Message to the Churches: Philadelphia

Revelation 3.7-13

The church in Philadelphia doesn’t receive a rebuke from Jesus. Though they were small in the world’s eyes, they had a big faith. They didn’t give up in the midst of persecution. They held on to Jesus’ word and didn’t deny the faith.

And you know, that’s the best thing that can be said about a church. Bigger is not always better. But being faithful is. Persevering in the midst of persecution and tribulation is. Living out God’s Word…being a doer and not a hearer only. Doing what’s right because it’s right, and not just because it’s easy or what everyone else is doing.

It’s been a long sixteen months, but you guys have remained faithful. You didn’t give up, even when things were hard. You just kept persevering. Well done.

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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

Message to the Churches: Sardis

Revelation 3.1-6

The church in Sardis is in trouble. Barely holding on to life. Spiritual lethargy has set in. If something doesn’t change soon, the church will die. But there is a faithful remnant within the church…a believing remnant, so not all hope is lost. The church still has a chance, but it must repent.

There’s no hint of persecution at the church in Sardis. There doesn’t seem to be the same pressure to conform that we’ve seen at some of the other churches. It sounds strange to say…a lack of persecution, a lack of suffering for their faith, a lack of tribulation may be their biggest problem. It’s resistance that builds strength. Without opposition we can become weak…flabby. That (meaning spiritual lethargy) and compromise are the two things plaguing the American church most.

The solution? Wake up! Before it’s too late. Before our lamp goes out. We need to strengthen what remains. Remember what we have received and heard, keep it and repent. We need to become effectual doers of the Word and not just forgetful hearers. We need to confess Jesus before a world so desperately in need of Him. And we need not to give in…because 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

Message to the Churches: Thyatira

Revelation 2.18-29

The church at Thyatira is great at love…and seems to get better all the time. Their problem is the opposite of the church at Ephesus. Remember the church at Ephesus was good at Truth. They put the false apostles to the test. Not so the church at Thyatira. They follow the teaching of the self-proclaimed prophetess, Jezebel. They may be good at Love, but they stink at Truth. And Love without Truth is as bad as Truth without Love. 

Like the church at Pergamum, the church at Thyatira’s big temptation is to give in. It’s to compromise. And the pressure here seems to be somewhat economically motivated. To “succeed” in society, you had to be part of the guild, and to be a part of the guild, you had to be a part of the…guild. You had to offer the sacrifices and participate in all the extracurricular activities. You had to fit in if you are going to fit in and even get ahead.

That’s probably one of the biggest temptations for us these days. Need to fit in. We do what’s necessary because “it’s just business”. No matter how questionable or immoral it may be. It’s no big deal, right? Everybody’s doing it…

But actions have consequences. And Jesus takes sin seriously. So when we minimize or trivialize it…watch out! Or like the folks in Thyatira, we may find out how quickly we’ll be called to account.

Instead let’s hold fast…let’s not give in. Let’s remember that 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

Message to the Churches: Pergamum

Revelation 2.12-17

The circumstances in Pergamum are a bit different than those in Smyrna. Smyrna was facing persecution. The temptation for the church was to give up. Pergamum is facing compromise. The temptation for the church is to give in. And some already had.

I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can relate to the church in Pergamum a lot better than we can the church in Smyrna. Maybe some of us have suffered for our faith. Maybe. But we’ve all been tempted to compromise. We’ve all felt the peer pressure to give in. And unfortunately some of us have.

What does giving in look like these days? Well, maybe we don’t have a physical idol that we are sacrificing to, but anything that we love more than God, anything we are more devoted to, anything that has first place in our lives before Him…that’s an idol (money, family, status, etc). And immorality? What are you watching on Netflix these days? What are you filling your mind with?

Giving in looks a lot like doing what everyone else is doing. Championing the same causes. Jumping on the same bandwagons. Following the same trends. Doing everything we can to fit in.

The dangerous thing about Pergamum is that they seemed to do pretty good against the external pressures. They held fast to the name of Jesus and did not deny the faith. But internally they got into trouble. When Balaam couldn’t curse Israel from the outside, he devised a plan to have them curse themselves from the inside. Sometimes the greatest danger isn’t ”out there” but “in here”. Who are you listening to and how are you letting them influence you? You see, peer pressure only really works with your…peers. Who are your peers? Are they pointing you to Jesus or away from Him? And what about you? Are you pointing others to Him or away from Him? Have you become a stumbling block? If so repent…or else.

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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

Message to the Churches: Smyrna

Revelation 2.8-11

The church in Smyrna is one of the two churches that don’t receive a rebuke from Jesus. My guess is that it has to do with their suffering. You see, the church in Smyrna is under fire. Persecution is both a present and a near term reality for them. So perseverance is crucial. They can’t give up in the midst of suffering. Key to persevering is hope…it’s remembering that Jesus wins. And because Jesus wins, so do we.

Suffering for our faith is never easy. It definitely doesn’t feel like winning. It feels like losing, big time. And yet we are never more like Jesus than when we suffer for our faith. Peter says this, “…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. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4.13-14).

We all want God to save us from suffering…but what if He wants to save us through suffering. Reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. God didn’t save them from the fiery furnace. He walked with them in it. And He still walks with His children through the fire.

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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

Message to the Churches: Ephesus

Revelation 2.1-7

The church in Ephesus is good at Truth. They have a zeal for what is Right. And in the beginning that zeal was driven by their love for God and showed itself in a love for each other. But over time, their love has grown cold. They’re still clinging to the Truth, but truth without love can be very cruel. Definitely not what God desires.

That’s bad for a church, but it’s also bad for us individually. Maybe you know someone who always has the right answers…can quote the Bible chapter and verse…but somehow it doesn’t seem to impact their behavior. Grace has gotten lost somewhere in the mix. Harsh words and bitterness begin to set in. It can make for a very lonely life, especially when others avoid you. So what should you do? Remember, repent and do. Love is an action word. Start doing loving things. Don’t lessen up on the truth…just add a lot more love.

Some folks have the opposite problem. Super nice to people. High on the love scale, but not so concerned about Truth. That’s not a good combination either. If that’s you, then you don’t need to lessen up on the love…just add a lot more truth. That only comes with time spent in the Word.

The good news is that each day is another opportunity. To let our lights shine. For both truth and love.

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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 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