Drawing Near to God

Hebrews 10.19-25

The author of Hebrews writes to encourage Christians not to abandon the faith, but rather to endure persecution and draw near to God. He wants to spur them on to love and good deeds. Jesus is the Son of God. The only way to Salvation. As Hebrews shows us, Jesus is greater than anything and everything in all of creation. Jesus is the One to whom every prophecy and every symbol in the OT points. He is the fulfillment of every promise of God. Jesus reigns supreme. Problems and persecutions may come, but since we have Jesus let’s keep the faith, and draw near to God. He’s got some amazing things planned.

Twice in this passage we read “…since we have…” That’s an awesome statement…It’s what’s ours…what has already been secured for us…what is true about us…

The first “since we have” is “…since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…” Now that’s a big deal. You see the “holy place” was the room in the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept, where the mercy seat was, and the place where God’s presence was said to have dwelt above the cherubim (Exodus 25.10-22, Numbers 7.89, Hebrews 9.3-5). Only the high priest could enter the holy place and that once a year to offer sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9.7). It was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge veil (Exodus 26.31-37, Hebrews 9.3). So while folks could still come to God in faith and cry out to Him in prayer like David or Daniel or Jeremiah, full access to God was limited and forgiveness was only symbolic (Hebrews 10.1-10).

But now we have full access to God and true forgiveness of sins…why? Because of Jesus. Because He died so that we might live. The Innocent for the guilty. We can gather together and celebrate our life as a church because of His work on the cross two-thousand years ago. The Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the people.

In the upper room as He was celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…” The new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34 (Ezekiel 36.25-27)…new heart and the Spirit dwelling in everyone who believes. But first sin had to be atoned for, the blood of the Perfect Passover Lamb had to be shed. Jesus’ death brings the new covenant in to play, allowing us to confidently approach the Father…when Jesus was crucified the veil of the temple was torn in two signifying that He had cleared the way (Luke 23.45), a new and living way. A way based not on bringing sacrifices for sin year after year, but a way that rests in the one perfect sacrifice that Jesus, the One who died and is now alive, has secured for us.

The second “since we have” is “…since we have a great priest over the house of God…” The high priest was kind of a go-between…representing God to the people, and the people to God. So now not only is Jesus the Perfect Sacrifice, the Ultimate Passover Lamb, but He’s also the Great High Priest who intercedes for His people (Hebrews 5). I don’t know about you, but that’s good news for me. That Jesus intercedes with the Father on my behalf… And because Jesus is both Perfect Sacrifice and Perfect High Priest, we can have confidence when we approach God, not in ourselves or in our own abilities or the things we’ve done, but in Jesus…who He is and what He’s done. In Him and in Him alone.

Because of the confidence we have in Jesus, the author of Hebrews says three times, “…let us…” The “let us” is important because following Jesus is not just an individual pursuit. We are to run after Him together. And we have a plan for doing just that. A strategy if you will. We call it Gather, Grow, Impact.  And it just so happens that each one lines up with these “let us” statements.

“…let us consider how to provoke/stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another…” In other words let us GATHER. The author of Hebrews says we gather to provoke each other…now not in a bad way, but in a good way. We provoke each other to love and good deeds by encouraging one another. Following Jesus is not a solo gig. It’s what we do as a tribe. We run after Him together. Our weekend services are our main opportunity to Gather. It’s a time that we sing praises to our God, we celebrate communion, we hear the Word taught, we fellowship together. Now there are all kinds of reasons and excuses to forsake the “assembling together”, but it’s hazardous to do so. It’s dangerous to your spiritual walk…you are more vulnerable alone. Paul describes the church as a body and Peter uses the imagery of a spiritual house. We need each other. Not only are you more vulnerable alone, but we are also less effective when you’re not here. There has to be an “all in-ness” to our life together. That’s not just in our worship together, but also in how we serve one another and how we invest in the kingdom together.

“…let us draw near with a true/sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Let us GROW. We are to intentionally pursue our relationship with Jesus. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. We don’t just stumble into it. There has to be a turning away from sin and a turning toward Jesus . Our hearts have been cleansed…we have been set free. So we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Our mission statement is: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. We know that that is something we cannot do on our own…only the Spirit can transform us as individuals and as a church. But God invites us into that process of transformation…He invites us to draw near to Him in prayer and time spent in His Word and fellowship with each other, and as we do that, the Spirit transforms us to live and love like Jesus a little more each day.

“…let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” So what is the “confession of our hope”? Our hope, as believers, is the resurrection. It’s the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the kingdom. It’s an eternity spent worshiping, celebrating and enjoying our Triune God in bodies that no longer break down or wear out, in a place where there is no more death or tears or sorrow or pain. Perfect peace, joy, bliss, seeing our Savior face to face and delighting in the Father. The confession is our testimony…our belief that what God has promised He will fulfill. Our belief that the Hero has come and saved the day, and that we will reign with Him forever. So let persecution come, let suffering come, let the world crumble around us…our God will not fail us. He is faithful. So let us not fail Him by doubting or allowing our confidence in Him to be shaken. No matter what happens. And because we have this hope, we should share it with others. So lets make an IMPACT.

My prayer for us as a church is that we would always provoke each other to love and good deeds, that we would continually draw near to God, intentionally pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon, and that we would hold fast our confession, being a light and a beacon of hope in our community, being generous with our time and with our resources, anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

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

A Plentiful Harvest

Luke 10.1-24

News of the kingdom spreads through the missionary efforts of the 70. While the threat of rejection is very real, still the harvest is plentiful. We need more workers for the harvest.

Not only were these disciples to be workers in the harvest, they were to pray that God would raise up more workers…folks who, having responded to the message of the kingdom, would themselves become workers reaching out to others. That process continues today. If you are a believer, then you are one of the workers that someone else prayed for. Who are you praying for? Who do you have on your impact list? Who can you bring one step closer to Jesus?

You see workers in the harvest are not a special class of believer…discipleship is what we are all called to. Jesus doesn’t make a distinction between different categories of believers…we do. So everyone who trusts in Jesus is to be about the harvest…sharing the message of the gospel and helping others grow in their faith. Christianity is not a spectator sport…it’s full contact. It’s down in the trenches. It’s reflecting Jesus to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teammates, or anyone else that God brings across your path. Some will accept and some will reject. The kingdom is coming…those who accept will be citizens of the kingdom. Those who reject will be with those who oppose the kingdom and will not escape judgment.

The time is short. If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, today is the day. Now is the opportunity. Don’t wait. Come to Jesus as a child…simply trusting in Him to rescue you. Then you too can rejoice that your name is recorded in heaven.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven this week.”

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

Next Generation Ministry

Luke 9.1-11

First solo mission for the 12. The first opportunity to flex their ministry muscles. The first time to cast out the net for a catch. Jesus gives them the ability and right to do what He does, then He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom, giving them works to back up their words. Travelling light, they depend on God for their needs and bring the good news to all who will hear.

When was your first solo mission? Have you begun to flex your ministry muscles yet? Who have you told about Jesus? Just as Jesus empowered the disciples before sending them out on mission, He has also empowered us by giving us His Spirit and fellow believers to equip us and prepare us to accomplish His mission…making disciples. We call it transforming families to live and love like Jesus.

If you haven’t taken your first spin, don’t wait. There are lots of opportunities to serve. By now, hopefully you have put together an impact list…folks that God’s placed in your sphere of influence whom you can help take one step closer to Jesus. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom to them. Take a risk. You may not do it perfectly…that’s ok. God uses regular folks like us to accomplish His mission.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you’ve been serving and sharing the gospel for a while now, maybe it’s time for you to take someone else under your wing and bring them along. Show them the ropes and then turn them loose.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s join Jesus on His mission this week of transforming families to live and love like Him.”

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

Get In the Game

Luke 5.27-39

It is not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus is still in the business of restoring social outcasts to community and forgiving notorious sinners. He did it for Levi. He wants to do the same for you. He sees you and me…all that we’ve done and will do, and still He calls us. Levi is a reminder that no one is so far gone that Jesus can’t rescue him/her. He wants to ruin you and remake you…to wreck your self-righteousness and give you His true righteousness. And not only does Jesus want to rescue you, He wants to put you to work. Like Levi, He wants you to be a part of His rescue mission…fishing for men. Robert Munger once said, “The church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate.” How about you? Do you recognize your need for Jesus? Jesus’ invitation is for everyone who will respond, “Come, follow Me,” anytime, anyplace…today is the day of salvation. Is Jesus calling you today?

Maybe you’ve already trusted in Jesus…if so, are you a fisher of men…are you seeking the lost and relating to them in such a way that they can see God’s grace at work in your life? Jesus spent time with people like Levi. Levi and his friends could have ruined a man’s reputation. Who do you spend time with? Who is on your impact list? Who are you intentionally building relationships with? Are you having any risky conversations? Are you willing to put your reputation on the line to reach the notorious for Jesus? Are you willing to love the unlovable? Many times when we trust in Jesus, He not only changes us; but we begin to make some changes ourselves. We find new set of friends (all Christian of course), maybe get a new job (in a Christian environment), start listening to new music (of course Christian)…we so surround ourselves with other believers that we become irrelevant to a lost world. Not only do we no longer have friends who are lost…we have a hard time thinking of anyone in our normal routine who’s lost. Maybe it’s time to take a risk. Maybe it’s time for some dangerous conversations. Maybe it’s time to ruin your reputation by hanging out with some nefarious characters, looking for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus and invite them to the never-ending party of knowing Jesus…experiencing the joy that can only be found in Him. Maybe it’s time to get in the game.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we, like Levi, let go of our old life and lay hold of the new life we have in Jesus, and may we, like Jesus, have some dangerous conversations this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus: The Great Galilean Ministry. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Divine Invitation

Luke 5.1-11

Simon is initially willing to obey Jesus out of a sense of obligation…he had seen what Jesus had done for others, he knew that God was at work in Him, but until now, he really hadn’t had an encounter with Jesus. But when he does, he responds in awe, humility, and then total surrender…he’s all in. He went from being a fan to a being a part of Jesus’ team, a part of Jesus’ rescue mission…saving folks from death to life. Jesus changed everything for him. Jesus ruined Simon, so that He could remake him.

Jesus is still in the business of turning sinners into servants. Have you been wrecked by Jesus? Have you recognized your sinfulness in the presence of His righteousness? Has is undone you and cause you to fall down before Him? Have you been rescued by Him? If so, what impact has that had on your life? Have you left all to follow Him? Are you following Jesus because you’ve experienced His grace at such a profound level that there really is no other option for you, or are you following Him begrudgingly, more out of a sense of obligation or duty, than joy? It starts with that personal encounter with Jesus…realizing His grace that invades and impacts your world…that ruins you and remakes you.

If you have been rescued, have you joined Jesus’ rescue mission? Have you become a fisher of men? Are you spending time daily with Him, so that you can recognize His voice? Take a look at your impact list…who can you help bring one step closer to Jesus. Ask God for a divine appointment this week. Be intentional. Have a conversation. Invite folks to come to church with you and whatever group you are a part of (Community group, young adults, students, MOPs, women’s Bible study, a men’s group, Saints Alive, STOP, etc). While God gives us various jobs…student, teacher, business person, etc, our main task whatever our job is catching folks for the kingdom. We are all called to the same mission…we are all a part of the same team.

But maybe you haven’t had a personal encounter with Jesus yet. Maybe you are still a part of the crowd considering who Jesus is. He wants to rescue you today. He wants you to be on His team. The great news about Jesus…the invitation is open to all, but we do have to accept it. And when we do, we are off on the greatest adventure of our lives.

Are you going to be a fisherman or a fisher of men?

Until next time, stay salty…

“May we be fishers of people who have given up all to follow Jesus.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus: The Great Galilean Ministry. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Luke 2.1-21

Mary had a little Lamb…what a simple story with life-changing implications! Mary’s little Lamb is none other than the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is not only the long-awaited Jewish Messiah who came to save His people from their enemies…both physical and spiritual, but He’s also Lord who is worthy of all worship and praise and honor…and obedience.

The heavens erupt in praise at His coming, and the shepherds catch the excitement. The people are amazed, and Mary ponders. So what will you do? Do you know Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If so, are you experiencing the joy that salvation brings? Do you have a sense of excitement about the Word you’ve heard? Do you have the desire to tell others the good news? If so, good. Keep proclaiming the good news. If not, why not? Have the cares of this world and your present circumstances robbed you of your joy and excitement? Spend some time this week, like Mary, pondering the truth of God’s Word and the amazing realization of your rescue. It really is good news. Ask God to reignite that fire in your belly, that excitement about following Him.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord today, I want to invite you to take that first step. Jesus came as Savior, the Hero and only one who could rescue us. Unlike the kings of this world who may be able to save from 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 being…peace with God, peace with men, peace with creation and peace with ourselves. Jesus came not just as Savior, but also as Lord. He is our Sovereign and deserves our allegiance. But unlike the kings of this world who force subjugation and seek only their own good, King Jesus is a benevolent Ruler who invites submission and seeks the good of His subjects.

 

 May we experience afresh and anew the uncontainable joy and excitement that salvation brings, and may we share that joy with others as we tell them about Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Transforming Families Part 2

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to learning more about Jesus, praying, worshiping, and enjoying a vibrant community life. They were also committed to proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah to others and God was powerfully at work through their testimony. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally building Christ-centered relationships, and strategically creating opportunities for families to impact their world for Jesus. Values that inform both our mission, Transforming families to live and love like Jesus, and our strategy, Gather. Grow. Impact.

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. I hope you are as excited as we, the elders and staff, are about our vision. We want you to be all in.

I want to end with this…our new logo.

Stained glass windows have been around for centuries, and while their history is rooted in church tradition, they remain a timeless staple of beauty for future generations. As we move into the future we want to continue to be faithful to God, and to also remember how he has been faithful to our church for almost 60 years.

Regarding our Mission statement: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus…A defining attribute of stained glass is its ability to transform light into any color of its choice, much like how the Holy Spirit transforms our life as we are obedient to his will.

The church is one body made of many members with Jesus as the head. In a stained glass story, hundreds even thousands of unique pieces join together to create one image that conveys a story far greater than any individual piece can do alone. Even seemingly obtuse shapes have a place in the story, and if that piece is missing, the story is incomplete.

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 our Vision series entitled Transforming Families. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster