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?

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

Law Breaker

Romans 2.17-29

The Jews, no doubt, had a privileged position. Theirs were the fathers. Theirs the promises. They were entrusted with the OT Scriptures. From them would come the Savior of all mankind…the Hero of Genesis 3.15. A position that should have caused them to be grateful and graciously humble, sharing the knowledge of the riches of God’s grace with the world. Instead, for many it became a cause of pride and self-righteousness.

Paul isn’t picking on his people anymore than he was picking on the rest of mankind in chapter one. Yet he is picking on his people just like he did the rest of mankind in chapter one. His point is that we are all guilty. Both Jews and Greeks. None of us lives up to the standard that we have…natural revelation or special revelation, in creation or the Scriptures, we all fail miserably at following God on our own. We face plant every time. There is none righteous, no not one. We are not all as bad as we could be, but we are all as bad off as we can be…without Jesus.

So…since we couldn’t follow God on our own and since our failure left us under His wrath, God provided a way to both escape His wrath and follow Him through Jesus. Because Jesus did fulfill the Law perfectly and He followed God flawlessly, yet He willingly died sacrificially to pay the penalty for our sin and satisfy God’s wrath. And now we have His righteousness credited to our account. The benefits of the New Covenant…forgiveness of sins, a new heart and God’s Spirit living within us…we are His people and He is our God.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. Don’t wait.

If you have trusted in Jesus, are you living like it? Is your life helping folks come to Jesus or hindering them? Would they be surprised to find out you’re a Christian, or would it just make sense based on the way you conduct yourself and the way you treat others? We are not called to be perfect, but we are called to live a different kind of life…a worthy-of-the-calling kind of life.

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 Impartiality of God

Romans 2.1-16

There is no partiality with God. Sin is sin, and the wages of sin is the same for the worst of sinners and the most pious of self-righteous…death. Wrath and indignation. Eternal damnation. Forever separated from God and all that’s good.

But God has made a way. Because of His amazing grace and His abounding love, God has made a way for us to escape His wrath. Through Jesus. You see, Jesus willingly accepted the consequences for our sin. He, the spotless Lamb of God, shed His blood to pay the penalty for sin, once for all. He satisfied God’s wrath on the cross, and then He rose on the third day showing that He had not only conquered sin, but also death. And now to everyone who believes in Him He not only gives forgiveness of sin, but also eternal life. To everyone who believes in Him.

Those who trust in Jesus are given eternal life (both present and future)…and experience glory and honor and peace now despite their circumstances. Those who reject Him are still under God’s wrath and will face eternal indignation aka eternal death. And they will experience tribulation and distress now no matter their circumstances.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, please 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

Paul before the Council

Acts 23.1-11

In an attempt to clarify the reason Paul is wreaking such havoc among the Jews, the commander has him appear before the Council. There Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the real reason for the violent uproar.

Jesus came to bring peace. He came to rescue us from sin and death. He came to give us new life. Good news, right? And yet because of our sin…because of our selfishness or self-righteousness…because we want to be in charge…we want to decide good and evil, right and wrong…we want to define truth…because of all those things we don’t want Jesus to save us. Why do we need to be rescued? What’s wrong with the life we have? The divide over Jesus wasn’t just a first century phenomenon. It’s very real in our culture today just as it’s been between those who follow God and those reject Him, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent since the garden.

So where do you fall on that divide? Are you for Him or against Him? Is Jesus your King? If not, He will be your Judge. There is no middle ground…no neutral zone…no sidelines to watch from. You are in the game whether you want to be or not…whose side are you playing for? If you don’t yet know Jesus, why not make today the day that you make Him your King…that you give up the throne that He rightly deserves in your life.

If you do know Jesus, are you following Him? Would it be obvious to those who know you best? God doesn’t call us to be perfect, but He does call us to be obedient…to be faithful.

pro rege

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

Confrontation in Jerusalem

Acts 21.17-40

Paul’s return to Jerusalem starts with celebration but ends in chains. Although his teaching is called into question, he demonstrates by his actions the unity that he desires for the Church…for both Jewish and Gentile believers. Meanwhile unbelieving Jews from Ephesus falsely accuse him of defiling the temple.

It’s difficult not to react and even overreact when we are misunderstood. We often want to justify or redirect or defend or deny. And in the process we tend to complicate things and make them much worse. We repay evil for evil, insult for insult. We want to be understood without taking time to understand the other person. That’s why I love that Paul didn’t launch into a diatribe seeking to defend himself. He simply cleared up the misunderstanding by his actions. We can definitely learn something from Paul in this…he was no pushover. We’ve seen that over and over. He just genuinely loved his people.

And I think that love is evident in Paul’s willingness to participate in the Nazirite vow. Paul never stopped being Jewish, but he wasn’t a slave to it. I love what he says in 1 Corinthians 9.19-22, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” For Paul, the gospel was worth it. It was worth giving up his rights. It was worth being misunderstood. It was worth suffering for.

Sometimes our misunderstandings are with those who like us…friends or family including our church family, etc. And sometimes our misunderstandings are with those who don’t like us…maybe at all. The goal isn’t to prove that we are right and they are wrong, but peace and harmony, truth in love…unity and ultimately pointing them to Jesus.

Paul didn’t defend himself…neither did Jesus. Peter says it this way, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2.21-24).

Let me challenge you this week to look for the mutual win. To understand before being understood. To expect the best in others and maybe, just maybe, inspire the best in them. Even if you are misunderstood.

pro rege

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

It’s Not Too Late

Acts 3.11-26

In this Peter’s second sermon, he once again implicates the Jews for killing their Messiah. But if they will repent and return, forgiveness is available. Only then will they realize the promises that God made to their fathers. If not, they stand condemned.

Jesus is the answer the Jews had been waiting for, but they missed it. Even though they were wrong about Him, they were convinced they were right. Unfortunately I think we often believe the lie that the answer we’re looking for…whatever it is we think will give our life meaning…can be found in the pursuit of self and the things of this world…relationships, careers/jobs, etc. Even though we may think we’re right, we’re dead wrong. That’s not life, but death. So if you are looking for the right answer in the wrong place, it’s not too late. Jesus is the answer for you too.

Jesus came to bless us…I think it’s such a beautiful picture. Though we were His enemies and our only thought was to put to death the Author of life, yet He willingly gave His life so that we could experience life. Real life. Life with Him in His kingdom. He came to bless us by turning us from our wicked ways. By believing in Him you can be saved.

So how is repentance taking root in your life? We have been called to repent time and time again throughout this series…there’s that first act of repentance when we trusted in Him initially, but then there’s the ongoing repentance…the turning back again. Are we actually doing it? Are we learning to live and love like Jesus?

I love the boldness of Peter to stand up and proclaim Jesus, even when it wasn’t easy. I wonder if we are willing to do the same. Why not start with your impact list? Who is the one you are praying for…that you are inviting to come with you for Easter? Maybe you can share your story with them this week…

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Good News of Great Joy

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;” Luke 2:10 NASB

Having finished 1&2 Peter last week, we now turn our attention to Luke/Acts and the writings of Paul.

Luke was a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys as well as being referred to as the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14). We know Luke to be a scholar and historian and the only Gentile (non-Jew) Gospel writer.

As we work our way through this section of the reading plan, from now until the end of the summer, we will see how the ministry to the Gentiles developed in the early church.

Luke wrote his Gospel so that his readers would understand that the gospel is for all, both Jews and Gentiles alike.

Luke helps us to see Jesus as the Son of Man, His mission to seek and save the lost, and His rejection by Israel. The priority of Jesus’s mission was to share the heart of the Father and the message of the kingdom.

Because of this rejection, Jesus also preached to Gentiles so that they could know the plan of salvation – Jesus is the promised one of God as prophesied in the OT and as attested through God’s saving activity in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

A running theme in Luke’s gospel is Jesus’ compassion for Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, sinners, and others often regarded as outcasts in Israel.

Luke retells the stories, parables and other teachings of Jesus in a way that consistently emphasizes that the gospel is a matter of the heart, the inner person, not mere external religion.

The religious leaders of the day had missed this point – Jesus would constantly challenge them to look inside themselves to see their need for a savior. The leaders had sought the favor of men over the favor of God.

Luke serves as a reminder that Jesus constantly reveals the heart motivations behind our actions and pushes us toward opening our hearts in humility toward God.

As a result, the gospel in Luke is often presented as a call to reevaluate everything in the world according to God’s perspective, not ours.

This means valuing humility over prestige, mercy over justice, favor with God over favor with people, and — especially challenging to us — valuing a rich relationship with God over the power of money.

Luke teaches us that the gospel includes the message of peace, the offer of forgiveness of sins through repentance, the promise of inheriting eternal life, the invitation to enter the kingdom of God, and the joy of being with Jesus as a disciple.

Read Luke with an eye on your own heart.  Let the Holy Spirit speak to you as Luke tells the story of Jesus.

Until next time… keep reading!


Excerpts for this blog were taken from: ESV Study Bible and The Gospel Transformation Bible