Paul’s First Sermon

Acts 13.13-43

Paul’s first sermon is a pretty straightforward presentation of the gospel. Jesus is the King that God promised would come from ancient times…the King who brings in the kingdom. By believing in Him, we can be rescued from sin and death and spend an eternity with Him.

That’s awesome news! I love Paul’s reminder…this is what God did. He promised, and He did it so we can trust Him in telling our story. We can trust that He is with us through the good and bad, the ups and downs, whatever storm may come our way, leading and guiding us, shaping and molding us, transforming us to live and love like Jesus.

It’s easy for the routine…the familiar…to keep us from seeing the bigger picture…what’s important…right in front of us. How many people go to the gym for years and look exactly the same? They have a routine, but not a goal…a bigger picture, so nothing changes. Not so unlike the Jews in Jerusalem, who got caught up in the routine and missed the bigger picture, Jesus!

How do we keep from missing Jesus? Well, for those of us who have believed, our gathering together on the weekend is part of that. It’s kind of like going to the gym…it’s only part of the exercise of our faith. What we do throughout the rest of the week matters…time in the Word, time in prayer, time with other believers…those are standard, part of keeping Jesus in front of us. But I think one of the biggest things that keeps us from missing Jesus are the interruptions…the unexpected phone calls or texts or visits…unplanned opportunities to be generous givers of our time, our resources and ourselves.

Many of you have been in the church for a while. Maybe you are here every week. You’ve heard the Word taught. You know about Jesus. You can rehearse the ancient stories. But have you believed in Him? You see, knowing about Him and knowing Him…believing in Him…are two different things. You’ve heard me often say, “Jesus changes everything.” If you’ve believed in Him, how has your life changed? What’s different now from what it was before?

Examine your heart…think about your life. Have you trusted in Jesus? Maybe you know about Him, but do you know Him? It’s the most important decision you will ever make. You see, for those of us who believe…we have forgiveness of sins and the promise of resurrection…a kingdom awaits us. But for those who refuse to believe, only judgment. Jesus is either your King or He will be your Judge. Why not acknowledge Him as King today?

pro rege

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

The First Missionary Journey: First Encounter

Acts 13.1-12

Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the Spirit from Antioch on their first missionary journey. Their excitement is tempered when they have their first encounter of spiritual opposition from a guy named Bar-Jesus.

The sad irony in this story…a Jew attempts to block a Gentile from coming to faith. You see, through Abraham all the families of the earth were to be blessed. The Jews were to be a blessing to the nations, leading them to God and not barring the way. Bar-Jesus openly opposed Paul and Barnabas. I would hope that none of us openly oppose the gospel…that none of us would willingly stand in the way of someone trusting in Jesus. But even if it’s not openly, can’t we subtly become stumbling blocks? Maybe by the way we fail to follow Jesus…the way we fail to point others to Him?

God’s fingerprints are all over this story, just as they have been throughout the book of Acts. The Spirit is actively leading, guiding, empowering, acting, choosing, sending, moving…it’s His church. The danger is when we attempt to hijack the Spirit’s job and make it our own. And then we wonder why nothing spiritually significant happens. It’s a reminder for us…the battle belongs to the Lord. Transforming families to live and love like Jesus is not about a program…it’s the work of the Spirit. It happens as we submit to Him…as we worship and serve, engaging in the work He’s given each one of us to do.

Each of us has been gifted and called and equipped for a purpose…something that, when lived out, amazing things happen. A few weeks ago, Ricky talked about living with a heavenly perspective. It’s living a life of consequence, a life of deep kingdom impact. Each of us has a part to play…a role, if you will, in the kingdom drama. What would it look like if we were all pursuing that together? How would it impact our church? How might it impact this valley and beyond? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said to seek the kingdom and live according to God’s righteousness. How’s that going for you? Are you being led by the Spirit to say yes to kingdom things? BTW when we follow the Spirit’s leading that doesn’t mean its an easy journey…that the Enemy’s going to give us a free pass…on the contrary we need to expect opposition. But, like Paul and Barnabas, we need to do it anyway.

Where are you saying yes to serving God and his Church? Are you sharing your story with others, are you involved in a ministry, are you giving financially to the mission? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

pro rege

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

Who’s the Boss?

Acts 12.1-25

The story begins and ends with a man named Herod. At the outset he kills one of the Apostles and arrests a second, but in the end he is killed by an angel of the Lord for his arrogance. Herod thought that he was the one who was in control…that he was the boss. He found out he was wrong. Dead wrong.

Once again we see the importance of prayer in the early church, and the importance of prayer in moving the mission forward. They prayed collectively, and they prayed fervently. They knew that prayer was their primary weapon in the war against the forces of darkness. I wonder if we know the same? Is prayer our primary go-to…our first response, or is it something we try when all else fails? When we pray, we recognize our dependence on God…He’s in control…He’s the Boss (Philippians 4.8). When we don’t pray, who are we depending on?

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize who’s the boss…who’s in control, especially when we are focused on our circumstances. When we see the world from a circumstantial point of view, it sure looks like we’re losing. Just watch the news. Take a look at social media. Hatred, hostility and violence are up, kindness, patience, decency are down…forget about love. Christianity is reviled and mocked, and those who hold to biblical values are called “haters” or “bigots” or “backwards”. It’s all the more reason to pray. Because we need an eternal perspective. The folks who attack us are not our enemy…they are held captive by our Enemy. Just like we were. Our job is not to rage against them, but to love them. To serve them. To share our story with them. To tell them about Jesus. That’s not easy. Again we need to pray! So this week, I challenge you to get down on your knees and pray…whatever the chaos in your life, whatever chains are binding you…make prayer your first response and watch what God does.

There’s only One who’s the Boss. Only One qualified for that job description. Only One King of kings and Lord of lords. Our Creator. Our Savior. Our Redeemer. And though the world around us is shaking, He can never be shaken. He is never caught off guard…never says, “Whoops”. We can therefore have confidence because He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

pro rege

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

What Are You Known For?

Acts 11.19-30

What are you known for? How would folks who know you best describe you? What about your enemies? For the believers there in Antioch, it was simply “Christian”. Because of their devotion to Him and time spent learning about Him, they were beginning to look a lot like Jesus…to live and love like Him. So much so that they were called “little christs” or followers of Christ.

And while “Christian” had a very distinct meaning then, today I’m not so sure. Two thousand years of baggage has blurred the distinction of what a Christian is supposed to be to the point that it really is unrecognizable. Does Christian mean…a good person? a church-goer? a conservative? a Republican? an American? Maybe it is used to identify a person as a believer, but do we mean a believer whose heart intent remains with the Lord? A believer whose intentional about his or her pursuit of Jesus…spending regular, daily time with Him? Is that what we mean when we say we are a “Christian” church?

I think it’s time to reclaim the name “Christian.” It’s time for us to stop pursuing the things of this world and turn our hearts to pursue the Lord. It’s time for us to fix the intent of our heart on Him. It’s time for us to devote ourselves to the teaching of the Word (Matthew 28.18-20). We kicked off this year with our When You…series (when you read, pray, give, fast), spiritual disciplines designed to deepen our faith and result in the Spirit’s work in our lives becoming more evident to others. That’s when we begin to have an impact on the world around us, and folks begin to notice the difference.

I can’t leave off here without saying one more word about giving. Giving is a very Christian thing to do. You don’t have to be a Christian to give, but if you are a Christian you should give. Giving…of our time, our resources, ourselves…is probably the most self-less thing we can do. It reflects faith in God to provide and love toward others who are in need. It’s a great way to silence the “what about me?” tendency that causes us to clench our fists rather than open our hands. It’s also a great way to invest in the kingdom.

pro rege

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

A Level Playing Field

Acts 11.1-18

Jewish believers are questioning Peter’s reasoning, not for preaching to Cornelius and his household, but for eating with them. They struggle to understand how Peter, an Apostle and their fearless leader, being a Jew could have fellowship with the Gentiles.

Buried in their criticism there seems to be this underlying assumption that will become more clear later on that before the Gentiles can be welcomed into the church, they must first become Jews. After all, the OT covenants with Abraham and David and even the New Covenant were all made by God with the Jewish people. The nations could be blessed through Abraham, but even then they weren’t on the same footing. The Jews were God’s chosen people.

The scandal of the gospel is that Gentiles too could enter into the kingdom simply by believing in Jesus without first becoming Jews (Colossians 1.21-27). The gospel + anything is legalism. It’s what Paul rails against in Galatians. Salvation is by grace through faith alone… In other words, the Jews and the Gentiles are on equal footing. There is now one people of God…doesn’t mean that God is done with the Jews as a people (stay tuned for Romans and Revelation), but it means that we have equal access to the Father through Jesus, that we have the same Spirit living in us. I think it’s hard for us to understand how big a deal this is. We who were the furthest from God and least deserving of His mercy…that He could love even us, that He would welcome us into His kingdom. We of all people should be the most thankful. There’s this awesome picture in Revelation 7.9-10…“a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” 

And while we may think this was just their problem aka this group of Jewish believers, how often do we in the church look at others and jump to conclusions because they don’t do things the way we would like for them to? We say that we want unbelievers coming to church, but the reality is that it’s messy. It’s much easier if someone becomes a Christian before they start attending church. How often do we miss what God is up to because we are caught up in our own agenda?

Often we’ve said we should expect persecution…following Jesus is counter-cultural and revolutionary…it’s treason against the god of this world and an affront to those living according to this world’s values…so we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a predictable outcome. They persecuted Jesus, and they will persecute us. So far so good. But what happens when the persecution comes from inside the church…so-called friendly fire or team kills? We expect it out there, but when it happens in here? It just shouldn’t be. We’re all on a level playing field because of Jesus. Just Jesus. Because Jesus + ______= Legalism. Is there a + _____ in your life? If so, what is it? And what are you going to do about it?

One day we will be gathered around a throne worshiping God, not worried about what divides us, but celebrating the One who unites us. Amen, Come Lord Jesus.

pro rege

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

Cornelius’ Story Part 2

Acts 10.23b-48

Peter shares the gospel with Cornelius and his household, and they believe in Jesus and are saved. They receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized into the church. Jesus said to the Apostles, “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The stage is now set for the final act of the mission to begin. The final kingdom key has been used and the door is now open. The gospel will soon spread to all nations and to the ends of the earth.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for? We will all one day stand before Jesus. And when we do, He will either be our King or our Judge. At that point it will be too late to change your mind. What will it profit a person to gain the whole world and then at the end to find out that all you once held dear and built your life upon, all this world reveres and wars to own, all you once thought gain…comes crashing down. Why not trust in Jesus today? He will not only forgive your sins and give you eternal life, but He will also give your life purpose and meaning today. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved, and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

If you have trusted in Jesus, it’s your turn to pass the baton of faith on. Like Cornelius, we have become unlikely citizens of God’s kingdom. The faith that we have has been passed down from those who went before. I know it seems like we spend a lot of time talking about sharing your story. Maybe you think…yeah, I got it, I got it. But do you? Have you shared your story? If not, why not? Somebody shared their story with you…when will you share yours with someone else? When will you pass the baton? Who in your life needs to hear your story…how Jesus brought you from death to life and gave you new purpose and meaning, how He’s changed everything?

Let me challenge you this week to identify one person you can share your story with. And then do it. Just do it. I dare ya. And see what God does with it.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Cornelius’ Story Part 1

Acts 10.1-23a

Cornelius has a vision, Peter goes into a trance…little did these men know that God is in the midst of fulfilling His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. The first Gentile is about to be symbolically welcomed into the kingdom in the book of Acts, opening the floodgates for the rapid expansion of the church to all nations and to the ends of the earth.

Once again we see God’s hand at work through the story. An angel appears to Cornelius saying send for Peter. After a perplexing vision, the Spirit tells Peter to go without misgivings. Just like with Ananias and Saul, another divine meet-and-great that will have monumental implications for the history of the church.

Jesus had proclaimed to the Apostles that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. And now approximately ten years later, the gospel has yet to break beyond the second level…Judea and Samaria. Up to now an almost entirely Jewish thing. But God’s putting the pieces in place. He’s working on a guy named Peter to turn his “By no means Lord” into welcoming the men from Cornelius in and giving them lodging…and eventually having fellowship with them in Cornelius’ house. He’s preparing a guy named Saul. The gates of hell stand no chance.

Peter doesn’t know yet what God is up to when He calls him to action, but just like Abraham, he has been chosen for a unique purpose. Just like Saul. Just like you and me.

But even then, Peter has to be pried away from looking at his circumstances from a how-does this-impact-me mindset…a mindset that leads him and us invariably to respond selfishly, even if, like Peter, we really want to please the Lord. We often fail to grasp the bigger picture and instead of trusting and obeying…simply saying “yes”, we say, “what about me?” or worse, “by no means Lord.”

We need to learn to resist resistance to respond to God with an open and willing heart. When we choose to follow Jesus we become part of the rebellion…an other worldly kingdom…whose mission it is to storm the gates of hell and crush the power of Satan, setting the captives free into the abundant life that God intends for them. It is not always about us. When we trust God, our agenda, purpose and motivation changes. And when we realize it is not about us, it frees us up to do His work. And when we know God because we have spent time with Him, we have the confidence to turn a prompting of the Lord into action for Him and His people. And when we do it again and again and again a warrior of faith emerges. His Spirit transforms us a little bit more to live and love like Jesus. One step at a time…from Lydda to Joppa, from Joppa to a tanner’s house, from a tanner’s house to Cornelius’ house. Each time Peter said yes, he looked more like Jesus. You will too. But we have to turn our “by no means Lord” into “yes Lord.”

You are here today because Peter unlocked the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. It all started because Peter welcomed a couple of “unclean” guys into his home. He trusted the Lord. He dropped his agenda. He opened his mind to the possibility that God could use him in that moment to transform lives. He extended his hand to simply turn the knob and open the door. You are also here today because someone else said “yes” to the Lord and shared the gospel with you. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.

If you are here seeking, like Cornelius, start knocking. Talk to a friend about Jesus. And if you have already walked through that door and are following Jesus, say “yes” to Him…open your ears, open your heart and be ready and willing to be the one God uses to open the door for the next guy. Who is that for you? Is there someone in your life about whom you are saying, “by no means Lord”? God has chosen you for such a time as this. Pray, think, then act…try saying “yes” to the Lord instead.

Until next time…stay salty.

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