Daily Devotion

Hebrews 5.11-14

Paul says it this way in Romans 12.2, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” By spending quality time in God’s Word every day, the Spirit takes the truth that we have read and begins to transform us, so that whatever the situation, we can discern what it is that God would have us do.

There is no such thing as pause or neutral in life. We are either growing or not, progressing or regressing. We can train our bodies…we can go to the gym, we can eat right, etc., and we will see progress. We will get stronger, faster, more agile. But if you skip going to the gym for a time, or running or riding your bike, or whatever your exercise of choice, you will quickly find out how much you’ve lost. The same is true intellectually. If we stop learning, our brains begin to shrink. Emotionally, if we withdraw from people, we lose the ability to relate. I think we’ve all experienced those things over the last several months in lockdown. If we don’t use it, we lose it. The same is true spiritually…if we are not growing spiritually then we are shrinking. We are moving backward. We are losing whatever ground we may at one time have gained.

So, if you suspect that might be you…that you might be a spiritual “infant”…how do you begin your path to maturity? Start training today with a simple Bible reading plan. For those of you who have trained physically for anything…sport, music, hobby, school…you know that you have to build up to your goal. Big gains are possible, but it’s gradual…slow and steady. Think tortoise and not hare. Training, not trying. If you are trying, then you may be tempted to give up when you fail. But the beauty of training is that failure is built into the process. So take the long view. Try, fail, try again, fail better, and repeat…

Where to start reading? What do you like to read? Do you like poetry? Start with Psalms. Do you like wisdom literature, pithy sayings? Then, Proverbs. Action? Genesis or 1 Samuel or Mark. But read the Bible and not just about the Bible. What I mean by that is…many folks read devotional books and count that as their Bible time. Devotional books are great, but don’t let them replace your Bible. Pick a book and start. Work your way up to the heavier books like Isaiah or Ezekiel or Romans or Revelation. Pray before you start that God will help you put into practice what you’re learning. And if you miss a day? Don’t beat yourself up, just start again.

Two last words, both are applicable to every one of the five marks of a disciple…first, while personal time in the Word is super important, pro tip…time in the Word with other believers leads to even greater gains. The Bible was written to a community of believers and that’s how it’s best understood and applied. If you are not a part of a community group but would like to be, we have a number of groups starting this fall. You can connect right now through the online chat on our website. Just go to centralchristian.org and click on the chat box near the bottom of the page and you’ll be connected to a host right away.

Second, for you husbands and fathers, this is a great opportunity for you to begin to lead your families. Share with your wife and your kids what God is teaching you through His Word, and encourage them to do the same. Maybe read a Proverb a day together…

Let’s press on to maturity then, spending quality time daily in God’s Word, training our senses to discern good and evil so that we might live and love like Jesus.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our UN/Stuck: A Season for Discipleship series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Living by the Spirit

Romans 8.1-17

In the war against sin, we have been given an Ally who is truly OP (over-powered), as my son would say. The Spirit who is life and peace, puts to death the deeds of our body when we rely on Him. The Spirit also testifies to our spirit that we belong to God. That we have been adopted into His family. That we are sons and daughters of the King.

If you have trusted in Jesus, choose to live your identity in Him. So much is true about you…Forgiven. Justified. Righteous. Alive (eternal life). Reconciled. At peace with God. Free from the rule of sin. New heart. Spirit living within. Adopted into God’s family. Co-heir with Jesus. What would it look like to live your life based on those truths? How would it change your outlook on things? Your day-to-day interactions (social media)? What if every morning you reminded yourself of who you are…before your first cup of coffee, or checking your social media accounts, or catching up on the latest news…before you interact with your spouse or your kids (or your parents) or with folks at work or school? What if you reminded yourself of you are before you post or comment or forward…how might that change things for you and those around you? How might your life and your relationships look different? How might it impact the choices you make?

But you have to make the conscious choice. You have to choose to live out the reality of being “in Jesus”. You have to train yourself…discipline yourself…to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to sin. The good news is…you are not alone. You have the best Partner ever…the Spirit. Why not try it today?

pro rege

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

The Battle Within

Romans 7.14-25

A battle rages within every believer…a battle between the law of God and the law of sin, a battle between the mind/heart and the body, a battle between who I am and who I used to be. And though we wish it were otherwise, while we live in the already/not yet…in the in-between time of who we are ontologically and who we are experientially, the battle continues.

Some might be tempted to simply give up or give in. I mean, what’s the point? If I’m already saved, and it’s going to be this ongoing struggle to follow Jesus, maybe I should give in to sin. Just live life the way I used to live it. It’ll be easier that way. Paul has already addressed that…you are a slave of the one you obey.

Grace doesn’t mean that we’ve been saved from obedience. No, we’ve been saved for obedience. We don’t do good works to be made right with God…we do good works because we are right with Him. Grace simply gives us the ability to do what we couldn’t do on our own…obey God.

It strikes me in Romans 6 that the believer who is a slave of sin has chosen that route. They volunteered to be enslaved. As ridiculous as it may sound they have picked sin as their master even though they know that all he can and will offer them is death. In Romans 7 the believer who is a prisoner is being held against his/her will. They are actively involved in the battle against sin in their own lives. They are pursuing Jesus, and though they may fail, they continue to get up and fight on.

And while the distinction between slave and prisoner may not seem to be a big one, I believe it has huge implications for our spiritual walk. When I present myself to sin and allow it to become my master, then like the seed among the weeds in Jesus’ parable of the soils, the Word becomes choked by worries and riches and pleasures of this life and brings no fruit to maturity. But when I continue the fight against sin…sometimes winning and sometimes losing, but always fighting on, then like the seed in the good soil, the Word falls on a generous and good heart that holds it fast and bears fruit with perseverance.

The good news that Paul will talk about more in Romans 8…we are not alone in the struggle. We have been given the Spirit who helps us in our weakness when we rely on Him. And not only that, but when we have fellow believers who we are pursuing Jesus together with, they can be a source of encouragement and strength for us in the fight. We weren’t made to walk this path alone.

pro rege,

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

Joined to Jesus

Romans 7.1-13

We who are “in Jesus” have been set free from the Law in two ways…first from any attempt on our own to be justified before God (those trying to do good), and second from a rebellious heart set off by any “thou shalt not” (those not specifically trying to do good). We have been set free from the Law because we have been joined to Jesus. We are justified before God, and we’ve been given the Spirit and a new heart with the Law written on it.

Once again Paul presents two paths…one in which we bear fruit for God and the other in which we bear fruit for death. Which one best describes you?

If you have trusted in Jesus you have been set free from your old way of life. So why continue in it? Why not choose differently?

pro rege

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

Who Will You Serve?

Romans 6.15-23

We all serve someone. We all have a master. Either sin or obedience. We are either running away from God, or running toward God. There is no neutral. No third option. “In Adam” the choice is made for us, and it’s the one we would choose anyway…the one we have chosen. And that’s sin. But “in Jesus” we have a decision to make…a master to choose. Will we choose obedience in following Jesus, or will we choose to enslave ourselves once again to our old master, sin?

Jesus used a similar analogy in Matthew 6.24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Joshua said it this way, “If it disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24.15)

Who will you serve? Maybe you didn’t know you had a choice. You simply defaulted to what you have always chosen in the past. Unwittingly you’ve enslaved yourself again to sin. You find yourself living the same life you did before you trusted in Jesus, but now you just feel guilty about it. That’s assuming of course that you’ve trusted in Jesus. The good news is you don’t have to keep making that same choice. If you are “in Jesus”…if you’ve trusted in Him, then you don’t have to live like you’re “in Adam” any longer.

If that’s you, you might say… “that sounds good, but how?” Last time we said there were some things to know, to reckon, and then to act on. It’s starts with knowing…that’s what we’ve tackled today. The knowing part. The Truth. The truth is…you are not who you used to be so you should not live like you used to live. You are “in Jesus” which means that you have a new King and that you live for a new kingdom. Therefore you no longer have to pursue the same lifestyle or make the same bad choices. You can choose to follow Jesus in the moment.

Knowing that truth, you then have to reckon it as true for you. Sometimes this is where the heavy lifting comes in. You may have to unwind some faulty thinking. You might have to unlearn some bad habits, or better yet learn some good ones. You may have to let go of some lies that you’ve held onto about yourself for way too long.

Reckoning on that truth, then you just have to act on it. This takes practice. Like anything in life we want to excel at, it takes training. Try and fail, and try again and fail better, and repeat until…success. I catch myself saying foolish things often enough to my wife. But I’ve learned over the years to at least recognize it and ask forgiveness. The time between those two has gotten shorter, and my goal is to someday be able to catch myself before saying the foolish thing. What encourages me is that it doesn’t just depend on my efforts, but I’ve been given the Spirit to empower me to make the right choices.

Choose to follow Jesus. Say no to sin and yes to what God is calling you. Obedience starts with knowing what God has said. That’s in His Word. Are you spending time in His Word on a daily basis? Are you spending time with Him in prayer? Are you spending time with other believers? Sharing your story? Living generously?

pro rege

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

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Romans 6.1-14

Thinking that God’s grace somehow gives me a license to sin is a gross misunderstanding of God’s grace. You are not who you used to be…so why would you live like you used to live?

Just as “in Adam” we somehow and in someway participated in his sin, so we who are “in Jesus” have also somehow and in someway participated in His death and resurrection. His righteousness is our righteousness. His life is now our life. So how is that impacting the way that we live? How is it impacting the way that you live?

The question, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” is a question that the church seems to have answered in the affirmative today…a resounding yes…especially the American church. We’ve interpreted grace as license…better to ask forgiveness than permission. We only really seem to care about sin when we get caught. Otherwise we have adopted the same, “Eat, drink, for tomorrow we die” attitude that plagues the rest of our culture. In fact, we really don’t look any different than the world around us. We reminisce about “the good ole days” and long to go back to Egypt.

What happened to being sojourners in a strange land? Seems we’ve traded in our tent for a home in the suburbs. We’ve become citizens of this world. We certainly don’t live like we’re “in Jesus”. At least that’s true of a good chunk of folks who would identify themselves as Christians. Maybe we are at church on Sunday, but where are we Monday through Saturday? Would folks who know you well be surprised you’re a Christian? Would it catch your co-workers or classmates or neighbors off guard? What about those who follow you on social media (posts, comments, pictures, likes, etc.)?

If you have trusted in Jesus, you are not who you used to be. You have changed allegiances. You have a new King. You are free from your old life of sin. Do you know that? It’s starts with knowing the truth. And once you know the truth, then you need to reckon it as true for you. Then you are ready to act on the truth. Know…reckon…act.

If you have trusted in Jesus, your life should be heading in a new direction. Doesn’t mean that you won’t sin, but it does mean that you have a choice not to. And learning to choose not to takes practice. Little everyday choices…what to read, what to listen to, what to watch…or not. There should be a growing desire to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer, to spend time with other believers and to share your story, to live generously. If that’s not true of you, either you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus or there’s something that is in the way.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus and would like to, it’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, that Jesus is that Savior who died a sacrificial death on your behalf and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, satisfying God’s wrath against sin…your sin…and giving you His righteousness so that you can have peace with God, being reconciled to Him, and so that you can experience His love poured out in your heart through the Spirit, giving you a sure hope that will not disappoint.

Last thing…let me challenge you dads to lead the way. Let your family see you making the choice to follow Jesus…saying no to sin and yes to Him.

pro rege

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

First Adam vs. Second Adam

Romans 5.12-21

The gift vs. the transgression. What Jesus gained vs. what Adam lost. There really is no comparison. The gift really is not like the transgression. At all. The gift is so much greater!

The idea that Adam’s sin, somehow wrecked everything for the rest of us…Pascal said that it offends the rational mind. And yet it’s true. We know it in our own lives. We can see it in the world around us. Sin and death abound. Hatred. Racism. Hostility. Violence. Murder…evidence that it is indeed true. And we might think…“Yeah, I would have made a different choice than Adam did. I would not have eaten the forbidden fruit. And now I have no choice but to sin because of him? That just doesn’t seem fair.” The actions of one man impacting us all…

The truth is, we don’t know for sure what we would have done if we were in Adam’s place. Pretty sure the exact same thing. But that’s really not the point. We are not in Adam’s place. We are in our place. And the good news is…the really, really good news is…that the actions of one Man can impact us all today. Paul has already spilled a lot of ink talking about the amazing things that Jesus accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. Whatever Adam lost in the fall, Jesus more than makes up for for those of us who trust in Him.

So the question is…are you still “in Adam” or are you “in Jesus”? Those still “in Adam” are ruled by sin, are under God’s wrath and have a destiny of death. Those “in Jesus”…grace, righteousness and life. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, why not make today the day?

pro rege

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

The Hope of Glory

Romans 5.1-11

By believing in Jesus, we are justified…declared righteous…before God. Our debt has been paid in full. God’s wrath completely satisfied, so that we now have peace with God having been reconciled to Him. Our hope is secure. Our boasting then, is not in ourselves, but in God. We even boast in the things that bring us closer to Him like our tribulations.

Peter says this in 1 Peter 4, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4.12-13).

Suffering for the faith, part of the category Paul calls tribulations, is a predictable outcome when you choose to follow Jesus. I love that Peter says, “Don’t be surprised.” Why might he say that? Because I think that often we are surprised when tribulation comes. That somehow it catches us off guard. We forget that we are swimming against the current…living in hostile territory…behind enemy lines. That this world is not our home. And we find ourselves reacting…and often negatively…to our circumstances. Instead of seeing tribulation as a tool that God is using to strengthen and purify my faith…to make me more like Jesus and bring me closer to Him, I mostly see it, at best, as an annoyance and, at worst, some kind of proof that God is against me.

But what if we looked at our tribulations as reasons for exulting…for boasting? What if we saw them as opportunities to grow closer to God? To learn perseverance and deepen our character? What if we saw this time of quarantine as a reason to rejoice? What if we began to look at what God is doing in the midst of it? How He’s purifying and strengthening our faith? How He’s deepening our character? How He’s making us more like Jesus?

Tribulations can fortify the hope that we have if we will let them. If in the midst of them we run to God instead of away from Him. It’s then that we experience more and more His love overflowing in our hearts. If we will run to Him. If we will trust that He desires our good. Look at all He did to be reconciled to us when we were His enemies. How much more will He do now that we are His heirs…His sons and daughters?

pro rege

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

Father Abraham

Romans 4.13-25

In hope against hope Abraham believed…being fully assured that what God had promised He was able also to perform. Abraham is a great example of OT faith. His story isn’t told just to fill in the historical record…it’s told to encourage us in our own faith journey.

Abraham contemplated his own body… Abraham’s faith is an informed faith. He considered his circumstances, and he weighed them against the promise of God. His conclusion? God is bigger than my circumstances. He’s the Giver of life to the dead and the Caller into being that which does not exist. Nothing is impossible for Him. If God promised, He is able also to do. Abraham had a big God.

How big is your God? We are living in unprecedented times. Worldwide pandemic. Stay-at-home orders. Fear and frustration abound. It’s easy (or easier) to say we trust God when things are going well. But what happens when the bottom drops out? What happens when things aren’t working out the way we had planned? What happens when unexpected suffering comes? What happens when we get locked down? Do you still trust God then, or do you take matters into your own hands? Do you still believe He loves you and that He cares about what’s going on in your life, no detail too small or problem too big for Him? Do you believe He is still with you and that He is working things out for your good and His glory? Do you believe He’s bigger than your circumstances? Do you believe in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist? I pray that you do.

pro rege,

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

OT Faith

Romans 4.1-12

Paul uses Abraham as an illustration of his point that being justified…being declared righteous…being saved…has always been by faith. God does what we could never do…takes away our sin and gives us His righteousness.

This is no “cooking of the books”. God’s declaration of our righteousness isn’t some kind of shell game where He pretends not to see our sin. No wink, wink. He doesn’t redefine our sin so that it’s something else. No, the debt had to be paid in full. No way around it. And so in Jesus, God fully paid the debt that we owed…death. But even more than that He replaced it with His righteousness. That’s what’s credited to our account when we believe in Jesus.

So what should our response be? Praise and thanksgiving. A life of obedience that says “Thank You.” Our obedience doesn’t save us…our faith does. But obedience is the proper response of one who has been saved. Abraham’s faith journey is a great example for us. There were times when his faith was strong and times when it faltered. There were times when he trusted God and times when he relied more on himself. But the more time he spent with the LORD, the stronger his faith grew and the more he trusted God with his circumstances. And at the end of his life, it could be said of him, “Abraham obeyed Me…” May that be true of us as well.

pro rege

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