Monday, August 8, 2022

Christians Shouldn’t Join the Mob

 “The assembly was in confusion…. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” 
– Acts 19:32

Have you ever heard of Lawnchair Larry? Back in 1982, 33-year-old Larry Waters was just an ordinary truck driver in North Hollywood. But one day he decided to fly to the Mojave Desert … in a lawnchair from Sears. Larry filled 45 weather balloons with helium and tethered them to his chair. He packed up a few essentials, including a pellet gun to shoot balloons when it was time for his descent, and a parachute, just in case. Then Larry climbed into his chair from a rooftop in San Pedro and rocketed into the sky—much faster than he’d anticipated.

Instead of sailing toward the Mojave Desert, Lawnchair Larry sailed across Los Angeles Harbor, into the flight path of Long Beach Municipal Airport. Several pilots alerted air traffic controllers about what appeared to be a man floating through the sky in a chair. Finally, at three miles above Long Beach, Larry used his pellet gun to secure his descent. To many, Lawnchair Larry became a local hero. But the folks at the FAA weren’t big fans. They hit him with four different charges and several thousand dollars in fines.

Well, Lawnchair Larry had a few things in common with the Apostle Paul. Both men’s actions made them heroes in the eyes of many. But those same actions put a big target on their backs. Through Paul, God achieved many victories in the city of Ephesus. But when God throws a spiritual punch, Satan throws a counterpunch. And in Acts 19:21, Satan’s latest counterpunch came in the form of a silversmith named Demetrius.

Demetrius made silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis, which brought in a boatload of money for Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen. Naturally, a revival of monotheism was bad for business. So, Demetrius gathered his fellow silversmiths and other tradesmen and told them: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. You see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people…. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all” (vs. 25-26).

Then, in verse 27, Demetrius shifts from facts to fear-mongering: “There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself … will be robbed of her divine majesty.” Demetrius presented a grand conspiracy theory—a doomsday prediction that their livelihood, the Artemis temple and even Artemis herself were going to be wiped off the face of the earth, ALL BECAUSE OF ONE WRETCHED MAN: Paul.

The tradesmen formed a mob and took to the streets shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” As the crowd swelled, they tried to hunt down Paul. They were hungry for blood. Thousands of Ephesians flooded into the amphitheater, yelling and screaming, wanting heads to roll. The only trouble is … most of them weren’t quite sure why.

But the facts didn’t matter. Mobs are fueled by raw emotion. On January 6th 2021, did the mob check the facts before rushing into the Capitol building? No way! Over the past three months, 60 pro-life pregnancy centers have been vandalized across the U.S. Did the protest groups check the facts about the Supreme Court decision before tagging and, in a few cases, even firebombing pro-life centers? Hardly! Facts don’t matter to mobs. And the mob in Ephesus grew so fast because people weren’t THINKING. They were just REACTING.

I’d like to share two important lessons from this passage:

Lesson #1: Most mobs are all brawn and no brain. So, when people around you are losing their heads, stop, think and pray. Over the past two years, far too many Christians have gotten caught up in political mobs. Instead of thinking, we’ve been reacting. Instead of believing and proclaiming the truth of the gospel, we’ve been believing and proclaiming conspiracy theories. Instead of praying, we’ve been criticizing and slandering. And the church in America is paying the price for it. Millions of people want nothing to do with Christianity, because they have no desire to be part of the Christian mob that they’ve witnessed for two years. We need to stop taking our eyes off Jesus and get back to doing what He called us to do in the first place: To tell people about Jesus and love them into the kingdom.

Lesson #2: The stuff mobs prioritize is temporary and will one day be destroyed. But the stuff Christ prioritizes is permanent and will one day be richly rewarded. A little over 200 years after the mob in Ephesus shouted themselves hoarse, Goth raiders destroyed the Temple of Artemis. And it has never been rebuilt. Why? Because, like everything else in this world, it was temporary. Artemis worship has been wiped from the face of the earth. But the worship of Jesus Christ lives on. Because He IS the eternal God.

While people around you are running around fussing and yelling about high gas prices, the President or inflation, stay calm and keep doing what Jesus told you to do. Trust Him. Love Him with all your heart. And obey His Word—especially the part where He tells you to share His good news of salvation everywhere you go. More than anything else, people don’t need a new President, a new governor or lower gas prices. More than anything else, people need Jesus. So, give ’em what they need. When all hell breaks loose, give ’em heaven!

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Don’t Be a “Knockoff” Christian

 “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are YOU?” – Acts 19:15

You know what a knockoff is, right? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is “a copy that sells for less than the original; a copy or imitation of someone or something popular.” Whenever there’s a clothing or food brand that is hugely popular, there are always people looking to make a fast buck by making cheap knockoffs. Here are a few actual examples. For all you coffee lovers, have you ever saved a few bucks sipping on good ol’ “Sunbucks” Coffee? Or maybe you’ve brushed your teeth with “Crust” toothpaste. And this might be my favorite knockoff of all: Who on earth would knowingly drink “Peepi” Cola?

Well, in the Apostle Paul’s day, he established a pretty big name during the three years he spent ministering in Ephesus. In Acts 19:11-12, we read that the Holy Spirit worked “extraordinary miracles” through Paul as people were healed of illness and cured of demonic possession simply by holding aprons and handkerchiefs Paul had touched. Yes, the miracles and exorcisms God was working through Paul were “extraordinary.” And what do wannabes do when they discover something extraordinary? Posers who are just out to make a fast buck quickly come up with a knockoff. In First Century Ephesus, there wasn’t a Starducks Coffee, Crust Toothpaste or Peepi Cola, but there were a bunch of wannabes running around trying to knock off the healings and exorcisms they saw Paul doing. And it came back to bite them. 

In Paul’s day Ephesus was steeped in paganism and the occult, and medical professionals had only a basic understanding of disease and mental illness. So, most people believed the root of most illnesses was spiritual. Instead of going to a doctor, many people would just go to their friendly neighborhood exorcist to get the illness demon cast out. The chief priest in Ephesus, Sceva, had seven sons who made a living performing exorcism house calls. At some point these seven brothers must have witnessed the “extraordinary miracles” that God was working through Paul. So, they tried to cash in. Even though they didn’t believe in Jesus, they decided to invoke the name of Jesus. And even though they didn’t support or follow the Apostle Paul, they decided to invoke the name of the Apostle Paul. Things were going great … until the day these seven brothers encountered an actual demon.

When the seven sons arrived at the home of the demon-possessed man, they whipped out their new favorite exorcism line: “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, we command you to come out!!” Well, the demon wasn’t impressed. But in my opinion, the demon DID have a pretty good sense of humor. It responded: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who [on earth] are you?” (v. 15). Then the possessed man pounced on all seven brothers: “He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (v. 16).

But even through the demon’s actions, God was working all things together for good. We read in verse 17: “When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.” In other words, a lot of wannabe exorcists were put on notice. And Jesus’ name was lifted higher than it had ever been lifted in that town, which led to more unbelievers getting saved and more Christians repenting of their sin and growing in their faith.

Here are two insights to consider:

Insight #1: As long as God’s Spirit is moving powerfully in and through Christians and churches, there will be cheap knockoffs. So, be on guard.  Jesus and His apostles performed miracles for three reasons: 1) to show loving compassion to hurting people; 2) to teach spiritual truths; and 3) to confirm their authority as apostles of Jesus Christ. Sadly, there are some Christian leaders today whose motives for performing miracles are much different than Jesus’ motives. They save their most compassionate acts for times when they themselves are in the spotlight and the camera is rolling. Some Christian leaders use miracles to play with people’s emotions instead of using them to teach spiritual truths. Some try to manipulate a move of God for their own glory, instead of allowing Christ to get the glory. So, be on guard, Christians.

Insight #2: Today most people believe the root of all illness is physical and never spiritual, but don’t count out the healing power of prayer and the Word of God. In First Century Ephesus, most people saw a demon behind every headache and sniffle. In Twenty-First Century America, most people see a virus or disease behind every headache and sniffle. Both viewpoints are wrong. That’s not to say that your congestive heart failure or your sister’s asthma are the result of sin. But many of our illnesses and diseases ARE the result of sin.

And Christians can play a pivotal role in physical healing. Our prayers, at times, make sick people well. And when sinners repent and realign their lifestyles with the Word of God, they can actually experience healing. Make no mistake: At Impact Christian Church, we are pro-doctor and pro-medication when that medication is physically necessary for good health. But we are also pro-prayer, pro-repentance and pro-obedience-to-God’s-Word, because these things are ALSO critical for good health.

It’s too easy to be a knockoff Christian. We come to church and listen to some great music, hear an inspiring message and eat a donut on the way out the door. But don’t forget one of the most important reasons for a worship service: to get right with God. So, don’t fake it hoping to make it. Be the “real deal.” Be a man or woman of prayer and the Word of God.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

God’s Detours Are Part of His Perfect Timing

 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

Over the past 75 years, traffic engineers throughout the United States and Europe have faced the same problem. People drive WAY too fast. So, engineers have tried all sorts of ways to get drivers to slow down, including stop signs, traffic lights, speed bumps and digital speed displays. These approaches have had mixed results. But there is one traffic-slowing method that, as far as I can tell, has been more effective than all the others. It’s called “woonerven” – a Dutch word that means “living street.”

In the late 1960s, residents of the Dutch city of Delft got fed up with people treating their roads like a race track, so they decided to take their streets back … literally. Local residents moved their living rooms into the streets. They dragged their chairs and couches onto the streets, along with their kids’ bike racks and sand boxes. They built planters in the roadway and started hanging out with their neighbors right there in the middle of the road. And as they turned their streets into a constantly-changing obstacle course for cars, traffic slowed to an average speed of nine miles per hour.

Now, we probably don’t want to try this in the Victor Valley! But it got me to thinking: Sometimes God creates a woonerven in our lives. Many of us have two speeds: Fast and Faster. We rush through life doing what we want to do and going where we want to go. Then, all of a sudden, we have to slam on the brakes, because there’s a couch in the middle of the road … a couch that GOD put there! So, we navigate around it only to find a sandbox, a bike rack and a tree. And we throw up our hands in frustration and say, “God! What gives? What are You doing?”

God answers: “Woonerven! My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). God set up a woonerven for the Apostle Paul in Acts 16:6, when Paul wanted to go to the city of Ephesus in Asia – a great city of 300,000 people who desperately needed to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. To Paul, taking the gospel to Ephesus seemed like a no-brainer, but God said, “Not yet! Wait!” Over the next two to three years, God’s obstacle course directed Paul to five cities in Greece. Then and only then was God ready for Paul to make his way to Ephesus.

In God’s perfect timing, Paul spent three years in Ephesus spreading the good news of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles. And God did “extraordinary miracles” through Paul (Acts 19:11-12), so that people were healed and cured of demonic possession simply by holding aprons and handkerchiefs Paul had touched.

Here are three insights you can take from Paul’s “extraordinary” ministry in Ephesus:

Insight #1: God’s detours are woonervens – LIVING detours. Remember that when you ask God for something, He has three possible answers: “Yes,” “No” – and “Wait.” In Acts 16,God told Paul, “Not now. Wait.” The Lord wanted Paul to go to Ephesus. But first, He needed Paul to share the gospel in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. As a result, many people were saved, five books of the New Testament were written, and Paul joined forces with some great new ministry partners. So, when God tells you to wait, remember: He is redirecting you on a strategic detour that will offer new ministry opportunities and friendships that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Insight #2: When you are in the center of God’s will—trusting, loving and obeying Him—He will give You the desires of your heart in His perfect timing. God knows what you need, and He also knows what you desire. So, when your greatest desire is to bring Him glory and honor, you’d better believe He’ll give you the desires of your heart. But it’s going to be in His perfect timing, not yours. And when the timing is right to give you what you’ve desired, it will be so much sweeter than it would have been if He had given it to you when you first asked for it.

Insight #3: God wants to do miracles through you. But you need to be a clean and willing vessel. One of the greatest blessings in the world is to have your body used by God in a significant way. As Christians we have the opportunity to allow God to use our mouths to tell people the Good News about Jesus, lead them to Christ and pray for them. We can allow God to use our legs and feet to take us where ministry calls. We have the opportunity to allow God to use our arms, hands and fingers to help serve in a worship service, volunteer to help others and embrace those who are hurting. And because our God is a holy God, He needs our bodies to be clean: Clean minds, clean mouths, clean hands and a pure heart. So, if you want to be used by God in significant ways, be available and pray for clean hands and a pure heart.

You all know the old expression: “Good things come to those who wait.” That’s especially true in the kingdom of heaven. So, trust, love and obey God as you patiently navigate God’s strategic woonervens in your life.  He has some wonderful surprises for you along the way.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Are You “Cherry-Picking” Sins?

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?” – Luke 6:42

Over the years many people have asked me, “What kind of church is Impact Christian Church?” And I’m happy to answer that question. Impact Christian Church is a non-denominational Christian church that came out of the Restoration Movement of the early 1800s. The leaders of this movement wanted so badly to “restore” the New Testament church: No sects. No schisms. No denominations. Just simple Christianity.

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. For starters, many of the churches described in the New Testament are terrible models to follow. We don’t want to model ourselves after the church at Ephesus. The Christians in that church had forsaken their first love. We don’t want to model ourselves after the church at Sardis. The Christians in that church had a reputation for being alive, but Jesus told them “You are dead.” And we definitely don’t want to model ourselves after the church at Laodicea. Jesus called the Christians in that church “lukewarm” and said if they didn’t repent, He was going to vomit them out of his mouth.

If you read the Book of 1 Corinthians, I think you’ll agree with me when I say: We don’t want to model ourselves after the Corinthian church either. The city of Corinth was filled with bars and temple prostitutes, and drunken orgies were common. And much of that wickedness had seeped into the church. The Church was not only IN Corinth, it was also OF Corinth. And we as Christians must make sure that our own church doesn’t make the same mistakes.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul lists 10 lifestyle sins that will keep people out of heaven: premarital sex; idolatry; adultery; effeminate or homosexual behavior; stealing; greed; drunkenness; slander; and cheating people. According to God’s word, these 10 sins will keep people out of heaven and send them to hell. But we as Christians tend to focus on some of these sins more than others. We cherry-pick certain sins and rail on those who commit them, while largely ignoring other sins on the list.

I would suggest that over the past 50 years or so, Christians have spent the most time and energy railing against homosexuals and drunkards. We’ve condemned homosexuality, because the Bible condemns homosexuality. But the Bible also condemns premarital sex. In fact, it’s Number One on Paul’s list. But many church-going, heterosexual Christian couples are having premarital sex, and the church largely turns a blind eye to it. The same goes for idolatry: putting something or someone ahead of God. Christians routinely put God on the back burner, and the church looks the other way.

And I believe the two sins on the list that we especially avoid calling out are the sins of greed and slander. Many churches actually encourage Christians to be greedy—to pray for a bigger house or a newer car. That’s materialism. It’s sin, and if left unchecked it will lead to hell. So will slander. Every day Christians across the country are slandering our President, our governor, our ex-spouses, our parents, and our neighbors. But the church handles slander and gossip with kid gloves.

Notice that the sins we harp on the most are the ones we don’t personally struggle with. Most people in the church don’t struggle with homosexuality or drunkenness, so those sins are easy targets. But we don’t harp on greed or slander, because those sins hit too close to home. It’s easy to talk about “those people’s” sin. It’s much harder for us to point out OUR sin. But if we don’t identify and eradicate our sin inside the church, we don’t have a chance of eradicating it outside the church.

I want to suggest three important action steps that you and I need to take as Christians:

Action Step #1: Stop fixating on others’ sin while ignoring your own. Be intolerant of your own sin. If I’m not mistaken, Jesus said something about taking the plank out of my own eye before I start harping on the speck of dust in your eye. Each of us has to look in the spiritual mirror of God’s word every day and identify sin in our own lives. We are living in a moral cesspool, and we’re never going to change the cesspool if you and I keep contributing to it.

Action Step #2: Mourn over ALL sin, both inside and outside the church, both in yourself and in others. When we identify sin in ourselves and in others, I believe we jump too quickly to our thoughts of God’s mercy and grace. We don’t like to mourn over sin, but God calls us to mourn over sin. We don’t like to get down on our knees, humble ourselves for God and tell Him how sorry we are. But we need to do it. Like David, we need to grieve over our own sin. Like Job, we need to grieve over the sins of our kids and family members. And like Jesus, we need to grieve over the sins of our city and nation.

Action Step #3: Shine your light in the darkness. Keep sharing the gospel, leading people to the only One who can transform both them and our culture: Jesus Christ. Jesus was Corinth’s only hope. And the same holds true here in America. Jesus is America’s only hope. Not the next president. Not the next governor. Not the next piece of legislation. Not the next Supreme Court decision. So, you and I HAVE to lead people to Jesus. Jesus Christ is America’s only hope.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

18 Months in “Sin City”

“Do not be afraid. Keep on speaking. Do not be silent. For God is with you.”
– Acts 18:9-10

According to recent figures from USA Today, the top five vacation spots in the U.S. are New York City, Florida, Hawaii, San Francisco ... and Number Five: Las Vegas, Nevada. Tourists spend a whopping $35 billion in Las Vegas every year. People love the guilty pleasures Vegas has to offer: the decadent food, the sensual shows and, most of all, the gambling. And they LOVE that advertising slogan: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” No wonder they call it “Sin City.”

Las Vegas in our day has a lot in common with the city of Corinth in the Apostle Paul’s day. Corinth was the “Sin City” of the Roman world. And the Corinthian leaders would have adopted Las Vegas’ motto if they had only thought of it first: “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth.”

After Paul wrapped up his ministry in Athens, Corinth was the next city where he chose to continue his ministry in southern Greece. Why did he choose it? Well, for one thing, it was a strategic city. Because of the way the land was laid out, most major trade routes had to pass through Corinth. For another thing, Corinth was a big city—one of the largest in the Roman world, with an estimated 200,000 residents. But most of all, Corinth was a wicked city. There were bars on every corner, so drunken orgies were common. And high above the city was a plateau with a temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and sex. Rituals to worship Aphrodite involved very little love and a whole lot of sex. The temple to Aphrodite employed hundreds of male and female temple prostitutes.

So, why did Paul take the good news of Jesus Christ to Corinth? Theologian John Stott put it this way: ““Paul must have seen its strategic importance. If trade could radiate from Corinth in all directions, so could the gospel.”

When Paul first arrived in Corinth, before his ministry partners Silas and Timothy joined him, he stayed with a couple named Aquila and Priscilla. Like him, they had been trained as tentmakers, so he lived and worked with them. During the workweek he made tents, and on weekends, he preached the gospel. According to verse 4, “Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” Then, once Silas and Timothy arrived, we read that he “devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 5).

Unfortunately, some of the Jewish leaders opposed Paul fiercely. So, according to verse 6, Paul “shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” He had told the Jews the plain truth about Jesus Christ and their need to believe in Him, repent of their sins and follow Him as Savior and Lord. Now the ball was in their court. And from this point forward, Paul was going to focus primarily on witnessing to Gentiles.

Paul must have been feeling discouraged, wondering if it was time to move on to the next town, because in verse 9 and 10, Jesus gave Paul a vision. He spoke these words to him: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” That vision was just what the doctor ordered. It filled Paul’s tank. It gave him just what he needed to persevere and keep preaching the gospel in Corinth. According to verse 11, Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and half—much longer than he stayed in the other towns where he had planted churches.

Here are three quick lessons we can take from Paul’s time in Corinth:

Lesson #1: There is no excuse for being lazy. Every Christian needs to work. In Paul’s day, Jewish rabbis didn’t accept money from their students. They earned their way by practicing a trade. So, at a young age Paul had learned a trade—tent making. And whenever possible, he paid his own way by making tents. We should follow his example. If you can’t work outside the home, work at home. If you can’t work at home, work at church. If you can’t work with your feet and legs, work with your arms and hands. Use what God has given you to do something productive for the good of those around you.

Lesson #2: God has called you to warn those around you of the coming judgment. In His grace, God has taken the blinders off your spiritual eyes and allowed you to see what your family and friends can’t see. You can see that millions of “good,” “religious,” “moral” people will miss out on heaven. Because those who the world calls “good,” “religious” and “moral” have rejected Jesus Christ. Therefore, you and I have a God-given responsibility to warn the people we care about: They are sinners in need of a Savior. They need to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Tell them.

Lesson #3: Do not be afraid. Keep on speaking. Do not be silent. For God is with you. Like Paul, you may be a little scared to share Jesus with those around you because they are a hostile crowd. Jesus tells you today, “Do not be afraid.” You may wonder if it’s time to shut up about Jesus and just keep the peace. Jesus responds, “Keep on speaking. Do not be silent.” You may wonder where God is as you’re out on a limb for Him. And Jesus answers back, “God … is … with you.”

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Telling Brainiacs About Jesus

“So [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. – Acts 17:17

During my past 28 years in ministry, I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And do you know what I’ve discovered? In my experience, the lower-income families tend to be the most receptive to hearing about Jesus. They tend to open their doors more widely, and their ears are more open to what I have to say. Often, upper-middle-class and upper-class families keep their front doors closed … along with their ears and their minds.

And that’s a shame. More times than not, adults who are highly educated, wealthy and successful don’t want to budge. They like where they are. So, they have no motivation to change, even when they hear the good news of Jesus Christ loud and clear. When it comes to sharing the gospel, wealthy intellectuals are a tough crowd. This was especially true during Paul’s day in the city of Athens, Greece.

In Paul’s day, Athens had a rich history of being the intellectual center of the world. For centuries, Athens was the place where the brainiacs of the world gathered to discuss and debate the latest philosophies. And the city was filled with beautiful buildings, museums and statues—especially of gods and goddesses. When Paul went to Athens, Acts 17:16 tells us, “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” His heart broke for those who were looking for God in all the wrong places.

But his reaction to the city’s idolatry wasn’t just negative. It was also positive and constructive. He “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (v. 17).  He spoke to God-fearing Jews, idol-worshiping pagans, and everyone in between. Some were receptive to his message. Many others weren’t. But Paul kept preaching. He kept teaching. He kept striking up conversations. And it eventually paid off. Paul was invited to share his newfangled philosophy with the best and brightest philosophers in Athens—a group called the Areopagus Council. They were the brainiacs in town, and, like today’s Supreme Court, they handed down verdicts in matters related to judicial and religious issues.

When Paul preached to the council, he began with a compliment: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious” (v. 22). Rather than telling them they were wicked, or misguided, or going to hell, Paul began on common ground. In verse 23, he showed that he had taken time to walk around and examine the Athenians’ objects of worship—and that that he had discovered an altar that was inscribed “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Then Paul made this beautiful segue: “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” He went on to tell them about God the Creator and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul was able to get through most of his message, but some folks in the crowd started heckling (v. 32). Overall, it doesn’t appear that as many people accepted Christ in Athens as Paul had hoped. But a number of men and women did, including an Areopagus member named Dionysius and a woman named Damaris. Winning intellectuals to Christ has never been easy—even for the great Apostle Paul. But here are four tips from Paul’s playbook on sharing Christ with brianiacs:

Tip #1: Do your homework. Familiarize yourself with their home turf. One of the biggest mistakes people can make when they share Jesus is failing to listen or pay attention to the person they’re talking to. Remember the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Before you tell people about Jesus, let them first see Jesus in you. Let them see that you care about them as a person, and what’s important to them is also important to you.

Tip #2: When you start talking, begin with a compliment on common ground. I’ve never been a big fan of many Christians’ picket signs outside sports stadiums and at political rallies. Signs that read “Turn or burn!” or “You’re going to hell” or “God hates sinners!” Was that the approach Jesus took with unchurched people? Was that the approach Paul took with Gentiles? And the answer is … No. The old saying is true: “You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.” So, be kind to those around you who need Christ, and speak kind words, especially at the beginning of your conversation.

Tip #3: No matter where your conversation begins, direct the conversation clearly and convincingly to Jesus. The same should be said about ALL our evangelistic conversations. We don’t want to convince people how great we are. We want them to focus on how great Jesus is. We don’t want people remembering us. We want them remembering Him. We don’t want people asking themselves, “What must I do to be as cool as that guy?” We want them to ask us, “What must I do to be saved?”

Tip #4: Always surrender the results to God. Please never forget this: It’s NOT your job to open a closed mind or soften a hard heart. That’s God’s job. You can’t save a single lost soul. That’s something only God can do. Your job is to speak the truth about Jesus Christ in love and give people an opportunity to respond to that truth. You pray and wait. You wait and pray. And you make yourself available to walk someone through their confession of faith and baptism when they’re ready.

While you wait, you repeat the four steps with others. Others need to hear that they were created by God. That Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so that we could be forgiven and enjoy eternal life. Many people you talk to will refuse to accept this truth. But others will accept it. So, tell them, and surrender the results to God.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Study the Bible … the Right Way

The Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day. – Acts 17:11

Imagine for a moment a church that teaches that God is the Easter Bunny, Jesus was a Viking pirate and Jerusalem was built by extraterrestrials. How would you know whether or not these teachings were true? Perhaps you’ve believed in error all these years.

 Well, keep this in mind: Bad things happen when two things go wrong in a church: 1) when Christian pastors and teachers aren’t faithfully teaching their congregations the word of God, and 2) when Christians aren’t studying the Scriptures to make sure what they’re being taught is in line with God’s Word.

So, Paul and Silas must have been impressed when their missionary travels took them from Thessalonica to Berea. On the Sabbath day after they arrived, Paul entered the Jewish synagogue and started telling people about Jesus. And in verse 11, Luke gives us a wonderful summary of Paul’s ministry in Berea: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

The Bereans are held up in this chapter as role models for you and me for three reasons. #1: The Bereans “were of more noble character than the Thessalonians.” The original Greek word translated as “noble” in the NIV Bible is “eugenes,” which also translates as “more open-minded” (NLT), “more willing to listen” (NCV), and “more receptive” (NRSV). In other words, the Bereans received Paul’s teaching with open ears. They weren’t “know-it-alls.” #2: The Bereans listened to the message with “great eagerness.” They were enthusiastic Bible students. And #3: The Bereans examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

The Bereans received Paul’s teaching enthusiastically, with open ears and an open mind—but they didn’t take what he said at face value. They did their homework. They searched and examined and studied the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said stood the test of God’s word. Then, and ONLY then, did they believe his teaching, hide it in their hearts and walk in obedience to it. I hope and pray that millions of Americans would do the same thing these Bereans did.

When it comes to correctly handling the word of truth, the stakes are too high for us to slack off. God is calling you to be a Berean. Here are five practical steps to help you do just that:

Step #1: Be an eager, enthusiastic student of God’s Word. Come to church on time with an open mind and heart.

Step #2: Listen carefully to the message being taught, with an open Bible in hand. Pastor Kevin DeYoung says, “You do not want to be at a church where you can listen to sermon after sermon and it doesn’t even matter if your Bible is open. You want to be at a church where the preaching is pulling you into the text—to see it, to listen to it, to find connections with it.”

Step #3: Take notes and write down questions so you can test what is taught with Scripture. Let’s be honest with each other: Most American Christians believed they have fulfilled their duty if they have gone to church and politely listened to the sermon. That’s not enough. The New Testament tells us to “Correctly handle the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

Step #4: Spend quality time in God’s word EVERY DAY. You will never become a Berean if you just study the Bible once a week. Read at least one chapter every day and spend some time thinking about it, asking questions, searching for the answers to your questions, and praying over it.

Step #5: Give the Bible the final say in all matters of life and doctrine. Please don’t let me, or ANY pastor or teacher, boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, professor or boss, have the final word on matters of life and doctrine. GOD must have the final say. And God’s final say is detailed in the pages of Scripture.

Chuck Swindoll says it really well: “No matter how gifted or charismatic or well-trained and experienced your Bible teacher or pastor may be, form the healthy habit of checking what is being said against the Scriptures.” If you truly want to become “of more noble character” like the Bereans, let God and His Holy Word have the final say.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.