Our Resurrected King

John 20

The resurrection proves not only that everything Jesus said and did was absolutely true, but that He “crushed sin and death for all eternity.” Jesus’ death pays the penalty for sin. However, if we stopped there, we might be forgiven; but what about the life He promises us? The abundant life? It’s not Jesus’ death, but His life…His resurrected life…that gives us the ability to experience life today…real, abundant life.

John says that he wrote “these things that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life in His name.” While Mary and the disciples had believed in Jesus…their experience of a crucified Jesus hadn’t brought life (fear, doubt, distress, confusion). Although Jesus was alive and although He had crushed sin and death, they were not experiencing this life.

And if I’m honest, that’s me too sometimes…I practically live like Jesus is still in the tomb. I know I’m forgiven, but I am often consumed by my circumstances – distraught, confused, fearful, and even doubting that Jesus can/will bring me out of the current situation. My guess is, I’m not alone.

Some of us today are believers…we’ve believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, but we are not experiencing the life of Jesus that is ours through His resurrection. Maybe we are like Mary…distraught and grieving, focused on our circumstances and having a hard time seeing Jesus. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Mary, Jesus patiently waits for us to recognize Him, wanting to turn our mourning into joy.

Maybe we are like the disciples…fearful, betting on Jesus but feeling like we are on the losing side. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like the disciples, Jesus speaks peace over us, wanting to transform us from being fearful to being fearless.

But maybe we are like Thomas…doubting, needing evidence that Jesus can help us in our present predicament. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Thomas, Jesus meets us in that place of unbelief and wants to turn our doubting to believing.

Some of us today would not put ourselves in the believing category at all. We may be somewhere on the road of our spiritual journey, but we are definitely not there. That’s ok. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus changes everything. He wants to meet us right where we are. He knows us…He knows our name, our doubts and fears, our circumstances. He’s not afraid of our questions, but is patient with us.

We all need to be reminded of the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is alive. And because He’s alive, we too can have life in Him.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Easter services. 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

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

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

The Jewishness of Christianity

Romans 11.11-24

Being grafted in to the people of God is a huge privilege for us…for a “no people without understanding”, wild olive branches that had no hope of salvation outside the kindness and mercy of God. By faith we have been grafted in and by faith we stand.

God is not done with His people Israel. They still are His people. We benefit from the promises given to them. We are partakers of the rich root of the olive tree…not as natural branches, but as those who have been grafted in. So there is no room for boasting. We, the Church, have not replaced Israel. We have been grafted in to the people of God. Reminds me of the picture of New Jerusalem in Revelation…the twelve gates have the names of the twelve tribes written on them (OT), while the twelve foundation stones have the names of the apostles (NT) (Revelation 21.12-14)…a picture of the cultivated olive tree to which the nations coming streaming in.

Pray for Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for individual Jews that you know. Pray for the nation that they would accept Jesus as their Messiah. If their failure is riches for Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be…right?

God takes our faith seriously, and so should we. We are saved by faith and not by works. But we are saved to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do. We are to live out our faith. We are to provoke others to jealousy…living our lives in such a way that they want to come to know and follow Jesus. Can that be said of you? If not, what needs to change?

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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

Israel’s Believing Remnant

Romans 11.1-10

God has not rejected His people. There is a believing remnant of Jews now just as there has always been…a remnant chosen by God. Not because they deserve it. But because of God’s mercy. A remnant who have trusted in Jesus.

Two things that I want you to think about. First, you are not alone. Often in the Christian life we find ourselves in situations where we feel all alone. Like we are the only ones who are following Jesus. And it’s tempting in those times to despair…to throw our hands up and want to give up. But don’t. My guess is you’re not alone. If you will lift your head up out of the dark cloud you’ve created, you’ll often find there are other believers around that you were not previously aware of. And in the workplace or at school, it’s good to know others who share your faith and can be a support when times are tough. Maybe it’s the push you need to share your story…tell others about the hope that you have in Jesus.

Second, there is an implicit warning for us not to disregard the truth. If we are constantly hearing the Word preached/taught and yet not responding to it, our hearts become hard. Eventually we are unable to respond to the truth. Now God can work miracles in hard hearts, but don’t let it go that far…don’t neglect to respond to the truth that you hear.

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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

Israel’s Accountablity

Romans 10.14-21

How beautiful the feet of those who bring good news of good things! Israel had every ingredient necessary for salvation but one…faith. God had sent messengers to proclaim the good news. Those messengers had preached the gospel to the people. The people heard…but they did not believe. And because they did not believe, they did not call upon the name of the Lord. They didn’t trust in Jesus.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve talked about God’s sovereignty. A very weighty topic for sure…for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. And whom He predestined, these He also called. And whom He called, these He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified. God chooses…and yet we have a choice. In fact, Paul makes it clear that Israel had every opportunity…so they are without excuse. They chose to reject God’s mercy.

We have a part to play in this divine drama. Like Paul and his traveling buddies and the rest of the Apostles, we have a job to do…a mission to complete. To share our story. To tell folks the good news. The gospel. The reason for the hope that we have. God has put you in a unique position to reach the folks he’s placed in your life. Some will never come to church. They won’t hear unless you tell them.

I remember when I was working for Waste Management in Houston that it struck me…most of the folks I was working with didn’t go to church. They weren’t believers. As far as I know, I was the only Christian influence in their lives. So if they didn’t hear about Jesus from me, where would they hear about Him? And so I became intentional about looking for opportunities to share my story. And over the years, God opened up windows of opportunity to talk to most of them that I worked closely with.

We want to partner with you as you make an impact for the Kingdom. Two helpful tools I want to mention…both can be found on our website at centralchristian.org. The first is: “Your Story”. It’s a great tool for helping you think through and articulate your story…not your biography, your testimony. Once you’ve written out your story, pray about who to share it with and ask God for opportunities.

That leads us to the second resource which is: “Your Impact List”. These are the folks that God has placed in your sphere of influence who need to hear the good news. It could be people from work, school, neighbors, family, friends, etc. A good way to start is to pray and ask God to bring to mind folks you need to reach out to, and then write their names down on Your Impact List. A printable version is available on our website. You can stick it to your fridge, your mirror, put it in your Bible or journal. Wherever you’ll regularly see it and remember to pray for those people and to look for opportunities to share your story with them.

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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

Whoever Will Call Upon the Name of the Lord

Romans 10.1-13

God’s righteousness…His right-standingness…has always been a matter of faith. It has to be. Because we could never achieve a right standing before God on our own. Sin gets in the way every time.

Salvation is and has always been by faith. Faith in God. Trusting His promises. Looking for Messiah…for the Savior. Believing in Him now that He’s come. By faith we enter into a relationship with God. By faith we also continue our relationship with God. The Christian life is one of faith.

But here’s the thing…faith is more than just acknowledging a set of facts. It’s hearing and acting on what you’ve heard. It’s believing and walking in belief. It’s trusting in Him…and then obeying. A heart rightly aligned to God wants to obey. One that isn’t doesn’t. You weren’t saved just to go to heaven. If so, you’d already be there. You were saved to do the good works He’s given you to do. To walk in obedience. To share your story. To live generously.

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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

What About Israel? Part 1

Romans 9.1-18

Probably nothing sadder than wasted potential, and the Israelites had the greatest of potential. All the advantages that being the OT people of God afforded them, and yet many individual Israelites still rejected Jesus as their Savior.

As believers, we have great potential too. God has entrusted us with the gospel…each of us has been given a mina (Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19). How will we invest it? Will we take big risks with it looking for great reward? Or will we bury it hoping nobody discovers our secret? Will we live boldly for Jesus or only for ourselves? Having every advantage doesn’t mean that we will necessarily realize our potential. We have to be intentional. We have to choose to say “yes” to Jesus, and “no” to sin. We have to live out who we are our in Jesus on purpose.

Don’t waste your potential. Invest your life in the kingdom. Share your story with those around you who don’t know Jesus. Be generous with your resources.

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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