Monday, March 18, 2019

The LGBT Community and the Church

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”        
– Jesus (John 8:7)

In recent years every Christian denomination has had to answer this controversial question asked by millions of Americans across our nation: “What’s the Big Deal About Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?” As individual congregations and entire denominations have answered this powder-keg question, many have been split in two. So, how are we who are Bible-believing Christians supposed to answer this emotionally-charged question?

I don’t presume to have the perfect answer, but let me share with you some insights from Pastor Gene Appel of Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim. He tackled this question in a sermon several years ago, and I’ve found his insights to be challenging and helpful for all of us—no matter what your personal beliefs and opinions about LGBT issues may be. Here are three of the points Pastor Gene made during his sermon. I encourage you to wrestle honestly with these insights and test them with Scripture.

#1: God is grieved over the pain and mistreatment of LGBT people (especially by Christians). Over the years, Christians have been far too quick to tell “fag” and “dyke” jokes and treat people with same-sex attraction like dirt. Images of Christians holding up picket signs that say, “God Hates Fags!” have been embedded in the minds of many in the LGBT community. Not only are these messages hateful, they’re dead wrong! The Bible doesn’t say that God hates people in the LGBT community. The Bible says quite the opposite. There is no asterisk on the end of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Where does it say in John 3:16 that God only loves those in the world who are straight? Where does it say in John 3:16 that God only loves those in the world who don’t struggle with same sex attraction? Where does it say in John 3:16 that God only loves YOU as a sinner and not someone else who sins differently than you do?

Bottom line: It doesn’t. And similarly, there is no asterisk at the end of the second greatest command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Just as God loves every person regardless of the specifics of his/her personal sin, we who follow Christ must love every person in the same way. Love is the orientation that every follower of Jesus is called to. Billy Graham said it so well: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s God’s job to judge. It’s my job to love.”

#2: God is smarter than we are in understanding the complex dynamics that lead to same sex attraction. In recent years extensive research has been done to determine the root causes of same sex attraction. Are the roots genetic and biological, or are they environmental? At this time, the jury is still out. We know that many gay men and women experienced dysfunctional and destructive family dynamics while growing up. But so did many straight men and women. We know that many gay adults were sexually violated by trusted family members and friends during their formative childhood years. But that alone can’t explain same sex attraction either. You and I should never be so arrogant as to think that we have same sex attraction all figured out. But thankfully, according to Psalm 147:5, God has ALL things figured out. And since He does, we can and should follow His lead. Which leads us to point #3:

#3: God expects His followers to speak the truth in love. The Bible is very clear from the first two chapters of Genesis that God created two genders: male and female. And God designed full sexual expression to be ultimately between one man and one woman in the safety and context of a marriage relationship. Therefore, any straight or same sex sexual activity outside of that ethic is outside God’s design and plan. That’s not the truth that many in the LGBT community want to hear, but frankly that’s not the truth that many in the straight community want to hear either.

The truth is: God considers any sexual activity to be a sin that is outside of the marriage relationship between one man and one woman. Therefore, the Bible condemns heterosexual premarital sex (aka, fornication), heterosexual extramarital sex (aka, adultery) extramarital lust (aka, mental adultery) and homosexuality (see Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27). The fact is, all of us have sinned sexually in one way or another, and because of that we all stand in desperate need of the forgiveness and grace of our holy God. To say it another way: God doesn’t see us as gay or straight. He sees us all as lost and dying sinners who need to repent and receive His mercy and grace.

A few final insights. Jesus never taught: “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Jesus’ teaching can better be summarized as, “Love the sinner, but hate your OWN sin.” You and I need to focus on the filthy plank in our own eyes. Finally, we as followers of Christ need to be able to answer two important questions. Since LGBT people are already attending our churches, the first question is, “Is our church a safe enough place where they can find love and support and allow God to work in them to contend with His truth?” And secondly, “Do we as Christians share this message loud and clear? ‘Just as you are, you matter to God. And just as you are, you matter to this church.’” Because of a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb, there is hope for all of us sinners.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Best Bridge Builder, Hands Down

But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. – Luke 8:54-55

Years ago, a young girl was traveling by train through the country. And since she had never traveled so far by train before, she got pretty scared every time the train approached a river. Whenever she looked through the window and saw a river up ahead, she would start to panic. She couldn’t understand how the train could possibly cross the river without crashing. But each time the train approached a river, a bridge appeared that provided a way over. After this happened several times, the girl leaned back in her chair, breathed a sigh of relief, and in faith-filled confidence said, “Somebody put bridges for us all the way to where we’re going!”

Isn’t that just like what God does for us? We go through life worried about the obstacles we face. At times, the difficulties that lie ahead of us seem insurmountable! In Luke 8:40-56, a man turned to Jesus for help—and at first it looked as if that help came too late. 

Jesus had just arrived in town when one of the local synagogue rulers came to Jesus, fell at his feet and pleaded with him to come to his house and heal his 12-year-old daughter, who was on her deathbed. So, Jesus began following this man, Jairus, to his home. But along the way, Jesus was interrupted when a woman touched the hem of his robe and was healed after 12 years of internal bleeding.

When Jesus took the time to talk to the woman who had been healed, we’re not told what Jairus was saying or doing. But I imagine he was standing there impatiently saying under his breath, “Jesus, could you please hurry up! My daughter doesn’t have much more time. This woman is healed already. Let’s leave it at that and get to my house before it’s too late.”

Well, according to verse 49, while Jesus was still speaking to the woman, someone came from Jairus’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the teacher any more.” Without a doubt, Jairus’s heart dropped. He was devastated. But Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (v. 50). Jesus accompanied Jairus to his house and told the professional mourners weeping outside, “Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep” (v. 52). The mourners laughed at him—after all, they recognized a dead body when they saw one.

Jesus went into the girl’s room with her parents and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” The Bible tells us: “Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat” (v. 55). Oh, wouldn’t it have been awesome to see the look on the mourners’ faces when that little girl walked out of the house munching on a chicken leg!

From a seemingly hopeless situation, Jesus built a bridge that brought a dead girl back to her parents. And from this point forward, Jesus’ followers would no longer view death as death, but only as sleep. It became clearer to them than ever before that the only thing that makes a body alive is the spirit inside that body. This girl’s spirit had never died. Jesus simply put it back into her body until God the Father was ready to call her spirit home to heaven.

This remarkable episode in Jesus’ ministry teaches us three things:

1. Each of us is at a different place in our faith journey, and Jesus is patient with each of us. Jairus, the bleeding woman, the messenger from Jairus’ house and the mourners were all at different places in their faith journey. But he didn’t scold or rebuke any of them. Likewise, each of is at a different place spiritually—and as we follow Jesus, we need to follow his example and be patient with each other.

2. Jesus wasn’t ever in a hurry. He allowed himself time to be interrupted, and it was during these interruptions that he did some of his best ministry. If your schedule is always full, and you’re always rushing from place to place, you will miss out on some wonderful ministry opportunities. If you wonder why God hasn’t called on you lately to do His work, it could be you’ve been too busy to notice your chances when they come along. God’s interruptions are always golden. We need to make time for them.

3. Our faith opens the door for Jesus to build bridges of healing and salvation. In verses 48 and 50, Luke uses the Greek word “sozo” for “healing.” That word literally means “to be saved.” When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, that faith paves the way for both His healing and His salvation.

God calls us as followers of Jesus to walk by faith and not by sight. Our eyes see certain disaster, but our faith sees that God will make a way. Jesus builds great bridges as we put our faith in Him. So, as we face obstacles that seem insurmountable, let’s trust Him. He is an expert at building bridges over and around and even through every obstacle we face.  

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Compassion Isn’t Just for Pigs

“Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear.” – Luke  8:37

One day an antique collector was walking through a strip mall parking lot. In front of one of the stores, he saw a mangy, skinny cat lapping milk from a saucer. When he got a little closer, his face lit up. You see, he was an antique expert, and he had a strong hunch that that saucer was very old and worth at least a thousand dollars. So, he decided he was going to play it cool and get himself a great deal on that saucer. He casually walked into the store and asked the owner if he could buy the cat for $5. The store owner replied, “I’m sorry, but the cat isn’t for sale.” The collector said, “Please, I need a hungry cat around the house to catch mice. Tell you what…I’ll pay you $50.” The owner said, “Sold!”

As the collector headed for the door, he turned and said, “Hey, since I paid you $50, I wonder if you could throw in that old saucer. The cat’s used to it and it’ll save me having to buy a new one.” The owner replied, “Sorry, buddy, but that’s my lucky saucer. So far this week it’s help me sell 17 stray cats.”

It’s kind of sad when someone has more interest in a profitable saucer than compassion for a suffering animal. But it’s a full-on tragedy when people have more compassion for pigs than for people. And Luke 8 shows a sad example of a whole town that told Jesus to take a hike, because their priorities were all out of whack.

In Luke 8:27, Jesus’ disciples had just survived a terrifying storm as they crossed the Sea of Galilee with their Lord. And as soon as their boat reached dry land, a crazy, naked man came running up the beach toward Jesus, screaming and carrying on. The disciples must have thought, “Out of the frying pan, into the fire!” Luke tells us in verses 27-29 that the man hadn’t worn clothes for a long time. In all likelihood, he had been running around naked for years. The man hadn’t lived in a house for a long time. Instead he lived in the tombs, surrounded by decaying corpses. The demon had seized this man many times and driven him into solitary places. And at times, he would have superhuman strength and break the chains that the townspeople had put on his hands and feet to restrain him.

But at the sight of Jesus, this wildman flung himself at Jesus’ feet, begging not to be tortured. Jesus knew he was dealing with a demon-possessed man, and as it turned out, many demons lived in him (v. 30). The demons “begged [Jesus] repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (v. 31). The Abyss is just a taste of the eternal Lake of Fire described in Revelation 20, and even Satan’s demons didn’t want to go there. If you have any doubts that Hell isn’t a nice place, that should convince you.

The demons asked to go into a herd of pigs nearby, knowing that even living inside a pig’s brain was much better than living in the Abyss. So, Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs, and they left the man and entered the swine. For the first time in years, the man was freed from his suffering! The pigs, meanwhile, rushed into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. And for the people of the town, THAT was the big headline—NOT the amazing salvation of the demon-possessed man, whom they found “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind” (v. 35). Instead, they were afraid of Jesus’ power … and upset about the waste of a herd of livestock. And verse 37 is one of the saddest verses in the Book of Luke: “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So [Jesus] got into the boat and left.”

Think about it: The people in the town loved their pigs more than they valued the soul of a man. Money was more important to them than mercy. And, most tragically, they’d rather have Jesus leave than stay. Some might excuse them for their actions, because—after all—they were really, really scared. But that’s no excuse for being really, really stupid. Being scared is no excuse for having no compassion. It’s no excuse for grieving for your pigs more than you grieve for a man who’s experiencing hell on earth. And being scared is no excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ.

But there is a silver lining. The healed man was now a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. He asked to go with Jesus, but instead, Jesus told him to do something very important: “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (v. 39). So, Jesus’ work wasn’t over when he sailed away from Gerasenes. This new follower of Jesus Christ with his amazing testimony returned home and shared the good news of salvation. It’s likely that hundreds of people were introduced to Jesus through this one man whose life had been radically transformed by Christ.

When Jesus’ disciples first saw the demon-possessed wildman, they probably wondered if there had even been any point in surviving the storm they’d come through to get there. The same is true of us today. We may not be able to see what awaits us on the other side of our present storm. But if we trust in Jesus, we can be confident that what he does next is going to be amazing. So, hang in there, Christian. And walk by faith.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Are You Shining Like Jimmy?

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” – Luke  8:16

Hubert Humphrey, who served as Vice President under President Lyndon Johnson, was narrowly defeated by Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election. Ten years later, Humphrey died of cancer. Dignitaries from around the world gathered at his funeral to say “good-bye” to their old friend and colleague. But one attender was shunned and ignored. That person was former president Richard Nixon, who had gone through the shame of Watergate just four years earlier. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency. Nobody at Humphrey’s funeral would look at him, much less speak to him.

Then a very special thing happened. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at the time, came in and saw Nixon standing all by himself. President Carter went to him, stuck out his hand and smiled as though he were greeting a family member. To everyone’s surprise, the two men embraced, and Carter said, “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!” Newsweek magazine later wrote, “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”

Why on earth would President Carter do such a thing? Well, because that’s what Jesus would have done. Jimmy Carter may not have been our greatest president, but as a committed follower of Jesus Christ, he believed he was called to shine the light of Christ. And twice a month in Plains, Georgia, Carter still teaches a Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church. At 94 years old, he’s still shining the light of Christ.

Jesus tells us in the book of Luke, verse 8:16, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” In the Bible, “light” is often used as a symbol for God’s Word. But in Scripture light is also a symbol for the truth. So, what is Jesus saying in verse 16 of Luke 8? He is saying, “Just as no one lights a lamp during a power outage and hides it in the closet, no Christian who understands God’s word should hide it.” Followers of Christ, who know the truth about salvation, forgiveness and heaven and hell, should never keep that truth to themselves. William Barclay says it so well: “Verse 16 stresses the essential conspicuousness of the Christian life. Christianity is in its very nature something which must be seen.” 

Think about those words. The Christian life should be conspicuous. Our Christianity “must be seen.” You and I are to proclaim God’s word openly to all who are willing to listen. We must proclaim the truth both with our words and our actions. Our faith is to be lived out in plain view. And in verse 17, Jesus stresses the fact that if we DO try to keep our faith hidden, it will eventually be revealed anyway: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

That’s a bit scary when you think about it. Many Christians are secretly addicted to porn, and they’re convinced that “Nobody will ever know.”  Yeah, they will. Sooner or later….they’ll know. Many Christians never crack open their Bibles outside of church, and they don’t think that anyone will ever find out. Yeah, they will. Sooner or later…it’ll be revealed. We try hard to hide our faults and our skeletons in the closet from other people. We hope they’ll never find out. Sometimes I’ve shuddered as I’ve considered what it would be like to have my most inappropriate thoughts and my most sinful actions projected on a big screen for all to see. That’d be a nightmare!

But in the context of what Jesus says in verse 17, I don’t think he plans to project our sins on a big screen. What Jesus most likely is referring to is the reality that if you as a follower of Christ hide your Christianity and God’s truth from your friends and family, they’ll discover your secret sooner or later. Imagine how terrible it would be if your family and friends discover that you’re a Christian after they’ve died. “What? You mean you knew all these years where I was going after I died, and you didn’t warn me? You knew how to make it to heaven, and you didn’t tell me? I didn’t think I knew any Christians, and you were one all this time! Why on earth didn’t you tell me?”

You may be one of those Christians who has said for years, “There are two things I never discuss: politics and religion.” Well, la-dee-da! It’s time to change your policy and start talking more openly about Jesus. One of these days your friends and family will find out that you’re serious about your faith. I hope and pray that when they do, it’s not too late.

If you as a Christian are learning God’s truth, but you’re not sharing God’s truth, God will see to it that your growth is stunted, and you’ll start losing much of the knowledge you learned. Just like most things in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it. We must receive God’s Word with open ears, open minds and open hearts. And then we must share God’s word with open eyes, open mouths and open hands. So, do what Jimmy Carter does: Get yourself off the couch and shine your light in this dark world.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How's Your Soil?

“The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." – Luke 8:15


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

Do you know why the leaning tower leans? Bad soil. The soil it’s built on is too spongy. So, between 1990 and 2001, a team of experts worked to save the tower. They used gigantic steel cables to hold the tower in place while they dug wells under the foundation, drained water from the wells, and reinforced the foundation with concrete. If something hadn’t been done in the 1990s, the tower would most likely have toppled over by now. And their best guess is that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is safe for at least another 200 years, when—once again—the tower’s lean will increase. Because the reality is that the reinforced concrete foundation is still surrounded by bad soil.

We read more about bad soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Soils in Luke 8:1-15. Although it’s not the first parable Jesus spoke, it’s called a doorway parable because it serves as the doorway to his parable ministry, and because it holds the key to understand all his other parables. In the parable, a farmer sows seeds on four different types of soil, with different results.

To understand this parable, we need to know three things: 1) The farmer is a follower of Christ. 2) The seed is the word of God, especially the gospel message. 3) The soils are the hearts of the different people who hear God’s Word. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us plainly to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. That is our mission: to sow and nurture gospel seed. And in the Parable of the Soils, Jesus tells us that the seed may fall on one of four types of soils:

Bad Soil #1 Represents a Hard Heart. In the first example, some seeds fall along the path, where it’s trampled and eaten by birds. Jesus explains in Luke 8:12, “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” So, the path represents a hard heart. These are the people who hear the Gospel message, but they reject it outright. The hard heart doesn’t understand the Gospel because it doesn’t want to understand the Gospel.  It doesn’t want to be convicted of sin.  It doesn’t want to change.

Bad Soil #2 Represents a Shallow Heart. The seeds that fall on rocky soil sprout at first, but then wither away because they have no moisture. As Jesus explains in verse 13, “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” So, the rocky soil represents a shallow heart. These are the people who make a superficial decision for Christ. They receive the gospel message enthusiastically, but because their decision is shallow, at the first sign of trouble, they jump ship.

Bad Soil #3 Represents an Overcluttered Heart. In the parable, some seeds fall among thorns, which grow up around the new plants and choke them. Jesus says in verse 14 that these seeds stand for “those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” The third bad soil represents an overcluttered heart—people who make a half-hearted decision for Christ. The gospel seed begins to grow in their lives, but it doesn’t produce anything, because their hearts are distracted and are preoccupied with other things. Our hearts were created to serve one master: Jesus Christ. You either serve Jesus Christ alone or you don’t serve him at all.

The Good Soil Represents a Soft, Honest Heart. Yes, there is one good soil—the one that “came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (v. 8). This soil represents an honest and good heart—those “who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (v. 15). Bottom line: This good soil is the heart of a true Christian who is truly saved. He allows God’s word to take root in his life even when Satan attacks. She remains faithful to Christ during times of trouble or hardship. He offers Christ his full heart and refuses to allow stuff to clutter his heart. Christians with soft-soil hearts are going to Heaven. They are true, born again Christians.

Friends, let me ask you: How’s your soil? I encourage you today to examine your spiritual fruit. If you find it’s lacking, check your soil. Check your heart. If you discover that your heart is hard or shallow or overly cluttered, I urge you to go before the Lord and ask Him--beg Him—to work a miracle on your heart. If you allow him to do so, your fruitfulness for Christ in the days to come can greatly surpass your fruitfulness in days past.

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

Are You a Party Crasher?

“Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” – Luke 7:47

In 1829 two men robbed a U.S. Mail carrier train. They were both arrested and sentenced to hang on July 2, 1830. One of the men was executed on schedule—but not the second man, George Wilson. His friends had petitioned President Andrew Jackson to give him a presidential pardon, and President Jackson DID. But surprisingly, George Wilson refused the pardon.

Well, the courts didn’t know what to do, so they petitioned the Supreme Court to make a ruling. This is what Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…. But delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and we have no power in a court to force it on him.” Marshall said, in a nutshell: We can’t force the Presidential Pardon on George Wilson. If he doesn’t accept it, his sentence stands, and he must be hanged.

Not a very cheery story! But I’d like you to keep Justice Marshall’s words in mind: “Delivery is not completed without acceptance.” That not only holds true for a Presidential pardon. It also holds true for God’s grace and forgiveness. Hold on to that thought as we look at an episode in Jesus’ life from Luke 7.

Jesus had been invited to eat at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. And as Jesus was at Simon’s house, in came an uninvited guest—a party crasher. Luke 7:37 tells us that she was a woman in that town “who had lived a sinful life.” We don’t know for sure, but most likely she was a prostitute. At any rate, she wasn’t on the guest list. But she came in with a jar of perfume and stood at Jesus’ feet, weeping so much she was able to wet his feet with her tears. “Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (v. 38).

What was the Pharisee’s reaction to this party crasher? He thought Jesus, if he was a prophet, should know the woman was a sinner and should want nothing to do with her. But Jesus pointed out that because she had received more forgiveness, she loved Jesus more, while his respectable host had shown him little or no love at all. As Jesus put it, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 47). Here are a few lessons we can take from this incident.

1) A Lesson on Acceptance: Jesus was utterly accepting of deeply flawed people, and so too should we be. Simon refused to accept this woman, but clearly Jesus did accept her. I love how Chuck Swindoll makes this point. He writes: “Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus never compromised the righteousness of God, yet he remained utterly accepting of deeply flawed people. No incident illustrates this better than the day a prostitute crashed the Pharisee’s party.” Did you catch that important phrase in the middle? Jesus “remained utterly accepting of deeply flawed people.” As Christians, we sometimes do a good job talking about God’s grace. But we often do a shoddy job sharing that grace in real life. That shouldn’t be.

2) A Lesson on Self-Awareness: Until we open our eyes and see that we are deeply flawed and admit that we desperately need God’s mercy and healing, we will never receive it.
The greatest sin I could ever commit would be to blindly think that I don’t have any sin for Jesus to forgive. As this sinful woman kept carrying on—crying and wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair and pouring more and more and more expensive oil all over his feet, Simon the Pharisee began to have second thoughts about inviting Jesus to his house. He didn’t realize that even if you sin less than the next guy, you’re STILL A SINNER! And you need to realize that. Simon the Pharisee was very good at identifying other people’s sin. But he was terrible at identifying his own sin.

3) A Lesson on Love for Jesus: The more we express our sorrow for sin and our love for Christ, the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins. What came first, the woman’s love or the woman’s forgiveness? Did Jesus forgive her because she loved him, or did she love Jesus because he had forgiven her? Jesus told the woman in verse 50, “Your faith has saved you,” making it clear that her faith in Jesus led to his forgiveness of her many sins. And once she had experienced his amazing forgiveness, she couldn’t help but shower him with love.

Now, let me ask you: With whom do you most identify in this story—the party host or the party crasher? At first glance, you might say, “The Pharisee.” But the Pharisee was blind to his own sin, and he stubbornly refused to repent and put his faith in Jesus—much like the train robber who refused his pardon. So, he wasn’t forgiven, and therefore he had very little love for Jesus.

I hope you and I can most identify with the party crasher, because SHE was the one whose eyes were open to her own sin. SHE was the one who humbly reached out to Jesus in faith and repentance and love. And her repentance and love for Christ give crystal clear evidence that SHE was the one who was truly forgiven. I so much want us to identify with her … because I want us to be forgiven much and respond by loving Jesus much.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Difference Between Doubt and Unbelief

"All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right.... But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves."- Luke 7:29-30

A cocky young science professor began teaching at a small
Midwest university. On the first day of class, it took his students less than five minutes to figure out that he was a strong atheist—and proud of it. He told the class: “Unless you shake off old-fashioned views and act for yourself, the world will leave you behind. Putting your faith in God won’t get you anywhere. Take rain-making. When the farmers prayed for rain, what did they get? The Dust Bowl. Now all they do is send up a plane, drop some chemicals on a cloud, and it rains. No question about that, is there?”

To the professor’s surprise, a farm boy sitting in the back row spoke up. “Professor, there’s still one question: Who gives us the cloud?”

The cocky professor hadn’t figured on that simple piece of evidence, and my guess is he wasn’t thrilled to have a student come along and poke a big hole in his argument. Did he take this new element into account? My guess is no—the professor had a big case of unbelief, and he would be in no hurry to part with it. On the other hand, many a committed Christian deals with doubt—even one as fervent and devoted as John the Baptist.

When John the Baptist had his moment of doubt while in prison and sent a message to Jesus, we read in Luke 7 that John’s disciples returned to John with Jesus’ answer. That reply showed that Jesus was a clear fulfillment of at least three different Old Testament prophesies. After John received that message, all indications are that he persevered in his faith. From his prison cell, John served Jesus faithfully until his dying day.

And for people who believed the truth about John the Baptist—that he was the promised prophet and the forerunner to the coming Christ—it was natural for them to believe the truth about Jesus. Even the tax collectors who had been baptized by John acknowledged that John was the promised forerunner to the Christ, and that Jesus himself was the promised Christ (Luke 7:29). But as we read on in verse 30, “the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.”

In other words, the religious leaders who didn’t believe in John rejected John’s call to repent and be baptized in preparation for the coming Messiah. And since they rejected his call to get ready for Jesus’ coming, it shouldn’t surprise us that they weren’t willing to believe in Jesus when he came. God had great plans for the Jewish religious leaders, but when they rejected John the Baptist, they rejected God’s plans for them. And once they started down the path of unbelief, they wouldn’t stop until Jesus was dead with his blood on their hands.

In verses 31-32, Jesus compared the religious leaders to a bunch of brats throwing a tantrum because the other kids aren’t playing by their rules. “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” No matter what John the Baptist or Jesus did, it wasn’t good enough for the Pharisees. So, they did what virtually every unbeliever has done over the past 2,000 years: They attempted to rationalize their unbelief by criticizing and even slandering God’s chosen leaders with accusations pulled out of thin air.

 Bottom line: The religious leaders’ hateful criticism of John and Jesus stemmed from their stubborn unbelief. And their unbelief was literally insane. Their refusal to accept the clear, observable facts about John and Jesus was insane. Their slanderous accusations were insane. And their jealous, vengeful drive to murder Jesus was especially insane. They refused to see the clear truth that John was the forerunner, and Jesus was the Christ. God had made sure that there was plenty of evidence to substantiate these two facts. As Jesus said in verse 35, “Wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

In Luke 7:18-23, John the Baptist struggled with doubt. In verses 7:24-35, Jesus talks about the religious leaders who were plagued by unbelief. And there’s a big difference between the two. Doubt is a matter of the MIND, but unbelief is a matter of the WILL. It’s one thing to doubt God’s goodness and plans because we can’t wrap our minds around it. It’s quite another thing to stubbornly refuse to believe His word and obey His word when the evidence is right in front of our faces.

Doubt is often nourished by physical and emotional strain, such as John’s when he was in prison, but unbelief is nourished by a stubborn heart that refuses to accept the evidence. Unbelief puts our circumstance between us and God, but faith—even doubting faith—puts God between us and our circumstance. May we always put God between us and our trials.

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