Friday, July 28, 2017

Jesus is the Gate

“Jesus said, ‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
He will come in and go out, and find pasture.’” – John 10:9

Earlier this summer, I was down the hill visiting my wife’s family. My father-in-law, an avid hiker, asked if my wife and I would like to join him for an early morning hike. The three of us woke up bright and early and started our trek. But after only about 10 minutes, we hit an unexpected obstacle: A large, locked metal security gate blocked the trail. Normally a city employee would have unlocked the gate by this time, but obviously he was running late. What had started out as a pleasant outing came to an abrupt end, reminding us of a very important reality: Everyone needs an open gate.

In John 10, Jesus tries to explain this reality to the Pharisees. He had just healed a blind man in the temple courts, and as they tended to do, the Pharisees had a problem with this healing. When they confronted Jesus, he told them they were more blind than the man had been before his healing—because they were spiritually blind. Jesus then shifted to a familiar scene in Israel: a sheep pen. He said, “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep” (John 10:1-2).

You see, in Jesus’ day, most shepherds in Israel had small flocks, and it was common for small villages to have only one sheep pen for the whole village. The pen was usually a wall of large rocks with only one break, or gate, through which the shepherds would usher their sheep every night. In the morning, each shepherd would come to the entrance of the sheep pen and call his sheep by name. Although the flocks were intermingled overnight, a sheep would only come out when it was called by its own shepherd.

During the night, a watchman guarded the entrance to the pen, so an intruder would have to get past him … unless they scaled the wall. But since a sheep would answer only to the voice of its own shepherd, the only way for the thief to get the mutton out of the pen was to kill it, then throw it over the wall and harvest the victim’s remains for its meat or wool. As Jesus describes in verse 10, the thief came to steal, kill and destroy.

When Jesus depicted a scene where true shepherds lead their sheep, while bogus shepherds steal and kill other people’s sheep, he was clearly rebuking the Pharisees as bogus, fake pastors.

Theologians have debated what the sheep pen represents. Since the sheep enter and leave each day, it doesn’t seem to correspond to salvation or heaven, since we don’t commute back and forth from either of those. The best interpretation I’ve heard is that the sheep pen represents Israel. Just as the pen protects the sheep within its walls, over the centuries God repeatedly protected and preserved Israel, His people. This interpretation makes even more sense when we read what Jesus says in verse 16: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen…. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Doesn’t that sound like God’s plan for welcoming Gentiles to the fold through Jesus Christ?

For us today, the sheep pen may represent our comfort zone. We need to venture out of it to graze and be nourished by God’s teaching, or eventually we’ll starve. But first, we all must listen to our good shepherd’s voice. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I am the gate for the sheep…. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (vs. 7b-9).

By rejecting Jesus, the Pharisees were rejecting the only true gate—the only real door to salvation, freedom and green pastures. May we never be so foolish as to follow in their footsteps.

If you’ve been missing out on a relationship with God, if you’ve been feeling hungry for more satisfying spiritual food, or if you’ve been feeling trapped in whatever sheep pen you find yourself in--Jesus is the gate. Jesus is the doorway to the peace with God and the freedom and joy you’ve been missing.

 Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jesus Is the Light of the World

“Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.’” - John 8:12

The story is told of an atheist professor who tried to convince his students that the existence of evil proves that God Himself is evil. A quick-thinking student asked, “Professor, does darkness exist?” The professor responded, “Of course it exists.” But the student disagreed: “Darkness does not exist. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t that correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”

The student continued: “Evil does not exist either, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exists just as light does. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love in his heart. It’s like the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

Great food for thought! Just as it would be ridiculous for us to turn off the lights in our home and then proceed to blame them for the darkness, it is silly to blame God for the prevalence of evil after having removed Him from our schools, our homes and our government. The Old Testament records the history of the Israelites who repeatedly removed God’s light from their nation. And the results were disastrous. But in fulfillment of His promise, God sent into the world the brightest light imaginable—His Son, Jesus Christ.

At the start of his gospel account, the Apostle John introduces Jesus Christ in an amazing way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” On that very first Christmas Day, Jesus Christ left the physical darkness of his mother’s womb and entered the spiritual darkness of this fallen world. He came as the embodiment of God’s Word and as the light of this dark world.

Thirty years later, Jesus stood in the temple courts during the Feast of Tabernacles and proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” This revelation was particularly powerful considering the fact that the Feast of Tabernacles commemorated God’s guidance of Israel’s ancestors during their forty-year journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land of Canaan. Before the eight-day annual feast began, the Jewish leaders erected four huge golden candelabras in the temple courts. These candelabras were seventy-five feet high, and when lit, would light up the night sky over Jerusalem. Standing just a few feet from these city-illuminating lamps, Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world.” Wow! It’s one thing to light up a city; it’s quite another to light up the world!

Jesus came into this dark, sin-cursed world and pierced the moral and spiritual darkness. Every single human being who has ever walked this earth commits sins. Before Jesus came onto the scene, everyone on earth was living under the curse of that darkness. But Jesus’ light broke through the darkness. Jesus’ light broke through the hopelessness, the hate and the condemnation. His light broke through the racism, the fear, the pride, the lust and the idolatry. Jesus’ light broke through because Jesus is the light of the world.

And while preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned to his followers and declared, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Yes, Jesus is the Light of the World, but every Jesus follower is also the light of the world because the Spirit of Jesus Christ dwells within us. He shines in us, and we are commanded to let his light shine through us. Sadly, most of us who claim to be Christians have a bad habit of shining our lights brightly in private and dimly in public. That’s one of the main reasons why Christians have had such limited impact in our culture in recent years. Let’s face it: Secret agent Christians don’t lead people to Christ’s salvation. Christians who disguise their faith don’t transform their families’ or neighbors’ morals. Jesus followers who only shine their lights within the four walls of the church building don’t penetrate the cultural darkness with the light of Christ.

We as Christians MUST shine the light of Christ outside the church building, and this light shining should be very practical. It involves sharing the Gospel with our mouths, but it also requires us to share the Gospel with our hands and feet. Christians who are serious about shining Christ’s light are serious about meeting people’s practical physical needs in addition to their deeper spiritual needs. Starving people need a full tummy before they’re ready to hear the Gospel. Injured people need a Band Aid before they’re ready to hear the message. People who feel they’ve been mistreated and betrayed by Christians need to experience your love before they can begin to understand Christ’s love.

Jesus is the Light of the World, and he has called you and me to shine his light in our dark world. We must allow Christ’s light to shine in us and through us. Darkness can only exist wherever Christ’s light is not allowed to shine. So, let your lights shine, Christians. Let them shine!

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jesus Is the Bread of Life

“This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:58

It’s one of Jesus’ most famous miracles. A huge crowd gathered on a remote shore of the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus teach. And as their tummies began to rumble, Jesus prayed over a small boy’s lunch (five rolls and two small fish), multiplying it to feed 5,000 men along with the women and children who were with them. All four gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) document this eye-popping miracle, but only John records Jesus’ sermon to the crowd the following day.

According to John 6:24-25, the people who had experienced Jesus’ fish and bread buffet a day earlier tracked Jesus down and tried to subtly convince him to produce another meal. But Jesus recognized their duplicity and told them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Well, the prospect of never being hungry again sounded great to the crowd, so they blurted out, “Sir, from now on give us this bread.” Clearly, they were so fixated on feeding their physical bodies that it didn’t cross their minds that Jesus was speaking of spiritual bread to nourish their souls.

So Jesus told the people plainly in verse 35 and reiterated it in verses 41, 51 and 58: “I am the bread of life.” Jesus emphasized to his listeners that the true bread from heaven is not a “what” but a “who.” The living bread is not a thing; it’s a person. Jesus claims to be the Bread of Life, but what does that mean? Well, it boils down to this: In order to ingest physical bread we use our mouths, and that bread temporarily nourishes our bodies. But when we ingest Jesus—the Living Bread—we use our hearts, and he eternally nourishes our souls. Every one of us desperately needs this Living Bread. And there are two vital truths that we must understand and embrace if we hope to possess it.

Truth #1: God provides the bread. Just as God provided manna in the wilderness to nourish the Israelites’ bodies, God provided Jesus Christ to nourish our spirits. God the Father is the Great Provider of the Bread of Life. In John 6, Jesus makes it clear that the Father draws us to Christ—the Bread of Life. Christ receives us, keeps us and raises us up to heaven. And no one, absolutely no one, can snatch us out of Christ’s hands once we’re there.

Truth #2: We must consume the bread. As Jesus revealed himself to the crowd as “the Bread of Life,” he said bluntly in verse 56: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” Now, over the centuries many Bible readers have been baffled by Jesus’ words. Just as the crowd in front of Jesus 2,000 years ago was fixated on physical bread, we tend to fixate on the physical as well. But Jesus clarifies his harsh-sounding teaching in verse 63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

In other words, Jesus is not advocating cannibalism. He is not telling the crowd to take a bite out of his arm or to start gnawing on his leg. He is asking them to—in faith—consume his teaching, ingest his offer of salvation and receive a vibrant, life-changing relationship with him that will never grow old or fade away.

But when push came to shove, most of the people in the crowd were not interested in spiritual food. They were hungry for breakfast, but they weren’t hungry for Jesus. John 6:66 is one of the saddest verses in the New Testament: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Ironically, the Scripture reference of this verse is John “666.” Over the years Satan has tempted Christ’s followers to perpetrate all kinds of evil (e.g., adultery, rape, kidnapping and murder). But all of these heinous sins can be forgiven by Christ. His grace is greater than our disgrace. But if we reject his grace by rejecting him, there is no other means to salvation. We either choose Christ (the Bread of Life) or we choose spiritual starvation. Sadly, the majority of the crowd in John 6 chose spiritual starvation.

I hope that you don’t make the same tragic mistake. Even if you gorge yourself at John’s Incredible Pizza for lunch and at the Golden Corral for dinner, you will still be hungry tomorrow. It’s a fact of life: Physical food only fills our stomachs temporarily. But the Bread of Life fills our souls permanently. Jesus’ word nourishes us today, tomorrow and throughout eternity. Jesus’ salvation never expires, and our relationship with Jesus Christ will never fail to satisfy our deepest hungers and needs. Yes, Jesus is the Bread of Life. So, let me ask you: Are you hungry for Christ? If so, dig in!

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Bible Has the Answers

“For the word of God is living and active….Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:12-13

Gender roles, gay marriage, abortion, immigration reform, gun control, health care, climate change, racism and terrorism: These are nine of 2017’s hot button issues that many people assume are beyond the scope of the Bible. But as I mentioned in last week’s column, the Bible has proven itself time and again to be the most relevant book on the planet. Not convinced? Let’s put God’s word to the test with three more hot button topics.

Hot Button Issue #1: Abortion. God’s word is clear that the pre-born baby inside a mother’s womb is a child created by God. King David writes in Psalm 139:13-16: “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…..When I was woven together…Your eyes saw my unformed body.” In Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord speaks bluntly to Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

These passages reinforce what modern medical technology has discovered: Human life begins at conception. Although the Bible doesn’t specifically say, “Thou shalt not abort a pre-born baby,” it doesn’t really need to. After all, God’s Word is clear that the life inside a mother’s womb is a human life, lovingly knit together by God. And the Bible speaks clearly in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17: “You shall not murder.” So, is it a big leap for Christians to claim that abortion is murder? Not at all! Abortion is—without a doubt—the ending of a human life. Although abortion is not the unforgiveable sin, it is a terrible sin that requires our repentance and Christ’s grace. And once we experience that grace, God’s Word calls Christians to support and defend human life at all stages (i.e., from the womb to the convalescent home).

Hot Button Issue #2: Gun Control. Obviously, guns didn’t exist in Bible times. But the following verses give us some general principles that are of help to us. For starters, in Luke 22:36 while Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper, he told his twelve disciples, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” This instruction has puzzled Bible scholars for centuries. Why did Jesus instruct his disciples to purchase a sword yet just a few hours later rebuke Peter for using his? Although we can’t be certain, it seems most likely that Jesus was advocating using a sword for self defense. In the Garden of Gethsemene, Peter received Christ’s rebuke for going on the offense. But perhaps he wouldn’t have had he been defending himself from a violent attack.

So, presumably, Christ advocates possessing a weapon for self-defense. But verses like Matthew 5:9, Matthew 5:38-39 and Romans 13:1 command us to pursue peace, turn the other cheek, and submit to the governing authorities. Taken together, here are some general biblical principles to keep in mind when considering the issue of gun control. #1: Christ never commands us to get rid of our weapons. #2: However, he wants us to be peacemakers. Christ calls us to practice turning the other cheek in our personal relationships. #3: The Lord expects us to abide by the laws of the land. Therefore, I don’t believe it’s biblically defensible for Christians to break gun control laws or stockpile illegal weapons.    

Hot Button Issue #3: Health Care. As health insurance premiums have shot up over the past ten years and the Affordable Care Act hasn’t panned out as advertised, health care has become one of the biggest hot-button topics in political circles. What can we do to improve our health care situation in the United States? Well, here are a few Scriptures to consider. In Matthew 14:14 we read, “When Jesus…saw such a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” And in Matthew 10:8 Jesus told his twelve disciples, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”

Bottom line: Jesus prioritized caring for the sick. Jesus called his disciples to prioritize caring for the sick. And the New Testament reinforces this command for you and me. But at the same time, God’s Word doesn’t say that this is a job for the government. Perhaps, if Christians cared for the sick to the level that Jesus told us to, we wouldn’t feel such a pressing need for universal health care.

Yes, there are many hot button issues in our nation that aren’t easily remedied. But without a doubt, the Bible has answers: timeless principles that can be applied to any modern issue or challenge we face. Sadly, in our arrogance many of us stubbornly struggle to solve our problems on our own. We rack our brains trying to discover the solutions to our most pressing problems. All the while, many of the answers are waiting patiently in the pages of God’s Word.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.