Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Running From God

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” -Jonah 1:2

This September 11th marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since four planes were hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Those attacks claimed 2,977 lives—and 412 of them were emergency workers in New York City who ran into the Twin Towers to help save others. Included in that number were 60 police officers and 343 firefighters. When those brave men and women received the call that the twin towers were on fire and people were trapped on the upper floors, they rushed into the building and sacrificed their own lives to save others.

They were heroes. When they received the call of duty, without hesitation, they went. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. And it certainly wasn’t safe. But they went anyway, because it was their duty and their calling.

Jonah was one of God’s prophets in the Old Testament. He, too had a calling on his life: to speak God’s word whenever and wherever God told Him to. But unlike the heroes on 9/11, he turned his back on his call of duty. Jonah was the Reluctant Prophet.

It all started when God came to Jonah one day and said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). Now, Nineveh was part of Assyria, which was notorious for its violence and cruelty to its enemies. The Assyrians weren’t satisfied with simply killing their enemies. They took great pleasure in torturing and dismembering them. So, this command made Jonah sick to his stomach. And he hated God’s marching orders for another reason: Jonah had NO interest in aiding and abetting an enemy of Israel. Yet God was commanding Jonah to travel 500 miles into enemy territory to preach a message of repentance. Jonah said, “Count me out!” Instead traveling 500 miles northeast in obedience to God’s command, he jumped on a ship to head 2,500 miles in the opposite direction—to Tarshish in modern-day Spain.

Why was Jonah doing everything in his power to NOT go to Nineveh and preach to the Assyrians? It wasn’t because Jonah didn’t know God. It’s because he DID know God. Jonah knew that if he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented, God would forgive them and spare them. And that’s the last thing Jonah wanted. In his heart, he wanted the Assyrians to die in their sins and go to hell. Jonah was a real sweetheart, wasn’t he?

Now, I’d like to think that Christians today are much different than Jonah. But let’s be honest: We’re not! Truth be told, there are some people who we don’t want with us in heaven. Not too long ago I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a political post about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A Christian I know had posted this comment below it: “Go to Hell, Nancy!” Friends, God has a big problem with us telling people we like “God bless you!” on Sunday morning and turning around and telling people we don’t like “Go to Hell” on Monday morning. Followers of Christ, THAT … IS … SIN! Wishing hell on anyone is a sin. Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost, and if you are a follower of Jesus, He calls you to do the same.

Jonah was consumed by hatred, resentment and vengeance. But you and I must NOT be. We are on mission from God to share the good news of Jesus Christ with EVERYONE, not just with those we like … not just with those who like us … not just with those who are in our comfort zone. In the Book of Jonah, God shows Himself to be consumed with compassion and love for hopeless sinners. So too must we be consumed with compassion and love for hopeless sinners.

Come what may, God wants you to obey His marching orders: to go and share God’s word with lost and dying people. We need to have a heart like Christ’s: a heart filled with mercy and love for lost and dying people. Like Jesus, God wants you and me to seek and save the lost.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us Sundays for our in-person service 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, September 21, 2021

Better … Stronger … Faster!

 “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.Hebrews 10:30

 Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve had a fascination with superheroes. As a preschooler, my favorite was the flying cartoon rodent, Mighty Mouse. In grade school I outgrew Mighty Mouse and discovered another superhero: He-Man. Then, at some point in the early ’80s, my favorite superhero was Steve Austin—aka, The Six Million Dollar Man. The TV show opens with one of the greatest title sequences of all time. We see astronaut Steve Austin in his space suit, flying an experimental aircraft. But something goes terribly wrong. His plane crashes, and it’s engulfed in flames. The next thing we see is an operating room … and the narration begins:

"Steve Austin—astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will BE that man. Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster!” After he came out of that six-million dollar surgery, Steve Austin had bionic legs that allowed him to run up to 60 miles per hour. He had a bionic left eye that gave him telescopic vision. And he had a bionic right arm that made him the strongest man on earth. Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Now, I admit, The Six Million Dollar Man was a pretty corny show. But honestly, those words from the title sequence have still inspired me over the years: “Better than he was before: Better, Stronger, Faster.”

As you probably know, Jesus loves us. But He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. Jesus refuses to leave us spiritually fat and lazy. So, He is patiently and powerfully working in our lives to make us better than we were before. Better. Stronger. Faster! And here are three things we need to get there:

#1: We need BETTER vision. In Hebrews 11, God’s word highlights many Old Testament superheroes of faith. And verse 13 tells us, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” These Old Testament heroes all died before some of God’s promises to them were fulfilled. But to their dying day, they had faith in God’s promises anyway. How was this possible? It was possible because they had much better vision than most of us have. These men and women of God could see things in the distance that can only be seen through the eyes of faith— hope, deliverance, fulfilled promises—things that nobody else around them could see. Since they could see what was coming down the pike, they walked by faith even when what was down the road didn’t arrive during their lifetime. Warren Wiersbe says it this way: “Faith enables us to SEE what others cannot see. As a result, faith enables us to DO what others cannot do!”

#2: We need STRONGER endurance. Hebrews 11 is filled with example after example of heroes from whom we can draw inspiration. Take a look at Hebrews 11:32-40, and consider the endurance of these men and women of faith. Some had to encounter hungry lions (v. 32). This is most likely a nod to Daniel, who was thrown into a lion’s den. Some faith heroes, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, endured being thrown into the fire—literally (v. 34). Those are heroes who God miraculously delivered from death. But don’t overlook the faith heroes God didn’t deliver: the faith heroes that God allowed to suffer and die. “Others were tortured and refused to be released. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword” (vs. 35-37). Thankfully, none of us have had to deal with THAT kind of torture. But many Old Testament heroes of our faith did. They were able to endure what most people on this planet could never endure—because they endured it by faith. It’s easy to persevere in faith for a few minutes when God answers our prayers quickly. But when God’s answers come slowly, and the pain and suffering intensifies—that’s when our faith is REALLY tested.

#3: We need FASTER obedience. If we really trust Christ, we will obey Him. And we’ll obey Him quickly. Do you know what we call delayed obedience? Disobedience. So, let’s NOT drag our feet. We need to obey God quickly. If He says “Give!”—we need to give without hesitation. If He says, “Go!”—we need to go. If He says, “Do this!”—we need to do this. If He says, “Do that!” —we need to do that. We don’t have time for disobedience and sin. Our time is short and the stakes are too high. So, we must fix our eyes on Jesus and obey Him on time, every time.

Christ has called us as Christians to have BETTER vision—STRONGER endurance—and FASTER obedience. And if there’s any doubt in your mind that this is what God’s word is calling you to do, consider these amazing words in Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles [that’s faster obedience], and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith [that’s better vision] who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame [that’s stronger endurance] and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

There you have it: the greatest superhero of all time … Jesus Christ. Better. Stronger. Faster. And together we are running in His footsteps!

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, August 27, 2021

Don't Let Sin Slow You Down!

“We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.Hebrews 10:30

When I think of running a race with perseverance, Cliff Young comes to mind. Who is Cliff Young? An Australian sheepherder and potato farmer, of course! In 1983, Australia began hosting what was, at the time, the most grueling foot race on earth: a seven-day, 543-mile ultra-marathon stretching from Sydney to Melbourne. That’s like running from Victorville to Sacramento, hanging a left and running 85 miles to San Francisco, then topping it all off by running back-to-back marathons around the city. 

The day the Sydney ultra-marathon started, 150 world-class runners showed up. And guess who showed up to run with them: Cliff Young. At the age of 61, Cliff approached the registration table, wearing overalls and rain boots, and declared his intention to run. You see, Cliff had grown up on a farm without the luxury of a horse or a four-wheel drive. So, when the storms rolled in, Cliff had to put on his rain boots and run for two or three straight days to round up 2,000 sheep over a 2,000-acre farm. To Cliff, running an ultra-marathon sounded like another day on the farm.

When Cliff started running, spectators thought, “This must be a joke!” Because he didn’t really run. It was more of a leisurely old-man shuffle. Australians were glued to their TVs, saying things like: “Someone should stop that crazy old man before he kills himself!” But five days, 15 hours, and four minutes later, after shuffling for 543 miles, Cliff Young shuffled across the finish line in Melbourne—in first place. And he didn’t win by a few seconds, or even by a few minutes. Catch this: The second-place runner was nine hours and 56 minutes behind him. You see, during the race, Cliff shuffled along day and night with almost no sleep, until he crossed the finish line. And the 61-year-old sheepherder who defied all odds became a national hero.

If Cliff Young can persevere through a 543-mile ultra-marathon, you and I can certainly persevere in our lives as Christians. One of the keys to running a gold-medal race for Jesus is, “Don’t sin.” Sin slows you down. Sin makes you weak. With that in mind, I’d like to point out three sins that slow you down and cause collateral damage in the church:

Sin #1: Unbelief. God’s word tells us in Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” God is deeply concerned about unbelief in His followers. No sin will stop a church dead in its tracks as quickly as the sin of unbelief. Unbelief is a spiritual cancer within a congregation. And Hebrews 10:39 tells us: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” We are believers—not quitters. No matter what tragedies happen in your life … no matter how many people around you think you’re nuts … no matter how hard it is to hold on to your faith … don’t stop believing.

Sin #2: Unforgiveness. To me, this is one of the most troubling sins in the church today. It grieves my heart to see how many Christians hold on to bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. And Christianity is nothing without forgiveness. Do you remember what Jesus taught us to pray in The Lord’s Prayer? “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” And in case we missed it, he elaborates in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you refuse to forgive someone who has sinned against you, God will refuse to forgive you who have sinned against Him.

Sin #3: Undernourishment. Even if you’ve never participated in a team sport, you know that a nutritious diet is very important for an athlete. If you don’t train well or eat well, it affects you on the playing field. The same holds true in the spiritual realm. Our number-one source of nourishment is the Bible. It is our spiritual meat. It is our living water. Yet sadly, one recent study found that only one in eight Christians read their Bible daily. Last week, how many days did you go without eating any food? I would guess—zero. But how many days did you go without eating any spiritual food? Our second source of nourishment is prayer. Every follower of Christ needs to spend time with God in prayer every day. If we don’t, we’ll be undernourished. Finally, our third source of spiritual nourishment is the church. More than ever before, Christians are not making church attendance a priority. And the results have been devastating. Hundreds of churches across America have closed their doors for good. Needs in the community are going unmet. And most tragic of all: Millions of people are NOT getting saved … because the church is AWOL.

So, please make sure that you do your part to stay well-nourished as we run this Jesus Race together. Be in God’s Word every day. Spend quality time in prayer with God every day. And if you’re physically able to attend, be in church every week. We’ve got a lot of race left to run and not much time left to run it. So, let’s each do our part to finish our Jesus Race strong … together.

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.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Racing by the Rules

“If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.2 Timothy 2:5 

Tatjana Schoenmaker is a record-holding swimmer from South Africa. Her specialty is the 200-meter breaststroke. Three weeks ago, heading into the 200-meter final, she was the favorite to win gold. There was even talk of her breaking the world record that had remained unbroken since 2013. Everyone watching that 200-meter women’s final knew that Tatjana Shoenmaker was a great swimmer. What many didn’t know is that she’s also a follower of Christ. As she swam at the Olympics, underneath her outer green swim cap that identified her home country of South Africa, she wore another white swim cap. It has a blue Jesus fish on it along with the words, “Soli Deo Gloria,” which translates as “Glory to God Alone.”

Before heading to Tokyo last month, Tatjana posted this tweet: “Father God may Your will be done, may Your peace fill us up, may we praise You no matter what the outcome, may we be empowered by Your strength to give it our all and may we forever be in the awe of Your goodness.” And as it turned out, Tatjana Shoenmaker not only won Olympic gold, she became the first woman in history to swim the 200-meter breaststroke in under 2 minutes and 19 seconds.

Tatjana traveled to the Olympic Games and fought the good fight. She kept the faith and finished her race on top. Tatjana Shoenmaker did it in an Olympic swimming pool, and you and I can do it right here where God has placed us. He has called us to run the race of our lives: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Life is short, and we have a lot of work to do for Jesus before we croak. So, by faith, we’ve got to hustle! We’ve got to run this Jesus race with some heart. We’ve got to run this Jesus race as if lives depend on it—because they do.

In 2 Timothy 2:5 we read, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” As I mentioned last week, there are three rules in this Jesus race. #1: Trust God. #2: Love God. #3: Obey God’s commands. Let’s take a closer look at these three life-changing rules for running a gold-medal race.

Rule #1: Trust Him—ONLY Him. (Heb. 11:6) “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Don’t trust in Jesus AND the Pope. Don’t trust in Jesus AND Donald Trump. Don’t trust in Jesus AND your own righteousness and good works. Trust in JESUS ALONE. Jesus can not and will not share your soul’s trust with anyone. Your soul is either His completely, or it’s not His at all. You either surrender complete control of your life to Christ, or you don’t surrender it at all. Trust Him and Him alone. That’s Rule #1.

Rule #2: Love Him—ONLY Him. (Matt. 22:37-40) “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” These verses confuse a lot of people. They wonder: “If I love God with all my heart, there won’t be any part of my heart left to love anyone else.” Exactly! That’s exactly the way God wants it to be. You may ask, “What about my spouse? What about my family?” Here’s the thing: If your heart is completely God’s, you won’t have ANY part of your heart left to love people around you in your inferior, half-hearted way. God will just have to love them perfectly through you. And whose love is better—yours or God’s? Jesus can not and will not share your heart’s love with anyone else. You either love Christ completely, or you don’t love Him at all. So, love God with everything you’ve got. That’s Rule #2.

Rule #3: Obey Him—ONLY Him. (John 14:15) Jesus says it so simply in John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” If you don’t obey Christ, you don’t really love Christ or trust Christ—which means you’re not IN Christ. If you don’t obey Christ, you’re on the wide road to Hell. There’s no way around it: If you want to be forgiven of your sin, if you want to be on the narrow road, if you want to go to heaven some day, you have to be ready and willing to obey … right now. Not one of these days. Not when things get less busy. Not when obeying becomes more convenient. NOW! Obeying Jesus’ commands isn’t convenient. It’s rarely popular. And it’s almost never easy. But if you’re serious about running a gold-medal race for Jesus, you will obey His commands anyway. That’s Rule #3.

You may never be an Olympian. But like Tatjana, you can finish your race strong by trusting Christ, loving Christ and obeying Christ’s commands every day of your life. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, and finish strong. Then, when you get to the end of your life here on earth, you’ll be able to join the Apostle Paul in saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).

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, August 13, 2021

Keep Running!

 “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:3

Derek Redmond was a record-holding sprinter from Great Britain in the late ’80s and early ’90s. As he entered the ’92 Olympic games, he was one of the favorites to win gold. His specialty was the 400-meter sprint. In the quarter finals he finished first in his heat. Then came the semi-final race. At the start of that race, Derek ran like the wind. But 250 meters in—about halfway through the race—something went wrong. He grabbed the back of his leg, grimaced, and fell to his knees in pain. He had torn his hamstring.

But what happened next is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. Derek only stayed down for a few seconds. Then he stood back up and began limping, as fast as he could, toward the finish line. If you watch the clip, you can see his face, and it’s obvious that the pain was indescribable. But he kept pressing forward. And then, out of nowhere, some old guy ran out onto the track to help Derek run. It was Derek’s dad. And despite the embarrassment, the disappointment and the pain, Derek Redmond kept the faith—and finished the race.

Now, if Derek Redmond can finish his race for his country, how much more should you and I finish our race for Jesus Christ! We’ve got to run this race with some heart. We’ve got to run this race with some gusto. We’ve got to run this race like lives depend on it … because they do.

But how do we run this Jesus race day after day without tiring out, without getting discouraged, and without losing hope? In the New Testament, God reveals several keys to running a gold-medal race for Jesus.

Key #1: Draw inspiration from others. The ESV version of Hebrews 12:1 says, “We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means.” When you read about the way the heroes of the Bible trusted and obeyed God even when it didn’t seem to make sense, that should inspire YOU to trust God, too. Warren Wiersbe says it really well: “If you are having problems with your family, read about Joseph. If you think your job is too big for you, study the life of Moses. If you are tempted to retaliate, see how David handled this problem.” In Hebrews 11, there are about 20 heroes of the faith mentioned by name. Flip back to the Old Testament and read some of their stories. I’ll bet it will inspire you to trust God a little deeper and run your Jesus race a little harder.

Key #2: Play by the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5 tells us, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” What happens if an Olympic wrestler tests positive for steroids? He’s disqualified. What happens if an Olympic gymnast bribes the judges? She’s disqualified. Bottom line: If you break the rules, you don’t get the gold medal. The same is true as we run this Jesus race. We have to follow the rules. And there are just three basic rules: Trust God. Love God. And obey God’s commands. Do these three things every day, and you you’ll be well on your way to running a great race.

Key #3: Exercise. It’s good for you. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” There is value in physical training to accomplish physical goals—especially when it leads to spiritual training to accomplish more important spiritual goals. There are all sorts of reasons why you and I should exercise regularly. It keeps our bodies healthier. It boosts our mood. It helps us keep up with our kids and grandkids. But one of the greatest benefits of exercising regularly is that it teaches us self-discipline, without which you and I will poop out long before this race is over. The self-control that you learn in pursuit of a PHYSICAL goal will be used by God to teach you self-control in pursuit of His SPIRITUAL goals for you.

Key #4: Don’t sin. Sin slows you down. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Sin makes you weak. Many Christians have bought into the lie that as long as we don’t do drugs, drink too much, overeat or have unprotected sex, our sin won’t make us sick. But that’s not true. Your body and your spirit are interconnected. ALL sin makes you weak and sick.

Key #5: Finish strong. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 reads, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also for all who have longed for His appearing.”

Some of us didn’t get off to a good start with our Christian race. Others of us came out of the starting blocks pretty well, but we’ve gotten a bit lazy since then. But regardless of how your Jesus race started, and regardless of how it’s been going recently, it’s not too late to start running and finish strong. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. And keep the faith.

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, August 9, 2021

Running the Race

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Does the name Kristian Blummenfelt ring a bell? In case you haven’t been following the summer Olympics, he’s an athlete from Bergen, Norway—where, for most of the year, it's windy, rainy and about 50 degrees. But somehow he found a way to train for the Olympic men’s triathlon in Tokyo. This daunting competition includes a one-mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6.2 mile run. The triathlon took place two weeks ago, and I watched the final minutes of the race. I've got to be honest with you: I didn't think this guy had a chance of winning. As he ran the final mile, he was covered in sweat and grimacing in pain. I was afraid he was going to collapse from exhaustion.

And he did—but not before crossing the finish line in first place, 11 seconds before his closest competitor.

Blummenfelt’s victory reminds me of these words in Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us(v. 1). Now, to understand what the “therefore” refers to, we need to look back one chapter at Hebrews 11. It's often called “The Faith Chapter” or “The Hall of Faith.” The writer of Hebrews highlights around 20 different men and women from Old Testament times, who walked by faith. These faith heroes include Noah, the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David and about a dozen others.

Every one of these God-followers lived their lives by faith. And here's a really important point: When they reached the finish line of their lives, these men and women were STILL living by faith. As the Scripture reads: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13). What a powerful statement about faith!

All of these faith-warriors were applauded by God because they epitomized that great definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: They were “sure of what [they] hoped for” and “certain of what [they] could not see.” And in case you had any doubt what’s waiting for the faithful at the finish line, God’s word reminds us: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you won't grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

Why do those of us who follow Christ keep following Him? Why do we keep trusting God when our lives fall apart? Why do we persevere through hardship for God? Why do we stay faithful to God when everyone around us couldn't care less about God? We do it all because of Christ. He trusted God when His life fell apart. He persevered through hardship for God. He stayed faithful to God even when everyone around Him jumped ship. Jesus fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. And so should you and I.

Jesus has made it clear to us that as His followers, we are part of a heavenly invasion—penetrating the spiritual darkness here on earth with His light, and bringing some of the best parts of heaven to our little corner of the world. That's an amazing, inspiring mission. But God's word makes it clear that we can't carry out our mission in cruise control. We've gotta hustle! The time is short, and the stakes are high. So, we need to fight the good fight and run this Jesus race with some gusto. And as Christians, we need to run this Jesus race together.

Lately God has been reminding me that there is no room for laziness on the narrow road to heaven. If I really want to be lazy, there's another road for that: the wide road that leads to eternal destruction in hell. The wide road is the lazy road. So, if you want to be lazy that's cool. You just need to switch roads. But if you and I aren't interested in being on the wide road to hell, we'd better get off our lazy butts and get to work. We've got to get up and WORK for Jesus. We've got to get up and FIGHT for Jesus. We've got to get up and RUN for Jesus. If we are followers of Jesus Christ on the narrow road to heaven, we don't have any time to lose. It's crunch time! It's game day!        

Look again at the last part of Hebrews 12:1. It doesn't say, “WALK with perseverance the race marked out for us.” It doesn't say, “JOG with perseverance the race marked out for us.” It says, “RUN with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Jesus is commanding us to run. Not sit around like a bunch of lazy bums—RUN! Not stroll down the narrow road like we've got all the time in the world---RUN! Not jog for a little while so we can brag about getting in some spiritual cardio. Jesus says, RUN, Christians! RUN!

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, July 30, 2021

Build Your Life on the Rock

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” - Matthew 7:21

It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the world: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was only supposed to take a few years to build, but five years into construction, when the builders reached the third story, the tower began to lean ever so slightly to the south. The builders tried to correct the lean by making the remaining stories shorter on the uphill side, but the extra weight of the upper stories just made the lean worse. In the 600 years after the tower was completed, it kept leaning more and more. It became clear to engineers that the tower wasn’t just leaning -- it was actually falling at a rate of one to two millimeters per year. By the late 1980s, the tower was leaning by more than 5 degrees.

Do you know why the leaning tower leans? It has a weak foundation. So, between 1990 and 2001, a team of 13 experts worked to save the tower by reinforcing its foundation with concrete.  And their best guess is that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is safe for at least another 200 years.

At the end of Jesus’ greatest sermon—the Sermon on the Mount—He asks us to inspect our spiritual foundation to determine whether or not we are fake Christians. To illustrate his point, He shares a short parable about two men who built houses on very different foundations: one on bedrock, and another on sand. As Jesus explains, everyone who hears His words and obeys them will be like the man who built on rock. When a storm came, “the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall” (v. 25). On the other hand, those who hear His words and don’t obey them are like the second, foolish man, whose house “fell with a great crash” (v. 27).

But what does it all mean? Well, remember the context. The entire Sermon on the Mount came on the heels of Jesus going from town to town and preaching this basic message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to turn from our sin and bring some of the best things of heaven into our corner of the world: truth, humility, peace, purity, forgiveness and love. And in the verses preceding this parable, Jesus makes it clear that many people who THINK they are on the narrow road to heaven ... aren't. Many people who THINK they are saved aren't really saved. Many people in the church are under the impression that they can call Jesus “Lord” without having to do what He says.

To break down the symbolism of this parable: You are the builder. The house is your life. The rock is obedience to Christ's teaching. The sand is anything else that you build your life upon. And the storm is the testing of your faith here on earth and also the Day of Judgment. So, to the best of my understanding, this is what Jesus is asking his listeners (and today’s readers) after they hear His teaching: “Are you going to live it out? Are you going to be a doer of My word, or are you just going to be a hearer?”

Think about it: You are building your life, and to many people, your life may look really good. You look like a follower of Christ. You talk like a follower of Christ. But sooner or later your faith in Christ is going to be tested. Following Jesus will get harder. You're going to be criticized by people around you, even by people you love and respect. Jesus will ask you to do some things you don't want to do. And He will ask you to stop doing some things that you really want to keep doing. Sooner or later, your devotion to Christ is going to be tested. And if your life isn't built on the firm foundation of obeying Jesus, your faith will crumble. Because if you are not obeying Christ as Lord, your faith has no foundation. It's not built to last. The truth is: If you're not obeying Christ, then you're a fake Christian. And sooner or later, fake Christians will jump ship when the ride gets too bumpy.

The storms of life have a way of separating real Christ followers from the fakes. And so does the Day of Judgment. One day every one of us will stand before Jesus and give an account of our life here on earth. And according to 1 Cor. 3:11-15, your life will be fed through the fire of testing. Only what you did in obedience to Christ will survive the flames. Sadly, on the Day of Judgment, many people who called themselves “Christians” will see their lives completely consumed by the flames of testing.

It doesn't matter how good your Christian life looks to those around you. God doesn't look at the outward appearance. He looks at the heart. So, on the Day of Judgment, the truth about your Christianity will be laid bare. If you built your life on anything other than the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, it will turn into a pile of rubble and ashes. But if your life is built firmly on the solid rock of obedience to Christ's teaching, you won’t just survive. You will also hear Jesus Christ speak to you those six amazing words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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, July 23, 2021

I Never Knew You

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
- Matthew 7:21

When all is said and done, the most important thing we ever do in life is to share the gospel. The most important thing that we can do is tell people the truth—that every human being will live forever in one of two places: either in heaven or in hell. The good news is, there is a way to heaven that is guaranteed. And that way is Jesus Christ.

In eternity we will have fully functioning minds and bodies. Those who are in heaven will fully perceive every bit of joy and peace and comfort and love. And those who are in hell will fully perceive every bit of pain, agony, shame and regret. The Bible teaches us that hell is a place of eternal torment that God has prepared for the devil and his demons. We're okay with that, aren't we? The devil and his demons deserve what's coming to them. And so do Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, murderers, rapists and child molesters. Right?

We look at the most vile criminals in human history and say to ourselves, “They deserve to go to hell!” But in Matthew 7, Jesus warns us that it’s not only murderers, rapists and Satan worshipers who will go to hell. Many professed CHRISTIANS will go to hell also. In verse 23, Jesus says that many Christians who stand before Him on Judgment Day will hear seven of the most horrifying, spine-chilling words in the Bible: “I never knew you. Away from Me.”

How is this possible? To understand, let’s take a look at 3 hard-hitting truths about the narrow road to heaven.

Heaven Truth #1: Confessing Christ as Lord and Savior won't get you to heaven, no matter how often you do it. Jesus says in v. 21, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” As important as confessing Christ is, if there is no faith in Christ and no transformed life, there is no salvation—no matter how many times you parrot the words, “Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God.” Atheists can parrot those same words. Demons routinely parrot those words.

Perhaps James says it best in James 2:14 & 26: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?... As the body without spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James could just as easily have said, “Confession without deeds is dead.” If you're simply confessing Christ with you mouth, but not confessing Him with your actions, your confession is empty and useless.

Heaven Truth #2: An emotional response to Christ won't get you to heaven, no matter how amazing it feels. Jesus says in Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” There are several truths about the road to heaven that we can extrapolate from this verse. But one of these truths is this: Emotions and enthusiasm won't get you there.

This should frighten a lot of church-goin' folk who are convinced they are saved. One of the trends in modern-day worship services is to produce very emotional worship services. The music and the lights and feverish pitch of the sermon are all designed to draw out an emotional response. Now, emotional worship services CAN be a wonderful thing … if God is in it. But church leaders have to be careful not to manufacture emotional responses to the Gospel that are a mile wide but only an inch deep. Emotions are a terrible indicator of whether you're going to heaven or hell. Emotions come and go. Emotions are up, down and all around. So, they're a terrible indicator of whether or not you're really saved.

Heaven Truth #3: Religious acts won't get you to heaven, no matter how impressive they look. Of these three heavenly truths, this one is the hardest for many of us to comprehend. Jesus doesn't point out three simple religious acts that fake Christians can easily do, like going to church, memorizing the Lord's Prayer or singing in the choir. Jesus identifies three really big and impressive acts: prophesying in Jesus' name, performing exorcisms in Jesus' name, and healing others in Jesus' name. This is the kind of stuff that will knock your socks off. But remember this. Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus' chosen 12 apostles, and Jesus gave all 12 of them power and authority to drive out demons, cure diseases and heal the sick. Judas Iscariot did ALL of those wonderful, powerful “Christian” things—and after all of that, he still went to hell.

Religious acts won't get you to heaven, no matter how impressive they look. Tithing won't get you to heaven, even if you’re the biggest tither in the church. Baptism won't get you to heaven, even if you were baptized by Billy Graham himself. Praying for the sick, volunteering at the food bank and handing out gospel tracts are NO guarantees of your salvation. Sadly, many of the most religious churchgoers in America will not make it to heaven.

Real Christianity boils down to three things: Trust God, love God and obey God while abiding in a personal relationship with God. Only a true follower of Christ will aim to do these three things every day—whether we're at church, at home, at work or at WalMart. Whether we're around Christians or nonChristians. Whether our obedience to Christ is applauded or hated. If you’re the real deal, you will trust God, love God and obey God every day until you reach the end of the narrow road and Jesus calls you home to heaven.

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, July 16, 2021

Know Them By Their Fruit (pt. 2)

 “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
- Matthew 7:16

In last week’s column, we looked at how to recognize a false teacher. In Matthew 7:16 and again in v. 20, Jesus tells us that we can recognize false teachers “by their fruit”—by observing the lives they live. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Many churches are too big for us to get to know our pastor on a personal basis. And we can’t see what our church elders are doing behind closed doors. What we see on Sunday mornings looks good, but how can we know for sure whether or not our church leaders are false teachers peddling false teaching?

Well, you might not be able to see the rotten fruit in a false teacher’s personal life, but if you put in a little effort, you can see the rotten fruit in his teaching. Theologian William Barclay points out some red flags of false teaching in the church. I’ll highlight three of them.

Red Flag #1: Teaching is false if it focuses primarily on the observance of external religion. Barclay writes, “It is possible—and indeed not uncommon—to teach that religion consists of going to Church, observing the Lord’s Day, fulfilling one’s financial obligations to the Church, reading one’s Bible. A man might do all these things and be far off from being a Christian, for Christianity is an attitude of the heart to God and to man.”

So, when you’re thinking of joining a church, I encourage you to listen to a bunch of the pastor’s sermons online and attend at least a few Bible studies. If almost all of the teaching is focused on the external, and there is very little said about the sin in our hearts, that’s a red flag—because our faith is lived from the inside out. There is no excuse for any church to neglect teaching about our hearts, our souls and our spirits. That’s a sign of false teaching. That’s an indication of rotten fruit. Find another church.

Red Flag #2. Teaching is false if it focuses primarily on “Thou Shalt Nots.” As Barclay puts it, “There is a type of teacher who says to a [new] Christian: ‘From now on you will no longer go to the cinema; from now on you will no longer dance; from now on you will no longer smoke or use make-up; from now on you will never enter a theatre.’ If a man could become a Christian simply by abstaining from doing things Christianity would be a much easier religion than it is. But the whole essence of Christianity is that it does not consist in not doing things; it consists in doing things.”

Like most Christians, I don’t think followers of Christ should be dropping “F-bombs,” drinking Jack Daniels every weekend and watching every R-rated movie that hits the theaters. But there are plenty of people who never drop F-bombs, never drink hard liquor and never watch smutty movies—and they’re still headed for hell. How is that possible? It’s possible because “clean living” doesn’t save you. Jesus saves you. And Jesus only saves you if you follow Him. And following Jesus has never been primarily about what you DON’T do. It’s primarily about what you DO do: trusting Him, loving Him, and obeying Him. And here’s the kicker: As you trust, love and obey Jesus Christ, you will naturally NOT do the things that grieve His heart. You will naturally NOT do things that are sinful.

Following Christ naturally leads to NOT sinning—but it doesn’t work in reverse. NOT sinning doesn’t naturally lead to trusting, loving and obeying Christ. So, if a pastor or Bible teacher is constantly preaching “Thou shalt not” messages and is ignoring the call of Christ to trust, to love and to actively do what Jesus would do, that’s a red flag. That’s a sign of legalism and false teaching. It’s an indication of rotten fruit. Find another church.

Red Flag #3. Teaching is false if it tries to convince people that following Christ is easy. Barclay writes, “Any teaching which takes the Cross out of Christianity, any teaching which eliminates the threat from the voice of Christ, any teaching which pushes judgment into the background and makes men think lightly of sin, is false teaching.”

I get really concerned when pastors eliminate the words sin, repentance, judgment and hell from their sermons. For me, that’s a major red flag. Nobody loves a positive, uplifting message more than Jesus. But the problem is, in an attempt to be “positive” and “uplifting,” far too many pastors and teachers water down the gospel and ignore some of the most important teachings of the New Testament. And do you know what a watered-down gospel is? A watered-down gospel is no gospel at all. So, if a pastor’s teaching is always easy on your ears, easy on your conscience and makes it easy to keep living the same ol’ way you’ve been living, that’s a red flag. That’s a sign of false teaching. That’s an indication of rotten fruit. Find another church.

Some of Jesus’ teachings are really, really hard. And that narrow road to heaven is a hard road. When God’s word is faithfully preached, it doesn’t tickle your itching ears. Instead, God’s word corrects. It rebukes. And it encourages you to turn from your sin and follow Christ with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

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, July 12, 2021

Know Them By Their Fruit (pt. 1)

 “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
- Matthew 7:16

In November of 1978, a popular 47-year-old evangelist and pastor showed his true colors. For the prior three decades, Pastor Jones had led thousands of people to Christ and had grown churches in Indiana and California. He took a strong stand against racism. He was also very charitable and did a lot to help the homeless. On the surface, Pastor Jones appeared to be a godly pastor. But those who looked a little closer noticed some red flags. Pastor Jones cheated on his wife and justified it. He called himself “The Prophet,” and he claimed to be able to foretell the future and heal the sick.

As the years went by, Pastor Jones became more and more paranoid of losing power. So, he convinced over a thousand of his church members to move with him to a compound in the middle of a jungle in Guyana, South America. And on November 18, 1978—after ordering followers to assassinate U.S. Representative Leo Ryan and several reporters who had traveled to Guyana to investigate his cult—Pastor Jim Jones ordered his church members to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Within a few short hours, 913 people died—including 304 children. That tragedy could have been avoided if Christians in that church had done what Jesus teaches us to do in Matthew 7.

In verse 15, Jesus says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” You see, in Jesus’ day, shepherds liked to wear sheep skin—especially during the cooler winter months. They would turn the sheep skin inside out so the fleece provided a warm inner lining, and the skin provided a water-resistant outer shell. So, when Jesus speaks of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he isn’t warning us about someone who is pretending to be a sheep; he’s warning us about someone who is pretending to be a shepherd. He is warning us about false teachers.

But how do we recognize a false teacher? Jesus answers in verse 16, and again in verse 20: “By their fruit you will recognize them.” And in the verses in between, Jesus illustrates this point. People don’t pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (v. 18). It’s as simple as that. You’ll never see a juicy peach growing from the end of a crispy, dried-out branch. Healthy fruit can only be produced by healthy trees. So, one of the clearest indications that a tree is healthy is if its fruit is healthy. The same holds true for Christians.

Remember that in Genesis 1, every living thing God created was created to reproduce according to its kind. Rose bushes never produce chickens. Apple trees don’t produce polar bears. Ravens don’t lay alligator eggs, and squirrels don’t give birth to elephants. And it’s the same way in the spiritual realm. If someone is a fake Christian, his or her fakeness will become apparent over time. Sooner or later, their rotten fruit will expose them.

You can’t identify a false teacher by the way he dresses, because false teachers know how to look the part. You can’t identify a false teacher by the way he speaks, because false teachers know the right words to say. In fact, many of them have a golden tongue and can captivate crowds with their words. Even the Apostle Paul ran into false teachers who were better speakers than he was. But they were luring unsuspecting Christians onto the path of destruction.

In Matthew 7:1 when Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” he was driving home the point that you and I can never know or judge people’s hearts or motives. Only God can know and judge a heart. But what you and I can judge is fruit. In order to keep yourself, your family and your church on the narrow road that leads to eternal life in heaven, Jesus has called us to be fruit inspectors.

Christians, Jesus wants you to inspect the fruit of those you vote for on election day. Don’t take at face value what they say in their campaign speeches. Inspect their fruit. Parents, don’t just let anyone get close to your kids who claims to be a Christian. Inspect their fruit before you let them get close to your kids. And singles, don’t get into a serious relationship with someone who’s just telling you what you want to hear. Churches across America are filled with false Christians: young singles who claim to be believers and followers of Jesus Christ but don’t produce any spiritual fruit, because—surprise, surprise—they’re not really saved.

I also urge you to inspect your own spiritual fruit. In the early 1800s, Adoniram Judson graduated from seminary and received a call from a respected church in Boston to become its assistant pastor. His family was excited that he could live at home with them AND do ministry. But Judson shook his head and said, “God is calling me beyond the seas. To stay here, even to serve God in His ministry, I feel would be only partial obedience, and I could not be happy in that.” He followed God’s call, and Judson’s churches in Burma have made over fifty thousand converts.

Think for a moment about Judson’s words: “I could not be happy with a partial obedience.” He could have just as easily said, “I could not be happy producing only a little spiritual fruit.” It’s not enough for us just to head down the narrow road to heaven. We need good Christian mentors to help us bear as much fruit as we possibly can. Life is too short, and our God-given mission is too important, to squander our fruitfulness. We all have the potential to bear lots of fruit for God. So, choose your teachers and mentors wisely. Then go and bear fruit for the glory of God.

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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Narrow Way

 “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
- Matthew 7:14

I love a good poem. And one of my favorite poets of all time is Robert Frost. In 1915, Frost wrote one of his most beloved poems, “The Road Not Taken.” He actually wrote it as a joke to tease his friend Edward Thomas about his indecisiveness. But most people who read the poem, including me, take it as a clarion call to choose the right path in the life—the path that most people don’t take. The poem ends: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by—And that has made all the difference.”

We make decisions every day—minor ones, such as what to eat for breakfast, and major ones, such as who to marry and how many children to have. But no decision is as important as the one Jesus highlights in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus makes it clear we all stand at a spiritual crossroads, and there are two paths in front of us. The first path is wide and well-traveled. It’s the path that most people take, and it leads to eternal destruction. In other words, the wide path leads to hell. The second path is narrow, bumpy and less-traveled. It’s the path that only a few people take, and it leads to eternal life. In other words, the narrow path leads to heaven.

What’s the difference between these two roads? Bible scholar William Barclay points out four differences:

Difference #1: The narrow road is the HARD road; the wide road is the EASY road. Anyone who tells you that following Christ is easy is lying to you. I’ll tell you what’s easy: Going with the flow, following the crowd—doing what everybody else around you is doing. It’s the path of least resistance, and it’s so, so easy. But following Jesus on the narrow path to heaven is never easy. It’s a battle to keep our big mouths shut. It’s a battle to be patient. It’s a battle to get rid of our anger and resentment, to put others’ needs above our own and to keep our priorities straight. But if you go with the flow, you’ll go to HELL Going with the majority will never get you to HEAVEN. Walking through the small gate and traveling the narrow road to heaven is really, really hard. But Jesus says, “Travel that road anyway.”

Difference #2: The narrow road is the LONG road; the wide road is the SHORT road. Traveling the wide road to destruction not only is easy, it’s short. In fact, it’s so short that you’re already there. The Bible makes it clear that you and I are already dead in our sins. We’re not on our way to destruction. We’re already there! The shortest road in the world is the road to hell. We don’t need to exert an ounce of effort to get there, because we’ve already made our reservation. But the road to heaven is a long road. As Christians, we may have come a long way in our faith, but we still have a long way to go. But as hard as it is to follow Christ well over the long haul, it is so, so worth it.

Difference #3: The narrow road is the DISCIPLINED road; the wide road is the UNDISCIPLINED road. Nothing great is ever achieved without discipline. But untold millions of men and women have squandered their lives by being undisciplined and lazy. If you sleep too much and work too little, guess which road you’re most likely on? If you feed your face more than you feed your spirit, guess which road you’re most likely on? The wide road to hell is easy, short and lazy. The narrow road to heaven is hard and long and requires discipline.

Difference #4: The narrow road is the THOUGHTFUL road; the wide road is the THOUGHTLESS road. It requires no thinking at all to go to hell, does it? You don’t have to think about what’s right or wrong. You don’t have to think about what’s moral or immoral. You don’t have to think about whether God approves or disapproves or your words, your actions or your priorities. You don’t have to think at all to go to hell—just do whatever the “hell” you feel like doing! But if you don’t want to go to hell, there’s no way around it: You’re going to have to think. We live in a time when far too many people fail to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. Too many addicts get behind the wheel of a car without considering that their stupidity will end up killing someone. Married men and women have affairs without considering that their selfishness will tear their family apart. Too many singles have sex with anyone they date without considering that their lack of self-control will lead to unplanned pregnancy, STDs, sterility or possibly even cancer. Far too many people live for the moment and will spend the rest of eternity regretting it.

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus throws down the gauntlet and says, “Choose, people! Choose one or the other. Option #1 is the wide road to hell. The wide road is easy, short, undisciplined and thoughtless. Option #2 is the narrow road to heaven. The narrow road is hard, long and requires discipline and thought. The choice is yours. But you MUST choose.”

I hope and pray that you join me in saying, “To hell with the easy road, the short road, the undisciplined road, the lazy road!” I pray that you will choose the road less traveled—because that will make all the difference, both now and for eternity.

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, June 21, 2021

Ready to Live The Golden Rule?

 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” - Matthew 7:12

You’ve probably run into a lot of people who say they follow The Golden Rule. They might say, “I’m not into church or religion, but I follow the Golden Rule.” Or, “I’m a pretty good person. I try to live by The Golden Rule.” But God’s word answers back, “No, you don’t! You don’t live by The Golden Rule, because you CAN’T live by The Golden Rule! It’s impossible—utterly impossible—for you to consistently ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.’ You CAN’T do it! You WON’T do it … unless I do it through you.” 

You see, it’s impossible to follow The Golden Rule on the OUTSIDE unless Jesus Christ is working on the INSIDE. And faithful, heartfelt, persistent prayer is the only soil from which The Golden Rule will grow.

Jesus shares The Golden Rule this way in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Critics of the Bible like to make the case that Jesus didn’t come up with this Golden Rule. They say it was around for centuries before he spoke it. They point out that Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” And the Greek king Nicocles wrote, “Do not do to others the things which make you angry when you experience them at the hands of other people.”

There’s no doubt that many ancient philosophers and teachers taught something very similar to The Golden Rule. But all of them are NEGATIVE forms of The Golden Rule: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you.” But Jesus did something revolutionary. He gave us a POSITIVE form of the command. And there’s a big difference between the negative and positive forms of The Golden Rule.

William Barclay explains it this way: “It is one thing to say, ‘I must not injure people’ … It is quite another to say, ‘I must go out of my way to help other people and to be kind to them.’ Barclay goes on to say, “It is never difficult not to do things.… A man might forever refrain from doing any injury to anyone else, and yet be a quite useless citizen to his fellow men. A man could satisfy the negative form of the rule by simple inaction; if he consistently did nothing he would never break it.”

Think about it. If being a successful brain surgeon only requires us to not injure anyone during surgery, we could all be millionaire brain surgeons right now without any medical training. All we’d have to do is scrub up, walk into the Operating Room and do nothing. Doing nothing would mean success. And our Yelp Reviews would all be 5 stars because we would never injure anyone’s brain.

So many people think that they live by Jesus’ Golden Rule. But the truth is, they’re just living by Confucius’ inferior, negative version of it. They think, “I have a perfect record. I’ve never murdered anyone, never raped anyone, never robbed a bank, never cheated on my wife.” Well, whoop-dee-doo! Just about every atheist on the planet can say the same thing.

Once again, Jesus raises the bar. His Golden Rule is not natural. It’s supernatural. The reason most people who know The Golden Rule don’t live it out is because they can’t. Living out The Golden Rule requires a supernatural overhaul on the inside—an overhaul that can only be done by Jesus Christ. Unless Jesus gives you a new heart, a new mind and a new love for those around you, and helps you every step of the way, you can never live by The Golden Rule. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. You can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.

So, how can you learn to live out The Golden Rule? Well, you can begin praying these three prayers:

Prayer #1: Father in heaven, please forgive me for my sin. If you have unforgiven sin in your life, you will not be able to “do unto others.” You cannot love supernaturally if your heart and mind are filled with unnatural wickedness.

Prayer #2: Father in heaven, please help me get to know and love you better and better. Because The Golden Rule is supernatural, there’s no way that you could possibly live it out until you see it lived out by your supernatural Savior. You must spend serious time in God’s word and in prayer to know Him better. Jesus Christ is your role model, the only One to perfectly live out The Golden Rule. Pay careful attention to the way He loves undeserving people, so that you can love undeserving people too. And your love for Christ must deepen in order for your love for people to deepen. You can’t love people better unless you love Christ better.

Prayer #3: Father in heaven, please help me to LOVE as Jesus loves. If you want to live out The Golden Rule, God will help you. But you’ve got to really, really want it. You’ve got to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. And if you do, God will answer your prayers. He will help you love the people around you with a supernatural, unconditional love. And when that happens, the people around you will experience heaven on earth like never before. They will experience Jesus like never before—through you.

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, June 11, 2021

Dogs, Pigs and Pearls

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” - Matthew 7:6 

Last week I mentioned Maria, a young African Christian who attended an international camp. When some of the other attenders asked how her church back home led people to Christ, she responded: “We don’t have missions or give pamphlets away. We just send one or two Christian families to live and work in a village, and when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians too.”

It’s encouraging to know that when we follow Christ well, it can be very attractive to non-believers. When people experience Christ’s honesty, grace, and unconditional love in our words and actions, it can be magnetic. Many people, when they see what committed Christians are like, want to become Christians too. But sadly, many others don’t. Many people get a taste of what Christians stand for, and they want nothing to do with it. As hard as it might be for us to believe, many people hate Christianity with a passion. So, Jesus turns to us in Matthew 7:6 and says: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

What are these sacred pearls of Jesus that are hated and stomped on by many unbelievers? I suggest that these pearls are the truths and the values that Christ has been sharing in the Sermon on the Mount. These sacred pearls include: the word of God (Matt. 5:17-20), human life (Matt. 5:21-22), Biblical marriage and chastity (Matt. 5:27-28 and 31-32), speaking the truth (Matt. 5:33-37), and the greatest pearl of all —the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ.

So, in Matthew 7:6, Jesus is telling us not to beat a dead horse. When someone makes it clear that he/she despises God’s word and doesn’t want to hear it, move on. At times—because we’re passionate about God’s word and care about people’s salvation—we keep handing pearls to individuals who don’t want them. “Save yourself for your wedding night!” “Don’t pursue a homosexual lifestyle!” “Don’t get a divorce!” “Accept Jesus Christ as your savior!” Time and time again, that person snatches those pearls out of our hands, stomps on them, then verbally tears us to shreds. Jesus is saying, “Take the hint. Move on. Keep praying for them. Keep loving them unconditionally. But move on. Share your pearls with others who will love and treasure them.”

Now, Jesus boldly and publicly shared even the most controversial pearls of Christianity, and he taught his apostles to do the same. Some people in the crowds accepted and loved his pearls, while others mocked them and stomped on them. But as long as there were at least a few people who received the pearls with a willing heart, Jesus and his followers kept sharing them. However, there were times when Jesus refused to share his pearls. For example, when the Pharisees would corner him and try to trick him into saying something that could be grounds for arrest, at times Jesus refused to answer them. There was no point. It was a waste of his time. And in Luke 10:8-12, Jesus told his followers to wipe the dust off their feet and leave a town if the citizens made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with Christ. In those situations, it would be fruitless to beat a dead horse. So, Jesus told them to cut their losses and move on.

We have to share the great pearls of Christianity publicly. Our culture desperately needs to see the pearls. But when individuals start attacking our pearls more than admiring them, we need to back off. And when we share these pearls publicly and the powers that be are stomping our pearls more than listening to them, we need to move on. In those cases we pray, “Lord, I shared Your truth with them. Now, it’s up to You to convict them of the truth. Until You tell me otherwise, I’m going to share Your pearls with someone else.”  

We all know people who despise the pearls of our Christian faith. But that should never stop us from lifting these beautiful pearls up for the world to see, especially the greatest pearl: Jesus Christ. Some people will criticize your faith, slander your beliefs and try to stomp on your savior. But others will hear you talking about those pearls and watch you living out those pearls, and for them, it will be magnetic. They’ll see what Christians look like, and they’ll want to become Christians too.

One word of caution: When we take a stand for Christ publicly, we need to make sure we’re holding up the right pearls. For example, Donald Trump is NOT a Biblical pearl. Barack Obama is not a Biblical pearl either. And millions of people in our nation want nothing to do with Christianity right now, because so many of us have been holding up their favorite of our last two presidents as if he was a pearl.

I completely understand why so many Christians voted for Trump. Many of his policies lined up beautifully with many of the pearls we hold dear: the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, supporting Israel, religious freedom and more. But instead of lifting up and drawing our nation’s attention to these Biblical pearls, many Christians have made the mistake of lifting up and drawing attention to a man—a very flawed man who has said and done some pretty disgusting things. And there has been an unexpected fallout. We have turned off people who otherwise would have been open to hearing what the church of Jesus Christ has to say.

So, when you lift up Biblical pearls in your little corner of the world, make sure that you’re lifting up the ones that matter most. Share the pearls of God’s word, God’s values—and most of all, that pearl of great price, Jesus Christ.

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.