Sharper Than a Two-Edged Sword, by Mitch Davis (06/29/2014)

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Many professed Christians are going back into the world – even if they remain in the church pew – but God wants His power to penetrate into the most hardened recesses of your heart to be convicted in Christ.

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Go, Make Biblical History! by Mitch Davis (11/03/2013)

November 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Sermons, Sermons on Discipleship

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Realized or not, we all are making history (small or large). The question is what kind of history are you making?

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The Bible and Homosexuality, by Mitch Davis (07/14/2013)

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The Bible is God’s word and is profitable to teach God’s expressed will regarding same-sex sexual relations.

(Editor’s note: please forgive me for speaking incorrectly about Lot’s daughter’s husbands…they were never married. )

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Is The Bible Really Inspired (Part 1), by Mitch Davis (06/23/13)

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In the first of two parts, and focusing on the Old Testament, we look at simple but effective evidence demonstrating that the Bible really is inspired by God.

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Bible Authority? by Mitch Davis (3/17/13)

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Inherent within commands and statements is context, which we employ through logical and sometimes necessary inferences. We illustrate and confirm God’s truths via examples. Even still, it’s not always easy.

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Getting Honest with Bible Prophecy

Matthew 1-2 used to trouble me greatly. I’ve always heard Bible prophecy is one of the top reasons to accept the story of Jesus and I believe that. I’ve heard the statistics about the number of prophecies and how they were filled exactly in Jesus. There are four direct quotes in Matthew 1-2 and one allusion. “Oh wow,” I thought, “Here in these first two chapters are five fulfilled prophecies.”

Isaiah 7:14 says the Messiah will be born of a virgin. Matthew 1:23 shows the exact fulfillment of that prophecy.

Micah 5:2 says the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. Matthew 2:6 says the scribes used this passage to help the wise men find the child Jesus.

Hosea 11:1 says the Messiah will come out of Egypt. Matthew 2:15 shows that is exactly what happened.

Jeremiah 31:15 says Rachel will weep for her children indicating a bunch of her children would be killed. Matthew 2:18 shows that is exactly what happened.

Then there is the fact that the scriptures teach that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene and Matthew 2:23 says that is exactly what happened.

Wow! Amazing! But wait. There’s a fly in this ointment. Have you ever looked at the actual prophecies?

Isaiah 7:14 does not say the Messiah will be born of a virgin. Rather it says that king Ahaz will be given a sign. A child will be born and by the time that child is old enough to choose good and refuse evil, the lands of Syria and Israel will be forsaken. These two kings were threatening Judah; Ahaz needed help from God. So, on first reading, this prophecy doesn’t appear to be about the Messiah at all. Unless God lied, it had an immediate fulfillment. In fact, it was likely fulfilled in the person of Maher-shalal-hash-baz in Isaiah 8:3-4. Hmmm.

Micah 5:2 doesn’t present much of a problem. It appears to be taking the rise of the Assyrians as an opportunity to provide a statement about the coming Messiah. That did happen as Micah said. No wonder the scribes and priests were able to pinpoint Bethlehem so readily.

Hosea 11:1 was not about the Messiah at all. In fact, it was not even prophetic in the sense we think of prophesy. It wasn’t describing something that would happen in Hosea’s future. It was describing something that had already happened in Hosea’s past. It was a reference to the nation of Israel and their stay in Egypt. God was reminiscing about His work with Israel and how they rebelled against Him. He called Israel out of Egypt, which called to mind His great work of mercy and deliverance for them. How did Israel repay Him? They continually went after false gods. Yikes. What do we do with this? It isn’t even a prophecy, let alone one of the Messiah.

Jeremiah 31:15 was not about a citywide slaughter of the children in Bethlehem conducted by Herod in his jealousy of the Messiah. Rather, it was about the captivities of Israel and Judah. Rachel was figuratively weeping for her children because they had been carried captive into foreign lands. If we keep reading in Jeremiah 31 we learn that this is actually a prophecy of the restoration of those nations that would eventually come. We know that happened under Cyrus. We read about it in Ezra and Nehemiah.

Finally, the most troubling one for me is that there is actually no Old Testament passage that says the Messiah will be called a Nazarene.

Okay, I have a problem. This number one test of truth is on shaky ground. Certainly, there is still the specific prophecy in Micah 5:2 that says something will happen with the Messiah in the future and it happened exactly like that. It was so specific and correct the scribes and priests could tell the wise men exactly which city to go to.

But 1 out of 5 doesn’t seem to be a good record. What is going on here?

The problem was not with the prophecies. The problem was with my western mindset. Having heard stories of Nostradomus and psychic hotlines, I had the idea that prophecy means foretelling an event and that event happening just as the prophecy said. A prophecy is a person saying, “So and so will do such and such on this day.” Then we wait to see if it happens that way. Certainly some prophecies are like that. Who can deny Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and how specifically they foretell the crucifixion? However, that is not the limit of biblical prophecy.

When trying to figure this out, I didn’t just say, “Oh well, Matthew was so wrong, I can’t believe him.” My first thought was how could Matthew make such obvious mistakes? That just didn’t make sense to me. When I saw what seemed to be such obvious mistakes and I considered that Matthew was painstakingly trying to prove to his Jewish brethren the truth of the Messiah, I had to ask if there was something about prophecy Matthew and his readers understood that I didn’t. That is exactly the case.

For the ancient eastern mindset, prophecy was not simply an issue of directly foretelling an event and it happening. Rather, what Matthew was demonstrating was that Jesus did not simply fulfill direct statements like Micah 5:2. Rather, He was the ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament in general. Matthew is pointing out that Jesus is an amazing figure whose story mirrors that of God’s people for their whole existence. Was Israel called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1)? That wasn’t just a story about Israel. That wasn’t just a story about the past. That was a marker for the future. When Jesus comes along and follows that same story, He stands out. Did Rachel weep for her children when children of Israel were killed in wars and taken captive (Jeremiah 3:15)? Look at what happened when Jesus was born. She wept again as her children were killed when the Messiah came on the scene. Was a child born to a maiden during the days of Ahaz as a sign for deliverance to Judah (Isaiah 7:14)? How much more is the birth of a child to a virgin a sign of deliverance for God’s people?

What about that Nazarene issue? This is really powerful. Matthew, talking to Jews, speaks in Jewish idiom. The issue of being called a Nazarene was not simply about where a person was from. Rather, being a Nazarene was no badge of honor. For the Jews of the first century, saying someone was a Nazarene meant they were backwoods and not to be honored. Notice Nathaneal’s response in John 1:46. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” While the words, “He shall be called a Nazarene” are not in the Old Testament. The teaching that the Messiah will not be someone who comes in the world as obviously worthy of honor was taught. Isaiah 53:1-3 gave that specific message. The Messiah would not be someone deemed worthy of honor. Or, as the Jews would say, He would be a Nazarene.When the Old Testament prophesied how not honorable Jesus would seem and then God has Him grow up in the very city that represented lack of honor to the Jews, that is pretty powerful.

So what is the wrap up on this? The wrap up for me is that the veracity of Jesus is more secure. Jesus’ life is not merely a series of events that follow straight line prophecies. Rather, not only does He fit some prophecies like that, His very story demonstrates fulfillment of the entire story of God’s people throughout history. God weaved the story of the Messiah through the history of Israel and Jesus fulfills it. To me, that is amazing.

Born of a virgin, called out of Egypt, without the obvious appearance of honor, surrounded by the mourning for children but a sign of coming deliverance and restoration–Jesus fulfills it all. He doesn’t just fulfill a few instances of prophets foretelling the future. He fulfills the entire story. That doesn’t just happen by accident.

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“The Perfect” in I Corinthians 13:10 is God’s Completed Revelation

Last Tuesday, we discovered that while Jesus was and is perfect, He is not what Paul was referring to in I Corinthians 13:9-10 when he said, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”

We need to understand the contrast being made in the passage. Paul talked about something being “in part” and something being “perfect.” Because our translators so often use the word “perfect,” we miss the connection. However, it could just as easily have been translated “complete” or “whole.” In other words, it could read, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the complete or whole comes, the partial will pass away.” With this translation, we see the connection more readily.

In any other context, when we hear about something that is in part and then talk about the whole thing, we know the whole is the same as the partial; the part is incomplete and the whole is complete. For example, if I offered you a part of an apple pie, what is the whole thing? When I actually ask people this question, they usually look at me like I’m a complete moron or they give that, “This is a trick question and I don’t know what the trick answer is” look. The answer to this question is so obvious folks can hardly believe it is being asked. If the part is apple pie, then the whole is apple pie.

So what is it about these gifts that they are the part of and what is the whole? Clearly, we are not saying there are all these miraculous gifts but we only have part of them, but when they all come, they’ll be done away with. That makes no sense. Instead, there is something we have in part through these gifts that when we get the whole thing, there will no longer be a need for miraculous gifts.

Hebrews 2:2-4 provides us some insight. It says, “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”  Through the miraculous gifts of knowledge, prophesy, tongues, etc. we received the revelation and confirmation of God’s message of salvation. 

However, there was no one expression of any of these gifts that provided the whole message. Rather, it was coming piece-meal, a little at a time. While that was occurring, the miraculous gifts were administered by the apostles and churches used them in their assemblies. However, once the whole thing had been revealed and confirmed, there would be no need for these pieces of revelation and confirmation to continue.

In other words, the perfect of I Corinthians 13:10 is not a reference to Jesus, but to the completion of the revelation and confirmation of God’s salvation message. 

Unless you believe there is more we need to know about submitting to and serving God so we can walk His road to salvation, then you should see that the miraculous gifts have ceased. In fact, Paul goes on to provide a great illustration. He talked about being a child, but then growing up and putting away childish things. The miraculous gifts were the church’s childhood. While it still needed to learn what was the great message of God’s salvation, it was in childhood. Once God gave it all it needed, it was time to grow up and start reading the message instead of waiting around for more miraculous gifts. 

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying God doesn’t respond to prayers. I’m not saying God won’t do amazing things. I’m not even saying that God won’t sometimes intervene in the natural order of things. What I’m saying is God no longer uses miraculous gifts among Christians. The Holy Spirit is no longer giving Christians the ability to miraculously speak in tongues, have miraculous knowledge, prophesy, give miraculous words of wisdom, miraculously heal the sick, etc. There is a huge difference between saying we prayed for someone to be healed and God responded versus saying some of us have a gift to heal folks by which we can lay hands on the sick and they will be made well. Further, there is a huge difference between saying we prayed for someone versus thinking some special Christian has more influence with their prayers such that we’ll call it a gift of healing.

The perfect has come. We have the full revelation and confirmation of God’s will for us. The miraculous gifts have ceased and been done away with by God himself. It is now time for us to quit bickering over who has the best miraculous gift and instead move on to live with faith, hope, and love.

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Let’s Revere the Word of God

There is an old television commercial for E. F. Hutton where when Hutton speaks, everyone stops and listens.  The point being, his investment wisdom would make one wealthy.  There are always people who have such a great influence on us, we stop and listen to them; people such as parents, teachers, coaches and preachers.  We look to them for wisdom and direction to make us better people and able to live better lives.  We respect them and, therefore, what they say.

When we seek wisdom and direction in our lives, where do we go? Who better to look to than our creator, the God of heaven?  David wrote: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:9, NASB).  But, when we need guidance and even correction, unfortunately, we look to the wise of this world to lead us.  James wrote in James 3 that there is a wisdom that is ‘earthly, natural and demonic’ and then there is a wisdom that comes ‘from above.’  David said we are to look for wisdom and guidance from God’s law and His testimonies.

For the past several months we have been reading from the 119th Psalm in our assembly.  There are 117 verses in this Psalm expounding on the wisdom and instruction of God’s word and the unsurpassed benefit found in it.  The psalmist refers to the word with terms such as; law, testimony, His ways, statutes, righteous judgments, commandments, counselors and precepts.  God has given, in His word, everything “pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, NASB). If you want to know how to be a better husband, wife, child, citizen, friend, employee or employer, look to His word for direction.  What is our attitude toward things of great value?  The psalmist said of God’s word that they are to be treasured in verse 11.  They are to be kept in verse 9.  They are to be looked upon in verse 6.  We take delight in them according to verse 16.  They are something to be longed for in verse 40.  They are to be loved in verse 47.  What do we derive from such a treasure given to us from God?  We learn purity (verse 9), not to sin (verse 11), to tell others (verse 13), diligence (verse 4), revival (verse 25), to know truth (verse 142) and hope for salvation lies in them (verse 166).  This is why we have been reading this Psalm to the congregation. 

Something I have observed over the years is our quiet attention to prayers during our assemblies.  This is a good thing.  However, often we do not give the reading of God’s word the same quiet reverence we give our own prayers.  Is this the respect for the Scriptures the Psalmist wrote about?  We must renew our love for the Word of God and value the words of Jesus.  We must have the attitude expressed by Peter when many disciples stopped following Jesus and He asked if the 12 would go away too.  Peter said “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68, NASB).  Since God’s word contains righteousness as the Psalmist said, why are we not hungering and thirsting after it?  Why aren’t we starving for the words of eternal life?  Paul told Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (I Timothy 4:13, NASB).  Let’s love His word, trust its instruction and delight in the hope it gives us.  Let’s read in public and privately.  “Where else shall we go?”

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