Monday, April 12, 2021

Easter Isn’t Over!

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.1 Thessalonians 4:14

If your household is anything like mine, by now all the chocolate bunnies have been eaten and all the Peeps have given their last Peep. Maybe your kids’ Easter baskets have a few stray green jelly beans lurking down there in the fake grass, but that’s about it. After all, Easter was over a week ago. Right?

Right. But there’s something about Easter that ISN’T over—not today, not next week, not six months or six thousand years from now. You see, that first Easter changed the world … forever. So today, I’d like to share with you five reasons why Jesus’ death and resurrection changes your world:

#1: Jesus’ death and resurrection confirm that the Bible is true. There are dozens of Old Testament verses that prophesied that the Jesus Christ would suffer, be killed, be buried and rise from the dead. Concerning Jesus’ crucifixion, King David wrote in Psalm 22:16-17: “A band of evil men has encircled Me, they have pierced My hands and My feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over Me.” Concerning Jesus’ burial and resurrection, we read in Isaiah 53:9 and 11: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death…. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life, and be satisfied.” And Psalm 16:10 says: “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

Every one of these prophecies was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection prove to you that even the seemingly-impossible Bible prophesies are all fulfilled in Christ.

#2: Jesus’ death and resurrection prove that Jesus is God. In John 10:18 Jesus told his followers, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” What a remarkable thing for Jesus to say! Any martyr could claim to have the authority to lay down his or her life for someone else. But none of us has the authority or power to raise ourselves from the dead. No one can do that. Not even an angel can do that. Only GOD can do that. Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection proves that He is—in fact—God in the flesh.

#3: Jesus’ death and resurrection pave the way for your own future resurrection, giving you great hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16 says, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven … with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Cor. 15:14-22 reads: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Bottom line: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead blazed a trail for YOUR resurrection from the dead. Jesus has paved the way for you to live forever. So, whenever you’re sitting next to a loved one’s bed in ICU or attending a family member’s funeral, you can have hope. Because Christ conquered death, you and I have this unshakable hope: This life is not all there is. The best is yet to come.

#4: Jesus’ death and resurrection prove that your Judgment Day is coming. The Apostle Paul says in Acts 17:30-31, “In the past God overlooked ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Jesus’ resurrection isn’t great news for everyone. Because Jesus is alive, He will hold us accountable for our sin. That’s the purpose of Judgment Day—to declare our innocence or guilt before our holy God. And for those of us who are found guilty of rejecting Jesus Christ during our lifetimes and breaking God’s laws, there WILL be Hell to pay. Because Jesus is alive, Judgment Day is coming. So, you had better make sure you’re ready.

#5: Jesus’ death and resurrection empower you to live a life that pleases God. What do you think the chances are of you—on your own—living a life that pleases God? Slim to none? No! Just plain—NONE. The Bible reveals that on our own, our good deeds are like filthy rags compared to God’s holiness. So, on your own, you CANNOT live a life that pleases God. It’s impossible. But with Christ…all things are possible. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

Easter changed your world forever. So, I’ve got to ask you: What are you going to do about it? Jesus Christ suffered and died … for you. Jesus Christ had his broken and bloody body placed in a tomb … for you. Jesus Christ busted out of that tomb on the third day … for you. So…what are you going to do about it? I hope that if you haven’t done it already, you’ll do it today: admit that like all of us, you’re a sinner who needs the Savior; believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins; and choose to follow Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service tomorrow at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Give Like God

“When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret.” Matthew 6:3-4

There’s a story about an Eastern holy man who used to sit at a prominent street corner in his city. Every day he would cover himself with sackcloth and sit there on a pile of ashes to show his humility. Often, tourists would stop at the corner and ask to take a picture with him. He always agreed—but before the picture was taken, he would quickly rearrange the ashes to make himself look more humble.

That makes me stop and think. I’ve been a follower of Christ for over 40 years, and during that time I’ve done my best to do good deeds. But I wonder: How many of those good deeds did I do while I was rearranging the ashes to make myself look good for the picture?

I believe Jesus wants you to ask yourself the same question. In Matthew 6:1, as He continues His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Jesus speaks this truth as He’s getting ready to teach about giving to the poor, prayer and fasting. He counts all of these as acts of righteousness; in other words, they are good and necessary expressions of our Christian faith. God expects us to give to the poor, to pray and to fast. And He promises to reward us for these acts of righteousness—if we do them in the right way. 

In verse 1, Jesus points out that we shouldn’t give in order “to be seen” by people. And in verse 2, He points out that we shouldn’t give in order to be “honored” by people: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

When we give to people in need, we shouldn’t announce it with trumpets: “Hey, everyone! Look at me! Who’s God’s gift to the poor? I am!” You might think Jesus is exaggerating when he talks about someone blowing trumpets, but sadly, He’s not. The Pharisees often blew trumpets on the street corners when they were about to help out poor people. If you asked why, they would have said they did it to spread the word around town that the giveaway was about to begin. But Jesus knew the REAL reason that the Pharisees blew the trumpets. It was to draw attention to themselves.

In verse 2, Jesus calls such givers “hypocrites.” In ancient Greece, a hypocrite was an actor who wore a mask in a play. In other words, he was pretending to be someone else. Now, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God—but hypocrites use religion to disguise their own sins. They pretend to be good and righteous on the outside, but they are dishonest and corrupt on the inside. And Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that the hypocrites’ way of giving is the wrong way to give.

God holds no reward for followers who shine the spotlight on themselves when they give. The praise they get from the people around them is all the reward they’ll ever get. I like the way the The Message paraphrases these verses: “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get.”

So, the WRONG way to give is to give like a hypocrite—only giving when people are watching you. In verses 3 and 4, Jesus teaches us the RIGHT way to give: “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

The left hand/right hand illustration has a story behind it. In Jesus’ day, there was an offering box at the temple where people could deposit alms for the poor. That box was in the doorway to the temple—on the right side. So, Jesus seems to be saying, “When you walk into the temple and place your gift for the poor into the offering box, be so discreet about it that even your left hand doesn’t see what you’re doing.” The right way to give is discreetly and privately, motivated by a heartfelt desire to bless someone in need. As Matthew Henry puts it, “When we take least notice of our good deeds ourselves, God takes most notice of them.”

So, is Jesus teaching us that we should never give or serve when people are watching? No. But when you have the option to do a good deed either publicly or privately, do it privately. Most importantly, when it comes to your motive for giving, make sure it’s to truly help people in need—not to help yourself. God loves to give good gifts to us, not primarily for what HE gets out of it, but because of what WE get out of it. He is a loving Father who loves to give good gifts, especially to His children who follow Christ. So when you can, give privately, and give out of a sincere love for people. In other words, give like God.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our Palm Sunday service Sunday, March 28th, and our Easter service next Sunday, April 4th, 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, March 19, 2021

An Eye For an Eye?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.” Matthew 5:38-39

Over the course of human history, many countries around the world have had some version of the Law of Retribution, also known as the Law of Retaliation. Retaliation comes from a Latin word that means “pay back in kind.” The earliest known version was in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, which dates back more than 3,750 years. And when God gave ancient Israel the 613 Laws of Moses, the Law of Retaliation was included in those laws: “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 22:23-25).

So, was the Law of Retaliation carried out literally? It seems clear that in ancient Babylon, the answer was “Yes!” Under Hammurabi’s Code, it seems that eyes were literally gouged out, and stealing hands were literally cut off. However, I’ve found no evidence that ancient Israel ever carried out the Law of Retaliation literally. Although murderers were routinely put to death for taking a human life, there is no record of local magistrates gouging out eyes or breaking teeth or bones in retaliation for a man’s crimes.

God gave the Law of Retaliation to Jewish courts as a guide for handing down just punishments on lawbreakers. But in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were using the Law of Retaliation, which was designed to be used in a court of law, to justify private retaliation in their personal relationships. They used it to justify revenge—in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their workplaces. Every time someone offended them, criticized them or accidentally tripped them on the street, they believed that they could take the law into their own hands and get some payback. They could “make that person pay for what he did,” and they claimed that God’s law justified it.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that this law was NOT given as a mandate for personal vengeance. He starts with this general principle: “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person” (v. 39). In other words, “Don’t stoop to an evil person’s level. Don’t respond in kind. There is no room in My Kingdom for petty, tit-for-tat vengeance.” 

In verses 39-42, Jesus gives us five quick examples of the way we should treat people who have hurt us or wronged us.

Example #1 (v. 39): “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Just as in our day, most people in Jesus’ day were right-handed. So, how would a right-handed person slap you on the right cheek using his right hand? It would have to be a back-handed slap, right? In Israel, a back-handed slap was especially insulting. So, Jesus is saying this: “Christians, if someone insults you in a big way, don’t retaliate by insulting him back. Stand there and take it—as long as you need to—to do the work I’ve called you to do.”

Example #2 (v. 40): “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” If your enemy wants to unjustly take something from you, give him more than he’s asking for. If the judge tells you to give her $500, give her $700 and apologize. Or better yet, give her more than she’s asking for before you ever enter the courtroom.

Example #3 (v. 41): “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” If someone who can’t stand you asks you to help him for 30 minutes with a menial task, help him for an hour instead. Even when someone treats you like garbage, don’t give him your bare minimum effort. Go the extra mile. When someone asks you to wash the dishes, wipe off the countertop as well. When someone asks you to put $5 of gas into their gas tank, put $10 of gas into their tank.

Example #4 (v. 42): “Give to the one who begs from you.” When an undeserving person asks you for something, if he really needs it, GIVE it to him.  Now, I don’t believe that this means that God is calling us to give money to every panhandler. In fact, I almost never give money to a panhandler, because, in most cases, it doesn’t really help them. What Jesus is saying is that if someone approaches you with a legitimate need and you have the ability to meet that need, help him—even if that person drives you up the wall. Give it to him.

Example #5 (v. 42): “Do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” When an undeserving person asks to borrow something from you, if she really needs it, let her borrow it—even if she is rude or mean.

Jesus is really raising the bar, isn’t He? He’s asking those who follow him to do better than the self-righteous, self-serving Pharisees. He’s saying, “Enough already with your shallow, self-centered religion! It’s time to get out of the spiritual nursery and grow up! It’s time to go deeper and aim higher. It’s time to bring heaven—especially the unconditional love of God—to your little corner of the world.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service tomorrow at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Can People Count on You?

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:37

Recently I was reminded of the good ol’ days of telling fibs on the grade school playground. My buddy would swear that he was telling me the truth. I didn’t believe him. So, I’d tell him to cross his heart, which he’d do as he repeated the tired line: “Cross my heart and hope to die … stick a needle in my eye!” And it turned out that he was still lying … because his fingers were crossed!

Back in Jesus’ day, the religious leaders had some of their own sneaky ways of getting around having to tell the truth. Those leaders, particularly the Pharisees, had developed a complicated system of oaths and swearing they could use as loopholes when it suited them. So, Jesus had those loopholes in mind when he gave us these verses in his Sermon on the Mount:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King….  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Not sure what he means? Well, let’s look at this familiar teaching in a fresh way. In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases these verses this way: “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk…. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

Remember, Phariseeism is all about looking good on the outside to impress people. So, not surprisingly, the Jewish teachers’ oaths were all about impressing people. In Matthew 23, Jesus levels “Seven Woes” on the religious leaders. In verse 5, he says, “Everything they do is done for men to see.” And in verses 16-19, Jesus points out how hypocritical their oaths and swearing were: “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”

Jesus had good reason to be upset by the religious leaders’ oaths and swearing. They had developed a ridiculous list of nauseating rules that spelled out what you could and couldn’t swear by. “If you swear by this, you have to keep your promise, but if you swear by that, you don’t.” These so-called “religious leaders” were like second-grade boys at recess.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus gives his fourth example of the clear difference between the righteousness of Phariseeism and the righteousness that God seeks. To borrow Eugene Peterson’s words, Jesus is condemning the act of “laying down a smoke screen of pious talk.” He is rebuking us for “embellishing our words with religious lace.” And he is scolding us for “manipulating words” to get our own way.

For the follower of Christ, there should be no difference between our truthfulness, from conversation to conversation or from place to place. I should be no less truthful to a stranger on the street than I am to my wife at home. I should be no less truthful to the checkout lady at Target than I am to my kids at school. I should be no less truthful to the cop who pulls me over –Uh-oh! Now it’s getting convicting!—than I am to a friend at lunch.

Jesus Christ is raising the bar, calling us to be honest at all times—saying what we mean and meaning what we say. No embellishing. No half-truths. No white lies. Simple, untainted honesty.

But Jesus is teaching us to be more than just truthful. When he tells us to “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’,” he is also telling us to be reliable. If you say you’re going to be there at 8 o’clock, be there at 8 o’clock.  If you say you’re going to pay someone back next Saturday, pay him back next Saturday. If you say you’re going to pray for her, pray for her now.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No.’ As Christ’s followers, we are called to a higher standard. Jesus expects us to be honest and dependable. It boils down to this: Jesus Christ calls us to be honest and dependable in all of our relationships—from our spouses to our friends to our co-workers. When we do this faithfully, we bring a much-needed taste of heaven to our little corner of the world.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Jesus Raises the Bar on Divorce

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.”
Matthew 5:31

Studies consistently show that around 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce. Ever since “no-fault” divorce laws were passed in the 1970s, divorce rates have gone through the roof. There’s no doubt that making divorces easier has made them more common.

And you might be surprised to learn that divorces were just as common in Jesus’ day. Many Jewish rabbis taught that God approved of divorce … at least, when it was the husband’s idea. They taught Israelite men that there were all sorts of legitimate reasons for a husband to divorce his wife: if she was a lousy cook, if she lost her good looks and her nice figure, or if the husband found another younger woman who was more attractive than she was. According to many rabbis, ALL of these were acceptable and biblical reasons for a husband to divorce his wife.

But Jesus says, “NOT SO FAST!”

In his great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32). Now, is Jesus saying what we think he’s saying? Is he actually saying that some wives who are having sex with their husbands are committing adultery with their husbands? Yes, he is. Is he actually saying that some husbands who are having sex with their wives are committing adultery with their wives? Yes, he is. How is that even possible?

In this passage, God says that a divorced woman must never remarry her first husband after being married to another man. This example of Jesus’ higher standard is actually piggybacking off of his previous example dealing with adultery: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (v. 28). Long story short: The Pharisees believed they were obeying the 7th Commandment flawlessly. They were convinced that they did NOT commit adultery. But Jesus reveals that they were adulterers in their hearts because of their lust. And in verse 32, he reveals that they were adulterers with their bodies because, as they had sex with their new wives, they were cheating on their old wives whom they didn’t have God’s permission to divorce in the first place.

Jesus gives an expanded version of his teaching on divorce in Matthew 19:3-9. In this passage, Jesus takes his listeners all the way back to Genesis 2—the day God created marriage. Jesus reminds us that God’s original design and plan for marriage was for one man to be married to one woman for life. God would seal their wedding vows, and nothing short of death was to tear them apart: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt. 19:6).

Jesus gives us only one legitimate, God-allowed reason for a divorce: adultery. And the Apostle Paul gives one more God-allowed reason in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16: physical abandonment by a non-Christian spouse. However, if there is physical or sexual abuse of any kind in your marriage, you need to separate immediately. If your safety or your kids’ safety is at risk, get out. But separation doesn’t automatically mean that divorce is your next step. If there are NOT biblical grounds for divorce, you should work on your marriage—from a safe distance.

There are other questions that we don’t have time to answer: What if my husband is a jerk? What if my wife is an addict? What if my husband is in the clink? What if I don’t love her anymore? In this sinful world of ours, we are always looking for excuses for getting out of our commitments. But if you are married, I encourage you to be true to the vows you made on your wedding day to love, honor and cherish him/her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. It won’t be easy, but with God’s help, you can successfully fight for your marriage.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Have You Killed Anyone Lately?

Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20

In 1910, a newspaper editorial asked the question: “What is wrong with the world today?” The British author G. K. Chesterton reportedly replied, “Dear sir, I am. Yours faithfully, G.K. Chesterton.”

Mr. Chesterton was on to something. When it comes down to it, there was one main reason Jesus left the comfort of heaven to come to earth: We had screwed up everything. Our world was broken, and we were to blame. Our marriages were broken. Our families were broken. Our friendships and our governments were broken. And all of this brokenness existed because our relationship with God was broken. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that when Jesus came onto the scene, our religion was also broken. We thought we knew what God’s requirements were. NOPE! We thought we had figured out how to please God, but we were wrong.

In Jesus’ day, the prominent religious leaders were the Pharisees. And at first glance, the Pharisees looked pretty impressive. In the centuries leading up to Jesus’ birth, the Jewish leaders had added hundreds of extra laws to the original 613 Laws of Moses. The Pharisees believed that obeying these very detailed, nitpicky rules made them extra righteous in God’s eyes. But guess what? They were wrong. The Jewish leaders’ standards appear high because they are very detailed. But they’re actually low because they’re shallow—only skin deep. In contrast, God’s standards are high because they involve both the external and the internal. They involve our bodies, minds and our hearts.

Jesus tackles the misunderstanding that a true follower of God should like a Pharisee. He tells his followers in Matthew 5:20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus makes it clear that Phariseeism—shallow, flashy, hypocritical religion—will never get us into the Kingdom of Heaven. Phariseeism is me-centered, not God-centered. It’s dressed to impress people, not lived out to glorify Christ.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives six examples of the way God’s standards are much higher and deeper than those of the Jewish leaders. And he starts off with the 6th Commandment: “Thou shalt not murder.” Now, this was a great way to draw his listeners’ attention, because most people get a little cocky and self-righteous when it comes to this command. We say, “At times I’ve dishonored my father and mother. Sometimes I’ve lied or even stolen a few, small things. But hey! At least I’ve never murdered anybody! The 6th commandment? NAILED IT!” But Jesus says, “Not so fast!”

He goes on: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (vs. 21-22a). Jesus does what he does so well: He doesn’t just focus on outward sin. He identifies the source—the root of that sin. The Greek word that Jesus uses here for “angry” refers to a long-lasting, bitter, vengeful anger that many people—including many Christians—refuse to get rid of. Jesus says in no uncertain terms: “If you’ve got an ex-husband, a former boss or anyone else in your life that you refuse to stop being angry at, you refuse to stop resenting, you refuse to forgive, then, in God’s eyes … you are a murderer.”

Jesus reveals that the 6th commandment was never about just PHYSICAL murder. The 6th commandment doesn’t give me permission to hate my next door neighbor as long as I don’t murder him. Ladies, it doesn’t give you permission to dream up 100 different ways you could kill your ex-husband as long as you don’t actually do it. God has never given us a green light to make our enemies’ lives a living hell … as long as we don’t actually murder them. Jesus says, “No! All murder begins in the heart, not in the hands. Therefore, in God’s eyes, anger that festers in the heart IS murder.”

Jesus raised the moral bar higher than we would have ever imagined. In fact, he raised it so high that we have all fallen short. By Jesus’ definition of murder, I’m guilty and you’re guilty too. At some point in our lives, every one of us has harbored anger, bitterness and unforgiveness against someone else. And it won’t land you in jail here on earth. But in God’s eyes it is “heart murder” that leaves us guilty before our holy God. We need to admit it.  And humbly ask Jesus Christ for forgiveness.

Obeying the 6th Commandment requires that we deal with the root of murder: the anger and bitterness in our hearts. So, I need to ask you a serious question: Are you murdering anyone today? Is there anyone in your life that you’re still harboring anger against, refusing to forgive, wishing he or she were dead? If so, you need to go humbly to Christ today and deal with it. There’s no place in a Christian’s life for that kind of anger.

Jesus reveals the sad reality that we have failed to live up to God’s standards. We have screwed up more than we realized. But remember: God’s grace is greater than our disgrace. We are all murderers in God’s eyes—and adulterers, and thieves, and idolators. But He washed me clean. And He can wash you clean too, if you’ll let Him. He so much wants to help us to follow Him well as He deals with the root of our sin and helps us to live a life that is right … from the inside out.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service tomorrow at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Do We Need the Old Testament?

“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.” Matthew 5:17

By the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, rumors had already begun to spread that he was starting a religious revolution. Many Jews—especially those in the religious establishment—had come to believe that Jesus wanted to scrap the Jewish religion. After all, Jesus ignored many of their time-honored customs, like ceremonial hand washing and fasting every Friday. Jesus did rebellious things, like healing on the Sabbath Day. Jesus shared meals with tax collectors, prostitutes and other sinners. No self-respecting rabbi would ever do that!  And if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus didn’t tiptoe around the religious leaders and treat them like royalty. Now, THAT was inexcusable!

So, many Jews in Israel were confused about what Jesus thought about the Old Testament. Some were convinced that he wanted to abolish it altogether. And honestly, in our day, many Christians believe much the same thing. Many Christians believe that the Old Testament, especially the Old Testament Law, belongs on the ash heap of no-longer-relevant history. But to that, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17: “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.” I really like the way The Living Bible paraphrases this verse: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come—it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them and to make them all come true.” 

One reason we can be certain that Jesus was the promised Christ was because he is the only person in the history of the world who fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies: He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin in the family line of King David (prophesied in Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14 and Jer. 23:5-6). He came out of Egypt, grew up in Nazareth and proclaimed good news to the poor and freedom for the captives. (Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 61:1). Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was pierced. Men cast lots for his clothing. And he was raised to life. (Those are fulfillments of the very detailed prophecies in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Directly or indirectly, Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies.

So, Jesus has no desire or intention of eliminating the Old Testament’s prophetic books, because they all serve as a huge neon arrow pointing right to Jesus. If you read the New Testament and aren’t convinced that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God, then go back and read the Old Testament prophets. Read ALL of Isaiah 53. Read ALL of Psalm 22, and you’ll become convinced. Because, once again, the Old Testament prophets are a neon arrow pointing straight to Jesus. 

But what about the Old Testament law, the Torah? In the first five books of the Old Testament —especially Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the ancient Jewish scribes counted 613 Laws of Moses. Didn’t Jesus come to scrap those laws? Obviously, we don’t slaughter sheep and goats anymore. We don’t wring off the heads of sacrificial doves. We don’t burn incense in temples, prosecute people who get tattoos, or stone to death children who rebel against their parents.

Well, keep this in mind. Those 613 laws fall into three categories: The Moral Law, The Civil Law, and the Ceremonial Law. The Moral Law contains laws like the Ten Commandments, which are timeless. They are to be obeyed by every follower of God in ALL times and places. The Civil Law contained specific laws for the nation of Israel to help maintain law and order. The Ceremonial Law contained the laws dealing with worship at the tabernacle and temple, including animal sacrifice.

Jesus came to reinforce the Old Testament Moral Law, and he came to FULFILL the intention of the Civil and Ceremonial Law. What does that mean? Theologian Warren Wiersbe explains it very well: “Jesus did not destroy the law by fighting it; He destroyed it by fulfilling it! Perhaps an illustration will make this clear. If I have an acorn, I can destroy it in one of two ways. I can put it on a rock and smash it to bits with a hammer. Or, I can plant it in the ground and let it fulfill itself by becoming an oak tree.”

So, did Jesus come to take a hammer and beat the Old Testament Law to a bloody pulp? Never! The Jewish people didn’t realize that for the past 1,500 years God had been planting those 613 Old Testament laws as seeds in the ground. If people were to step back and open their eyes, they would see that those 613 laws blossomed into a living, breathing neon arrow that pointed straight to Jesus.

We don’t need to slaughter sheep and birds anymore, not because those laws have been abolished, but because Jesus’ sacrifice has made them obsolete. We don’t have Aaron’s priesthood anymore that leads us in temple rituals, not because Jesus scrapped Aaron’s priesthood or the temple rituals, but because Jesus’ greater priesthood and superior ministry have made them obsolete. So, Jesus says in Matthew 5:18: “I tell you the truth, 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.”

So, what are you and I supposed to do with the Old Testament Law? Should we take out a hammer and beat it to a bloody pulp? Never! It is God’s word. So, we read it. We study it. And we step back and marvel at the way it points straight to Jesus.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.