when we delay the difficult! I hope you’ll allow today’s word to encourage you to rise early and do without delay—both that in which you delight and that which you find difficult.

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

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What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Everyone is owned. The question that each of us must answer is, Who or what owns us? It’s easy for the Christian to answer, because there are only two options: either we are owned by our Savior or by our stuff. How is it with you? How would you answer this question today?

When we are owned by our stuff, we have removed our Savior from the throne of our lives and, in essence, we have made Him the “previous owner” of all we possess . . . including ourselves! We have elevated the gifts we receive in this life above the Giver of those gifts. Our lives are marked by enjoying (at least for a while), serving, and loving the gifts from God rather than God Himself. We are owned by what we possess rather than being owned by the One who possesses everything.

We must always remember that everything we have has been loaned to us by God. As Paul asked rhetorically in today’s verse, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The Sovereign Lord is never the “previous owner.” “The world is mine,” our Lord says simply, “and all that is in it” (Psalm 50:12). He owns everything, and He simply allows us to be managers and stewards of His world for His glory and for the good of others. Everything we have has been given to us by God; our next breath and our next heartbeat is a gift of God, for “He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). How foolish to believe that we are owners, rather than being owned by the One who is both the Creator and Sustainer of life itself.

Let me challenge you to examine yourself and answer the question: Who or what owns you today? What is the confession of your life right now? No matter how much you have accumulated, whose is it really? Perhaps this would be a good time to prayerfully consider a transfer of ownership? Remember, we were bought at the highest price possible: the precious blood of the Lamb of God. We are not our own; He is the eternal Owner. The only place in life where we will ever truly find the peace and happiness and significance that we all crave is at the foot of the cross.

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

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I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line. (Isaiah 28:17)

In the world of construction, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians often use a plumb line to make sure their work is straight. It is difficult to determine with the naked eye what is a truly vertical line, so a simple measuring tool—the plumb line—is employed throughout the construction process to ensure that the work will not be out of line or “crooked.”

The term plumb line is used in a variety of contexts throughout Scripture. In Amos 7:7-8, the Lord told the prophet that He was setting a plumb line of judgment among His people to end their attempts to justify their crooked and godless ways. But for today’s word of encouragement, let’s look at the term with the positive anticipation of knowing that when Jesus returns and consummates His kingdom, there will no longer be anything out of line or crooked in the sight of our Lord . . . and that includes you and me.

It is difficult for us to imagine the perfection of the coming kingdom of God when we live in such an imperfect world. Everything in the world is today is crooked—stained and distorted by sin. But our Lord has promised a day when crookedness will be no more. When Jesus returns, He will put every enemy under His feet and there will be no more sin, Satan, and death. All that is crooked will be made straight forever.

The Lord’s plumb line is His Moral Law; and because the Lord never changes, the Moral Law never changes. We don’t have to wonder what our Lord expects of us today or tomorrow. When we align our lives with the Word of God, we can know for certain that our lives are built upon a true and solid foundation, not a crumbling, crooked one. This is the mark of the mature Christian: he lives according to the Lord’s plumb line, rather than his own. And when he stumbles and falls “out of plumb”—when he misses the mark and sins—he knows that he only needs to confess his sins to the Lord, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

So . . . are you living according to the Lord’s plumb line today? Is there any place in your life that feels a little crooked—a little out of line? What changes do you need to make? What will it cost you if you don’t? Let me encourage you today to keep Jesus first and foremost in your life, and He will make your paths straight.

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

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