Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Our Words Matter

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace … so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
 Colossians 4:5-6

About 10 years ago, I was officiating a funeral for an older widow who had attended my church for many years. (To protect the innocent, I’ll call her Martha.) There I was at the mortuary, standing 12 feet or so from her casket as I spoke at the service. I wasn’t sure I was really connecting with her grieving family, so I thought I would share something about Martha that demonstrated that I had known her personally. So I said, “One thing that stands out to me about Martha is how she used to always wear white gloves to church during the winter. I appreciated that because, like her, my hands get cold during the winter. In fact, my hands have two settings: They’re either hot and clammy or cadaver cold.”

And then it hit me. I had just used the word “cadaver” in a funeral message while standing just a few feet from the poor lady’s casket. For some reason Martha’s family never contacted me again after that service.

Do words matter? Absolutely, words matter. A judge says a few words, and a defendant’s life is either spared or condemned. A doctor says a few words, and a patient will either throw a party or start finalizing her will. And as followers of Jesus Christ, our words can either lead to many unbelievers turning to Christ—or many unbelievers running as fast as they can in the opposite direction. Words matter. As Paul writes to the Colossians, he gives his Christian readers some powerful insights about how we should use our words for good.

1) We should be praying. Too many of us pray only at certain times: for 15 seconds before a meal, for 30 seconds before bed, or in a church service. But God’s word says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” As followers of Jesus we should be in constant fellowship with God so that we maintain an open line of communication and talk with Him naturally throughout the day. Our prayers should also be thankful. When we focus our minds and tongues on praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done, it gets our prayers moving in the right direction. And our praying must be purposeful.  In verses 3-4, Paul asks his readers to pray for him and his ministry team so that God will “open a door for our message, so that we may [clearly] proclaim the mystery of Christ.” And that leads us to the second thing that our words should be doing every day….
2) We should be proclaiming God’s Word. Paul wrote most of his letters from a prison cell. Now, if you or I were in prison, our instinctive prayer would probably be, “Please, God, GET ME OUTTA HERE!” But Paul didn’t submit that prayer request, did he? He simply wants the Colossian Christians to pray that he and his companions will be able to proclaim God’s word clearly and effectively—even though that was what put him in prison in the first place. Whenever Paul was arrested or beaten or imprisoned, it was either because people didn’t like the plain truth he shared about Jesus, or it was because far too many people were accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, and that ticked a lot of people off. Which leads us to Paul’s third point…

3) We should be witnessing to the lost. Every day Paul tried to make the most of every opportunity to point people to Christ with his words and with his actions. As followers of Jesus Christ, we live in a culture that has become downright hostile to biblical Christianity. Every day there are people around us who are just waiting for us to screw up. We’re accused of being hypocrites, narrow-minded, judgmental, hateful, intolerant and homophobic. Now, I’ve been around thousands of Christians in my lifetime, and in my experience, Christians who truly love the Lord and are hiding His word in their hearts and are following Him faithfully are NOT these things. But it’s an uphill battle to prove this to many who Paul calls “outsiders.” He advises us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (vs. 5-6).”

We need to be wise in the way we act and in the way that we speak. When we do, guess what happens. People who desperately need to hear the truth about their sin and Jesus’ salvation begin to listen to the truth that we speak. And many who begin as “outsiders” end up repenting of their sin, getting saved and becoming Christ-following “insiders.” That’s exactly what the Lord has called us to do.

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Shed Those Grave Threads!

“You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

When Lazarus walked out of the tomb after being dead for four days, he looked like a mummy all wrapped up in his grave clothes. They were probably dirty and, to put it delicately, must have stunk to high heaven. So, what was the first thing Jesus told Lazarus’s family to do? “Take off the grave clothes, and let him go.” Since Lazarus was no longer dead, he no longer needed his dirty, smelly mummy outfit. He was ready for some fresh, new threads.

The same goes for you and me with our old sinful nature. When we come to Christ, we step out of the tomb and leave our old sins behind: the sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed, coveting, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lies (Colossians 3:5-9). Those are nasty grave clothes that do nothing but shame our Lord and drag us down. As followers of Jesus who have been spiritually raised from the dead, we have no business clinging to our dirty, smelly sin threads. It’s time to put on Jesus’ fresh, new threads.

Paul described our old GRAVE clothes really well in verses 5-9, and he goes on to describe our new GRACE clothes really well in verses 12-17. Just as we layer our physical clothes on a cold day, we need to layer our spiritual clothes in this sinful world we live in. These new clothes have 10 layers for us to put on:

1. Put on compassion. Our hearts have to break for those around us who are dead in their sins and lost without Christ. And our hearts need to break for Christians around us who make dumb choices but are in need of grace and forgiveness.

2. Put on kindness. One of the most beautiful examples of kindness in the Bible is when King David reached out to a crippled man named Mephibosheth and adopted him into his family. Mephibosheth could never repay King David for his kindness, but that didn’t matter to David. Kindness never worries about someone returning the favor.

3. Put on humility. This is a mindset where you don’t think highly of yourself, but you also don’t think poorly of yourself. In fact, you think about yourself very little. As humble Christians, we should think first about Christ, second about each other and third about ourselves. That’s a humble mindset.

4. Put on gentleness. In Paul’s day this word referred to power under control. We have the ability to destroy others with our words and actions, but instead we exercise restraint for the good of others.

5. Put on patience.
Remember that two of the sins of our old nature are anger and rage. But as followers of Christ, we are supposed to crucify and bury our short fuses. We are not to be short-tempered. We’re supposed to be long-tempered.

6. Put on forbearance.
When Christians around us screw up, we may feel that they deserve our judgment and wrath. But forbearance holds back. There are times when we need to take another Christian to task. But these times are few and far between.

7. Put on forgiveness.
Whether it’s your ex-husband or a trusted friend who stabbed you in the back … anyone who’s wronged you needs to be forgiven. Unforgiveness is part of our old, smelly grave clothes. Crucify and bury it. And put on forgiveness in its place. 

8. Put on love. Of all the traits that should distinguish a church and the Christians within it, love should be at the top of the list. It’s nice to be known as friendly. It’s great to be known as kind, patient and forgiving. But the greatest of these descriptions is … loving. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

9. Put on peace.
When Christ saves us, Jesus sets us free from three wars that we were engaged in: our war with God, our war with people and our war with ourselves. As followers of the Prince of Peace we can now live at peace with God, at peace with others and at peace with ourselves.

10. Put on thankfulness.
God has been so good to us. But it’s so easy to think the way the world thinks—to focus on what He hasn’t done for us. “God didn’t heal my family member who died of cancer. God didn’t restore my broken marriage. God didn’t get me that job.” Oh, friends, God didn’t do many things. But I guarantee you that the things God DID do in your life far outnumber the things that He DIDN’T do. So, you and I must be thankful.

Our Christian life means taking off our old sinful selves and putting on our fresh, new selves which are being conformed to the image of Jesus. So, take off your old grave clothes and put on the brand new clothes of Jesus Christ! We are called to wear these fresh, new threads everywhere—at church, at school, at home and at work.

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Look Up, Christian! Look Up!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

A year and a half ago, a man who was driving at a pretty fast clip plowed his vehicle into a parked police car. Fortunately, no one was inside the patrol car, and there were no injuries. But how did this happen? Did the driver black out? Was he changing the radio station or adjusting his child’s car seat? Sadly, no. The driver confessed that he crashed into the police car because he was playing a “dumb game” on his phone. The game was Pokemon GO—an interactive game that taps into your phone’s GPS. So his eyes were on his phone, trying to get to the next “Pokestop” and rack up more points.

The game was a massive fad in 2016, and almost immediately after its release, law enforcement officers began to notice an increase in traffic collisions due to distracted drivers playing this silly game. One research study recently estimated that, in a five-month period, Pokemon GO contributed to over 145,000 traffic accidents, over 29,000 injuries and some 256 fatalities. Here’s the moral of the story: Looking DOWN at something fake and temporary instead of looking UP at what is real and lasting can lead to a whole lot of hurt.

In Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul warned us to steer clear of false teachers who try to get us to take our eyes off Jesus Christ by drawing us into manmade religious systems that are cheap and temporary. In time, it will become clear that all of these philosophies and religions are as unsatisfying as a game of Pokemon GO. Jesus Christ has something so much better for us—if we’d just look up.

In Chapter 3, Paul begins by talking a bit about life and death, and it can get confusing. He writes in verse 1 that we “have been raised with Christ.” The clear implication is that we’ve been raised from death. Before someone becomes a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, he’s basically dead to God. And the reason for that boils down to a simple 3-letter word: S-I-N. Because of sin, we are spiritually dead, without hope of ever being raised. But with God, all things are possible.

When we invite Jesus Christ into our lives, God forgives us, pulls us out of the grave and makes us alive with Christ. Every Christian’s spirit has been raised from death to life by Christ. But look at verse 3: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Then, in verse 5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” Wait a minute! I thought Paul said Christ made us alive. Why is he saying that we’re dead again? I’m a Christian. So, once I was dead. But Jesus made me alive. But at the same time part of me died. And today I’m supposed to put part of myself to death. Huh?

Here’s the bottom line: Every person on earth is dead and alive at the same time. If you have not been saved by Christ, your spirit is dead to God, but your sinful nature is alive and in charge. But if you have been saved by Christ, your sinful nature is dead, but your spirit is alive, with Christ in charge.

So, Paul is teaching us to make sure that our sinful nature stays dead. You see, it’s like those zombies in “The Walking Dead.” Every single day our sinful nature’s corpse pops up and tries to pull us down into the grave with it. So, we have to crucify the sinful nature every single day.

Paul goes on to list five sins of our old nature that we must “put to death.” These five sins can be categorized as sensual sins: sexual Immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. These sins are part of the old you—your old nature that you shoved in the grave—and they will always drag you down. And in verses 8-10, Paul lists six more sins that can be categorized as social sins: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. These may not seem like a big deal, but make no mistake: if we practice them, they’ll corrupt our minds and drag our spirits back down into the grave.

If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ—if he is truly in the driver’s seat of your life—then your old nature has been killed off and buried. And since it’s been killed off and buried, there’s no place in our lives for the 11 sins that Paul lists in verses 5-10. But we can’t keep that sinful nature in the grave on our own. We must approach our lives, every day, with our minds and our hearts looking up—focused on him.

Although most Christians guard against these 11 sensual and social sins, we often fail to guard ourselves against thinking like the world and prioritizing like the world. We gripe and complain about our churches and worship services because they don’t cater to our personal preferences. But setting our minds and hearts on Christ means asking: What does Christ want? What does he desire? What are his priorities? What will bring him pleasure, honor and glory? When we stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on and prioritizing these God-given, heavenly priorities, Jesus Christ is so, so pleased with us.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Steer Clear of the Snake Oil!

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.Colossians 2:8

In my household, I’m way outnumbered. I have a wife and four daughters, and even our dog is female. I’m not just the man of the house—I’m the ONLY man in the house. So, I sometimes end up watching TV shows and movies that aren’t very … manly. One of these is the Hallmark series, “When Calls the Heart.” And I’ve got to admit, it’s actually pretty good.

In a recent episode, a stranger comes to the little Canadian town of Hope Valley in the early 1900s. He rides up in his horse and wagon, parks in a prominent spot, and launches into a sales pitch for his revolutionary elixirs, guaranteed to heal everything from stomach pains to a weak heart. This peddler was what we call a “snake oil salesman.” These scam artists scattered the frontier of North America, hawking worthless potions that not only didn’t cure these ailments, but often made them worse. And as bad as this was, it’s not nearly as bad as religious snake oil salesmen who peddle sham religion.

That’s what the apostle Paul was fighting when he wrote his letter to the Colossians in the first century. The new Christians in Colosse were being exposed to three human philosophies that were very popular in those days. All three of them looked SO good on the surface. They were marketed to make Christians think these philosophies could make their good Christianity even better. But the truth was, they were nothing but snake oil. They made big claims, but couldn’t deliver. Worse, each of these philosophies made the critical mistake of luring Christians to take their eyes off Christ and fix them onto other things instead.

And guess what? Some 2,000 years later, these same three philosophies have been repackaged and remarketed to a new generation, leading many Christians away from Christ. Here’s a quick snapshot of these three human philosophies and the lies they promote.

#1: LEGALISM’s lie: “Following rules will make you holy.” The false teachers who were infiltrating the Colossian church were peddling some legalism—strict Jewish rules concerning traditional food, drink and Sabbath day rituals. But Paul warned them in verse 16 not to let false teachers give them a guilt trip about following Jewish traditions that were irrelevant to salvation and Christian growth. He wrote in verse 17: “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” One of the greatest tragedies of both Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they pull Christians from reality to shadow by saddling their followers with extra-biblical rules and legalism. These result in well-meaning worshipers taking their eyes off the reality of Christ to focus on a shadowy rule book instead.

#2: MYSTICISM’s lie: “Pursuing visions and spirit guides will make you more spiritual.” In Paul’s day, mystics would rattle on about a vision they had or some angel they had spoken to or some out-of-body experience they had. In our day, mysticism takes the form of astrology, which is simply looking to the stars for answers instead of to the Creator of those stars. Modern-day mysticism also includes Ouija boards, palm reading and Tarot cards. All that stuff takes our eyes OFF Christ and draws us into the shadows.

#3: ASCETICISM’s lie: “Treating your body harshly will restrain your sinful nature.” In the middle ages, Christian ascetics slept on rock-hard beds, wore scratchy underwear and deprived themselves of sleep for days at a time, all to try to keep their sinful nature in check. Did it work? Of course not. Because physical remedies can never cure a spiritual disease. Only Jesus Christ can tame us of our sinful nature. That doesn’t mean there’s not a time for staying up late in prayer or fasting. But these things were always intended by God to point us TO Christ—never to take our eyes OFF Christ. That’s where asceticism backfires. The harsh treatment of the body becomes the focal point instead of Jesus Christ.

You get the picture. If it takes the focus away from Christ, it’s not Christianity. Here are three simple questions to determine if someone’s teaching is true and good: Is it firmly grounded in Christ’s teaching in the New Testament? If not, reject it. Does it take your eyes off Christ? If so, walk away. Is the teacher walking the walk? If not, reject it.

Never forget that false teachers are marketing geniuses. Their religious products sound so good … but at the core, they’re nothing but hollow and deceptive philosophy that depends on the stuff of this world, not the stuff of eternity. As another great apostle, Peter, puts it in 2 Peter 1:3: “[Jesus Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” As we lock arms and hearts with our fellow Christians in a Bible-based church, Jesus Christ is all we need.

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