The Things Which You Have Seen

Revelation 1.9-20

John identifies himself as a fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus. Like countless other Jesus followers, he knew what it meant to suffer for his faith. Even though we are citizens of the eternal kingdom, we find ourselves behind enemy lines. Tribulation shouldn’t surprise us. Calls for perseverance while we wait for our King to return.

And our King will return…not as a sacrificial Lamb, but as a roaring Lion. The battle lines are drawn. You are either for Jesus or against Him. He will either be your King, or He will be your Judge. Your choice. There is no middle ground. No fence-riders here. Which will it be? If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day.

If you have trusted in Jesus, now’s the time for perseverance. Now’s the time for patient endurance. It’s the fourth quarter. We don’t know how much time is left, but until the final whistle blows or trumpet sounds we are to fight on. Even when it feels like we are losing…don’t give up. Even when it seems like the enemy is closing in on every side…don’t give in. Our King is coming…Jesus wins.

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

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Revelation 1.1-8

We live in uncertain times. But no less uncertain than the times John lived in. And honestly no less uncertain than folks have lived in for thousands of years. The world is an uncertain place…or so it seems. But God is at work now just as He’s always been.

Revelation is the story of the reconciliation of heaven and earth. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It’s the capstone to God’s Story of redemption. And Jesus is the Hero of the Story.

By now, most of you know that I am a football fan. Revelation is the fourth quarter. Not sure how much time is left on the clock, but the countdown has begun. It started the day Jesus ascended into heaven. Our job is to finish strong. We’ll talk more about what this means in coming weeks, but our mantra throughout the book will be, “Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.”

Let me challenge you with something throughout this series…read through the passage we will be covering (devotional in the app for Saturday), show up and listen as we walk through the book, and then respond…do it. Whatever it is that God impresses you with…do it.

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

Second Chances

John 21.15-25

This particular story is unique to John. So why does he include it? In verse 14, John reminds us that this is the third time that Jesus has made Himself known to the disciples. The two previous times that Jesus showed up, He had a purpose in mind, right? Calming the fears and commissioning a group of the disciples, breathing on them the Holy Spirit and giving them life; and then a special encore presentation for Thomas. This episode also has a very focused purpose…the restoration of Peter. You see, after his denial, we as the readers are left wondering, “So whatever happened to Peter?”

Peter had blatantly denied and turned his back on Jesus. There was no getting around it. After all of the boasting, after all of the posturing, in the end he had failed miserably. And all of his closest friends knew it. Fear might have been involved, although given Peter’s boldness in confronting the soldiers that seems less likely. Frustration? Probably. Doubts? Sure. But Peter was supposed to be their fearless leader. Would he ever be useful again?

And now, miraculously Peter is given a second chance. Jesus shows up and takes him aside, and with the reminder of both his failure and his calling in mind, he’s given another opportunity to follow Jesus. But following Him this go round would not end well from an earthly standpoint. It would involve a cross. Given the last three years…knowing all that he had been through and would yet go through, would he still sign up? Knowing that the journey would be a lonely one, with no guarantees that anyone else would accompany him, would he still follow Jesus? Would you?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time I verbally denied Jesus. I can, though, remember plenty of times that I denied Him by my actions. It reminds me of my high school and college years. I had trusted in Jesus and even felt like He was calling me into ministry, but I was unwilling to give up the life I was pursuing at the time. I was afraid I might miss out on something, but it was just leading to greater heartache, shame, frustration, guilt, etc. It wasn’t “life”…not anything like the abundant life that Jesus talked about last week. But of course I wasn’t walking in obedience either. I wasn’t spending time in His Word or prayer, wasn’t spending time with other believers, really didn’t feel like I had much of a story to share. I wasn’t abiding and so for sure wasn’t bearing fruit. I was denying Jesus with all but my words. And yet He was so gracious and just kept pursuing me, until one day I came to the “aha” moment, and I stopped running from Him and started pursuing Him…and said “yes” to His “Follow Me.”

But what about you? How have you blown it? Have you come out the other side? What does life look like? What have you learned from it? How is it causing you to trust God more? The encouraging thing for me from Peter’s story is that Jesus makes a special trip to offer him his second chance. And not only a second chance, but also a bright new future chock full of opportunity to continue to pursue Jesus…and to fail, but also to change the world. He and this rag-tag group of Jesus-followers will take the Roman world by storm…not leading a military campaign, but waging spiritual warfare nonetheless. We are here today because of a guy like Peter.

It strikes me that Peter’s story would likely have had a very different ending had I been the one whom he had denied. And for some of us, we are in the position of being the betrayed. If that’s you, have you restored the one who failed you? Have you forgiven them? Any second chances? Would you trust them with an even greater level of responsibility? Or would you do what I can be so quick to do, and write them off?

Peter’s story is challenging: Do we believe that Jesus still can and wants to use us, no matter our failures? Are we willing to follow Him, no matter the cost? Will we forgive and restore others when they fail us?

My prayer is that you realize Jesus’ deep and abiding love for you, that you rest in His amazing grace, and that you show that same grace toward others this week.

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

Abiding in the Vine

John 15.1-17

Discipleship is all about abiding in the Vine. But to do that we have to stay connected to Jesus. We have to rely on Jesus. We have to follow Jesus. And we have to obey Jesus.

There’s an old hymn that says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” Must have spent some time in this passage. Obedience is not a popular word. From the time we were kids, we have wanted our independence. We like freedom. We don’t like folks telling us what to do. Let me make my own decisions. Let me decide for myself what’s best. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like what got us in trouble in the first place…in the garden. Not trusting God, but trusting ourselves.

Obedience in the Christian life is not the oppressive bowing to the will of a tyrant. I think sometimes that’s the image we get when we hear the word. But it’s joyfully doing what our Father says, knowing that He loves us and wants what’s best for us. Sometimes that will involve pruning. But it is always for our good.

One last thought…fruit bearing is a direct result of abiding. We were saved for a purpose…that we would live lives that point others to Jesus. That we would share our story and reflect His character to a watching world. If you want to live the abundant life, you’ve got to abide in the Vine.

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

The Word

John 1.1-18

In these opening verses, John unmistakably presents Jesus as more than a Man…He was with God and He was God. Like I said earlier, it’s our Trinitarian concept of God…one God in three Persons. God the Father. God the Son. And as we will see soon enough, God the Holy Spirit. Not easy to grasp but foundational to our faith.

Not only does John present Jesus as more than a Man…He is also a Man. The Word became flesh. He didn’t give up His God-ness to become a Man, but somehow clothed His divinity in humanity. Again, not something that is easy to understand but also foundational to our faith.

John wants us to know Jesus…fully God because only God can forgive sins. Fully Man because only a Man could die for sin. The perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…if you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day!

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

Final Words

Romans 16.17-27

“…to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.” Only God could do it. Only God.

And so we come to the end of the book of Romans, Paul’s great treatise on the gospel. Packed full of doctrine and practical advice. It really is Paul’s magnum opus.

Paul starts by highlighting our deep and desperate need for a Savior…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (1-3). The problem is universal…both Jews and Gentiles. We are not all as bad as we could be, but we are all as bad off as we can be without Jesus.

Paul moves on to point out the great salvation that God offers through Jesus…a salvation that’s available to both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Jesus (3-5). The same faith that the OT saints had. By faith we are justified…declared not guilty. Because Jesus paid the penalty that our sins required. He satisfied the wrath of God that we deserved. He reconciled us to Him, so that now we have peace with God. Once we were united with Adam in sin and death, but now we are united with Jesus in resurrection and life.

Next Paul tackles the reality of our new life in Jesus (6-8). We are not who we used to be, so we shouldn’t live like we used to live. We are to present ourselves alive in Christ Jesus. And yet, a battle still rages in our mind and body. Though our sin has been forgiven, and we have been given new life, we have to choose to live that new life. The flesh will always war against our spirit in that choice. But the good news is that we have the Spirit of God living in us, empowering us to live the life God calls us to, interceding for us and making us more like Jesus. Reminding us that we are perfectly loved by God.

Then Paul circles back around to the question of the Jews and God’s promises to them (9-11). Our unfaithfulness does not invalidate God’s faithfulness. He will keep His promises. He chooses, and we have a choice. Both are true. We are fully responsible for our own actions, and yet everyone of them falls within the purview of God’s will. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Olive tree theology. As believing Gentiles, we have been grafted into the people of God…we have been made beneficiaries of the promises made to the fathers.

Finally, Paul challenges us to offer ourselves as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God (12-16). That’s only possible when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and only then can we see that His will for us is good and acceptable and perfect. That His way is the best way. And then we will have a desire to pursue one another in love. We not me. Asking the question, what would love do? Celebrating unity in diversity. One…not the same, but one in Jesus.

And when that’s true of us, then our faith…our obedience…will be evident to all.

One of my favorite quotes is from a guy named A.W. Tozer and goes something like this, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come” (A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, p. 71). Does the enemy have anything to fear from us? From you? When we live the kind of life that Paul talks about here, then he will. Then get ready because we will have a target on us. And that’s not a bad thing. It means we are doing something right.

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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

Personal Greetings aka Super Friends

Romans 16.1-16

Earlier Paul had said, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” And clearly Paul modeled that in his own life. Reading a book like Romans we can sometimes forget that Paul wasn’t just an academic sitting in his study cranking out doctrine. Paul was a people person. He loved people. He genuinely loved people. And that was the driving force behind his ministry. He wanted them to know his Savior. And so he did everything he could to introduce them to Jesus.

Thinking back to our time in the book of Acts and following Paul’s missionary journeys, we rarely see him on his own. Maybe Athens, but even then he was waiting for his buddies Silas and Timothy. He knew the value of “we”. He knew his need for other folks, and he trusted them. How many times does he call someone beloved? And in a time when you didn’t have social media or cell phones or texts or email or even good ole fashion land lines to keep in touch…not even a postal system like we have today…how did Paul keep up with all these folks? Because he loved them. He genuinely loved them. Because they made an impact in his life, just as he made an impact in theirs.

Paul never did ministry alone, and he continually invested in the lives of those he was bringing along. So who are your traveling buddies? Who are you following Jesus with? And who are you bringing along? Who are you building into? Who’s building into you? Who are you teaching about the faith? Who are you challenging to bring another along?

Let me challenge you with this this week…if you are not involved in a community group or small group of some kind, get involved. If you are not investing time bringing someone else along in the faith, pray about who that might be and then be intentional about building into his or her life.

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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

Just Like Paul

Romans 15.14-33

“And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named…” Like Paul, we too are called to share Jesus where He is not already known/named. It might not be in some far-flung locale like Illyricum. It might just be one desk over…one cubicle over…one house over.

We all have a story to share…I’m not talking about your biography. I’m talking about your testimony…the story of how Jesus changed your life. And these days it’s a story that folks desperately need to hear. They need to know about the hope that you’ve found in Jesus.

God has uniquely wired you for the ministry He’s given you. There is no one like you. The gifts and talents and experiences and passion and personality all flowing together to make you uniquely you. But He’s given you all of those things for a purpose…and that’s to minister, to serve as a priest in the place, in the context He’s given you to minister in….to offer up those who don’t know Him as an acceptable sacrifice, a pleasing aroma. To bring more folks into the kingdom. That’s the only thing worth boasting about…not what I’ve accomplished, but what Jesus has accomplished through me. And what Jesus has accomplished through you. And what Jesus is accomplishing through us as a church.

Finally, let me come back to prayer. I hope you see that prayer is your primary weapon against the enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Prayer is something that should not just be a daily habit, but a throughout the day habit. And it’s something we should be doing for/with one another.

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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

Just Like Jesus

Romans 15.1-13

“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Why does it seem so hard sometimes? I think we have a hard time with the first part when we forget the example of the second part. Just like Jesus.

It’s kind of like our struggle with forgiving others. When we forget how great a debt we’ve been forgiven, we have a much harder time forgiving others. But when we remember God’s mercy towards us, and we allow that to blow us away…then forgiving others is just not that hard. How could we not?

What does love look like? Sometimes it looks like giving up…my preferences or my freedoms or my rights…and sometimes it looks like putting up…with others convictions or opinions…but it always looks like building up…looking out for the good of the other person. Pointing them to Jesus. Living for the kingdom and not for the here-and-now.

Just like Jesus.

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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

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