Aquila and Priscilla

Acts 18.18-28

Paul rounds out his second missionary journey and begins his third with renewed vigor. Having left Aquila and Priscilla behind in Ephesus, Paul is anxious to return there after visiting Jerusalem, Antioch and the churches he had planted along the way. Meanwhile Aquila and Priscilla are able to encourage and equip Apollos, a man who will prove to be a great asset to the Church and the preaching of the gospel.

While it would be easy to gloss over much of what happens in this story, there are subtle details that we might miss…reminders that this is the story that God is telling. The story of His Church. Paul takes Aquila and Priscilla with him from Corinth. He drops them off in Ephesus as he heads back East. Meanwhile a guy named Apollos shows up one Sabbath at the synagogue where Aquila and Priscilla are worshiping. They are able to instruct him and encourage him. And because of their connections to the church in Corinth, they are able to pave the way for him to begin a powerful ministry there. It’s no accident. God’s fingerprints are all over this story. Just as His fingerprints are all over your story.

The goal of marriage is this thing called becoming one and pursuing the purpose for which God created and called and saved you. Pursuing holiness rather than happiness…knowing that holiness, or living life the way God intended, brings true and lasting happiness.

Aquila and Priscilla are an example of a couple who got it, the only example in the NT to my recollection…who understood that marriage really is ministry. That when we put Jesus at the center of our marriage…when He’s our greatest pleasure and our highest good…then it becomes more natural for us to want to do the things that please Him. We’re on the hunt for opportunities to encourage and build up and strengthen and serve and help and love on others. Of course that’s very countercultural.

You see the norm is represented by another famous, or maybe better infamous, couple in the book of Acts…Ananias and Sapphira. Remember in Acts 5, the early church in Jerusalem is experiencing tremendous growth and folks are looking out for others, selling stuff and bringing the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to those in need. Ananias and Sapphira hatch a plan…they like the attention they’ll get by participating, but they don’t really want to part with their stuff, so they sell some property and bring only a portion of the money to the Apostles. Now bringing only a portion of the proceeds wouldn’t have been wrong, except that they somehow gave the impression that they brought the full amount of the sale. Greed and pride will get you every time. For them it literally cost them their lives. Unfortunately for many couples…even Christian couples…it’s more about the appearance of doing good than the actual practice of good.

Happiness vs. Holiness…they may seem antithetical, but God’s designed it so that we realize our greatest happiness…our greatest fulfillment in life, in our marriages, in our work or whatever…when we realize it in Him, when we put Him at the center. Just like Aquila and Priscilla.

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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

Paul at Corinth

Acts 18.1-17

Paul’s visit to Corinth proves to be an important strategic move for the Church. Paul himself receives a word of encouragement from the Lord to press on despite ministry fatigue, and the Church receives a word of confirmation from the Roman authorities of its legitimacy despite the objections of the Jewish antagonists.

Following Jesus is hard work at times. Opposition and obstacles are often in the way. But the Lord is with us, and He will see us through. He still has work for us to do…lots of folks who need to hear about Jesus. Prisoners who need to be set free. Now’s not the time to shrink back. Now’s the time to forge ahead…to storm the gates…and proclaim our Resurrected King.

Like Paul, it’s our job to share the gospel…good news for those who receive it, but a warning of impending judgment for those who reject it. Jesus is either our King, or He will be our Judge. No middle ground. You are either in or out, for or against, saved or lost.

And also like Paul, we all need encouragement. Who can you encourage this week? Maybe someone who is having a rough go of it. Maybe someone who has walked away from the faith for any number of reasons. Maybe someone who needs to take a step of faith. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever the situation…encourage them in the Lord this week.

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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

Paul at Athens

Acts 17.16-34

Paul’s trip to Athens is not the vacation he may have hoped for. Disturbed by the rampant idolatry he finds in the city, Paul can’t help but confront the spiritual bankruptcy of the folks who are there. With a well-reasoned argument, Paul starts with God as the Creator and Sustainer of all that He has made. He is a God who is actively involved in the world and who has made us in His image to worship Him. Some will. For those who don’t, He has appointed a Judge who will judge the world in righteousness.

Is our culture that much different than ancient Athens? Learning, culture, the arts, sports… Maybe we don’t have temples and idols that litter the landscape, but that doesn’t mean we don’t worship false gods nonetheless. Gods of affluence and entitlement, of beauty and popularity, of importance and greed, of you fill-in-the-blank. It’s anything we love more than God, anything we worship in place of God, anything we value above God. What, if anything, is that for you?

I wonder about the folks from the synagogue. Normally Luke gives us a report on their response to the gospel, but not this time…why? The only two people he mentions as believing the gospel seem to be from the Areopagus. So what about the others? Why was Paul’s message so strange and new? Maybe they were no different than the rest of the Athenians. Maybe the culture was having a greater impact on them than they were having on the culture. Can the same be said about us? About you?

Paul is provoked by what he sees. Clearly he shares God’s anger about the things around him. But he also shares God’s love for the folks who are trapped by their own sin. Their objects of worship were evidence that they were seeking God, but their ignorance of Him was leading them in the wrong direction. Are you provoked by the idolatry you see around you? If so, how are you responding? Are you lashing out at it or reaching out to those trapped by it?

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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

Paul in Thessalonica and Berea

Acts 17.1-15

Paul and his companions share the gospel in the synagogues of both Thessalonica and Berea with very different results. In Thessalonica, Paul, using the Scriptures, reasons, explains and presents evidence that the Christ must die and be raised again. And he shows how Jesus, having been crucified and raised on the third day, fulfills all that the OT said about Him. Some Jews believe, but most reject the gospel. In Berea, the Jews themselves use the Scriptures to test what Paul’s saying and, confirming the truth of his teaching, many believe.

One group had stopped asking the “why” questions. They saw the world through their own pre-conceived ideas and were unwilling to examine the evidence for themselves. They were pre-occupied with their own kingdoms with no room for a rival King.

The other group was still asking “why”. They were willing to be challenged, but also willing to challenge in return. They were hungry for the truth…I think we could say pre-occupied with the kingdom…so that when they hear about Jesus they gladly make Him their King.

Which one of those two groups most resembles you? Is “eagerness” a good description of the way you approach the Word? Do you examine the Scriptures daily, aligning your thoughts with what the Bible says…your beliefs, your values? If not, why not start today?

One last thing…the gospel is good news. Sometimes we have to be reminded of that especially in a world that vilifies Christians at every turn. Jesus has come to save the day. He’s come to right the wrongs. He’s come to set the captives free. But sadly, not every captive wants to be free. Some are deluded into thinking that the life that they are living is really living despite the pain and sorrow and carnage of bad choices and broken relationships and guilt and regret and everything else. And so while we share a message of life, we shouldn’t be surprised that our enemy will attempt to thwart our forays into his kingdom. But like Paul, it shouldn’t stop us. When one door closes, look for the next.

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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

Paul in Philippi

Acts 16.11-40

Paul and his companions step off the boat from Troas onto the shores of Macedonia, of what is modern day Europe, a new frontier to carry out the same mission that Jesus gave to His Apostles way back in Acts 1…to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In Philippi, the first of many captives to come are captured by the gospel…they are rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the beloved Son.

A wealthy business woman (Lydia), a demon-possessed slave girl, and a jailer…a reminder that the gospel is for everyone. No one is too far gone to be saved, no one so lost that they can’t be found, no one so dead that they can’t be made alive. I don’t know about you, but that’s good news for me.

Have you come to the place where you’re ready to ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?” It’s the most important question of your life. The answer is simple…believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. And not only will He save you, but He wants to use you to reach your household…family, friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, etc.

If you have trusted in Jesus for eternal life, are you trusting Him in the day-to-day of life? Are you able to pray and sing praises even in the worst of circumstances, knowing that you are not alone and that God is working through those circumstances to accomplish things that may only become clear when you look back at them down the road? Make no mistake about it. An unbelieving world is watching to see if we really believe what we say we believe. The storms of life…trying times and unfair treatment…have a way of revealing that. I’m reminded of Joseph’s words to his brothers… “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result…” (Genesis 50.20). That’s a perspective that only comes through time spent with the Lord, cultivating your relationship with Him in prayer and in His Word and with His people.

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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

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Acts 16.1-10

Paul and Silas head out on the second missionary journey. Along the way they pick up Timothy, and, following the guidance of the Spirit, end up in Troas on their way to Macedonia.

Now we are not told how Paul got the “no” from the Spirit on two separate occasions on their journey. And it brings up an interesting question that’s often asked…“how do I know what God’s will is for me?” I think we often treat God’s will like a code to be cracked. If we can just figure out the secret handshake or discover the hidden message kept in some mysterious place then we will know what God wants us to do. We’ll discover the “National Treasure” that is His will. But what if it’s easier than that? You see I believe that God, as a good Father, wants us to know what it is He would have us do. Like any parent wants for their children. But like children we often fail to listen. It’s been said, and I would tend to agree that 90% of what God wants you to do can be found…in His Word, the Bible. The Bible is the Codebook, if you will, to life. In It, God gives us instruction on how we are to live…how we are to conduct ourselves, how we are to respond, what we are to do. And if you are spending time daily in God’s Word, you will learn to hear His voice, and not only will you discover the 90%, but the 10% also becomes more and more clear.

But not only should you spend time in God’s Word, you should also be spending time in prayer. If we are spending time with God in prayer daily, listening as well as talking, then we have this promise from Proverbs 3.5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” The 10% becomes clear when we’re spending time with the Lord.

Paul was preoccupied with the kingdom. He was undistracted in His pursuit of Jesus. When we spend time in God’s Word and spend time in prayer with Him, we too can become less focused on ourselves and more preoccupied with the kingdom. But we have to be intentional. And Paul wasn’t alone in his journey…he had a group of buddies with him who were also preoccupied with the kingdom. That’s important. Do you have a group of believers that you’re pursuing Jesus with? A community or small group?

I’m also struck by the fact that Paul’s journey was anything but linear. Sometimes we think the Christian life is a series of moves from one successive step to the next in a very predictable pattern, but often it’s way more exciting than that. Think rollercoaster rather than escalator. And although it may not have made sense to Paul in the moment he was willing to ride the rollercoaster…he was willing to wait when God said, “Wait” and go when God said, “Go”. Paul wasn’t following his own agenda, but that of his Master. If we are honest, I think often we let our agenda get in the way of God’s agenda even when we are doing things “for Him”. We have to remember that His ways are not always our ways…and it’s His ways that matter.

One last thing…Paul didn’t give up. When God closed door number and door number two, Paul kept going until God opened door number three. How often do we give up before we get to door number three and miss the opportunity that God has for us there? Again time in the Word, time in prayer and time with other believers and a passion to share the gospel with those who have a front row seat to our lives will help us persevere to door number three.

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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

Jerusalem Outbrief

Acts 15.22-41

The church in Antioch anxiously awaits the decision of the Jerusalem Council regarding the question of whether the Gentiles had to first become Jews before becoming Christians. The Council is unified in its decision…a decision that they discerned the Holy Spirit leading them to. Salvation is by faith alone. For both Jews and Gentiles. Both must believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and new life in Him.

We get in trouble when we expect unbelievers to act like believers before they can be believers. Or when we want them to clean up their act before they come to church. Adding a list of do’s or do not’s to faith is legalism. Until a person has trusted in Jesus, the do’s and do not’s have absolutely no impact on their lives. Dead is dead. It is only faith in Jesus that saves…only faith in Him that gives life.

We also get in trouble when we impose our version of Christianity on other believers. When we expect their walk with Jesus will look exactly like ours. No doubt the Bible has a lot to say about the things we should do and the things we shouldn’t do as believers. But the doing or not doing of those things doesn’t save us, and in and of themselves those things cannot make us more like Jesus. Only the Spirit can do that…only He can transform us to live and love like Jesus. But we do or don’t do out of obedience to Him…because we love Him…not because we intend to get something selfish out of it.

One last thing, and it’s a big thing. We are to turn from vain things to the living God because those vain things only bring death. But I think sometimes we don’t really want to turn from those vain things. We want to hold on to them. Even though Jesus has freed us from them, we keep running back to them and we continue to drag them along because we foolishly think they will somehow give us life. Like the Israelites, we keep wanting to run back to Egypt. And so we may continue in a sexually immoral relationship because we think that’s life. And so we continue our shady business dealings because we think the bank it generates gives us life. And so we continue to live our lives like the world revolves around us…promoting ourselves…because we think it somehow gives us life. But those things don’t bring true life. Only the illusion of life. And once it’s gone, then we can see them for what they really are…vain idols that only bring death.

What is it you need to turn from today, so that you can turn to Jesus? What do you need to let go of, so that you can lay hold of life?

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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