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.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Plank-Eye Disease

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” - Matthew 7:1

A woman arrived early at the airport and she had some time to kill. So she went to one of the stores inside her terminal and bought a bag of bite-sized chocolate chip cookies. She found a seat nearby and started reading a book. After a few minutes she opened the bag of cookies, ate one, and then put the bag back on the empty chair next to her.

A few seconds later, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man on the other side of the empty seat reach into her cookie bag, take out a cookie, and eat it. She thought to herself, “That dirty rotten thief just stole one of my cookies!” But she didn’t say anything. A minute later, she grabbed another cookie. And the man grabbed another one, too. This went on for about ten minutes—back and forth until there was only one cookie left. The man had the audacity to grab the last cookie, break it in half and offer her one of the halves. She snatched it out of his hand, gave him a dirty look and stormed off to her plane.

 Once she boarded her flight, she reached into her carry-on bag to grab her book—and there inside was her unopened bag of cookies. That man in the terminal wasn’t a dirty, rotten cookie thief after all. SHE was! She made the same mistake that all of us have made at one time or another: She rushed to judgment without having all the facts.

That story reminds me of the most quoted verse in the entire Bible, Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Not only is this the most quoted verse in the Bible, it’s also the most MISQUOTED verse. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mean what most people think it means. If you carefully read and think about the first five verses in Matthew 7, you’ll see that Jesus wasn’t forbidding all forms of judging. He was forbidding selfish, hypocritical judging. 

You see, the Pharisees and Jewish teachers had a bad habit of pointing out everyone else’s sins while ignoring their own sins. They condemned the evil they witnessed in others while making excuses for the greater evil in their own hearts. So, Jesus is placing a neon sign over others that flashes, “Caution: Judge at your own risk!” You see, it is better to “judge not” than to judge others while ignoring a glaring sin in our own lives.

The truth is: Jesus doesn’t have a problem with you or me helping someone identify and remove a splinter from their eye as long as we first identify and remove the plank from our own eye. In other words, you and I have no business pointing out others’ tiny faults until we’ve dealt with our own bigger ones.  As Pastor Jon Bloom reminds us, we should never take tweezers to someone else’s faults when we need a forklift to deal with our own.

Here in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus is condemning a critical, fault-finding spirit. Some people spend so much time criticizing others without ever looking in the mirror to see their own goof ups. Some of us are so good at pointing out others’ sins without ever admitting that some of the stuff we do is even worse. Jesus says, “Don’t be like that.” Which leads us to our first of four lessons from the early verses of Matthew 7.

LESSON #1: Spend less time pointing out others' sins and more time correcting your own sins.
Your first priority is to work with Jesus to deal with your OWN sin. My first priority is to work with Jesus to deal with MY own sin. Only when we do can we be in a place where we can effectively help others deal with their sin.

LESSON #2: Remember, you're not the ultimate judge. God is. (v. 1) 
He alone will one day judge the living and the dead and pronounce a final eternal judgment on every person. So, when you go to point out someone’s fault or sin, make sure that you don’t forget who the real judge is. Evangelist Billy Graham said it really well: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” 

LESSON #3: God will judge you the same way you judge others. (v. 2)
If you choose to judge your family and friends harshly … watch out. God’s going to judge you harshly too. If you’re critical of others, God will be critical of you. If you give others very little grace, God will give you very little grace. So, with that in mind, give people around you lots and lots of grace. Look for the best in them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Cut them the same amount of slack that you would like God to cut you.

LESSON #4: Be kind and look for the underlying beauty in others. (v. 5) 
I heard about a young Christian woman named Maria who attended an international Christian camp. One night a group of campers discussed various strategies for leading people back home to salvation in Christ. Maria’s input caught everyone by surprise. She said, “Back home we don’t have missions or give out tracts. 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.”

Do the people around you see how you live, work and love and want to be Christians too? Certainly, we would be more effective in leading people to Jesus Christ if we loved more and judged less. 

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.