A Riot at Ephesus

Acts 19.21-41

Paul prepares to leave Ephesus to return to Jerusalem and then on to Rome. But before he can leave, a riot breaks out in the city. The gospel is transforming lives, which is proving to have an adverse effect on the local economy.

The gospel is good news. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, those who believe in Him have forgiveness of sins, eternal life, a new heart and God’s Spirit living within them. They pass from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son…they are not who they used to be. Jesus changes everything!

For the folks at Ephesus, that meant confessing their sins and making a clean break with their past…no more magic, but also no more Artemis worship. And it made an impact on their city. The impact can be seen in two different ways. First there’s the number of folks who believe, then there’s the radical change in their behavior. One or two or a handful whose behavior is radically changed will have an impact, but probably not enough to cause a riot. And a great number of folks whose behavior changes a little will have an impact, but again probably not enough to cause a riot. But when you combine those two…a large number of people who are radically changed…then you have the recipe for a riot.

So I wonder what kind of impact we are having on our community, and is it the impact we want to have…are we causing a stir by the way we follow Jesus? Are we disrupting the economy of those who are peddlers of sin and bad choices? The Ephesian Christians caused a stir, not by picketing outside Demetrius’ shop and not by running a smear campaign against Artemis. How did they cause a stir? By living a different kind of life. A noticeably different kind of life. A life marked by the gospel and transformed by God’s grace. And if we want to make an impact on our community for good, that’s where it starts…by living lives that have been radically transformed by the gospel of God’s grace and sharing the hope that we have with those around us who so desperately need it. So let me challenge you this week…If one or two of us live lives that have been radically transformed by the gospel of God’s grace and share the hope that we have with others, we’ll have an impact…but if a thousand of us do it, we’ll have a riot. Let’s start a riot!

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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

Paul at Ephesus

Acts 19.1-20

Paul returns to Ephesus where he will set up his base of operations for this his third and final missionary journey. Nothing like pitching your tent outside the Enemy’s stronghold as you make your assault on the forces of darkness.

Paul’s ministry in Ephesus is powerful both in word and in deed. Miracles abound…miracles of healing and casting out demons. Miracles that show the power of God over the demonic realm. The gates of hell cannot prevail against Jesus’ Church. In the battle between light and darkness, miracles and magic…it is the name of Jesus that is magnified. He has already won the victory.

As that truth dawned on these Ephesian believers, they were convicted of their sin…of the past they were still holding on to…and they did something about it. They made a clean break. So I want to challenge you with something this week…what is it that you need to confess and make a clean break from? What sin are you holding on to? For them the clean break meant destroying the objects that had caused them to stumble. What might that look like for you?

Take the next few minutes to confess whatever sin it is that you are holding on to and to turn it over to Jesus and ask Him what a clean break looks like for you. And then this week take the next step…whatever that might be…follow through and make a clean break.

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

Aquila and Priscilla

Acts 18.18-28

Paul rounds out his second missionary journey and begins his third with renewed vigor. Having left Aquila and Priscilla behind in Ephesus, Paul is anxious to return there after visiting Jerusalem, Antioch and the churches he had planted along the way. Meanwhile Aquila and Priscilla are able to encourage and equip Apollos, a man who will prove to be a great asset to the Church and the preaching of the gospel.

While it would be easy to gloss over much of what happens in this story, there are subtle details that we might miss…reminders that this is the story that God is telling. The story of His Church. Paul takes Aquila and Priscilla with him from Corinth. He drops them off in Ephesus as he heads back East. Meanwhile a guy named Apollos shows up one Sabbath at the synagogue where Aquila and Priscilla are worshiping. They are able to instruct him and encourage him. And because of their connections to the church in Corinth, they are able to pave the way for him to begin a powerful ministry there. It’s no accident. God’s fingerprints are all over this story. Just as His fingerprints are all over your story.

The goal of marriage is this thing called becoming one and pursuing the purpose for which God created and called and saved you. Pursuing holiness rather than happiness…knowing that holiness, or living life the way God intended, brings true and lasting happiness.

Aquila and Priscilla are an example of a couple who got it, the only example in the NT to my recollection…who understood that marriage really is ministry. That when we put Jesus at the center of our marriage…when He’s our greatest pleasure and our highest good…then it becomes more natural for us to want to do the things that please Him. We’re on the hunt for opportunities to encourage and build up and strengthen and serve and help and love on others. Of course that’s very countercultural.

You see the norm is represented by another famous, or maybe better infamous, couple in the book of Acts…Ananias and Sapphira. Remember in Acts 5, the early church in Jerusalem is experiencing tremendous growth and folks are looking out for others, selling stuff and bringing the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to those in need. Ananias and Sapphira hatch a plan…they like the attention they’ll get by participating, but they don’t really want to part with their stuff, so they sell some property and bring only a portion of the money to the Apostles. Now bringing only a portion of the proceeds wouldn’t have been wrong, except that they somehow gave the impression that they brought the full amount of the sale. Greed and pride will get you every time. For them it literally cost them their lives. Unfortunately for many couples…even Christian couples…it’s more about the appearance of doing good than the actual practice of good.

Happiness vs. Holiness…they may seem antithetical, but God’s designed it so that we realize our greatest happiness…our greatest fulfillment in life, in our marriages, in our work or whatever…when we realize it in Him, when we put Him at the center. Just like Aquila and Priscilla.

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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

Paul at Corinth

Acts 18.1-17

Paul’s visit to Corinth proves to be an important strategic move for the Church. Paul himself receives a word of encouragement from the Lord to press on despite ministry fatigue, and the Church receives a word of confirmation from the Roman authorities of its legitimacy despite the objections of the Jewish antagonists.

Following Jesus is hard work at times. Opposition and obstacles are often in the way. But the Lord is with us, and He will see us through. He still has work for us to do…lots of folks who need to hear about Jesus. Prisoners who need to be set free. Now’s not the time to shrink back. Now’s the time to forge ahead…to storm the gates…and proclaim our Resurrected King.

Like Paul, it’s our job to share the gospel…good news for those who receive it, but a warning of impending judgment for those who reject it. Jesus is either our King, or He will be our Judge. No middle ground. You are either in or out, for or against, saved or lost.

And also like Paul, we all need encouragement. Who can you encourage this week? Maybe someone who is having a rough go of it. Maybe someone who has walked away from the faith for any number of reasons. Maybe someone who needs to take a step of faith. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever the situation…encourage them in the Lord this week.

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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

Paul at Athens

Acts 17.16-34

Paul’s trip to Athens is not the vacation he may have hoped for. Disturbed by the rampant idolatry he finds in the city, Paul can’t help but confront the spiritual bankruptcy of the folks who are there. With a well-reasoned argument, Paul starts with God as the Creator and Sustainer of all that He has made. He is a God who is actively involved in the world and who has made us in His image to worship Him. Some will. For those who don’t, He has appointed a Judge who will judge the world in righteousness.

Is our culture that much different than ancient Athens? Learning, culture, the arts, sports… Maybe we don’t have temples and idols that litter the landscape, but that doesn’t mean we don’t worship false gods nonetheless. Gods of affluence and entitlement, of beauty and popularity, of importance and greed, of you fill-in-the-blank. It’s anything we love more than God, anything we worship in place of God, anything we value above God. What, if anything, is that for you?

I wonder about the folks from the synagogue. Normally Luke gives us a report on their response to the gospel, but not this time…why? The only two people he mentions as believing the gospel seem to be from the Areopagus. So what about the others? Why was Paul’s message so strange and new? Maybe they were no different than the rest of the Athenians. Maybe the culture was having a greater impact on them than they were having on the culture. Can the same be said about us? About you?

Paul is provoked by what he sees. Clearly he shares God’s anger about the things around him. But he also shares God’s love for the folks who are trapped by their own sin. Their objects of worship were evidence that they were seeking God, but their ignorance of Him was leading them in the wrong direction. Are you provoked by the idolatry you see around you? If so, how are you responding? Are you lashing out at it or reaching out to those trapped by it?

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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

Three Marriage Assassins

Ephesians 4.29, Genesis 2.22-25, Matthew 6.9-15

Unwholesome communication. Unfaithfulness. Unforgiveness. Three assassins that can kill your marriage if left unattended.

Jesus can and does heal and restore broken marriages. He is the only hope we have for a successful marriage…only He can transform us through the Spirit to live and love like Him. But we have to put Him first…in our individual lives and in our marriage. Doesn’t mean we won’t have challenges…that these assassins won’t be lurking, but it means that we are committed to seeing our marriage through for the glory of God until death do us part.

Earlier I said, “No wonder for the average church attender the divorce rate within the church is about the same as that outside the church.” That may be true for the average church attender, but according to Focus on the Family (Divorce Rate in the Church – As High as the World? by Glenn Stanton), those who take their faith seriously, those pursuing their relationship with Jesus wholeheartedly, are 35% less likely to divorce than those outside the church. That’s way better, but still too high.

When you said “I do”, you entered into a covenant with God that is to remain unbroken. The two of you became one. Physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. That’s why sex outside of marriage is so dangerous…it pollutes the oneness of your relationship. So what happens when the one tries to become two again? Both are destroyed. Not to mention the collateral damage to your kids. It’s not what God intended. There’s no such thing as a good divorce. It’s not too late, and you are not too far gone…there is help and hope for your marriage.

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 with countless others who have experienced the painful realities of life this side of the garden. The Bible is riddled with their stories.

If you are single, one of the best things you can do to prepare for marriage, if that’s the route you feel God calling you to, is to pursue your relationship with Jesus and make Him your highest priority…don’t wait until you’re married. Become the kind of spouse God wants you to be today.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

God’s Design for Marriage

Genesis 2.18-25, 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.

But the goal of marriage isn’t happily ever after. The goal of marriage is what the Bible calls oneness…a husband and wife who are pursuing their lives together in Jesus as one. Marriage is not an agreement or a contract. Marriage is a covenant. A sacred covenant that we make before God that is to remain unbroken. That’s why we make our vows publicly…to be loyal in adversity, patient in sickness, encouraging in affliction, comforting in sorrow, and forsaking all others, keeping ourselves only unto our spouse, so long as we both shall live. That’s why we say things like…“I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others to cleave only to you till death do us part. This is my solemn vow.” That’s why we exchange rings. It’s why we say, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

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 for the glory of God until death do us part.

If you are married today, I want to ask you to do something this week. Think about your marriage. Would you say that you are on track, pursuing oneness with each other as you pursue your relationship with Jesus? Wives, are you submitting to your husband? Husbands are you loving and leading your wife well? Is Jesus your first love? Once you’ve had time to think about it, why not talk to your spouse about it.

Until next time…stay salty.

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