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

Who Do You Fear?

Luke 12.1-12

Who do you fear? Do you fear God or fear men? Is it obvious to others in the way you conduct yourself…in the way you live your life? Jesus, talking to a group of guys who would soon be facing intense persecution because of Him, calls them to trust in their heavenly Father who cares and who has the only authority that really matters and who gives His children the Spirit so that they can endure.

The disciples’ commitment to stand with Jesus depends on how much they trust the Father, both as Judge and Provider. The same is true for us. To stand up when others are walking away or bowing down, we have to trust God…and we will only trust Him if we remember that we are fully known and fully loved by Him. When we choose to follow Jesus, we kick off a chain reaction. And we have to be ready. Some will be excited for us…but most will not. The pressure to conform to this world will intensify, and we have a choice to make…follow Jesus or follow the world, acknowledge Him before men or deny Him. Life and death. But we need not fear because our names are written in heaven, and the Father has given us the Spirit…and knowing that the Father who loves us is the ultimate and final Authority, we should be fearless in our faith.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait! The Bible warns us that there is only one Judge, and only His opinion counts. You are either for Jesus or against Him. If you are for Him, an eternal kingdom awaits…and you will reign with Him forever as a son or daughter of the King. But if you are against Him, it’s a very different story. So please don’t wait…trust in Jesus today.

In honor of Reformation Day…which just happens to be October 31…I want to close with this story about Martin Luther.

When Martin Luther first stood before the Diet at Worms, John Eck, the Archbishop of Trier, asked him, “Martin Luther, do you recant of the heresies in your writings?… Do you defend them all, or do you care to reject a part?” Luther gave the quiet answer, “This touches God and His word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, ‘He who denies me before men, him will I deny before the Father.’ To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think it over.” That night Luther and his colleagues passionately called out to God in now-celebrated prayers. With the rising of the sun another, larger hall was chosen, and it was so crowded that scarcely anyone except the emperor could sit. Eck spoke long and eloquently in the flickering candlelight, concluding, “I ask you, Martin—answer candidly and without horns—do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?” He spoke first in German and then in Latin: “Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” At that towering moment Luther’s massive fear of God freed him from the smaller fear of men!

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we choose the fear of God over the fear of man 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

True Blessedness

Luke 6.20-36

If you are like me, the first question that comes to mind is “How?” How do I love my enemy? How do I do good to those who hate me? How do I bless those who curse me? How do I pray for those who mistreat me? Especially when my natural inclination is revenge, self-preservation, protecting my stuff? How can I live and love like Jesus?

Dallas Willard in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines said, “It’s not just turning the other cheek, but becoming the kind of person who would turn the other cheek.” It’s not just a sheer act of will in the moment, but the cultivation of a lifestyle. It’s our daily practice of turning the other cheek…of loving our enemies, which is only possible by the power of the Spirit. The good news…the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to love His enemies wants to empower those who follow Him to do the same.

I read an article about a missionary who returned home after years of service. She moved into an apartment and was excited about having her own space to fix up and enjoy, especially the patio where she anticipated making her place of solace. But shortly after she moved in and decorated her patio and got everything just right, a family moved in next door…obnoxious neighbors who played loud music at all hours of the night, whose kids ran wild around the neighborhood, who seemed to have little or no respect for others. The final straw came when the kids spray painted her beautiful patio and wrecked everything on it. She tried praying to love them anyway, but only felt hatred. So she kept praying and got the image of love as a garment (Paul in Colossians 4) that she needed to put on. So she prayed that God would help her put on love. Then she began to list all the things she would do for this family if she truly loved them…bake cookies, babysit the kids, coffee with the mom…she began working the list. She chose to show them love (agape…act of the will) even though they surely didn’t deserve it, and before long she found herself truly loving them (her emotions caught up). So much so that she was sad when they moved.

You or I might think…yeah, but Jesus doesn’t know my enemy! They deserve everything they get. You don’t know my family…they’ll just take advantage of me. Poor people buy alcohol. Whatever. Jesus really meant what He said. This is what the church in Acts actually did. This isn’t hyperbole or just making a point. When Jesus said, “love your enemies”, He meant, “love your enemies.” When He said, “give to anyone who asks”, He meant, “give to anyone who asks.” He even told us not to demand back things that are stolen! Speaking for myself, it’s too easy to rationalize away that Jesus didn’t really mean to give to the people in my life. Forget tithing, Jesus is talking about renouncing a hold on every convenience and every dime for the sake of love…. and the person who does that is blessed.

Living and loving like Jesus is a moment-by-moment decision, leaning into the Spirit, praying for God’s help, and finding practical ways to love…even when the other person doesn’t deserve it. That’s when we begin to reflect the Father’s character…that’s when we are most like Jesus who loved folks like you and me who didn’t deserve it.

Jesus invites us to experience the abundant life…the blessed life…a life that looks beyond present circumstances to the ultimate reality of an eternal life with Jesus. The invitation is open to all who will follow Him. So how about you? Will you choose to follow Him today?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live and love like Jesus, loving our enemies and treating others the way we want to be treated.”

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