Put the Kingdom First

Romans 14.13-23

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said it this way, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Never confuse the externals with the eternals.

Martin Luther, in his book, On the Liberty of a Christian, says this, “A Christian is a most free lord of all, subject to none” and “A Christian is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Which is it? Both. There is great individual freedom in following Jesus, but the goal isn’t exercising that freedom…it’s building one another up. Pursuing our shared life together. Unity in diversity. Putting the kingdom first.

It’s all part of our debt to love. What does love look like in this situation? What does it look like to love this person? Sometimes that involves sacrificing some things that I really don’t want to sacrifice. But that’s when I have to remember…it’s not about the externals. It’s about the eternals. The things you may have to give up are temporary. Your brother or sister? They’re not. They are forever. And so are you.

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

Unity and Diversity

Romans 14.1-12

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

If we all spent a little less time worrying about what everyone else was doing and focused on what we’re doing…on what Jesus has called us to do…the world…and for sure the church…would be a much better place. Less judgey and more friendly. Less about me and my preferences and more about “we” and the mission we’ve been given. Unity in diversity.

It’s definitely one of the things that makes the church unique. Folks come from all over with myriad backgrounds and sometimes very little common ground besides Jesus. And He brings us together, not to make us the same, but to make us one. And that’s way cooler. But it takes work. It takes a willingness to accept each other…to welcome one another into fellowship despite our differences. To really love each other well.

I still remember fondly the days of kickball at recess, of working out our differences and learning to play together on the playground. We are striving to do the same as a staff. May we also run after that as a church.

How you live your life today matters. Who you live your life for today matters. You see, the King is coming back. What will He say to you when He returns?

Jesus is coming back. And He will either be your King or your Judge. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Make today the day. Recognize that you need to be saved. Believe that Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death so that by believing in Him you can have eternal life. And then He will be your King, too.

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

Let Love Be Your Outstanding Debt

Romans 13.8-14

Owe nothing except the debt to love.

I wonder what it would look like if we took that challenge seriously. If the first thought we had when we saw someone is, “How can I love them?” Or “What would love look like in this situation?” Kind of a scary thought, huh? It would no doubt raise a few eyebrows and would certainly be countercultural. But there would also be no mistaking who we are and whose we are.

A few weeks ago, Scott said his word for the year is intentional. That comes to mind with this passage. In order to live out our faith and to live like Jesus could come back at any time, we have to be intentional. Intentional in renewing our minds through time spent in God’s Word and God’s Word spending time in us. Intentional about prayer…seeing it not just as a luxury when I can get to it, but a vital part of our day throughout the day. Intentional about time with other believers…are you in a community group? Intentional about living a generous life (Who can I bless? What needs can I meet?). Intentional about sharing our story. Intentional about investing our mina…our life…for maximum kingdom impact.

Back to the parable of the nobleman from Luke 19. Those who know the King and are living intentionally for the kingdom are anxious for His return. They can’t wait to share with Him stories of how they’ve invested the mina He entrusted to them and rejoice with Him in the impact it’s made. They are living today in light of eternity. Is that you?

If not, what is it you need to put aside…how are you conforming to this world? What compromises are you making? What needs to change in your daily/weekly routine? What relationships do you need to reevaluate? What intentional step can you take this week?

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

Religion and Politics

Romans 13.1-7

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” Religion and politics…maybe they are not so taboo. Our allegiance to God doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t be good citizens, neither should being a good citizen trump our allegiance to God.

We have a duty to both the state and to God. What Caesar requires of us irrelevant unless it interferes with our duty to God. Paul doesn’t tell us what to do when the two collide…when they are in conflict, but we have a few biblical examples. We already talked about Daniel and the lions’ den (Daniel 6). Another one from the book of Daniel is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they handled Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the golden statue (For Veggie Tales fans: Rack, Shack and Benny…and the chocolate bunny) (Daniel 3). When the choice is between obeying God or obeying man, we have to choose to obey God (Acts 5.28-29). If you, as a Christian, are asked to do something that violates the Word of God, you should say “no”, but you should do so respectfully and then be prepared to face the consequences. Just like Daniel and his buddies. And just like Christian martyrs have done throughout the centuries.

Fundamentally the question is: where is our hope? Is our hope in an earthly kingdom, a political system that no matter how good it is is doomed to fail because of sin, or in the unshakeable kingdom that Jesus brings? Are we looking for an earthly king to save us, or are we looking for the King who has already saved us?

And as those who follow Jesus, how do we engage the culture? What does it mean to live and love like Jesus? What’s our responsibility? First and foremost to remember that Jesus is our only Hope and our King. We have to remember who we are and whose we are. So we don’t give up (persecution, etc.), we don’t give in (conform) because we know that Jesus wins. And knowing that…We as followers of Jesus are called to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2) because we know that God has placed them there. We are to be markedly law-abiding, even down to the traffic laws and paying taxes. To be good citizens.

And we are to pray…PRAY, PRAY, PRAY…prayer is our greatest weapon in spiritual warfare. Make no mistake…as Paul says, our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers, against the rulers, against the spiritual forces in heavenly places…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Pray first. Ask God for wisdom. And then follow His lead. Let Him fight for you. Let Him make a way where there may not seem to be one. He can…He will…but even if He doesn’t, He’s still God. And remember what Paul said to Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, for prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2.1-2).

We might also need to confess our pride and our sinful attitudes…conversations, statements and responses that have reflected more fear than faith, more of my kingdom than God’s kingdom.

We now have a new president…Joe Biden…for whom we are called to pray and be in subjection to his authority. May not be easy to do, especially if he wasn’t your candidate. But we have to trust it’s God’s good and acceptable and perfect will. He’s still in control. Just as He was when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stepped into a fiery furnace. Just as He was when Daniel was lowered into a lions’ den. Just as He was when Jesus was nailed to a cross.

pro rege,

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

Renewed Thinking

Romans 12.3-21

Renewed thinking allows us to see the world from a very different perspective than those around us. It causes us to think rightly about who we are and how we fit within the church. And it’s the catalyst for us to live and love like Jesus.

Renewed thinking comes from a renewed mind…a mind that has been transformed by God’s Word. As we spend more time in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to spend more time in us, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and transform us to live and love like Jesus. We begin to see the world more and more through His eyes. We begin to want what He wants. We begin to love like He loves. We begin to live out our role as ambassadors for His kingdom. And so come what may…good times or bad, blessing or cursing, feast or famine, tribulation or persecution or suffering of any kind…we can rejoice. We have hope. We trust God. And we see that His will for us is perfect…good, acceptable and perfect.

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

Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind

Romans 12.1-2

We all have things in our lives that are stumbling blocks to us following Jesus…those sticky points that can cause us to be spiritually stuck. Ways that we are conforming to the world around us. But as we spend more time in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to spend more time in us, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and transform us to live and love like Jesus. We begin to see the world more and more through His eyes. We begin to want what He wants. We see that His will for us is perfect. And then offering the whole of ourselves to Him just makes sense. It’s the only reasonable thing to do.

Every moment of every day we make choices that either lead us to being conformed to this world or transformed to live and love like Jesus. What choices are you making? Is your mind being renewed, or is it being assimilated into the culture? Depends on what you’re feeding it, right? Either the Truth of God’s Word or the lies of the enemy. In Romans 6.12-14, Paul said, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

God used this passage in Romans to pry me loose from the spiritual quicksand that I found myself in a few years ago. Every now and again I have a tendency to wander towards the sandtrap…part of being a new creation in a fallen world I suppose, but as I’ve made the effort with God’s help to pursue Jesus a lifestyle rather than an experiment…training vs. trying…, and as I’ve surrounded myself with other believers who are doing the same, I don’t find myself getting stuck quite as often. My prayer is that God will do the same for you.

pro rege,

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

Peace Delivered

Isaiah 9.2-7

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5.1-11)

Isaiah pictures a time of good news for a group of people who desperately needed it. They were under oppression by the enemy. They were defeated. They were without hope. They knew no peace. But God hadn’t forgotten them. Light was coming. God Himself would rend the veil of time and space and come down to the earth He had created in the Person of Jesus. He would rescue them. He would save them from sin and death by sacrificing Himself in their place. He would die that they might live. He would provide the way back to Father God. He would establish a kingdom where they could live and reign with Him forever. Where they would know true and lasting peace.

And so Jesus has come…

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. Jesus came to rescue you. Unlike earthly kings who may be able to save us from our mortal enemies, King Jesus came to save us from our real enemies, both sin and death. Unlike earthly kings who promise peace through force of arms, King Jesus brings peace that invades every aspect of our lives…peace with God, peace with men and peace with ourselves.

May you experience the deep and settled peace of Jesus this Christmas season. May you experience Peace Delivered.

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

Joy Delivered

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, don’t we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives? If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

That’s why the angel’s pronouncement in Luke 2.8-15 is such joyous news…“good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” God’s not done yet. The Hero has come to save the day. Joy has returned. Unimaginable, unspeakable, incomprehensible joy. The joy that only Jesus can bring.

So in the midst of a worldwide pandemic when it would be easy to forget…here’s a practical way to remember: finish this sentence on a post-it or piece of paper that you can put around your house…“I rejoice today because___.” (The Hero has come…Jesus has saved me.)

May you experience the all-surpassing joy of Jesus this Christmas season. May you experience Joy Delivered.

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

Love Delivered

Luke 1.26-38

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3.16). “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.6-8).

God picked the name Jesus to remind us that He would save us from our sins. That’s how God has shown His unconditional, never-ending love for us…by saving us. By sending Jesus to die for us. The greatest sacrifice of all to demonstrate the greatest love of all. This is what God has done.

God is fulfilling His promise of a King…a King to rescue us. A King to save us. God keeps His word. We can trust Him to keep His promises still today. Promises of the forgiveness of sins and a new heart, His Spirit dwelling within us, His presence with us, everlasting life and an eternal kingdom. This is what God will do. And only He can. He can do great and wondrous things and use whomever He chooses to accomplish His purpose however He wishes.

From an earthly perspective, Mary was an unlikely candidate to be the mother of the Messiah…a nobody from a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. In this age of celebrity we might have expected someone more prestigious, someone more connected, a little more flash or a bigger deal, not a young, poor, small town girl…insignificant in the world’s eyes. I’m glad God’s not caught up in the things that we are. You see, from a heavenly perspective, she had a very significant role to play in God’s plan of redemption…so do you. He wants to use you to impact the folks around you for His kingdom. The question is, will you trust Him to do so? Will you, like Mary, humbly submit to the Lord’s will and His direction in your life? If so, buckle up…it’ll be quite a ride!

May you experience the love of God in a deep, rich and meaningful way this Christmas season. May you experience Love Delivered.

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

Hope Delivered

Isaiah 7.10-17

Our world is not so different from Ahaz’s world. The threat of war and rumors of war abound. Fear is on the rise, and wickedness reigns throughout the land. Pandemic. Social unrest. Racial tensions. Riots in the streets. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We hope in politicians or jobs or bank accounts or status or retirement plans or followers or people or you fill-in-the-blank to save us…anything other than the Lord. And being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we too quickly forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. That He is Immanuel…God with us.

Inevitably we will face a crisis…illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams. Sooner or later we all have to answer the question: If I put my trust in God, if my hope is in Him, will He save me? Does He really love me, and does He really care about me and my circumstances? Our answer is either a confident “yes” or a wavering “I’m not sure.” Is God a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who is intimately involved in His creation who knows me and loves me and cares about me, or is He a God who is out there, too big and too busy to be bothered with me and my little problems, who is only looking out for His own interests? 

You see, just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, when their hope is in anything or anyone else, they pay a price for it. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God is with us. He is present in our crises. If we will hope in Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But know this…He delights to save us.

Are you making alliances or compromises to save yourself, or are you hoping in God? Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. The more your hope rests with God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. But when your hope is anywhere else…not so much. One practical way to remember that God is with you is to write “hope” on a post-it and place it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

One last thing…even though Ahaz is a wicked king, God graciously invites him to trust in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then God offers the same gracious invitation to you. He wants you to trust Him, then you too can experience the hope that only Jesus can bring, knowing that He is with you always. But don’t wait. The time is short. Just as God is with those of us who have trusted in Him for salvation, so He is also with those who refuse Him for judgment. 

May you experience the hope of “God with us” in a very real and powerful way this Christmas season. May you experience Hope Delivered.

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