The Hazards of Having It All

Luke 18.15-30

The ruler asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s the wrong question. Entrance into the kingdom cannot be earned. It can only be received with childlike faith.

The rich ruler is not unlike many of us today. He didn’t have a dark past. He had lived a admirable life. Most folks would have considered him a good guy. From the outside looking in, we might even call him blessed. He lacks for nothing. He can retire at a young age. He’s  able to travel and see the world. His kids go to all the right schools. He lives in the right neighborhood. He goes to church. He pays his taxes. He’s respected and respectable. He’s living the American Dream. And yet his so-called blessing is his curse. It’s what’s keeping him from the kingdom. Paul told Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:17). Pride, arrogance, self-reliance and a sense of entitlement can all be unwelcome side effects of having lots of stuff. Generally speaking, the more stuff we have, the more our physical and emotional needs are met…when food is on the table and relationships are going well…the harder it is to trust God and the easier it is to trust in our stuff and ourselves. Childlike faith and helpless dependence are exponentially harder to achieve when you have it all.

Jesus’ remedy? Sell everything and give it all away… Now is that what Jesus requires of everybody? Not necessarily. The women who support Jesus’ ministry back in Luke 8 have the means to do so. Zacchaeus, a rich tax-collector (Luke 19.1-10), doesn’t give it all away…but he does give a substantial amount. So why does Jesus ask the rich ruler for everything? The question isn’t the amount, but where is your treasure? In Luke 12.13-34, Jesus had said, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The rich ruler’s treasure was his stuff…if he wanted the kingdom, Jesus would have to be his treasure.

The same is true for us…we cannot serve God and wealth (Luke 16.13) or like the rich man (Luke 16.19-31) we will find out too late we chose the wrong god. The American Dream is not the gospel, and may very well be keeping you from entering the kingdom. Who or what are you trusting in? A friend of mine shared this definition with me…A god is whatever is favored or loved, feared or served, delighted in or depended on more than God. So is there anything you favor or love, fear or serve, delight in or depend on more than God? If so, how does Jesus want you to respond today? What do you need to let go of so that you can lay hold of life with Him in the kingdom?

The good news is…God makes the impossible possible. He can melt our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Only He can. And only He can cause us to love Him more. We must recognize that we are sinners in need of repentance. We must believe that Jesus can save us and then trust Him to do so.

Although Jesus is primarily addressing entrance into the kingdom, salvation for those who have not trusted in Him, there is a message as well for us that do follow Jesus. We can enter the kingdom but not experience the abundant life He offers us now here on earth. We too can get caught up in our stuff…living life, eating and drinking…without intentional living to accomplish His purposes, with no thought of the kingdom. What consumes your thoughts? What has captured your heart? Where is treasure? How do you need to respond today?

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Eliot

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Prayer, the Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18.1-14

Jesus tells two parables about prayer and the kingdom. The first, the widow and the unjust judge, challenges us to consider our view of God in prayer. The second, the Pharisee and the tax-collector, challenges our view of ourselves.

Prayer is a non-negotiable for a follower of Jesus. We live in an in-between time in enemy territory, waiting for our King to come back. In the waiting, it’s easy to become discouraged, especially in a culture which is becoming increasingly hostile to the gospel. So we are to pray at all times and not lose heart.  We pray for our circumstances in light of the kingdom and the return of the King. What does that mean? It means that we put our current situation…medical diagnosis, marital problems, work/school tensions, finances, etc. in perspective. What does God want to accomplish in and through me in this situation? How can I have the greatest kingdom impact in this circumstance? How do I reflect Jesus? We have a loving heavenly Father who hears our requests and who cares about our circumstances. He’s given us the Spirit. He will provide justice…He will vindicate His children. The kingdom awaits.

As a believer, we have been forgiven our sins. We have the righteousness of Jesus. But that does not mean that we can approach God with flippancy or spiritual pride. When we pray, we are still totally dependent on Him for His mercy. So we pray humbly, bringing our petitions to God, not as a Judge waiting to punish, but as a Father who delights in His kids. When we pray with a right view of God and a right view of ourselves, we become more moldable, more pliable, better able to be shaped…to be transformed, and then are in a good place to impact the kingdom by serving others out of our love for God and people.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, the tax collector’s prayer is a great model…no matter how far you may think you are from God, no matter how bad you may be, no matter what you’ve done…cry out to Him, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” Believe that Jesus can save you from your sin and trust Him to do so. Then watch Him work in your life.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Thy Kingdom Come

Luke 17.22-37

Jesus is coming back…it will be a glorious day for those who are ready, for those who have trusted in Him. But for those who are not, then like the days of Noah and Lot, it will be a day of sudden, unexpected, final judgment.

Clearly there is a warning here for those who have not yet trusted in Jesus…do so before it’s too late. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. Then you too can have a future secured in the kingdom. No need to fear the coming judgment. Jesus will be your King, not your Judge. Strength for today, hope for tomorrow.

But I do think there is a warning here also for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. Here is where the example of Lot is instructive. Noah is clearly a righteous man…clear from the Genesis account. Lot on the other hand…not quite as clear. His choices and actions leave a big question mark…especially when he ends up in Sodom as one of the elders of the city. Even though he’s a man of influence in the city, it’s clear as the story unfolds that he’s had zero spiritual impact on folks around him, including his wife. Abraham thought for sure at least there would be 10 righteous in the city after Lot’s tenure there. When the dust settles, we only know for sure that Lot is based on what Peter has to say (2 Peter 2.6-8). Without the mention of Lot being a righteous man living in Sodom…righteous soul being tormented day after day by their lawless deeds…not sure that we could make that call.

What was the difference between Lot and his wife? What would their friends have thought of them? My guess is…there was no noticeable difference. Lot and his wife looked the same on the outside…eating and drinking…going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom, but one was saved and the other destroyed. Lot is a believer who cared more about his stuff or the things of this world than he did the kingdom…like the soil with the weeds, he bore no fruit to maturity. Don’t be like Lot. If you’ve trusted in Jesus, know that you were not saved to go to heaven. Otherwise you would already be there. You were saved to be a part of God’s rescue mission…to make an impact on the kingdom…to share the good news of salvation through Jesus with a lost and dying world…to storm the gates of hell…to live a dangerous life…a life worthy of the calling.

How do we not be like Lot? How do we avoid the trap of simply “eating and drinking”, going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom? How do we ensure that folks are not surprised when they find out we are followers of Jesus? We have to be intentional. We have to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus through time spent with Him in His Word and prayer. We have to be intentional about spending time with other believers. We have to be intentional with those who don’t know Jesus around us. This is where our impact list comes in. It’s a tool that helps us to be intentional with bringing 1 person at a time closer to Jesus. All of which is possible because of the Spirit’s work in and through us. I love this quote from Tozer, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come.” May that be true of us.

Jesus is coming back soon…are you ready?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Ten Lepers Cleansed

Luke 17.11-21

Ten lepers are miraculously healed by Jesus, but only one returns to give thanks. Ten are healed, but only one is saved. We can be beneficiaries of God’s goodness and yet still miss the bigger blessing of forgiveness of sins and entrance into the kingdom.

Where faith is present, there is also a thankful heart. One of our values is: Inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship. Those who have experienced God’s grace…the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God…can’t help but worship…glorifying God and giving thanks to Him. Is that true of you? If not, why not? If you have trusted in Jesus, He’s taken care of our big problem…sin. I think sometimes we can get so focused on our current circumstances that we make them the big problem and miss the awesome truth that God has saved us…that whatever our current circumstances are, they are only temporary. Paul calls them “momentary, light afflictions”. But we have an eternal weight of glory being produced in us…the kingdom awaits us. And we have forever to spend with our King.

But our King also cares about our circumstances. Jesus healed the lepers. What do you need to cry out to Him for today? How is He asking you to respond?

Where there is an ungrateful heart, can faith be present? Paul says in Romans 1.21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks.” And in 2 Timothy 3.1-2, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful.” We can often fall prey to a spirit of entitlement…that God owes us something. And that He does, but if He gave us what we are owed, what we deserved, none of us would be happy. Instead He offers us what we don’t deserve…His mercy.

Do you need His mercy today? If so, the King is here, and He offers the kingdom to you. The invitation is open to all. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. It’s that simple. Then you too will be a kingdom citizen, confident that the big problem of sin has been taken care of in your life.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Resurrection

Luke 24.1-12

The women have a front row seat to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. Though all hope seemed lost…the Hero was dead…God was not finished yet. God’s the Author of this Story, and I love when God tells the story…because when God tells the story, there’s always hope. An astounding twist to the plot…the Hero is alive. Death is conquered. Sin is atoned for. The way is made available for us to return back to God. Death is swallowed up in life, despair in hope, mourning in astounding joy. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Hero He claimed to be and that everything He said is true…His death satisfied God’s just punishment for sin, and He is able to raise us to new life, to give us eternal life. And as He promised, Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Do you know this Jesus? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. You simply have to recognize your need to be rescued…that you are a sinner in need of repentance…that your life is a mess and beyond hope of repair. You have to believe that Jesus can rescue you…that He can save you from your sin, that He died in your place. And then you have to trust Him to save you. When you do that, the Bible says that you are adopted into God’s family…you become a son or daughter of the King of the Universe, spending an eternity with Him in the kingdom.

Maybe you are a believer, but, like the women or the disciples, the circumstances of life have caused you to lose hope. You’re living as if Jesus is still in the tomb. Maybe you need to be reminded today that Jesus is alive, and He wants you to experience resurrection life…the abundant life that He saved you for. Now’s a good time to rededicate your life to following Him.

The resurrection changes everything! The disciples went from despair to radically changing the world. Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Unworthy Servants

Luke 17.1-10

Jesus warns His followers about the sad reality that there will always be those who cause others to stumble…that either by their words or actions cause others to turn away from following Jesus. Don’t let it be you. For those who do fall into sin…confront, confess, forgive, repeat is our mantra. It won’t be easy…it requires faith and obedience. Faith because forgiveness is a supernatural act; obedience because it’s not an option. We are faithful and obedient slaves doing only what the Master commands.

Where are you struggling today? Are you making lifestyle choices that may be causing others to stumble, maybe even becoming a barrier to others coming to know Jesus? We are to live lives worthy of the calling…doesn’t mean that we’re perfect, but it means that we are choosing to love God more. More than our other relationships that may not be honoring to Him. More than our careers. More than our popularity. More than our stuff. It means saying “no” to the things that might cause others to question whether or not we are a believer.

Maybe your struggle’s on the other side…forgiving those who have caused you to stumble or have wronged you in some way. That’s a tough one. It’s hard to confront those who hurt us…especially in a loving way. And it’s even harder to forgive those who hurt us, especially when we begin trying to evaluate whether or not they really mean “I’m sorry” when they say it. And when they do it over and over…forget about it. But forgiveness is not an option for those who have been forgiven by God. It’s also not something we have to do or can do in our own power. Only God can give us the ability to forgive. We are called to a radical kind of forgiveness…a lavish forgiveness that reflects the Father’s love for us. So if that’s you today, ask God to help you forgive your friend or neighbor, your classmate or teammate, your co-worker, your spouse, your parents or your children. The main issue isn’t faith but obedience.

We are all called to be faithful and obedient servants, humbly obeying the command of our Master as a willing duty of delight and not as if for a reward. The awesome thing is, when we are faithful and obedient, though we don’t deserve it, He showers His affection on us and serves us at the great banqueting table in the kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16.19-31

Our circumstances in this life do not determine our circumstances in the next. Being poor does not save us any more than being rich. The rich man is excluded from the kingdom and confined to Hades, not because he was rich, but because he disregarded God’s Word and rejected Jesus. He did not love his neighbor, refusing to show mercy to those in need around him, and so failed to love God. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t think that would land him in hell, but it did. Lazarus is in the kingdom, not because he’s poor, but because he believed God’s Word and trusted in Jesus. Our circumstances don’t determine our future, but our faith or lack thereof does.

This parable is a reminder of God’s love for the older brother…Jesus keeps pursuing the Pharisees, like the Father urging them to come in and join the celebration. He wants them to be a part of the kingdom. Otherwise, Jesus would simply say nothing and leave the Pharisees to face the rich man’s fate.

God has entrusted each one of us with a certain level of riches…that may sound weird to some of us…you may not see yourself as rich, but it’s all relative. Anyway, we’ve each been entrusted with a certain amount. And each of us is responsible for how we use those riches. The way we use our stuff is a good indication of our spiritual health. Are we faithful and generous stewards who use the resources entrusted to us for kingdom purposes, or are we like the rich man, sumptuously spending on ourselves? John says it this way, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3.17) James says, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2.15-16)

Faithfulness and generosity don’t save you, but those who have experienced the faithfulness and generosity of God should show the same to others. Faithfulness and generosity are marks of kingdom citizens. Those who have experienced God’s mercy show that same mercy to others.

This parable is a warning to the five brothers…repent while there is still time. Recognize your need to be rescued, believe that Jesus can rescue you and trust Him to do so. Then you too will be ushered into the kingdom. But don’t wait. The rich man realized too late that he had pursued the wrong path. Don’t be like him. Trust in Jesus today.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster