Saul’s Story

Acts 9.1-19a

Saul has an encounter with Jesus, and his life is forever changed. And not just his life. God will use him to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth…planting churches and writing letters which will make up a majority of the NT. Saul’s encounter with Jesus is so significant not only to the book of Acts, but also in the history of the church that this is the first of three times that his conversion is talked about in the story.

Saul was chosen for a purpose…God would use him to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Ananias was chosen for a purpose…he will be the one to commission Saul. God has also chosen you for a purpose…He wants to use you to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Do you realize that? Maybe you’ve never heard that before, but God chose you for a purpose…and the purpose isn’t so that you could go to heaven. If that were the case, you would already be there. No, He chose you so that you would have a kingdom impact on the folks around you. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2.8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Jesus calls it “bearing fruit”. You have been chosen for a purpose.

Ananias was surprised that the Lord would have him go and find Saul…probably even more surprised that the church’s greatest enemy would become its greatest ally. Who is it in your life that God may be calling you to share your story with? Who is it that you think is beyond reach? Saul’s story is a reminder and an encouragement that no one is beyond the reach of the gospel. No one is so lost that they cannot be found, so blind that they cannot see, so dead that they cannot be made alive. Do you believe that today? Do you believe that there is nothing you could have ever done that could keep you from Jesus?

We see God’s fingerprints all over this story. It’s no accident that Saul comes to faith. Not only does Jesus appear to Saul on the road to Damascus, He also appears to Saul a second time and to Ananias to arrange a meet and greet. God is in control. He’s in control of the events of this story, and He’s in control of the events in your story.

Maybe you haven’t yet had an encounter with Jesus. Maybe you think you are too far gone to be saved. You’re not. Saul wasn’t. Neither are you. God wants to work a miracle in your life…to bring you from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son…to give your life new purpose and meaning and to use you to impact the lives of those around you for His kingdom. 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 had an encounter with Jesus, who do you need to share your story with this week? Who is it that God wants to uniquely use you to reach? What kind of impact are you going to have on the kingdom?

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

Transforming Families – Strategy Part 1

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to gathering, growing, and impacting…and God was powerfully at work. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Like this early group of new disciples, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. And as a family, each of us has a part to play, and each of us must play his or her part. A football team is only effective if each player on the field of play executes their responsibility. If one player decides that their job is unimportant, the team cannot succeed. Paul uses the example of a body. If the foot decided it wasn’t needed, it sure would be hard to walk. The same is true with the rest of the body. Each member is important to the success of the whole. We want you…we need you to be all in.

A very practical step to take…make participating our weekend gatherings a priority in 2016.

One story I want to share with you is of a family that is being transformed to live and love like Jesus. I got a call from a guy who started attending Central about 4 years ago. He and his wife were divorced, so on the weekends he had the kids he drug them to church with him. His kids fell in love with Central and began to get involved on their own…even on weekends when they were with their mom, they wanted to come to church. So she started to come with them. She’s now attending Central. And his brother who was estranged from the church, has now been coming for 4 months. Definitely not a “Leave it to Beaver” situation…it’s kind of messy. But one of the coolest things for me…the reason he called me was because his daughter, who is turning 15 soon (Quinceañera), wants to be baptized as one of her birthday presents! No better picture of God transforming a family…

God is at work. I want to invite you to join us on this journey of Transforming families to live and love like Jesus as we seek to impact this valley for the kingdom in significant ways. As part of the family, we all have a part to play in the life of our church. The Holy Spirit is ready and willing to empower us to accomplish the mission. How about you? Are you in?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our vision series, Transforming Families. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

My Grace Is Sufficient for You

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…’” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

As we come to the close of our reading in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, I cannot help but be drawn to the sufferings Paul experienced for the Gospel in 2 Corinthians 12.

Five times Paul received 39 lashes in ministering to the Jews. Many times a person would die during the punishment. Paul survived 5 times.

Paul was also beaten by the Gentiles with rods 3 times.

He was stoned by a mob in Lystra (see Acts 14) and left for dead.

The dangers on highways, seas and other travels were always a real part of his journeys.

Paul was also attacked within the churches verbally by false teachers.

It is hard to imagine the physical pain Paul must have felt, but the spiritual struggles of his ministry seem to have been an even greater burden.

Despite the pressures he felt from the churches he founded and the opposition that faced him everywhere he went, Paul pressed on.

How could he continue? What made him press on for the Gospel?

He believed the things he wrote. He understood and believed in the reality of heaven and eternity, the potency of the Gospel, and God’s mercy and grace.

For Paul, the reality of heaven was real. He knew his citizenship was eternal and in heaven.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Paul understood the potency of the Gospel.

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” ! Corinthians 4:20 ESV

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:16 ESV

Finally, Paul understood the magnitude of God’s mercy and grace.

Paul was a blasphemer, persecutor and enemy of the followers of the way. Yet God granted Paul mercy and grace, calling him to a lifetime of service.

It was the love of Christ that enabled him to absorb the beatings, persecutions, imprisonments, and challenges of ministry.

Paul understood that in his weakness, God’s power was demonstrated.

This enables us to understand that our trials and sufferings actually qualify us to proclaim the Gospel and teach others about Jesus.

He uses our sufferings to demonstrate His sufficiency. God can use our afflictions to provide comfort to others.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…’”

His power is made perfect in my weakness. Amen!

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Sources used for this blog: ESV Study Bible, Courson’s New Testament Application Commentary, Gospel Transformation Bible