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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Don't Lose Your Flavor!

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness … it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” — Matthew 5:13

I heard about a man who was walking through a county fair when he met a little girl who was carrying a gigantic fluff of cotton candy on a stick. It was almost as big as she was! He asked her, "How can a little girl like you eat all that cotton candy?" She looked up at him and said, "Well, I'm really much bigger on the inside than I am on the outside."

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, here’s a truth that Jesus doesn’t want you to miss: While the world focuses on making you bigger on the outside, Jesus focuses on making you bigger on the inside. When Jesus preached the greatest sermon of all time, the Sermon on the Mount, he was aiming the sermon at his followers—those who had already chosen to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And he started off with the eight Beatitudes to show us what our character should look like in Christ’s Kingdom: humble, repentant, self-controlled, hungry for God, merciful, sincere peace makers.

But what Jesus teaches us immediately after the Beatitudes is just as important. In a nutshell, Jesus says, “There is a reason I’ve called you to live this way. It all comes down to influence.” The passage right after the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:13, is ALL ABOUT INFLUENCE. Jesus tells us, “I order you to influence those around you! You are the salt of the earth!” In Christ’s own words: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” What on earth does he mean?

Well, salt brings out flavor, and it creates thirst. But there is another use of salt that is more likely what Jesus had in mind that day.

Salt purifies. In the ancient world, raw salt was considered to be one of the purest elements on earth, and therefore came to symbolize purity. That’s one of the main reasons God instructed the Jewish priests to use it in their religious ceremonies and sacrifices. As Christ’s followers, we are to purify this corrupt world through our example of righteous character and by leading people to Jesus, who can cleanse them from unrighteousness. If you and I are living righteous lives but not leading people to Jesus Christ, our righteousness won’t do our family and friends any good. They’ll still die in their sins. On the other hand, if we try to lead people to Jesus, but we ourselves are just as corrupt as the people around us, unbelievers will say, “No, thank you! If that’s what following Jesus looks like, count me out!”

Notice that Jesus says, “If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” People in Jesus’ day knew exactly what he was talking about. The Jewish people quarried most of their salt from the Dead Sea valley, where there is plenty of salt. But there’s one problem: Much of the salt is contaminated with sand and gypsum and chemicals. Strictly speaking, the salt itself is not less salty than other salt. But mixed with all the other junk, it loses its potency. And when that happened in Jesus’ day, people would just toss it out on the roads as a cheap weed killer that people could stomp on.

Followers of Christ are a salt that purifies. We are called to remain pure in a corrupt world. And our purity should influence the corrupt world around us. We mustn’t let the corrupt world influence us the way sand and gypsum dilutes the flavor of salt. People have a bad habit of lowering their moral standards over time. Cultures around the world tend to lower their sexual standards, their standards for marriage and divorce, and their moral standards for music, TV programs and movies. But Christians are called to maintain the highest level of pure moral standards in a polluted culture that constantly wants us to drop them. So, in all likelihood, Jesus has purity in mind as he tells us that we are the salt of the earth.

You and I should have a purifying effect everywhere we go. Your home should be less corrupt because you’re there. Your workplace should be less corrupt because you’re there. Your school, your neighborhood and even your church should be less corrupt because you’re there.

And if they aren’t then something is terribly wrong, because pure salt always has an influence. Pure salt always makes a difference. So, if you are a follower of Christ but you’re not having a positive impact in your corner of the world, there are only two possible explanations: 1) Either you’ve become contaminated, or 2) you’re hiding in the salt shaker. Either way, you need to knock it off!

Bible scholar William Barclay wrote: “If the Christian is to be the salt of the earth, he must have a certain antiseptic influence on life…. The Christian must be the cleansing antiseptic in any society in which he happens to be; he must be the person who by his presence defeats corruption and makes it easier for others to be good.”

Salt purifies. So, Jesus calls you and me to have a purifying influence in our world. Remember, “You are the salt of the earth!”

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.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

What do you think of when you hear the word “peacemaker”? Many people in our culture think of the Colt single-action revolver, the pistol famously known as “The Peacemaker.” What do you think the chances are that, when Jesus told us, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9), he had something entirely different in mind? Pretty good chance, don’t you think?

Throughout the New Testament, God’s word calls us to pursue peace. Jesus tells us in Mark 9:50: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” And James 3:17-18 reads, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Notice something interesting in that James 3 passage. It doesn’t say that the wisdom from heaven is first of all “peace-loving.” It says that the wisdom from heaven is, first of all, pure. “Blessed are the peacemakers” was the seventh Beatitude given by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. But right before it, the sixth beatitude says, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (v8). Do you think it’s a coincidence that being pure is mentioned right before being peace-loving in James 3:17 and ALSO mentioned right before being peacemakers in Matthew 5:9? No way! It’s definitely not a coincidence.

So, here’s a very important truth: Without purity, there will be no peace. To be peace lovers and peacemakers, we must first be pure in heart. If peace is built on any foundation other than Christ’s purity, it’s a FALSE peace. That’s very important to remember these days, when there’s much talk about achieving “peace in the Middle East,” “peace in Washington D.C.” and “peace in America.” If the foundation of that so-called “peace” is anything other than the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, that is a false peace. Like the peace that comes from a Colt single-action revolver it is—at best—shallow and temporary.

God wants you to be at peace in your relationships, but never at the expense of your purity. If you have to lie, cheat, steal, or in any way compromise your integrity on the road to peace, you’re on the wrong road. Many wives think that they have to lie to their husbands to keep the peace. Many kids and teenagers think that they have to cheat on their assignments to keep their grades up so they can keep the peace at home. Many of us, when we’re around non-Christian friends, change the way we talk and act in order to fit in and keep the peace. But that’s a false peace that ultimately doesn’t do your friends any good. Impurity never leads to true, lasting peace.

Once you have that foundation of purity, here are four keys to becoming a peacemaker in your relationships:

Key #1: Stay humble. If you are arrogant and full of yourself, you’ll inevitably say and do things to others that damage your relationships. If you aren’t humble, you will be a peace-breaker, not a peacemaker.

Key #2: Repent of your sin. Once you humble yourself before God, you must grieve over your own sin and turn from it. If you don’t think that your mean and hurtful words to others are really mean and hurtful, don’t be surprised if you’ve got some broken relationships on your hands. Don’t ever forget the four most important three-word sentences in any relationship. “I am sorry.” “I was wrong.” “I love you.” “Please forgive me.” If you can’t speak those words and mean them, you are NOT a peacemaker.

Key #3: Pray for those who have hurt you. Jesus says in Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Don’t expect to experience true peace and reconciliation in your relationships if you’re not willing to sincerely love and pray for those who’ve hurt you. If you’re harboring bitterness, anger and resentment toward someone, DO NOT try to make peace with him or her until you’ve spent time in prayer and given that bitterness, anger and resentment over to the Lord. 

Key #4: Act quickly. Don’t allow open wounds to fester. Jesus tells us plainly in Matthew 5:25, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary.” That’s marvelous counsel. Don’t allow wounds in your relationships to fester. Don’t allow the sun to go down on your anger. If you want to be a peacemaker, deal with the rifts in your relationships as soon as possible. Take time to pray first, but then get to it!

Finally, remember: The most important way we can ever bring about peace in our relationships with people is to lead them into a relationship with Jesus. You’ll never be a true peacemaker who will be called a “child of God” if you’re not leading those around you to become “children of God” as well.

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, January 29, 2021

Blessed Are the Compassionate

 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Normally, when we think of mercy, we think of withholding someone’s just punishment. Our 5-year-old deserves a swat, but in mercy … we only give him a scolding. We deserve a ticket after blowing through a stop sign, but in mercy … the police officer lets us off with only a warning. A convicted felon deserves three years in prison, but in mercy … the judge only gives probation.

That’s normally the kind of thing we think of when we hear the word mercy. But that’s not what Jesus focuses on in Matthew 5:7 when he says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” As he delivers this fifth beatitude in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ main focus in is on active kindness and compassion shown to the poor and the hurting.

In Matthew 9:27, two blind men called out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” They desperately needed a healing. So, they cried out for mercy … and Jesus gave them mercy.

In Matthew 15:22, a woman whose son was demon-possessed cried out to Jesus, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And of course, Jesus did. In Matthew 17:15 a father whose son suffered greatly from seizures knelt at Jesus’ feet and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son.” And once again, Jesus did.

Time and time again, Jesus showed compassion, kindness and mercy to those who were poor and hurting. And he did this because mercy is one of God’s greatest character traits. Psalm 103:8 says: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made” (Psalm 145:9). “[God’s] mercies never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). And because mercy is one of God’s greatest character traits, heaven is full of mercy. So, as you and I are called to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, one of the most important things that God calls us to bring to our corner of the world is—you guessed it—mercy.

We must show that we are followers of our heavenly Lord by extending undeserved mercy to those around us. I emphasize the word “undeserved” because mercy—by definition—is ALWAYS undeserved. How can you possibly give a second chance to those around you who don’t deserve a second chance? Because Jesus gave YOU a second chance when you didn’t deserve it. How can you find the time and energy to show compassion and mercy to the broken people around you? Because Jesus showed YOU compassion and mercy when you were broken. How can you muster the motivation to help a homeless man who smells like urine, or a family member who does nothing but complain, or a freeloader friend who doesn’t even say, “Thank you”? You can do it because you know that Jesus showed you kindness and mercy when you smelled bad, complained and were ungrateful.

Pastor John Piper says it so well: “Mercy comes from mercy. Our mercy to each other comes from God’s mercy to us…. The key to becoming a merciful person is to become a broken person. You get the power to show mercy from the real feeling in your heart that you owe everything you are and have to sheer divine mercy. Therefore, if we want to become merciful people, it is imperative that we cultivate a view of God and ourselves that helps us to say with all our heart that every joy and virtue … of our lives is owing to the free and undeserved mercy of God.”

If we are followers of Jesus Christ, you and I have both stepped out from under the storm clouds of heaven to be bathed in the mercy of God. And everyone in your little corner of the world needs to experience that same slice of heaven: to be bathed in God’s mercy—through you. Our world needs less of our judgment and more of our mercy. Our world needs less of us giving people what they deserve and more of giving people what they don’t deserve: kindness, forgiveness, and compassion.

In Christ’s kingdom, poor and hurting people are a higher priority than us getting enough sleep. Poor and hurting people are a higher priority than eating three square meals a day. And poor and hurting people are a higher priority than our precious schedules. Showing Christ’s mercy to poor and hurting people will cost you—a lot. But show them mercy anyway. And as we do, guess what? What goes around comes around. As we forgive others, God will forgive us. And as we give others undeserved kindness and mercy, God will give us undeserved kindness and mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

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, January 22, 2021

Blessed Are the Self-Controlled

 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

My heart has been heavy for our nation these past few weeks. Like you, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw rioters flooding into the U.S. Capitol building. And my heart sank as I learned that five people had been killed in the melee. I turned to my wife, Christine, and said, “I wish that Martin Luther King, Jr. could have been on the steps of the Capitol.”

At a time when our nation was divided, Dr. King had a God-given ability to bring people together —peacefully—to bring about change. That’s what he was doing in April 1968 when he traveled to Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was there to help organize a peaceful march to protest the mistreatment of sanitation workers. But the following day, as he waited on the balcony of his motel for his driver to pick him up, he was assassinated. What a loss!

In our day, when so many Americans are angry, bitter and striking out at each other, we desperately need followers of Christ who, like MLK, are strong enough to stand for truth but self-controlled enough to do it peacefully. Our nation needs followers of Christ who are meek. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s third beatitude is “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (v5). So much of what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount is upside down, topsy-turvy—180 degrees from conventional wisdom. This third beatitude is no exception.

There are just two problems with it. The first problem is that most people confuse meekness with weakness. So, they don’t want anything to do with it. The second problem is that when people find out what meekness really means … they still want nothing to do with it.

So, what does it mean to be meek? The Greek word used here for meek is “praeis,” which can be translated a few different ways. Synonyms include gentle, self-controlled, tame, submissive, kind-hearted and sweet-spirited. In Jesus’ day, the Greeks used the word meek to describe a horse that had been broken. Even though the horse was bigger, stronger, and in some cases smarter than its rider, it was gentle. It was self-controlled. It was tame. It was submissive. It was kind-hearted and sweet-spirited, allowing its rider to lead it wherever he or she wanted to go. So, here’s the simplest definition of meek than I can give you: Meekness is power under control. 

Now, we like to see meekness in horses. And we certainly want to see it in our pets and our kids. But honestly, most of us don’t want to see meekness in ourselves, because our sinful nature equates meekness with weakness. In our sinful pride we don’t WANT to be gentle to those who are rude to us. We don’t WANT to be self-controlled when everyone around us is losing control. We don’t WANT to be tame, because we’ve come to believe that tame people don’t get anywhere in life. We don’t WANT to be submissive, because conventional wisdom has taught us to be assertive, to take charge, to let everyone know who we are and why they should get the heck out of our way.

And we sure don’t celebrate meekness in our culture. Think about the action movies we watch. When was the last time that you saw a movie where the hero was taken advantage of and mistreated, and the big buildup in the movie was the moment the hero stormed the enemy fortress and was gentle and kind to his foes? NO WAY! We don’t want to see a movie like that. Instead, we celebrate when John Wick, James Bond and John Rambo blow the bad guys to smithereens, making them pay for what they did. We cheer when little Kevin McAllister makes the burglars pay for breaking into his house in "Home Alone." We don't celebrate meekness in our culture. We celebrate payback. We celebrate revenge. We celebrate karma.

How different this is from what Jesus teaches. Jesus teaches gentleness instead of aggressiveness; self-control instead of losing control; submission instead of dominance. Jesus teaches us to be tame instead of reckless. Jesus teaches us to be meek. And most people, including many Christians, say, “Thanks, but no thanks! Count me out!” Because in our culture, being gentle, submissive and tame seems completely backwards. It boggles our minds to think that something good could actually come from gentle submission.

But in Christ’s kingdom, something good DOES come from it. In fact, it’s one of the very best things: The meek will inherit the earth. And because of that meekness, the price of our sin was paid. As Jesus hung on the cross, thousands of angels could have been dispatched at his command to obliterate every enemy he had. But he kept his mouth shut. Why? Because the strongest man who ever walked this earth was meek. His power was under control. Jesus Christ chose to be gentle to those who nailed him to a cross. He chose to be submissive to His Father in heaven. He chose to be self-controlled, tame and kind-hearted to those who spat in his face.

And he calls you and me to do the same. There’s a big difference between a weak person and a meek person. A weak person can’t do anything. A meek person has the strength and skill to wipe the floor with his enemies—but he chooses not to. Jesus calls you and me to CHOOSE NOT TO. Not to assert our dominance over others. Not to be unkind to others. Not to retaliate against others. Not to treat others as badly as they treat us … but to humbly, gently, mercifully treat them the way Jesus would treat them.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” With these words Jesus Christ calls us to be gentle and self-controlled. So, let’s get to it, so that we can experience the awesome blessings of God right here on earth.

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.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Who Wants to Be Poor?

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 
 Matthew 5:3

Ask any Christian what the most important verse in the Bible is, and more often than not they’ll answer, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That verse beautifully summarizes the fact that we can never EARN our salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. And the key to receiving that gift is faith. We must believe—truly believe—in Jesus.

But somewhere along the way, many Christians have bought into the crazy idea that Christianity is ONLY about holding the right beliefs. As long as I believe right, I will be right with God. As long as I believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God, as long as I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, I can call myself a “good Christian.”

But there’s just one problem with this notion: It’s not true. Jesus never taught us that Christianity is only a matter of BELIEVING right. Christianity is also a matter of DOING right. We are not just believers in Jesus Christ. We are believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  And nowhere is that made more clear than in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

The first type of teaching Jesus uses in this great sermon are known as the Beatitudes, which we find in Matthew 5:3-12. The word “beatitude” is taken from the Latin word “beatitudo”, which means “blessed are.” Many pastors and Bible teachers translate this word simply as “happy.” But “happy” is far too narrow a translation. “Blessed” means so much more than happy. Years ago, one of my Bible college professors, Knofel Staton, did an in-depth study of this word “blessed,” and he learned that it means two things beyond “happy”:

1: Congratulations. In his Beatitudes, Jesus isn’t just saying that those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn and those who are merciful will be happy. He is also saying “Congratulations are in order for my followers who are poor in spirit and those who mourn.”

2: Buoyed up. Jesus is also saying, “In this sinful world we live in—no matter what hardships or insults come your way—the world will never be able to sink your faith or drown your relationship with Christ. God will see to it that you will always bounce back to surface. You are buoyed up in Christ. Neither this world nor the armies of hell can sink a faithful follower of Christ.”

Let’s focus on the first Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3). Someone once asked the evangelist Billy Graham: Why doesn’t Jesus tell us to be rich in spirit instead of telling us to be poor in spirit? Reverend Graham answered: “If you put the word ‘humble’ in place of the word ‘poor,’ you will understand what [Jesus] meant. We must be humble in our spirits. In other words, when we come to God, we must realize our own sin and our spiritual emptiness and poverty. We must not be self-satisfied or proud in our hearts, thinking we don’t really need God. If we are, God cannot bless us. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).” So, “poor in spirit” means humble in spirit and empty in spirit.

If I am serious about being in Christ’s heavenly kingdom, I must begin by confessing that by myself, I can’t ever get there. By myself I will never get to heaven. By myself I can never be right with God. By myself I can never ever be saved. If you don’t fall in line with this truth, you CAN’T be blessed by God.  So, if you can’t live out this first beatitude, there’s no point moving on to the other seven.

Some of us come to Christ with notions of our own righteousness. This first beatitude knocks us off our high horse. Some of us come to Christ thinking we’ll impress Him with our religious heritage: “I grew up in a good Catholic home.” “I was baptized as a baby and confirmed as a teenager.” “My wife and I were married in the church.” But this beatitude makes it clear, not only that our religious upbringing doesn’t impress God, but that it actually turns Him off when we hold it up like some sort of trophy. If you puff out your chest and brag to God about making it onto the religious honor roll, Jesus Christ will flunk you out of class. Religious pride is repulsive to Him. But He is drawn to spiritual poverty.

At the heart of this first beatitude is a humble recognition of my weakness and God’s strength, an understanding that I offer God nothing yet God offers me everything. Spiritual poverty is attractive to Jesus because it’s honest, it’s real, and—most importantly—it gives Him plenty of room to come in and fill us with more of God. The biggest problem with being a religious snob is that we’re so full of ourselves, there’s no room left for Christ. But when we are spiritually humble, spiritually empty, there is plenty of room for Jesus to come in and fill us with Himself. So, Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Follow me humbly, or you won’t follow me at all.”

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 our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Friday, January 8, 2021

For Such a Time As This

 “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
— Esther 4:14

There’s a story about a dairy farmer who went to buy a new pickup truck. He had seen an ad in the paper for a great deal on a new truck, so he decided to trade in his old clunker. He went to the dealership, chose a pickup and was ready to write the check for the full amount. But the salesman said, “Wait, I haven’t given you the final price yet.” Farmer John asked, “Isn’t it the price I saw in the paper?” The salesman said, “No, that’s for the base model. All the options cost extra.” So, after the options were added, the farmer reluctantly wrote a check for $2,000 more than he had planned to pay, and he drove off the lot in his new pick-up.

A few months later the car salesman called Farmer John because he wanted to buy a cow. The farmer assured the car salesman he had several good milk cows for sale for $500. The salesman drove out, selected a cow and took out his checkbook. But Farmer John said, “Wait. I haven’t given you the final price yet.” Then he handed the salesman a bill that read: “Basic cow, $500. Two-tone exterior, $45. Milk storage compartment, $60. Four handy spigots at $10 each, $40. Leather upholstery, $125. Automatic rear fly swatter, $38. Natural fertilizer attachment, $185. Grand total … $1,233.”

Now, I’d like to ask you an interesting question: If you were a cow on Farmer John’s dairy farm, what kind of cow would you be? Think about it. Many Christians have a low view of themselves. They believe that if they were a cow, they would be a base model. Sadly, some Christians see themselves as an ugly cow—not good for much. On the other hand, other Christians believe that if they were a cow, they would be the top-of-the-line limited edition, with all the cowbells and whistles. So, if you were a cow, would you be a base model or the top-of-the-line, limited edition? The truth is, you’d be somewhere in the middle. God did not design you as a base model. And although you ARE a limited edition, you’re not God’s greatest gift to the world either. That distinct honor has been given to Jesus Christ.                                                           

As we forge ahead in this New Year, I believe God wants to transform the way we view ourselves. I believe that He is calling some of us to stop thinking so little of ourselves and step up to our God-given calling. And I believe that He will be knocking some of us off our high horses, calling us to roll up our sleeves and get to work for Him. For an idea of what God wants for us, here are some insights from God’s word.

#1: God placed you at this time and place for a reason. You might wonder how on earth you ended up in the Victor Valley. You may even think that you being in the High Desert is a mistake. But it’s no mistake. God brought you here. Acts 17:26 tells us, “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” This verse reveals that God determined long ago both the time and place where you would live. You might think that you were born in the wrong century or in the wrong decade. But it’s no mistake that you are the age you are, living here today in the year 2021. God chose the perfect time and place for you to live.

#2: God has important work for you to do between here and heaven. Acts 13:36 reads, “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” David was born in Bethlehem in the 11th century B.C., because that’s the exact time and place God wanted David to be born. And God gave him a clear purpose to carry out in his own generation. God called David to slay Goliath, so David obediently slew Goliath. God called David to lead Israel in her battles and lead the people to follow God. So David obediently led Israel in her battles and led them to follow God. Before David died and left this earth, he served God’s purpose in his own generation. The same should be said of you. After all, you are not a stock cow. You have some custom upgrades. You have a unique personality, distinct experiences, and a particular set of skills that are perfectly suited for doing WHAT God has called you to do, WHERE He has called you to do it. And make no mistake about it: God has called you to do something that is important and meaningful.

#3: Everything you’ve learned and endured up to now has prepared you to serve Christ courageously in 2021. When Esther was queen of Persia nearly 500 years before Christ was born, a wicked advisor tricked her husband the king into signing an edict ordering that every Jew in the kingdom was to be killed. Her cousin Mordecai told her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy for her people. Esther was hesitant, because she could be put to death for even approaching the king without an invitation. Mordecai famously responded: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Esther needed to realize that everything she had learned, experienced and endured up to that point had prepared her for that pivotal moment. She was not in Persia by accident. She was not beautiful by accident. She was not queen by accident. God had done ALL of it to prepare her to serve God’s purpose in her own generation.

God’s general purpose is the same for all of us. He has called all of us to trust Him, to love Him and to serve Him. But what is God’s specific will for your life in 2021? Ask Him. Go to Him in prayer and say, “Lord, I believe that You placed me here at this time and place for a reason. You placed me here for such a time as this. So, please show me what Your purpose is for me today, and give me the courage to say what You want me to say and do what You want me to do.” And this I can say with certainly: All that we’ve learned and experienced and endured in 2020 has prepared us for even greater impact in 2021. So, let’s serve God’s purpose in our own generation.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our online service Sunday at 10 a.m. on our YouTube channel (Impact Christian Church) or on Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.