Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Amazing Race

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:14

Some sixty years before Abraham Lincoln fought to abolish slavery in the United States, William Wilberforce was fighting to do the same in Great Britain. Wilberforce devoted fifty years of his life to the fight against slavery, and at times, he felt like giving up. At one point about ten years into his fight, he felt very discouraged. But his spirit was reinvigorated as he read a note in his Bible from John Wesley. Wesley wrote, “If God be for you [in the fight against slavery], who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might.”

With a newfound passion, Wilberforce continued his fight. And it paid off. In 1807 the slave trade began to be dissolved, and over the next thirty years slavery was systematically eliminated throughout England. Wilberforce died on July 30, 1833—almost fifty years after he had begun his fight. And two days after his death—on August 1, 1833—British parliament voted to abolish slavery in Great Britain. William Wilberforce fought the good fight, and he finished the race. And so should we.

In Philippians 4:12-16, the Apostle Paul uses a wonderful sports analogy to describe his personal pursuit of Christlikeness. And along the way he makes it clear that it should be our pursuit as well. Just as an Olympic marathon runner musters every bit of his energy and grit as he strains toward the finish line, we as Christians should give our full effort to being conformed to the image of Christ. Remember that sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. It’s the main reason that God saved us from our sins. Christlikeness is God’s goal for our lives. Therefore, it should be our personal goal as well.

And in Philippians 4:12-16 Paul lists six vital steps in our race toward Christlikeness. For the sake of space, here are three. #1: Pursue Christlikeness with maximum effort. Paul writes in verse 12: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Any successful pursuit of Christlikeness must begin with spiritual dissatisfaction. You and I can’t be content to stay where we are spiritually. If we think that our spiritual growth is “good enough,” we’ll never cross the finish line. But our dissatisfaction must grow legs. We must give the pursuit of Christlikeness our full effort. Just as a sprinter persistently presses on toward the finish line and the hunter doggedly pursues his prey, so too must we as Christians press on toward the goal of speaking, acting, loving and prioritizing like Christ.

#2: Pursue Christlikeness with focused concentration. Paul writes in verse 13: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Pastor John MacArthur summarizes Paul’s teaching very well as he writes: “A maximum effort without focused concentration is useless…. Believers cannot live on past victories, nor should they be debilitated by the guilt of past sins.” Very well said! One of Satan’s schemes is to get you to dwell on the past in order to distract you from the growth God has in mind for you in the present. At times, Satan throws our past failures in our faces in the effort to drown us in guilt and fear. And at other times, he throws our past successes in our faces to get us to rest on our laurels and embrace complacency. But spiritual growth requires our focused concentration on the finish line ahead.

#3: Pursue Christlikeness without giving up. Paul writes in verse 16: “Only let us keep living up to what we have already attained.” Paul emphasizes that we should never let up on our efforts to become more and more like Jesus. Until our dying day we must keep striving to become like our sinless, selfless, God-honoring, life-transforming Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must lock arms with other Christians and pursue this goal with everything we’ve got. The stakes are very high. And we have no time to spare. The world can’t afford for us to take a vacation from our holy pursuit.

At the base of one of the Swiss Alps, there’s a marker honoring a man who fell to his death attempting to ascend the mountain. The epitaph reads simply, “He died climbing.” If you ask me, this should be the epitaph of every Christian. On our ascent to the ultimate goal of Christlikeness, we died climbing.

Here on earth, will we ever become thoroughly Christlike? No, we won’t. Our character won’t be completely like Christ’s until he grants us that perfection on Judgment Day. But here on earth we can get very close to Christlikeness—just like Paul. So, our Lord Jesus Christ has made our mission clear: With Christlikeness as the finish line before us, we must keep running with maximum effort, keep focusing our eyes on the finish line and keep refusing to give up. Paul did it. William Wilberforce did it. And you and I can do it as well.

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Don’t Board the Complain Train!

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”
– Philippians 2:14

The story is told of a little girl who wanted more than anything to become a great pianist. Unfortunately, no matter how much she practiced, the only tune she could play was “Chopsticks.” Her parents saved their money and arranged to have a great maestro give her lessons. A few days later they arrived at his mansion, and the maestro’s butler escorted them to the parlor where the little girl sat down at the grand piano and started playing her most enthusiastic rendition of “Chopsticks.” Her parents almost died of embarrassment as the maestro walked into the room. But to their surprise, he quietly sat down on the piano bench beside their daughter, placed his hands on the piano keys and began adding chords, runs and arpeggios. In all their lives the parents had never heard such a beautiful duet, and amazingly enough, the central theme of the music was still “Chopsticks.”

The maestro reminds me a lot of Jesus. You see, God created our lives to be harmonious duets. So, unless we allow our heavenly Maestro, Jesus Christ, to place his masterful hands on our lives and shape us, our character will never become more and more like his. He is the only true Virtuoso who can make our lives sing. Without him, our lives will be an embarrassing, monotonous tune of “Chopsticks.”

Speaking of monotony, there are few things in life more monotonous than grumbling and arguing. In Philippians 2:14, God’s Word urges us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Now, that’s a tall order! We live in a culture where, in the view of many, complaining is as American as apple pie. We grumble and complain about our boss. We grumble and complain about our kids. We grumble and complain about our pastor. And we grumble and complain about our President. Whaaa! Whaaa! Whaaa!

We can’t be growing Christians and, at the same time, live lives marked by complaining. The Greek word translated as “complaining” in Philippians 2:14 can also be translated as murmuring or grumbling. Time and again in both the Old and New Testaments we find evidence that God hates complaining. One of the clearest examples of this reality is found in Numbers 14. As God was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land of Canaan, they broke out in a chorus of grumbling: “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

God was infuriated by Israel’s complaining, and His punishment was severe. Except for Joshua and Caleb, not a single adult Israelite who was delivered from Egypt was allowed to enter the Promised Land forty years later. Every single adult died in the desert. Only the younger generation entered “the land flowing with milk and honey.” So, is complaining a big deal to God? You bet it is! Especially when God is the target of our complaints. When we murmur against God, it demonstrates an emotional rejection of His good plan and provision for our lives. That being the case, complaining can be an attack on God’s character. And that’s a serious offense for anyone, especially for a Christian.

Similarly, we can’t be growing Christians and, at the same time, live lives marked by arguing. The Greek word translated as “arguing” in Philippians 2:14 can also be translated as disputing or criticizing. Sadly, many Christians are known for being argumentative and critical. Why is that? If we are commanded to love our neighbors and consider their needs more important than our own, how can we allow ourselves to become our neighbors’ greatest critics? When we criticize our church, don’t we realize that we are indirectly criticizing the Lord who spilled his blood for our church? And when we criticize our spouse and kids, don’t we realize that we are indirectly criticizing the One who gave us our families? Without a doubt, many of us criticize our Good Provider and malign His character without even realizing it. That is unacceptable.

It is a sin of the mind and heart to level self-centered criticism against God. When we criticize the Lord, we are implying that He is not good or trustworthy, and we are proclaiming to a listening world that His plans are flawed. Therefore, like complaining and grumbling, it is an attack on God’s character. Once again, the people of Israel serve as an example of what not to do in this regard. They were perpetual God-critics, and they paid dearly for their criticism.

So, if you choose to partner with God to transform your character, that’s fantastic! But don’t sabotage your good efforts by making a habit of complaining against or criticizing God or people. Even when the hands of our Maestro are hard at work in our lives, the music of our lives will be unpleasant if our mouths are seeping verbal sewage. There’s no way around it. We can’t be growing Christians and at the same time be grumblers and critics. Our community is chock-full of men and women who can play “Chopsticks.” What we desperately need are Christians whose lives make beautiful music with the Maestro.

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Ultimate Workout

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” – Philippians 2:12

I’d be lying if I said that every truth proclaimed in Scripture is easy to understand. There are many paradoxes—seeming contradictions—in our Christian faith. Here are a few examples: God is One, yet He is also Three. The Bible is God’s Word, but every word was written by men. Jesus never sinned, but he became sin for us. Huh?

And in Philippians 2:12-13, the Apostle Paul highlights another great paradox: The process of making Christians more like Christ is God’s responsibility, but at the same time, it’s our responsibility. This transformative process is called “sanctification.” Sanctification is the process of becoming holy; it’s the process whereby we become, over time, more and more like Christ . At the point of our salvation, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. But let’s be honest: When we are first saved, our thoughts, words, actions and priorities don’t look anything like Christ’s. Sanctification changes that. Sanctification is a transformative process that requires both God’s work and ours.

In Philippians 2:12, Paul focuses on our part in the process. He identifies five truths that you and I need to understand and embrace if we ever hope to mature in our faith. For the sake of space, I’ll highlight just three of them. Truth #1: We must understand obedience. Having just urged his readers in verses 3-11 to follow Christ’s example of being a humble servant to others, Paul urges us to “always” obey. Without fail, we will hit a road block in our sanctification when we stop obeying God. We can’t expect to be growing if we’re engaged in sexual sin, neglecting God’s Word, skipping church, inflating our egos, and/or refusing to forgive. Obedience is an indispensable ingredient in our sanctification.

Truth #2: We must understand our personal responsibility. Paul urges his readers to obey God’s Word “not only in [Paul’s] presence, but much more in [his] absence.” Paul’s message to us is crystal clear: When we are spiritually stagnant, we shouldn’t play the blame game. Instead, we should look in the mirror. If we aren’t growing, our pastors and spiritual mentors aren’t the biggest culprits. We are! Spiritual growth is much easier when we have mature Christian mentors who are with us face-to-face. But regardless of whether they are present or absent, our spiritual growth should not be allowed to stagnate.

Truth #3: We must understand the fear of God. Over the years, many Christians have misunderstood what Paul means when he writes, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Is Paul saying that we can somehow earn or merit our salvation? Not at all! Instead, he is making it clear that our God-given salvation is active. It’s a salvation that is fleshed out. And we flesh it out with a healthy dose of “fear and trembling.”

Many Christians wrestle with the notion that we are supposed to fear God. But both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that God is to be feared in much the same way that a child should fear the consequences that come when he defies Mom and Dad’s rules. Christians should have a healthy fear of offending God. We should have an awe and respect both for Him and for His laws. One of the reasons why many “Christians” in America live lifestyles that are indistinguishable from those of unbelievers is because there is little fear of God in them. And without a healthy fear of God we will not experience consistent spiritual growth.

Without a doubt, sanctification is a process that requires our active participation. But if we don’t allow God to actively participate in the process, sanctification is impossible. In Philippians 2:13, Paul reminds us, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

So, here’s how this whole sanctification process works: While we are working “out” our salvation, God is working it “in.” God energizes us on the inside to obey and serve Him faithfully on the outside. The Bible is clear that on our own, we can do nothing holy. Just as we are powerless to save ourselves, we are powerless to sanctify ourselves. Only God can wash our sins away on “day one.” Similarly, only God can conform us to the image of Christ every day thereafter.

Therefore, sanctification is a process that requires a dynamic partnership between you and God. If you want to have a Christlike attitude, it’s going to require God to work on your attitude on the inside while you work it out on the outside. If you want to love God, forgive your enemies, serve the hurting, and bring much honor and glory to Christ, it’s going to require God to transform your heart while you transform your actions. You and Jesus. Jesus and you, working hard together to make you more like him. That’s sanctification. And since it pleases God so much, it should be our greatest desire. 

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Work Your Way Down the Ladder

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:5

In 1871, British author Lewis Carroll published a sequel to his famous book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Early in the book—Through the Looking Glass--Alice steps through her living room mirror and discovers a world that is completely backwards. She tries to move forward, but she ends up back where she started. She tries to go left, and ends up going right. Fast is slow, and down is up.

It’s a funny thing: The Christian life is a lot like Alice’s looking glass world. In Christ’s Kingdom, things work on opposite principles from the world around us. For example, to gain a blessing, Christ calls us to give a blessing. To receive forgiveness, Jesus commands us to extend forgiveness. To grasp the unseen, we must let go of the seen. To gain life, we must give up our lives. To lead well, we must serve well. To be first, we must be last.

One of these powerful, upside down principles is beautifully exemplified by Jesus Himself in Philippians 2:5-11. The principle can be summarized like this: If you want to be honored by God, you must be humble before God.  Humility is the path to greatness. And we need look no further than Jesus Christ to discover the power of this topsy-turvy, upside down principle in action. 

Philippians 2:5-11 has been called the “Mount Everest” among the Bible passages that reveal Jesus’ character. These days it’s common for skeptics to claim that Jesus was just a good teacher or, at best, a prophet. But the second chapter of Philippians sets the record straight. The verses clearly reveal Jesus Christ to be fully God and fully man. He was the God-man. And the process of leaving heaven above to become a human being here below was the single greatest demonstration of humility in the history of the world.

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-8 that Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

These verses begin by revealing that Jesus’ divinity was an ongoing, unchanging reality. Jesus Christ was God. Jesus Christ is God, and Jesus Christ always will be God. Just as surely as your nature is human, Christ’s nature is God. As the years pass by, your appearance may change dramatically. Your hair styles and hair color may change. Your complexion may change. And the amount of trauma your bathroom scale experiences when you step on it may change. But your humanness will never change. Similarly, Jesus’ divine nature has never and will never change. He could never stop being God.

Yet God’s Word tells us that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Instead He “made himself nothing.” In other words, although Jesus Christ had all the rights, privileges and honors of being God, He chose to lay them aside for a season. Why would He do such a thing? He did it because He considered your needs as more important than His own needs. He did it because He was looking out for my interests, not for His own interests. Jesus chose not to exploit His rights and privileges as God because He was, in a word, humble.

He temporarily left his cushy home in heaven in order to be born in a sheep stable. While on earth, He momentarily laid aside His face-to-face relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He surrendered the majority of His power, intellect and transcendence. Clearly, while He walked this sin-cursed earth Jesus was at His absolute weakest. He became the lowest of the low and the servant of the servants. He descended the ladder of success to the lowest rung. And He did it all by choice because of His gracious love for you and me.

Honestly, some of us are pretty low on the ladder of success, but as Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, He went even lower. He went lower than the blue-collar soldiers who surrounded Him. He went lower than the hypocritical priests who mocked Him. He went lower than the lowlife criminals who hung beside Him. He went lower than the ones who spat in His face, lower than the ones who gambled for His clothes, even lower than the one who betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver.

Why? Simply because he loved us and wanted to spend eternity with us in heaven. Jesus went down low, so that you and I could be lifted up high. Jesus died so that you and I could live. Jesus endured the torment of hell, so that you and I could enjoy the peace and joy of heaven. Jesus went low, so that we could be raised high. The Son of God was, is, and always will be the consummate example of humility. He did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. He didn’t look out for His own interests but for our interests. And He lovingly turns to us as His followers and says, “Go, and do likewise.”  

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