Thursday, February 2, 2023

How to Obey Jesus’ Marching Orders

 Go and make disciples of all nations.” – Matthew 28:19

Recently I ran across this observation from one of my favorite Bible scholars, Warren Wiersbe: “In most churches, the congregation pays the pastor to preach, win the lost, and build up the saved—while the church members function as cheerleaders (if they are enthusiastic) or spectators. The ‘converts’ are won, baptized, and given the right hand of fellowship, then they join the other spectators.”

Is he right? When it comes to sharing the gospel message, are most Christians just spectators or, at best, cheerleaders? Yes! Why is that? Well, it’s not because it’s SUPPOSED to be that way. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ—aka, a “Christian”—God has called you to share the Gospel.

In Matthew 28, Jesus delivered one of the most important teachings in the Bible … and it’s one of the teachings most often ignored by Christians. He delivered this message after His resurrection, as part of His final marching orders to His followers. This vital teaching of Jesus is usually referred to as The Great Commission.

Jesus spoke to them on a mountain in Galilee, where He had spent most of his time during his three-year public ministry. But as the 11 apostles saw Him in the distance walking toward them, some were uncertain it was Jesus: “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted” (v. 17). It may seem strange that any of the apostles would doubt Jesus at this point, since He had already appeared to them several times since His resurrection. But the Greek word that is translated here as “doubted” doesn’t refer to a fixed, lasting unbelief. Instead, it refers to a state of uncertainty and hesitation. At first some weren’t sure it was Him. But within a matter of minutes, their doubts were removed.

Now, think about your own family and friends. Some are a little slow to accept the truth about Jesus—but they’re not necessarily fixed and unmovable in their unbelief. They’re just uncertain and hesitant. Be patient with them, and keep trying to lead them to Jesus.

That’s what Jesus told them to do as he delivered the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). That’s quite a list of instructions, but in the original Greek, the active command is to MAKE DISCIPLES. Here’s a more literal translation: “As you are going, disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t command us to “Go!” He assumes we’re already going. Jesus doesn’t say, “Carve out a day and time once or twice a year to leave the church building to tell people about Me.” He doesn’t say, “On Christmas and Easter make sure you invite someone to church.” And Jesus doesn’t say, “Every once in a while, flip your mental switch and start caring about the spiritually lost people around you.”

Jesus isn’t talking about squeezing something into your busy schedule. In fact, He hates it when you compartmentalize your Christianity and shove Him into a little box on Sunday mornings, or on Christmas or Easter. Jesus is talking about a way of life. AS you are going to work. AS you are going to WalMart. AS you are going out to eat. Wherever you are going, on whatever day you are going there … Make disciples of all nations. 

A disciple is defined as “a student; a learner; a follower.” Jesus isn’t interested in converts—that is to say, people who convert to Christianity just to grab some quick fire insurance to stay out of hell. Jesus isn’t interested in men and women who just give Him lip service. He’s interested in true, born-again disciples—men and women who have truly repented of their sin, gotten baptized and are learning to obey ALL of Jesus’ commands. Jesus isn’t just their Savior. He is truly their Lord.

Jesus commands us to make disciples. So, let me ask you: Are YOU making disciples? As you’re going about your daily routine, are you leading people to Jesus? Are you actively sharing your Christian faith with the people around you? Are you helping at all with new believers’ baptisms? Are you helping to teach Jesus’ commands to new Christians? If you’re not, you are being disobedient to your Lord. You are disobeying one of the most important commands He ever gave you.

Warren Wiersbe says it so well: “Christianity is a missionary faith. The very nature of God demands this, for God is love, and God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Our Lord’s death on the cross was for the whole world. If we are the children of God and share His nature, then we will want to tell the good news to the lost world.”

Please, when it comes to winning souls for Christ, don’t just be a spectator. Don’t even settle for being an enthusiastic cheerleader. Be an obedient witness for Jesus Christ.

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. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

How to Lead Someone to Jesus

“Tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” –Luke 10:9

Back in 2002, Pastor Rick Warren published “The Purpose Driven Life,” one of the bestselling non-fiction books of all time. The book opens with one the best first sentence of any book I’ve ever read, and it’s just four words: “It’s not about you.” When you set out to figure out why God placed you on this earth, the first thing you need to understand is that it’s NOT about you. God created you, and if you’re a Christian, He saved you to bring Him glory … AND to lead the people around you to Christ.

Near the end of the book, Pastor Rick tells the story of what his dad said on his deathbed. Warren’s father had been a minister for over 50 years, and he loved to go overseas with teams of volunteers and build churches for small congregations. In the final week of his life, before he died of cancer, he spent most of his time in a semi-conscious state, reliving those church building projects. Warren writes that one night, his father kept trying to get out of bed, although he was too weak. Finally Warren’s wife asked him what he was trying to do. His response: “Got to save one more for Jesus!” He repeated the phrase over and over, probably 100 times in the course of an hour: “Got to save one more for Jesus!” 

Wow! That’s how I’d like to go. I want to have the chance to tell my family one last time that I love them, but I would love to have the opportunity to use my final breath to save one more soul for Jesus.

In Luke 10, Jesus shared a simple process for winning souls as he was preparing to send a team of his followers out into the world to share the gospel. He taught them these four powerful steps for leading people to Christ:

Step #1: PRAYER. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’” (v. 5). Speak peace to the people you’re called to reach. In other words, pray for those you’re hoping to lead to Christ. Pray that God would open their minds and soften their hearts to the truth of the gospel.

Step #2: FELLOWSHIP. “Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you” (vs. 7-8). Eat with and build relationships with the people you’re called to reach. Relationships build trust, and trust opens doors to speak more openly about Jesus.

Step #3: AGAPE LOVE. “Heal the sick who are there” (v. 9a). In the Book of Luke, Jesus gave his soul winners the power to drive out demons and heal the sick. Unless I’m missing something, Jesus hasn’t given us that same power. But there’s a general principle that Jesus is communicating here: Find a need among those you’re called to reach, and meet that need. Mow a lawn. Buy a few bags of groceries. Be a shoulder to cry on. Whatever the need is, meet it expecting nothing in return.

Step #4: The GOSPEL MESSAGE. “Tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (v. 9b). Tell them about Jesus and why they need him.

Now, many of us are on board until we reach Step #4. We’re comfortable with praying, fellowshipping and even sharing Christ’s love with those in need. But we often stop short of sharing a clear Gospel message. In my opinion, the “Bridge Illustration” is one of the best. It can be shared with a group of kids on a dry erase board, or with an adult friend on a napkin at a restaurant. No artistic skills required. You can find several “How to Share the Bridge Illustration” videos on YouTube.

After you’ve shared the Bridge Illustration, ask two questions: Question #1: Does this make sense to you? If the answer is “No,” it’s important to go back and clarify any points that are unclear. But once your family member or friend understands the gospel message, it’s vital that you ask Question #2: Are you ready to trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord? If they answer, “Yes!” lead them through the ABCs: A) Admit that you are a sinner; B) Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins; and C) Choose to begin following and obeying Jesus today. Lead them in a prayer and call your pastor to set up a time for him/her to be baptized.

Jesus Christ is asking every one of us to share the gospel with those around us. If you are serious about being a soul winner, you need to be ready to share this simple life-changing message with your family and friends who need Christ. You might not be called to be an evangelist, but Jesus Christ has called you to be His witness. Tell your family and friends what He did for you AND for them on the cross. Then invite them to receive His free gift of forgiveness and commit their lives to Him.

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. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Monday, January 16, 2023

How to Become a Soul Winner

 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” – Luke 19:10

On December 31st—the final day of 2022—I was scrolling through social media and came across a one-minute excerpt from a sermon. And that 60-second message cut me to the heart.

The clip was taken from a sermon delivered some 20 years ago by Dr. Adrian Rogers, who served as senior pastor of a Baptist church in Tennessee for 32 years. These lines, in particular, hit me hard: “Most of the people in our church are not active soul winners.” “If you don’t have a passion to see people come to the Lord Jesus Christ, I wonder if you know the Jesus that I know.” “If you are not endeavoring to bring souls to Christ, you’re not right with God.”

Is he right? I hope not, because if he is, most of us will have a lot to answer for on Judgment Day. But I’m afraid he’s right. Even if we give our tithes, attend church faithfully and live clean, moral lives … if we’re not actively winning souls for Jesus Christ, we’re not right with God.

Jesus did a whole lot of soul-winning during his three-year ministry. In fact, winning souls for His Father in heaven was the main reason Jesus came to earth in the first place: He came to seek and save the lost. And one of those lost souls that He came to save was a despised tax collector named … Zacchaeus.

As Jesus passed through the city of Jericho in Luke 19, many Bible scholars believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of people were following Jesus through the streets that day. But of all the people in that Jericho crowd, Luke focuses on Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector. Tax collectors were detested in Jesus’ day, because they were known to extort more than a taxpayer owed to Rome—and, of course, pocket the extra.

But Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was and find out what all the fuss was about. And Zacchaeus was short—so he climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus over the crowd. In verse 5, we read: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’” Although that’s not something we typically do in our culture today, in First Century Israel it was a great honor to be chosen to host a famous rabbi like Jesus. And when Zacchaeus heard Jesus’ invitation, “He came down at once and welcomed him gladly” (v. 6).

So Jesus went home with Zacchaeus, dined with him and invited him to make the most important decision of his life: to put his trust in Jesus as His Savior and Lord, repent of his sin and live a brand-new life. In response, Zacchaeus stood and said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (v. 8).

Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (v. 9). Some people mistakenly think this means Zacchaeus was saved by his good works. But he was saved BEFORE his good works. A greedy, hell-bound sinner like Zacchaeus never would have done what he did in verse 8. He did it because he was a new creation. What we read in verse 8 is simply the fruit of his repentance.

After declaring that Zacchaeus was saved, Jesus spoke these glorious words in verse 10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” There’s something profound in this verse that is easy to miss. Zacchaeus thought he was the one doing the seeking. But, truth be told, Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus long before Zacchaeus began seeking Him. And the same is true for me and for you and for everyone else we know. Jesus was seeking us long before we started seeking Him.

So, aspiring soul winners, listen up! We don’t sit back and wait for someone to express an interest in Jesus. We bring Jesus to them, because Jesus always seeks us before we ever seek Him. Whether it’s a family member, friend, co-worker or a perfect stranger, Jesus is seeking them long before they ever seek Him. It’s our job to make the introduction.

Here are three steps to becoming a soul winner:

#1: Pray for yourself. Ask God to give you a burden for lost souls and to choose you to be a soul winner. In Isaiah 6, God needed someone to go to His chosen people and urge them to repent. The LORD Almighty asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go out for us?” (v. 8). And like a kid whose teacher just asked, “Who wants a free ticket to Disneyland?” Isaiah spoke up and said: “Ooo! Ooo! Here am I. Send me!” We should have that same kind of enthusiasm to lead lost people to Christ.

#2: Pray for others. Pray by name for the salvation of people you know who need Christ. How many people do you know who are far from God? You should pray for them by name on a regular basis—asking God to soften their hard hearts, open their closed minds and draw them unto Himself for salvation. Would you please begin doing this EVERY day? Remember, the prayers of a righteous man or woman of God are powerful and effective.

#3: Be intentional about building relationships with those who need God’s grace, and take the initiative to steer conversations to Christ. Jesus Christ has called YOU to take the initiative. YOU need to build relationships with those who need Him, and YOU need to take the initiative to steer conversations to the gospel. Let’s start introducing people to Jesus Christ.

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. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Four Steps to a Better Prayer

“This, then, is how you should pray.” – Matthew 6:9a

It was about 23 years ago. I had been a pastor for only a month or two, and I remember saying to myself, “Dane, what were you thinking when you took this job?”

I didn’t say that because I wanted to jump ship. This church was great. But the reality had hit me: I was 25 years old, trying to teach God’s word to a group of people, most of whom were older than myself. And many of them had been Christians twice as long as I’d been alive! How could I possibly teach them anything?

Good question. And God gave me an even better answer: “No matter how old someone is in the church, I am much older. And no matter how wise someone is in the Church, My Word is wiser. So if you stick to prayerfully teaching My powerful word, your age will be irrelevant.” What a marvelous insight that was to this young, insecure pastor. And it was during that early season of ministry that God taught me to pray—really pray. Learning to lean on God through prayer helped me do a task that was far too big and far too hard for me to do on my own. As a bonus, my relationship with God became much closer and more meaningful.

Do you long for that? Do you want to partner with God to do things that you could never accomplish on your own? Do you want your relationship with Christ to be closer than it’s ever been? Well, prayer is the key.

Not sure how to pray? Just take a look at Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. It’s usually called “The Lord’s Prayer,” but a more fitting name for it would be “The Disciples’ Prayer,” since Jesus gave it to us as an example to follow. And there’s a simple recipe based on this prayer that you can use right away to make your personal prayer times more enjoyable and more impactful. It’s easy to remember because it’s spelled out in four little letters: P-R-A-Y.

The “P” in PRAY stands for PRAISE. We all have times when we’re in crisis and don’t have time to pray anything but “God, help! Help!” But as a rule of thumb, just as The Lord’s Prayer begins with praise and adoration, so too should our prayers. Before we get into the “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” petitions within our prayers, we should spend some time praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done.        

The “R” in PRAY stands for REPENT. Honestly, confession and repentance are almost non-existent in our prayers. When we DO remember to ask for forgiveness, we say something very short and vague like, “Lord, forgive us for the things we did today that made your heart sad.” Well, that’s a start. But if our personal prayer times are going to be more powerful, we can’t be vague or half-hearted when bringing our sins to God. He takes our sins very seriously, and so should we. We know that in Christ, our sins are forgiven. But that’s beside the point. As we talk with God, we should grieve for our sins—our foul language, our bad tempers, our lustful thoughts, our lack of love and respect to our spouses—in order to truly repent.

The “A” in PRAY stands for ASK. Most of us are pretty good at asking. But we don’t always remember to think about the needs of those around us. So, let me suggest to you that you incorporate three kinds of asking into your prayers: 1) Ask for your church; 2) Ask for your community; 3) Ask for your family and yourself.

The “Y” in PRAY stands for YIELD. In the Garden of Gethsemene, when Jesus knew that his arrest and beating and crucifixion were just minutes away, he cried out in prayer, “Father, let this cup pass from me! But not my will, but Yours be done.” In the same spirit, Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask, “Your will be done.”

Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield: Four critical pieces to the prayer puzzle. You don’t need to be eloquent; you don’t need to have the perfect words. God’s idea of a “good” prayer is much different from ours. God isn’t impressed by longwinded prayers filled with flowery language and religious jargon. He is drawn to the humble, simple prayers of followers who come to Him in their helplessness with hearts drawn to His. So, just go to God and talk with Him with your own unique voice, in your own unique way. And as you talk with Him, praise Him, repent of your sin, ask Him to meet needs, and yield to His will. That’s it! That’s prayer.

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. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Rockin’ Righteous Resolutions

 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” – Philippians 1:21-22a

This time of year, millions of Americans around the country are talking about New Year’s resolutions. Possibly you’ve made one yourself. Maybe you’ve resolved to stop smoking, lose weight, start working out or get a better job. Some Americans may resolve to do a “digital detox,” cutting back on the amount of time they spend on their smart phones.

Well, I have a few thoughts that I’d like you to consider. For starters, most New Year’s resolutions are “me”-focused. They tend to focus on me, myself and I. I want to start doing this. I want to stop doing that. I want to be happy. 2023 is going to be MY year.

Another thought that comes to mind is that most New Year’s resolutions don’t have a clear point. Think about it: Many Americans have made a resolution to lose weight, but what’s the point of losing weight? To look better? To feel better? To buy a new wardrobe? Okay. But what’s the point of looking better, feeling better and buying a new wardrobe? And while we’re talking about the point of resolutions, what’s the point of ditching the cigarettes, working out, or turning off the smart phone?

 

I hope you can see what I’m getting at here. Most New Year’s resolutions are not bad, just self-absorbed and rather pointless. As you probably know, most New Year’s resolutions fail within a few weeks. And they tend to fail for two reasons. They fail because they don’t have a strong motivation. And they fail because they don’t have a point—a clearly defined purpose. They don’t have something that a person can get fired up about. For example: If I carry out this resolution, my marriage will be saved. If I carry out this resolution, I’ll be able to afford to send my kids to college. If I carry out this resolution, I will have a 75% better chance of beating cancer.

 

So, how do we make resolutions and set goals that are not self-absorbed or pointless? I’m convinced that the greatest resolutions in life are those that are grounded in Scripture, motivated by our love for Christ and carried out for the glory of God. One of the best ways to ensure that our resolutions are not shallow or pointless is to feed them through this three-part filter. Start by asking yourself, “Is my resolution solidly grounded in the Bible?” If so, great! Move on to question number two: “Is my love for Christ my motivation for making this resolution?” If so, fantastic, because the love that led Jesus to the cross for you and me is the greatest motivator of all! 

 

Next, ask question number three: “Am I going to carry out this resolution for my own glory or for the glory of God?” The glory of God should be the end goal of everything we do, because the glory of God is the purpose of our existence in the first place.

 

So, is it bad to make a resolution to lose twenty pounds, start eating healthier or start working out? Maybe. Feed your resolution through the three-question filter and find out. Is your resolution biblically-grounded? Is your resolution motivated by Christ’s love for you and your love for Him? Will the carrying out of your resolution bring glory to God, or will it just bring glory to yourself? If your resolution passes through the filter, great! Go for it, and let me know if I can help.

 

But regardless of whether or not you’ve already made a New Year’s resolution this year, I encourage you to give some serious thought and prayer to what Jesus Christ would like your life to be about in 2023. It’s often been said that if you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time. That’s some great food for thought!  All of us need goals to shoot for and resolutions to define our path. And when our goals and resolutions survive the three-question filter, they pave the way for the greatest adventures of faith.

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. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.