Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Is Your Fruit Sour?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:6

When I lived in Victorville, I had two grapevines in my backyard. Every spring they grew like weeds—long branches and lush green leaves. But the grapes were tiny and more bitter than Sour Patch Kids. Sadly, the spiritual grapes in many Christians’ lives are just as small and sour. What can we do to produce something sweeter?

Grapes, vineyards and wine were all very relatable to people in Jesus’ time. So it’s not surprising that Jesus used a vineyard for his analogy when he made his final “I am” statement to his disciples: “I AM the true vine.” In the opening verses of chapter 15, Jesus sets the stage for his beautiful metaphor of the grapevine. He reveals the cast of characters: the true vine, Jesus Christ; the gardener, God the Father; and the branches, Christ’s followers. And Jesus goes on to make it clear that as his branches, we are to produce spiritual fruit.

Now, just so we’re clear on this, when God’s word speaks of bearing “spiritual fruit,” that includes the nine fruits of the spirit described in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are character-based fruit. But God also wants to us to bear ministry-based fruit. He wants to see you humbly serving others for their good. He wants to see you using your unique spiritual gifts to help grow Christ’s church. And most of all, He wants to see you leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

When it comes to spiritual fruit, Jesus is interested in both quality and quantity. And in John 15:2, Jesus talks about different stages of fruit growing in a Christian’s life: those who bear no fruit, those who bear some fruit, those who bear more fruit, and those who bear much fruit. It’s my hope that you want to live a life full of big, fat, juicy spiritual fruit. But before we get there, we’re likely to spend some time in the first three categories. For the sake of space, today I’m going to focus on the first category: those who bear no fruit.

If you’re bearing no fruit, at first glance, things look pretty bad for you. Jesus starts off verse 2 by saying that the Father “cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” It certainly sounds like Jesus is saying that Christians who don’t bear fruit will be cut off from Christ. But that doesn’t jibe with what we read elsewhere in the New Testament about Jesus never leaving us or forsaking us. And in a wonderful book based on John 15, Secrets of the Vine, author Bruce Wilkinson makes an interesting observation: the Greek word that is translated “cuts off” is more literally translated as “takes up.”

Now, it could mean “take up” in the sense of cutting off the branch and throwing it away. But it could also mean “take up” in the sense of “lifting up” the branch for its own good. You see, while researching his book, Pastor Wilkinson had coffee with the owner of a large California vineyard. He learned that new branches on a grapevine tend to trail down and grow along the ground. But they don’t grow any fruit down there. Instead, the leaves become coated with dust, mud and eventually mildew. Left that way, those branches become sick and useless. But a good gardener, or vine dresser, doesn’t leave them down there, and he doesn’t cut them off. As the vineyard owner explained, “The branch is much too valuable for that.”

Instead, the vine dresser goes through the vineyard with a bucket of water, looking for those branches that are trailing in the dirt. He lifts them up, washes them off, and wraps them around the trellis or ties them up. Pretty soon they’re thriving. Doesn’t that sound a lot like Jesus? He lifts us up, cleanses us and helps us flourish again.

If your life consistently bears no fruit, God will intervene to discipline you and set you growing in the right direction. That discipline may come in the form of illness, a lost job, a broken relationship, or a pierced conscience. So, if you’re experiencing pain or hardship, it’s a good idea to ask yourself: “Is the pain the result of some sin in my life? Is God disciplining me?”

If the answer is “Yes,” only humble repentance and obedience to God’s word will make the hardship go away. But if the answer is “No”—if there’s no apparent sin in your life that God is disciplining—rest assured, God is still working for your good. Next week we’ll talk about the somewhat painful, but very fruitful, process of pruning—and the ultimate spiritual rewards for those who bear much fruit.

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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Is Jesus Politically Incorrect?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

I use the Google Maps app on my phone fairly often to help me get places. I just touch my microphone icon and say “Directions,” then I rattle off the address of the place I want to go. But if I touch my microphone icon and just say, “Directions,” after a few seconds it will respond: “Where do you want to go?”

The disciples were grappling with this question at the beginning of John 14. Just hours before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples he was going to prepare a place for them. But the disciples weren’t getting it. Thomas finally put this confusion into words. Unsure whether or not Jesus was talking about heaven, he asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

And Jesus gave an answer better than any that Google Maps could ever come up with. In one simple verse, Jesus not only answers Thomas’ question of where he’s going, but at the same time clarifies how to get there: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)  

With this statement, Jesus tells Thomas plainly that 1) he is going to the Father in heaven; and 2) the way to the Father is not a “what” but a “who.” Jesus doesn’t say, “I am one of many ways to the Father.” He says, point-blank, “I am THE way to the Father.” He doesn’t claim to know SOME of the truth about God the Father. He claims to know ALL the truth about the Father. He doesn’t say, “I know much about eternal life.” Jesus actually says, “I AM the life.” Simply put, he is saying he is the only way to get to heaven.

This is the most politically incorrect statement in all of Scripture.

These days, when people speak of the value of political correctness, they are speaking of the need to say things that are not offensive, not discriminatory, and not biased. There is a growing concern in our culture about saying things that are offensive to certain ethnic groups or to certain religious groups or to groups that have “alternative” lifestyles.

Now, politically correct speech isn’t all bad. We should certainly not go out of our way to say things that are insulting or hurtful to others. And under no circumstances should we demean anyone on the basis of their nationality or the color of their skin. The tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend are a shocking reminder of how far the human race—and our own nation—still has to go in people’s treatment of and regard for others.

But sadly, a growing number of Americans believe it’s more important to say what’s politically correct than it is to say what is factually correct. Facts are ignored if the facts are offensive to a certain person or group. The truth is silenced if the truth might hurt someone’s feelings. And I hope you agree with me when I say that this ignoring of the truth can be disastrous. That’s why the Bible—God’s word—has never been concerned with saying what is politically correct. It just says what is correct. It just speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and lets the chips fall where they may.

By our culture’s definition, Jesus’ assertion is discriminatory and intolerant and offensive, because it excludes every religion on the planet except for Christianity. But when push comes to shove, only one question really matters: Is Jesus’ statement true?

As we look beyond John 14:6 to the rest of the New Testament, we find Jesus’ claim confirmed time and time again. In Acts 4:12, the Apostle Peter says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to me by which we must be saved.” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”

The Bible is crystal clear in its claim that Jesus is the only way to have our sins forgiven; the only way to be brought from spiritual death to spiritual life; the only way to have our broken relationship with God restored; and Jesus is the only way to heaven. It’s certainly not politically correct, but that’s what it says.

Jesus is no fool. If there was some other way for you and me to make it to heaven without Jesus, you’d better believe Jesus would have never died on the cross. The only reason he suffered and died was because there was no other way. There IS no other way. Which means that if you don’t come to God through Jesus, you don’t come to God at all. That may sound offensive, even scandalous to you. But facts are facts. Truth is truth. Jesus is the only way.

When we breathe our last breath here on earth and stand on the precipice between earth and eternity, the only thing that will matter is whether or not this statement by Jesus is true—and, if it is, what did you and I do in response to this truth? If you haven’t responded to this truth, I urge you to do so today.

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, August 9, 2017

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.’”
– John 10:14-15

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve become an avid jogger, running about three times a week. Several years ago, I was jogging in the open desert when I saw a strange animal a few hundred yards ahead. It was too big to be a coyote, and if it was a stray dog, it was the fattest, most well-fed stray dog I’d ever seen. When I got closer, to my surprise, it turned out to be a sheep, and he had lots and lots of friends with him—including two sheepdogs. These dogs obviously took their job very seriously, because they came charging at me like a bat out of … a cave. Fortunately, before I had time to grab my emergency pepper spray out of my pocket, the dogs were called off by a quick whistle in the distance: the call of their shepherd.

That day I had my first and only encounter with two very well-trained sheepdogs … and an even better shepherd. One short command from him told those dogs not to make mincemeat out of me, and it was pretty amazing. (Not to mention a relief.)

In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd—and not just any good shepherd. The word he uses for “good” is the Greek word “kalos,” which doesn’t just refer to moral goodness. Kalos means moral, beautiful, magnificent and excellent both inside and out—the ideal or model of perfection. So when Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd,” he is claiming to be the ideal shepherd, the very model of perfection. He’s not just the good shepherd—he’s the absolute best. And beginning in John 10:11, he goes on to highlight four important things he does as the model “Good Shepherd.”

1) Jesus dies for his sheep (vs. 11-13). Jesus laid down his life for the sins of the world, for the sins of any man, woman or child who would trust in him as Lord and Savior. And as the Good Shepherd, Jesus doesn’t die as a martyr for a cause that he stands for. He dies as a substitute, willingly laying his life down for his sheep.

2) Jesus knows and loves his sheep. In verses 14 and 15, Jesus says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me … just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Here, the word “know” is a translation of the Greek work “ginosko,” referring to a personal, even intimate knowledge of someone. A good shepherd knows his sheep, and likewise Jesus knows each of his followers backwards and forwards, inside and out. There’s no doubt in my mind that the very best part of heaven won’t be the great food, the streets of gold or the music that’s out of this world. The very best part of heaven will be our love relationship with our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

3) Jesus unites his sheep (verse 16). Jesus came to earth first to be the savior of the Jews and second to be the savior of everyone else. His purpose was always to lead his saved sheep out of their respective pens and unite them into one flock under the care of one Good Shepherd: Jesus himself. We don’t separate Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, just as we don’t separate black Christians and white Christians or male Christians and female Christians. We have one shepherd, and that shepherd has just one flock of sheep.

4) Jesus lives for his sheep (vs. 17-18). Jesus’ voluntary death was followed by his glorious resurrection. Yes, he died for you, but he also conquered death for you. He conquered death so that you could conquer death. He lives so that you can live—not just temporarily here on earth, but forever with him in heaven. The Good Shepherd died for his sheep, but he didn’t stop there. Jesus lives for his sheep. And for that we should be eternally grateful.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to earth and die on the cross and conquer death to gain admirers, or even to be a good teacher or a good role model. He came and died and rose again so that you could come out of the sheep pen of sin and death, walk through his gate of salvation and follow him for the rest of your life. Today is the day to walk through the gate. Today is the day to begin following the Good Shepherd. Today is the day.

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.