Monday, April 12, 2021

Easter Isn’t Over!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2021

Give Like God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 19, 2021

An Eye For an Eye?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 12, 2021

Can People Count on You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 5, 2021

Jesus Raises the Bar on Divorce

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

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

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

But Jesus says, “NOT SO FAST!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Have You Killed Anyone Lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Do We Need the Old Testament?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t need to slaughter sheep and birds anymore, not because those laws have been abolished, but because Jesus’ sacrifice has made them obsolete. We don’t have Aaron’s priesthood anymore that leads us in temple rituals, not because Jesus scrapped Aaron’s priesthood or the temple rituals, but because Jesus’ greater priesthood and superior ministry have made them obsolete. So, Jesus says in Matthew 5:18: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

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

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

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.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Peace on Earth in 2020

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” – John 14:27

The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” It’s one of the most important words to the Jewish people. For centuries, Jews have greeted each other with the one-word greeting, “Shalom!” To the orthodox Jew, “shalom” is used both as a “hello” and a “goodbye.” But it means so much more than “hello” and “goodbye.” Shalom is most often translated into English as “peace” or “harmony.” But shalom literally means “wholeness.” In Joshua 8:31, we’re told that Joshua made an altar out of “shalom” stones—meaning stones that were uncut. They were completely whole.

So, if shalom refers to wholeness, what exactly is a Jewish man wishing his neighbor when he wishes him “shalom”? He is wishing him wholeness in his health, wholeness in his marriage and wholeness in his walk with God. Ever since the Garden of Eden, human beings have been breaking things. Thinking back, have you broken something valuable this past year? It may have been a cellphone or a collar bone. Some of us broke our cars this year. And at some point, most of us broke our budgets this year.

We are very good at breaking things—including our relationships. At some time or another, most of us have broken relationships with our neighbors, friends or family members. To say it another way: We have broken “shalom” with our neighbors, with our friends, and with our family members.  But worst of all: Every single one of us has broken shalom with God. And the Bible is clear that the punishment for breaking shalom with God is death. As we’re told in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.”

But because of God’s amazing grace through Christ, we don’t have to pay the price of eternal brokenness and punishment. As our all-wise Wonderful Counselor, Jesus had the perfect plan to bring us shalom with God. He decided to trade his reward for our punishment. And as our all-powerful Mighty God, Jesus had the strength to resist every temptation so that he could be a perfect substitute sacrifice for our sins. And as our all-loving Everlasting Father, Jesus loved us enough to endure the pain and humiliation of the cross until our debt was fully paid.

Because of what Jesus did for us, you and I can have peace with God. We broke our relationship with God, but Jesus came to earth to offer us shalom. Jesus traded His SHALOM with God for our BROKENNESS. When the angels shouted in the Bethlehem sky, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom to men on whom His favor rests,” they were talking about wholeness. They wanted people to know that Jesus offers us shalom in our broken relationships with other people. But most of all, they wanted us to know that Jesus offers us shalom in our broken relationship with God. Jesus came to put back together what you and I had broken into a million pieces. As Jesus told his disciples in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Nowadays most people seem to think that peace comes from good counseling sessions, self-help books or from putting the right guy in the White House. All of these things have their place, but none of them brings true, lasting shalom. No psychologist can bring wholeness to a broken marriage. Joel Osteen’s best book can’t make a person whole. And neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden can bring true and lasting wholeness to our fractured nation. Only Jesus Christ can. Only the Prince of Peace can completely heal a broken marriage, mend a broken soul, and bring true harmony to our fractured nation.

To those of us who are willing to accept it, the word of God is clear: Jesus IS the Prince of Peace; Jesus is the only one who offers true, lasting wholeness. He is the only one who can restore the relationships that you and I have broken. And he specializes in bringing peace to our broken relationship with God.

Honestly, 2020 has been a really hard year. Covid has been devastating. Seeing cities across America being looted and burned has been heart-wrenching. The presidential election was excruciating. Our kids’ schools have closed, many of us have lost our jobs, and many of us have lost friends and family this year. Other family and friends have been diagnosed with cancer.

But regardless of how depressing this past year has been, you can experience true peace in 2021—because Jesus IS the Prince of Peace. He is smart enough, strong enough and loving enough to bring wholeness to your life. Regardless of what’s broken in your life and how it got that way, I urge you to give Jesus Christ your broken pieces this New Year. He is the only one who can make you whole. That’s why he came to earth in the first place. He is ready and willing to be your Wonderful Counselor, your Mighty God, your Everlasting Father, and your Prince of Peace. And He’s just a prayer away.

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.