Transforming Marriages Part 2

Ephesians 5.22-33

The Bible begins and ends with a wedding…Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. God takes marriage seriously. So should we.

Our culture would have us believe that the goal of marriage is happily ever after. If your spouse isn’t doing that for you, then by all means, find someone who will. If the frog doesn’t turn into a prince, try another frog. If the princess stops looking like a princess, then find someone else who does. It’s about my needs and what I want. Self is king. No marriage can survive that…Christian or otherwise.

Marriages are in crisis. That’s not just out there, but right here within the body as well. There seems to be an epidemic of folks who should know better, who are making decisions that are destroying their families. Guys, you can not be complacent in your marriage…you can’t be passive. And you also can’t treat your wife like she’s your slave. God will hold you accountable for your marriage. It’s your responsibility to lead. Find out what’s causing tension in your relationship and do what you need to to fix it. Stop acting like a victim, and be a man. Be careful little eyes what you see…as guys we are captivated or captured by what our eyes see. Get a handle on it. It starts with your relationship with Jesus. Be an example to your wife of one who is pursuing a vibrant faith.

Gals, cultivate your marriage. Pay attention to your husband. Look at your own heart and not just at what’s wrong with him. Don’t try to change him…trust God to make the changes He needs to. Be prayerful, and lean into the Lord when your husband disappoints you. Treat him the way you hope your future daughter-in-law will someday treat your own son. Be careful little mouth what you say…no matter how big and strong you may think your husband is, your words hurt him. When you belittle him and criticize him, you destroy him. Use your words to build him up and encourage him, to strengthen him and respect him. Choose obedience and living in God’s will over anything else, even if that means your marriage isn’t necessarily “happily ever after”.

Divorce may seem like the only option, but the relief it gives is only temporary. In the long run it takes its toll because ultimately God designed marriage to be a covenant that lasts forever. Obedience to God despite the circumstances, part of what Peter calls, “suffering for the sake of righteousness” (1 Peter 3.14) actually leads to blessing. Why? Because doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because I feel like it or the other person deserves it…is a picture of what Jesus did for us. When I say “yes” to who God calls me to be as a husband, then I have to trust Him even if my wife is saying “no”.

But what if my spouse has been unfaithful? Infidelity in a marriage is a big deal. It violates the covenant that the husband and wife make before God… “forsaking all others, to cling only to them…” It corrupts the “oneness” that a husband and his wife are called to. And while there may be allowance for divorce in the case of unfaithfulness, the greater and higher call is to forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe that God wants to restore broken marriages…but both must be willing to walk that long and difficult road together. That begins with repentance and a real brokenness over our sinfulness and selfishness. It might mean getting help…seeing a counselor or going to a program like Celebrate Recovery.

If you have already experienced the devastating effects of divorce, don’t lose heart. God’s faithfulness never changes. Pursue your relationship with Him and make Him your first priority. He can and will use you to impact the kingdom in significant ways just has He has countless others who have experienced the painful realities of life this side of the garden.

The only hope we have for a successful marriage is Jesus…only He can transform us through the Spirit to live and love like Him. Only He can give us an eternal perspective on life and a compelling reason to invest everything in the kingdom. It’s only when I’m pursuing Him in earnest, that I will even have the desire to love my wife well. It’s only when she is pursuing Him the same way that she will have the desire to submit to me. If each of us is committed to being a godly spouse, we will have a godly marriage. Doesn’t mean we won’t have challenges…that’s part of life outside the garden, but it means that we are committed to seeing it through until death do us part.

Husbands, is your wife more like Jesus because of you? Wives, is your husband, more like Jesus because of you?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Transforming Marriages Part 1

Ephesians 5.15-21

Following Jesus is not just a one-time decision…not just the choice I make to trust in Him for eternal life. Following Jesus is a choice I have to make on a daily, even moment-by-moment, basis. It takes intentionality and a willingness to say “yes” to the Spirit as He guides and directs my steps.

When you trusted in Jesus, you were adopted into His family. Your allegiance has changed. You are now a son or daughter of the King. How has that impacted the way you live your life? Because it has to impact your life. I’ve said it before, but Jesus didn’t save you to go to heaven. If He did, you would already be there. Jesus saved you to radically transform you. To completely change you. To make you brand new. To make you like Him.

Are you still looking at the world from an earthly perspective, or are you beginning to see your life through God’s eyes? Beginning because it’s a process…it takes time to cultivate a perspective on life. Are you looking for opportunities to make kingdom investments in the lives of those around you? Are you living for the moment or for eternity?

The goal of the Christian life is conformity to the image of Jesus. So day by day, moment by moment the Spirit is at work…He’s working to transform us to live and love like Jesus. The more we say “yes” to Him, the greater the transformation. The more we tell Him “no”, the more stunted we become spiritually. With every “yes” our perspective changes…we see the world through His eyes and understand His will for us a little bit more. With every “no” we continue to focus on our circumstances and are more confused about what God wants from us and for us. “Yes” leads to an others or outward focus. “No”…it’s all about me.

So how do I start saying “yes” to the Spirit? It starts with prayer and asking for His direction. To stop in any and every circumstance and ask for wisdom. But know that it must include time spent in the Word…otherwise, how will I know if I’m the Spirit or my own selfish desires. The Spirit’s direction will never contradict God’s Word. So knowing God’s Word is imperative. We have to learn to think differently. We are influenced by what we allow in…the things we read, watch, listen to. The more we engage whatever that is, the more it influences us. How much time are you spending allowing God’s Word to influence you? Reading, meditating, memorizing, listening to, etc.? It doesn’t just happen…we have to be intentional. We have to have a plan both to pray and to spend time in the Word.

And following Jesus is not a solo gig…it’s a group project. It’s something we do together. It’s not enough for one of us to follow Jesus well. Paul says the job’s not done “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” So part of saying “yes” to the Spirit includes time spend with other believers. Being filled by the Spirit results in a lot of singing and thanksgiving and serving one another.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. He invites you to be a part of His family…just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, that Jesus can save you and then trust Him to do so. Then you too can be a son or daughter of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Drawing Near to God

Hebrews 10.19-25

The author of Hebrews writes to encourage Christians not to abandon the faith, but rather to endure persecution and draw near to God. He wants to spur them on to love and good deeds. Jesus is the Son of God. The only way to Salvation. As Hebrews shows us, Jesus is greater than anything and everything in all of creation. Jesus is the One to whom every prophecy and every symbol in the OT points. He is the fulfillment of every promise of God. Jesus reigns supreme. Problems and persecutions may come, but since we have Jesus let’s keep the faith, and draw near to God. He’s got some amazing things planned.

Twice in this passage we read “…since we have…” That’s an awesome statement…It’s what’s ours…what has already been secured for us…what is true about us…

The first “since we have” is “…since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…” Now that’s a big deal. You see the “holy place” was the room in the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept, where the mercy seat was, and the place where God’s presence was said to have dwelt above the cherubim (Exodus 25.10-22, Numbers 7.89, Hebrews 9.3-5). Only the high priest could enter the holy place and that once a year to offer sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9.7). It was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge veil (Exodus 26.31-37, Hebrews 9.3). So while folks could still come to God in faith and cry out to Him in prayer like David or Daniel or Jeremiah, full access to God was limited and forgiveness was only symbolic (Hebrews 10.1-10).

But now we have full access to God and true forgiveness of sins…why? Because of Jesus. Because He died so that we might live. The Innocent for the guilty. We can gather together and celebrate our life as a church because of His work on the cross two-thousand years ago. The Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the people.

In the upper room as He was celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…” The new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34 (Ezekiel 36.25-27)…new heart and the Spirit dwelling in everyone who believes. But first sin had to be atoned for, the blood of the Perfect Passover Lamb had to be shed. Jesus’ death brings the new covenant in to play, allowing us to confidently approach the Father…when Jesus was crucified the veil of the temple was torn in two signifying that He had cleared the way (Luke 23.45), a new and living way. A way based not on bringing sacrifices for sin year after year, but a way that rests in the one perfect sacrifice that Jesus, the One who died and is now alive, has secured for us.

The second “since we have” is “…since we have a great priest over the house of God…” The high priest was kind of a go-between…representing God to the people, and the people to God. So now not only is Jesus the Perfect Sacrifice, the Ultimate Passover Lamb, but He’s also the Great High Priest who intercedes for His people (Hebrews 5). I don’t know about you, but that’s good news for me. That Jesus intercedes with the Father on my behalf… And because Jesus is both Perfect Sacrifice and Perfect High Priest, we can have confidence when we approach God, not in ourselves or in our own abilities or the things we’ve done, but in Jesus…who He is and what He’s done. In Him and in Him alone.

Because of the confidence we have in Jesus, the author of Hebrews says three times, “…let us…” The “let us” is important because following Jesus is not just an individual pursuit. We are to run after Him together. And we have a plan for doing just that. A strategy if you will. We call it Gather, Grow, Impact.  And it just so happens that each one lines up with these “let us” statements.

“…let us consider how to provoke/stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another…” In other words let us GATHER. The author of Hebrews says we gather to provoke each other…now not in a bad way, but in a good way. We provoke each other to love and good deeds by encouraging one another. Following Jesus is not a solo gig. It’s what we do as a tribe. We run after Him together. Our weekend services are our main opportunity to Gather. It’s a time that we sing praises to our God, we celebrate communion, we hear the Word taught, we fellowship together. Now there are all kinds of reasons and excuses to forsake the “assembling together”, but it’s hazardous to do so. It’s dangerous to your spiritual walk…you are more vulnerable alone. Paul describes the church as a body and Peter uses the imagery of a spiritual house. We need each other. Not only are you more vulnerable alone, but we are also less effective when you’re not here. There has to be an “all in-ness” to our life together. That’s not just in our worship together, but also in how we serve one another and how we invest in the kingdom together.

“…let us draw near with a true/sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Let us GROW. We are to intentionally pursue our relationship with Jesus. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. We don’t just stumble into it. There has to be a turning away from sin and a turning toward Jesus . Our hearts have been cleansed…we have been set free. So we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Our mission statement is: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. We know that that is something we cannot do on our own…only the Spirit can transform us as individuals and as a church. But God invites us into that process of transformation…He invites us to draw near to Him in prayer and time spent in His Word and fellowship with each other, and as we do that, the Spirit transforms us to live and love like Jesus a little more each day.

“…let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” So what is the “confession of our hope”? Our hope, as believers, is the resurrection. It’s the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the kingdom. It’s an eternity spent worshiping, celebrating and enjoying our Triune God in bodies that no longer break down or wear out, in a place where there is no more death or tears or sorrow or pain. Perfect peace, joy, bliss, seeing our Savior face to face and delighting in the Father. The confession is our testimony…our belief that what God has promised He will fulfill. Our belief that the Hero has come and saved the day, and that we will reign with Him forever. So let persecution come, let suffering come, let the world crumble around us…our God will not fail us. He is faithful. So let us not fail Him by doubting or allowing our confidence in Him to be shaken. No matter what happens. And because we have this hope, we should share it with others. So lets make an IMPACT.

My prayer for us as a church is that we would always provoke each other to love and good deeds, that we would continually draw near to God, intentionally pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon, and that we would hold fast our confession, being a light and a beacon of hope in our community, being generous with our time and with our resources, anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

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

Before the Romans

Luke 23.1-25

Three times Pilate pronounces Jesus innocent. Herod, by mocking Jesus and sending Him back to Pilate, shows His agreement with Pilate’s assessment. And yet the rulers will stop at nothing short of death, and death of the worst kind…crucifixion.

Pilate and Herod both find Jesus innocent of the charges leveled against Him. Yet neither is willing to take a stand. Pilate is afraid of the crowd; Herod is indifferent. How often do you fail to do the right thing because of fear or indifference? How often do you allow others to talk you into things you know are wrong? How often do you give in to peer pressure? At school, at home or at work…Maybe it’s cheating on a test or your taxes. But maybe it’s something much worse…

The people also fail to take a stand. Days earlier they hang on Jesus’ every word as He taught in the Temple then “Crucify, crucify Him!” Talk about jumping on the bandwagon and mob mentality. We will often do things in a group that we would never dream of doing on our own. We allow ourselves to be carried along with the current of public opinion and are afraid to break from the status quo…to stand for what’s right. But we can’t follow the crowd and follow Jesus. We have to choose, it’s one or the other. Is He the King or an imposter? Are we going to pursue His kingdom or our own?

I wonder what impact the events of that morning had on Barabbas… He fully expected to go to a cross that day. Crucifixion was the punishment that his particular brand of transgression called for. No doubt he heard from his cell the cries of the people, “Crucify, crucify Him!” How relieved he must of felt when he found out their shouts weren’t for him and that Someone else was taking his place. Did he feel guilty or even care about who the Someone was? Did he feel gratitude? Was he joyful? How about you? You see, we are all Barabbas, each and every one of us. We are all guilty of rebellion against God…we are all worthy of death. We all rightfully stand condemned. And yet the good news is…Jesus took our place. He died in our stead. He willingly accepted the punishment which our sin demands so that we could have life. That is the gospel. The innocent dying for the guilty so that we could have forgiveness of sins and a relationship with the Father. Do you believe that today?

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

In the Courtyard

Luke 22.54-71

Peter denies Jesus. The guards mock Him. The council rejects Him. None of it catches Him by surprise. The cross is the only way. He loves us too much to turn back. He will die so that we can live. What a wonderful Savior!

Unfortunately failure is a reality that we must contend with as we strive to follow Jesus. It’s not something that we should accept with an “oh well” attitude, but it should lead us to godly sorrow. Big or small sins…whatever…they are a denial, a betrayal of Jesus. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. And that leads to the turning back. The Christian life is a sifting process…Jesus is committed to making us like Him, and prayer is one of the ways He does this. Is prayer a daily part of your relationship with Jesus? Is it a nice to have or a have to have for you? Learn from the Peter’s experience…prayer is not just a nice to have, but a must have in our pursuit of Jesus. Through prayer, not only are we provided with a way of escape from temptation, but we’re reminded of who Jesus is.

Much like the council who questioned who Jesus was, the world still asks the same question today. Was He just a Man who claimed to be God…because make no mistake, He did claim to be God…? And if He was just a Man who claimed to be God, was He insane or just a con-artist? Because if Jesus was just a Man who claimed to be God, He was not a very good Man. Despite how He’s portrayed in the Gospels, if He was just a Man who claimed to be God, He was a deceiver and a liar. If He was just a Man… But Jesus was not just a Man. He was and is the eternal Son of God. He is the King that we’ve long awaited, the Hero come to rescue us. He is both the Lamb and the Lion, enduring the cross to wear the crown, being sacrificed on the altar to sit on the throne. He is the forever God-Man, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Ruler of the nations, Creator of the universe, Savior of His people. Unequalled. Unmatched. Unrivaled. Unparalleled. Before whom every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that He is Lord. That’s who Jesus is!

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

Upper Room Discussions

Luke 22.24-38

Jesus had come to the Upper Room with high hopes. Remember He said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” And that He does. He reinterprets the bread and the cup to show them that He is the ultimate Passover Lamb and that His blood would establish the new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34. Yet in the background His death is looming. Within hours…Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, the disciples arguing over who’s the greatest, and their continued misunderstanding of the coming of the kingdom…Jesus says, “Enough.” They just don’t get it.

We miss it sometimes too, don’t we? We too wrangle for position and self-promotion. Who wants to serve when you can be served? We too fail at the Christian life…probably more times than we like to admit. The “that will never happen to me” or “I would never do that” suddenly turns into major failure…being sifted like wheat. And misunderstanding? You bet. We often only hear what we want to hear.

Success in the kingdom is not about self-promotion and the accumulation of power, but about love…loving God more, and loving His people. Serving and self-denial. Even then we will fail Jesus. The question is: How will we respond? Will we run to Him or away from Him? Will we allow Him to use our failures as a means of strengthening our faith, to sift out the chaff? Will we learn to listen to Him…not just hearing what we want to hear, but hearing what He has to say?

Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53.12). The Innocent died for the guilty. The King laid down His life for those who would be His people. Jesus died in our place. Jesus died so that you and I may live. Paul says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5.21). Do you believe that? Do you know Jesus, or do you just know about Him?

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

Our Love for Christmas

Matthew 2.1-12

A tale of two kings…a tale of two loves. Herod, an earthly king, living in Jerusalem, seeks to build a name and a kingdom for himself. Jesus, the true King, has already been given a Name and a kingdom.

Herod’s love is a very worldly love…love for his own kingdom, love of power, prestige, position, pleasure. A love that was very selfish and self-serving. A love that did not save him because it could not. Jesus was a real threat to Herod because he knew what was at stake. If Herod didn’t think Jesus might indeed be a king…the King…if he didn’t think Jesus, though now just a child, could in fact dethrone him, rule over him, take allegiance from him, he would not have felt threatened. But Jesus is a real threat to anyone who thinks seriously about Him. If Jesus is King…you’re not. It means your dethronement. It means your submission. It means you can’t lead your life any longer, as Herod did according to your worldly loves. If Jesus is who He says He is, you either love Him or you hate Him! Herod represents King Me…his response to the true King, to King Jesus is hatred and rejection.

The Magi’s love is other-worldly…it’s clear where their loyalties lie. The Magi give their allegiance to Someone far greater than any earthly king…their King’s arrival was announced by the heavens. A star pointed the way. The Magi’s love led them to go to crazy, incredible lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they couldn’t help but worship Him, expressing their love for Him for what He would do and God’s love already demonstrated in sending Him. They brought costly gifts…another natural expression of their love. In Him, they found an object worthy of great pursuit…chasing after Him with all they had…their love for Jesus is clear…Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Warrior-King from the line of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Hero of the story and the only One who could rescue them, the Savior of the nations. The Magi’s recognize Jesus as King, and their response to Him is worship and adoration.

There is a third group in this story…the religious leaders. These guys are indifferent towards Jesus. They know where Jesus is to be born, but do nothing with the information even when the Magi show up. The trek from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was between 5-6 miles…nothing in comparison to the 900 miles the Magi had travelled… The religious leader’s indifference will turn to anger, hatred and rejection as the story unfolds because Jesus will threaten their kingdoms as well.

Where are your affections this Christmas? Who or what do you love? Is it causing you to be selfish and self-serving? Is it causing you to want to protect your stuff? If so, you may be giving your affections to people or things that are destined to disappoint. Or are you loving Jesus, the only One who can save and deliver and rescue…not just in an eternal sense, but also here and now? Is He the object of your affections…your devotion every day? Do you live that way…going to crazy incredible lengths to be in His presence, to worship Him, to serve Him with the same passion and diligence that the Magi did? Are you living as one who has realized their hope in Jesus, whose experienced God’s amazing love? Are we as God’s people making much of Jesus this Christmas, or are we caught up in the hustle and bustle of building our own little kingdoms?

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior today…if He is not the King you adore, make today the day. Salvation is a free gift. Like a Christmas package under the tree with your name on it that just needs to be opened. Jesus has already secured salvation for you by dying in your place…paying the penalty that your sin deserves…so that by believing in Him you can be forgiven and can become a son or daughter of the King. But you have to make the choice to believe in Him…you have to open the package…you have to change your allegiance. I would love to talk to you about it if you have questions.

O Come All Ye Faithful…Christmas is a busy season, and we have a thousand things on our minds and a thousand things to do.  But through it all, let us remember to come and adore Jesus who loves us and proved that love by coming into the world to bring us light for our darkness …and joy…and life eternal.

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May our worship this week reflect the amazing love that God has shown us in Jesus.”

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