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A Lesson in Addition

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3–10, ESV)
One common misconception about this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is that these Beatitudes are listed haphazardly in completely random order, like some sort of grocery list compiled over the course of a few weeks. On the contrary, Jesus, ever the master teacher, intentionally places one after the other because each one lays a foundation for the next. The beatitudes are not a random collection of descriptions of the blessed person. No, they are rather an ascending staircase of the Christian life. Let me show you what I mean.
Take for instance the first: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is not speaking of a person’s lack of wealth here. The start of every believer’s spiritual life is a willingness to admit that they have nothing to offer God – no good deeds or righteousness of their own that they can use to buy salvation. To be poor in spirit means to be spiritually bankrupt, and the wonderful truth of it is this is exactly where God wants us.
The rest build from there. If we meditate on each one in succession we begin to see the flow of the Christian life.
Blessed are those who mourn… Not those who are simply sad because of life’s hard knocks, but those who mourn over their sin. The true Christian is always repenting, always willing to admit the wretchedness of their indwelling sin. First we begin to feel spiritual bankrupt, or poor in spirit, and this moves us to mourn over individual sins.
Blessed are the meek… To be meek means to be humble, and where does godly humility come from? From realizing that we are spiritually bankrupt and sinful. We see the brokenness inside of ourselves and come to the realization that we need something (or Someone) to cleanse us. This is meekness.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… What is hunger and thirst but a longing for something you need but do not have? Those who experience spiritual bankruptcy, mourning for their sin, and the resulting meekness will be led to desire the righteousness that only God can give. Again, this is exactly where God wants us.
Blessed are the merciful… Mercy begins in our own hearts. The merciful person is the one who understands they have received a great deal of mercy themselves. Those who experience the first four beatitudes exhibit mercy toward others because of their own humble, spiritually needy posture before God. They know full well how merciful God has been toward them. How can they not be merciful toward others in response?
Blessed are the pure in heart… The Pharisees thought purity of heart came from law-keeping. Jesus taught us the pure in heart are those who admit their sinful state before God, who approach God in humility and repentance, and who consider others more significant than themselves. The pure in heart are those who have lived the five previous beatitudes.
Blessed are the peacemakers… As with the first two, this beatitude is spiritual in its meaning. Blessed are those who seek to bring other men and women into peace with God. Again we see how this beatitude builds off the others, for once someone has experienced the previous six the natural response is to help others experience them as well.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness… This is the final step. Once we have been humbled and purified by God and have experienced peace with him through Christ, and we have then become peacemakers ourselves, the world will respond the way it always has toward the true citizens of the kingdom: with persecution. It is inevitable. Jesus said as much. But there is no other way if you want to follow Christ.
The beatitudes are Jesus’ lesson to us in addition – one intentionally added to the next totaling up to a life of blessedness before God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

~ John Davis

The Veiled Blessing of Subtraction

It’s hard to talk about how God uses subtraction for the good of his people and not think of the story of Gideon and his army in Judges chapter 7.
After the people of Israel rebelled against God and continually turned away from Him and His laws, God gave them into the hands of the Midianites, a pagan nation. But after seven years the Israelites cried out to the Lord and he raised up Gideon to deliver them.
Gideon gathered 32,000 Israelites to fight against Midian, but the Lord told him that there were too many, “lest Israel boast over me saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2) So the Lord told Gideon to send away anyone who was afraid. 22,000 left. 10,000 remained.
But the Lord again told Gideon this was too many. So they were all brought down to the water. The Lord told Gideon to keep only those who drank water by bringing it to their mouths with their hands, and to send away all who lapped like a dog. 9,700 left. Only 300 remained.
It was only then that God was ready to work through them. And he did. That meager army defeated Midian, whose military, the Bible says, was “without number” and “as the sand on the seashore.” It was a clear display of God’s power and sovereignty.
You see God was gaining glory for himself through subtraction. When God subtracted human power and strength, what remained was the power and strength of God himself. God was ensuring He would get the glory and not the people of Israel. He was causing them to trust in Him and not in themselves.
The same still holds true for us. In our flesh, subtraction hurts and brings doubt, discouragement, and discomfort. But God-ordained subtraction is often a veiled blessing because God is forcing us to stop trusting in our own strength, wealth, and wisdom and to trust Him and Him alone. It is only then that He can truly use us to do wondrous things for His glory.
Are you willing to ask God to work this kind of subtraction in your life? Are you willing to let God take some good things away from you to give you something greater? Is God’s glory worth our discomfort? I pray that we will trust Him.

~ John Davis

In (Double) Honor of our Elders

The theme of this month’s Current and our Nehemiah sermon series is Multiplying Workers.  I’m sure my fellow staff members and ministers are going to write some articles on how we need more people to step up as workers for the kingdom.  We certainly do.  This is right and good.  But along with this I’d like to spend some time appreciating those who are already workers – specifically our present and former Elders here at Tates Creek.

1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the Elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor.”  As church members we need to constantly remember this verse.  These men not only volunteer much time to the task of leading Christ’s church, but also willingly take on a burden that many of us are glad not to have to bear.  That burden includes guarding the doctrine of the church (Acts 15:6; Titus 1:9), providing pastoral care for members (James 5:14; Acts 6:4), protecting the flock from wolves (Acts 20:17, 28-31), preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 3:2; 4:13; 5:17), and leading in holiness and family leadership by example (1 Timothy 3:2-7; 4:12).  The burden they are called to bear is a heavy one, and one for which the Lord will hold them accountable… and they have done this willingly.  So, as church members, let us consider how we may give them “double honor.”

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”

One of the ways we give them honor is by submitting to their God-given authority.  This means trusting them when they make hard decisions about the direction of the church.  It means not slandering them behind their back or constantly complaining about their work.  And, it means being humble and always open to correction or teaching from them on matters of doctrine and holiness.

Church: join me in praying regularly for our elders and also expressing appreciation to these men for the burden they have taken on.

To our current Elders, as well as those who have served in the past: may God strengthen and bless you and your families.  Thank you for serving us.

John Davis

Family Discipleship

D. A. Carson once famously said that it only takes three generations for a group of Christians to lose the gospel. One generation believes it, the next generation assumes it, and the third generation outright denies it. This is so often true in families.

Imagine a husband and a wife who believe the gospel, believe in the truth of the Bible, and love God and his church. As they have children, they take them to church every time the doors are open, but they rarely speak of spiritual things in the home. They assume their kids will grow up to be just like them.

Years pass and their kids grow into adults, get married, and they assume the beliefs of their parents. But for them it becomes more of a cultural Christianity. Being a Christian is what good people do so, they go to church, and they have a Bible on the coffee table at home, and they complain about the moral trajectory of the country… but they are not truly saved. Christ is not the most important thing in their hearts.

Eventually those second-generation kids, who’ve now grown into adults, have kids of their own.  They bring their kids to church, but more for social reasons, and because that’s what they feel like good people should do. It’s not a big deal for them to miss church for something more interesting or exciting. But as long as there are no sporting events or family trips to take, as long as the calendar is open, they’ll be at the Sunday morning service.

Now, their kids grow up, move off to college, and immediately they meet good, friendly people who don’t attend church at all and don’t care to. They begin to hear persuasive arguments from their professors and from other unbelieving friends about why the Bible is just a made up story and why religion is just a way for people to feel better about themselves. These kids who have grown up and gone off to college have no foundation. They have no true faith, so they end up denying the very God their grandparents love and they never walk into a church building again.  It only took three generations for that family to walk completely away from the Lord.

Want to leave a legacy? Start now by discipling your children or grandchildren. Don’t just raise them… disciple them. Teach them to know and fear the Lord.

Discipleship starts in the home.  Psalm 78:4-7 says…

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;”

Did you catch the generation-by-generation discipleship in that passage? Fathers… yes FATHERS… teaching their children the great deeds and laws of the Lord, so that those children would grow up and teach them to their children, and so on.

My grandfather was a faithful preacher of the gospel in a small Church of Christ outside of Glasgow, Kentucky all his life. He and my grandmother taught my mother to love the Lord with all her heart and to know the Bible like the back of her hand. They passed on to her their love for Christ’s church, its members, and also a deep burden for those who don’t know Christ. And guess what? She passed those things along to her kids.

I am who I am because of the investment my grandparents made in the next generation. Because while my grandfather discipled and mentored many men during his lifetime, his first disciples were his children.

Today many Christian Moms and Dads think it’s their responsibility to raise their children, but it’s the church’s responsibility to disciple them. So they leave that up to the youth ministers and children’s ministers of the world. But you won’t find that in the Bible. Instead you’ll find things like this…

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, ESV)

You want to leave a legacy? Disciple your kids and grandkids.

John Davis

Multiply Christ in Your Marriage

Husbands: Love your wives like Christ loved the church

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” (Ephesians 5:25–26)

As we continue to move through Ephesians as a church I want to challenge my fellow husbands to multiply Christ in your marriage by loving your wives as Christ loved the church.  How did he do that?

Jesus died for the church (v. 25)

The first thing he did is he “gave himself up” for the church.  He died for her.  What does that mean for us as husbands?  It means leading our wives by dying to ourselves daily for the good of our wives.  It means waking up every morning or coming home from work every evening and committing to care about her more than you care about yourself.  It means doing things that neither one of you wants to do simply so that she would not have to do them.  This is a hard calling, and it’s a wonderful picture of Christ and the gospel to the rest of the world – and especially to our wives.

He made her holy and cleansed her (v. 26)

Second, Jesus made the church holy – he sanctified her – and he cleansed her of her sins.  What does this mean for us as husbands?  It means if we’re going obey this calling we have to take a personal interest in the holiness and salvation of our wives.

What does this look like practically?  First, it means we must be cultivating a strong relationship with God in regular times of Bible reading and prayer on our own.  How can we give to our wives what we don’t even have ourselves?  Second, it means we shoulder the burden of leading spiritually in the home.  Don’t make your wife get the kids together at night for a Bible story and prayer.  You take the initiative to do that.  Don’t make her be the one motivating the family to get to church on Sundays and to be involved throughout the week.  You take that responsibility on yourself.  And lead in repentance.  Model to her and to your household that godly leadership means being the first to admit your sins and ask for forgiveness.

Husbands, multiply Christ in your marriage by leading it like Christ led the church.

John Davis

How Will We Multiply? By the Grace of God.

MULTIPLY.  It’s not just our theme for 2017; it’s a goal we’ve set before ourselves.  What can we do as Christ-followers to multiply so that our church body here at Tates Creek can last, thrive, and continue to make disciples until Jesus comes again?  It’s a daunting task.  Sometimes it feels overwhelming.  I’m just one person.  What can I really do to multiply our church?  What can I really do to affect future generations?

If this task were left up to me, it would fail.  But it’s not left up to me.  Some people have such a charismatic personality that they can grow a “church” all by themselves.  There are some who have such an extreme work-ethic and such a laser-focus that they can build a following by sheer force of will.

I’m not one of those people.  But I think that is exactly the way God wants it, because that is not how God builds a church, or how God has promised to sustain it.

Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)  Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6, ESV)

This multiplication is only going to happen if God does it.  It’s only by his grace.  And that means we need to pray.  Lately I’ve been praying a very specific prayer and I ask that you would begin praying it with me in your own life.  The prayer is this: “God, please put people in my path who need to hear the gospel of your Son.  And help me to step up and share the gospel with them when the opportunity comes.”

God is sovereign.  Nothing happens in this world outside of him causing or permitting it.  If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be trusting in Him more to bring about the multiplication that we believe is His will for our church?

If you’re like me and you desire to bring more people to Christ, but you just don’t know how to get started… start with prayer.  Ask God to bring you people with whom you can share the gospel.  Ask Him to steer every day conversations toward spiritual things.  Ask Him to open up hearts (Acts 16:14) and open up doors for the gospel (Acts 14:27; Colossians 4:3).  He is sovereign and He can do it.  Believe in Him!

John Davis

Multiplying through Discipleship

In three years of ministry Jesus changed the world – but not in the way most would expect. Yes, he healed many. Yes, he performed miracles in front of thousands. Yes, he held the attention of great crowds during some of his sermons. But in the end he had a much smaller following than you would expect for someone who would prove to start a revolution.
No, it wasn’t through the crowds that Jesus would change the world, but through the twelve. For three years Jesus discipled twelve men. He walked with them, ate with them, and slept with them. He taught them how to pray, how to fast, and how to talk to unbelievers about God. He taught them first-hand what the love of God looked like in daily life. Jesus’ three year relationship with the twelve is the epitome of discipleship. It was essentially spiritual mentoring or apprenticeship.
When I was a freshman in college, in the dorms at UK an older, more mature Christian man asked me if I would like for him to disciple me. I had no idea what he meant. I also had no idea that this “discipling” would change the course of my life. For the next two and a half years he taught me everything he knew about following Christ – and I soaked it up like a sponge. Then one day, about midway through my junior year, he sat me down, gave me his old Bible as a gift, and said, “Now it’s your turn. Go find other men to disciple.” And I’ve been doing that ever since. Essentially he was saying, “Go multiply.”
Paul had a similar relationship with Timothy. In 2 Timothy he writes to his son in the faith,

“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV)

This is biblical multiplication. Discipleship. Spiritual mentoring. Passing on your faith to others so they can in turn pass it on once again. This is Jesus’ plan for changing the world.

John Davis

A Lesson from Jesus’ Mother

There’s a verse in Luke’s account of the birth of Christ that sticks out like a sore thumb. The tone of it is completely different from the surrounding paragraphs and it almost seems like Luke inserted it well after he had the story of the first Christmas written out. In Luke 2:19 we read…

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

With all the amazement and wonder at Gabriel’s appearance to her, Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist, her firstborn’s birth in a stable in Bethlehem, the visit from the shepherds… Mary had the presence of mind to stop, to contemplate, and to treasure up everything that God had caused to happen to her. She never wanted to forget.
There are many spiritual disciplines that we can practice to help us grow in our relationship with Christ. One that often gets little publicity, but has helped me greatly through the years, is journaling.
Journaling is essentially doing what Mary did in Luke 2:19 – treasuring up these things and pondering them in our hearts. When God does something in your life – or even when he fails to do something – putting your thoughts to paper forces you to deal with them. It forces you to slow down, to meditate, and think and interpret what God is doing in your life at that moment. That’s something we rarely do unless we have an intentional practice like journaling. Journaling orders the chaos of our minds so we can make sense of it.
Another wonderful benefit of journaling, though, is the ability to look back through previous entries and to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, his goodness to you, or even your own impatience or nearsightedness. My faith grows deeper and stronger when I go back and read about all the times God has proven himself to me.
As parents and grandparents I’m sure we’ll try to treasure up in our hearts all the joys of Christmas this year. But as children of God let us develop a practice of doing this intentionally and regularly so that we will never forget the faithfulness of our God.

John Davis

The Greater Story is One Worth Sharing

God’s greater story is the gospel. It’s the story of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Just like other stories, it captivates our imaginations and gives us a sense of something bigger than ourselves. But unlike all other stories, this story reaches into our hearts, convicts us, changes us, and frees us. The place where each one of us will spend eternity hinges on this story. This story matters.
As Christians we love to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. But do we really? Do we love to tell the story? Do we love to share the gospel with those who are lost?
Deep within our hearts, in our most brutally honest moments, we often have to admit we don’t. We shy away from it because it might make things awkward between us and a co-worker. We don’t want to risk those already shaky relationships with family members. It’s so much easier to keep talking about the weather, last night’s game, or even politics. But you see, the thing about this Greater Story – the gospel – is that it’s a story worth sharing. It’s worth it to share the gospel because eternity is at stake.
Might having a conversation about Jesus with your non-Christian
co-worker make things awkward between you two? Yes. But what do you value more… a cordial relationship with no tension, or their escape from an eternity in hell?
Might sharing Christ with that non-Christian family member at Thanksgiving this year cause a rift in your relationship? Sure, it might. Most people won’t like hearing they are a condemned sinner in need of salvation. But what do you value more? Cozy and happy holidays or the soul of your loved one?
The key is having our hearts and our minds set on eternity so that we keep earthly things in the proper perspective. Satan would like nothing more than to keep you focused on the here and now. Don’t look above. Keep your eyes on the ground, right in front of you. It’s like putting blinders on a racehorse. But God knows that when you focus your mind on eternity, many of the things that we think are so big are revealed to be quite small and inconsequential. And many of the things we often brush aside as no big deal are revealed to be the most important of all.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:1–2, ESV
Consider the example of Peter and John in Acts 4. After being arrested for sharing the gospel they are brought before the Jewish authorities. Here we read the following: “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’”
Acts 4:18–20, ESV
To Peter and John, the Greater Story was worth sharing. It was worth getting arrested and even flogged or killed if it meant sharing this Greater Story. Why was it worth it? Because they had their minds set on eternal things. They weren’t concerned with what the crowds, or even the authorities, thought of them. God’s opinion mattered much more. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.” When you put it like that, it seems pretty obvious. They knew, after all, the consequences of not listening to God would be much greater than the short, temporary consequences of not listening to the Jewish council.
On July 7 of this year Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law an amendment that forbids Christians to evangelize outside churches or invite non-believers to in-home Bible studies. Russia essentially outlawed sharing the gospel. Rest assured, this will not be the last time we see a law of this kind enforced in our modern world. So the question comes to us all… when the time comes, what will be worth more to us: sharing God’s Great Story, or staying comfortable?

John Davis

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