Passover and Communion

Luke 22.1-23

With Judas’ betrayal looming, Jesus celebrates Passover with the disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

Jesus is the new Passover Lamb. He is the fulfillment of all that the Passover anticipated…the innocent dying for the guilty, forgiveness of sins, the new covenant…a new heart and the Spirit dwelling in all those who believe. If you think the Passover is a Jewish thing….you are right. If you think it’s not a Christian thing…not so much. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, too. He rescues us from sin and death. Because of His sacrifice we have true forgiveness of sins and eternal life. His Spirit dwells in us. We too celebrate Passover…we just call it Communion, and we celebrate it when we gather together.

Every time we take the bread and the cup, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us…His death and resurrection, His shed blood that covers our sins, and the gift of the Spirit. It’s a time for us to look forward to the day when we will eat with our King at the great banquet in the kingdom…a reminder that He is coming back soon. As such, communion is something we celebrate as followers of Jesus. It’s one of the hallmarks of the church.

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

Setting the Captive Free

Luke 8.22-39

Having just calmed a violent storm at sea, Jesus meets a man with an equally violent storm raging within him. In both cases Jesus is able to squash the chaos with a word. It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Luke is showcasing Jesus’ power and authority over both the natural and supernatural worlds. And he does that, but I think Luke is driving us to something even more powerful…Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! Did you get that? Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! And having rescued him, He sends him on mission to share his story – of “what great things God had done for him.”

This is a story for those who, like the disciples, are followers of Jesus, but now are in need of hope in a time of difficulty, disaster or discipline…in the midst of the storm. It is also a story for those who, like the demoniac, find themselves lost and as far from God as they can possibly imagine. But I also believe that Luke includes this story for a third group.

The townsfolk are unbelievers…but is there a rebuke there for us when we see a problem instead of a person? When we value possessions over people?

Where do you fit in the story? Which one are you? Frightened disciple needing Jesus to bring peace into the midst of the storm? Frightful demoniac needing Jesus to rescue you from the kingdom of darkness and to bring you into His kingdom? Maybe you’ve been rescued and need to share your story? Fearful townsperson valuing your stuff over other folks, wishing Jesus would leave because He changes things too much?

Jesus wants to rescue us…

Crossed the sea (calmed the storm, etc.)

Faced off with the hosts of hell

Braved the potential backlash of a frightened mob

For one man

Jesus is still on a rescue mission, pulling folks out of the fires of hell. Setting the captives free.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Like the former demoniac, may we gladly brag on what great things God has done for us 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

Forgiven Much

Luke 7.36-50

Folks of Jesus’ day would have assumed that the religious elite…the pious Pharisees, the lawyers, the priests, etc. loved God most. Yet Jesus here praises not a religiously astute Pharisee but a notorious sinner for her great love. The story reminds us that loving God is not self-righteous acts done to earn His favor, but gratefully accepting the free gift of salvation available through Jesus.

Jesus came to save sinful women, but He also came to save sinful Pharisees…unfortunately the Pharisees were too blind to see their need for saving. We all have a spiritual debt that we cannot pay. It doesn’t matter how long or short our list of sins, or how great or small we perceive them…what matters is that we realize we have a debt we cannot pay. No amount of “doing good things” will satisfy it, but only God’s gracious offer to forgive our debt…our sin. The good news is…Jesus has already paid our debt in full. We simply have to receive His gracious gift by faith.

So what keeps us from coming to Jesus? Sometimes it’s our labels that keep us from Jesus. As “sinner” we might feel like we are too far gone for Jesus to rescue us. But no one is so bad that Jesus can’t forgive them. Just ask folks like Paul (worst of sinners), Augustine of Hippo, John Newton…me.

As “Pharisee” we might assume we don’t need Jesus. We’re good enough. I hate to break it to you…you’re not that good.

Simon wondered if Jesus knew who and what sort of woman this is…He does. She is a woman who loves, who serves, who surrenders, who humbles herself, who worships, whose forgiven…a child of King. Her faith expressed itself in love, gratitude and devotion…how is your faith expressed?

Repentance/faith leads to forgiveness from God, which leads to affection for Jesus. No repentance/faith leads to no forgiveness, which leads to no affection for Jesus. So if you have no affection for Jesus, something’s wrong…maybe you’ve forgotten the huge debt that you’ve been forgiven. Maybe you’ve yet accepted God’s gracious offer.

Are you one who loves much or little? Do you recognize the tremendous debt you’ve been forgiven in Jesus? Is it obvious to others?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show how much we’ve been forgiven by our great love for God and others 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

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

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

He’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Jesus

Genesis 44

The climax of the story…Judah is beginning to look a lot like Jesus. He’s willing to sacrifice himself for the good of another. It’s the greatest theme in literature…Katniss and Prim in The Hunger Games, Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, Carton in A Tale of Two Cities just to name a few. In fact Jesus said it this way, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friend.” It’s a picture of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us, taking our place, dying in our stead, so that we might live.

Judah’s willingness to step in and offer himself, and the brothers insistence on returning with Benjamin are evidences of a spiritual transformation that has already begun to take place in their lives. At what point did they become believers…when did they pass from death to life? It’s hard to tell exactly from the story. For Judah it seems to have started with his encounter with Tamar. With the rest of the clan? The process seems to have started when they first met Joseph and were forced to acknowledge their sin. But whenever that was, we see a different character in the boys. Looking out for others. Willing to sacrifice themselves for another’s good. They’re beginning to look a lot like Jesus, too.

That’s what trusting Jesus is all about. It’s not just getting incrementally better. It’s about a total transformation…a new creation…death to life…kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son. God doesn’t save us just so that we could go to heaven. If that was the goal, guess what? You’d already be there. No, He saves us so that we can image Him, we can bear His image, to His creation. He wants to radically change us by His transforming grace so that we live and love like Jesus. It’s a lifelong process that begins the moment we trust Him and continues until we see Him face to face. If you aren’t experiencing that radical change? Maybe like the brothers you are carrying the guilt of unconfessed sin…as a believer you have already been forgiven, but guilt is a grace that tells us something’s wrong. We need to make it right. If we don’t, then our spiritual growth will be stunted…we will never experience the life that God saved us for. But maybe you have never said “yes” to Jesus. Maybe you’ve said “yes” to what your parents, or what your church, or what your friends believe, but you’ve never believed in Jesus yourself. You haven’t passed from death to life yet. But you can. Today could be the day.

May the transforming grace of God cause you and me to look a lot like Jesus today.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Risky Business

Genesis 38

What about Joseph and his fantastic dreams? Why the hiatus to follow this crazy-twisted tale in Judah’s life? As the story continues to unfold, the destinies of these two sons of Jacob are linked in a unique way. This chapter covers roughly the same twenty-year period that Joseph will be in Egypt before the brothers come to visit. As we will see next week, Judah is a foil for Joseph. Among other things, Judah leaves his father’s home voluntarily, Joseph is forcibly removed; Judah makes bad decisions and follows his own desires, Joseph makes wise decisions and follows God. The dreams of Joseph will have a near-term impact on the family as he rescues them from famine, and they move south to Egypt. But ultimately the dreams of Joseph point us to a greater Rescuer, a greater Deliverer, a greater Redeemer, a much greater Hero…the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, a Guy we know as Jesus, who is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Judah or Tamar. I don’t know which one best describes you. Selfish, hypocritical, short-sighted. Or self-reliant, resourceful, ends justify the means. Either way, the beautiful thing is…God uses evil in our lives for good. He’s not the Author of evil, but He is able to take our bad choices and accomplishes His purposes, many times in spite of us. Another way to say it…God doesn’t waste our mistakes. Thinking about life as a teenager…a point in life when a lot of major life decisions are made, generally the time when we have our first relationship with the opposite sex, the time when we are most tempted to experiment, decisions that can change the trajectory of our lives, decisions that may have catastrophic consequences in our lives. And many times bad choices made at this time can not only impact our life’s course, but they can also cause us to think that we can no longer be used by God. We can be deceived into thinking that life is over. But it’s not. God doesn’t often rescue us from the temporal consequences of our choices, but His grace abounds as we face those consequences. And those consequences become a part of the journey that God has us on as He fashions us into the image of His Son.

We talked about this a couple of weeks ago…God is in the process of shaping and molding us into the folks He wants us to be. He has a destiny for each one of us. And the road to realizing that destiny may be short or long, depending on the choices we make. Judah’s turning point didn’t have to be twenty years in the making. Tamar shouldn’t have had to trick her father-in-law. But God uses their choices and does an incredible thing…the hope remains alive through the mess. From this crazy-twisted story comes the line of Jesus. God can redeem our crazy-twisted stories also and bring beauty from ashes.

Until next time…stay salty.

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