What About Israel? Part 1

Romans 9.1-18

Probably nothing sadder than wasted potential, and the Israelites had the greatest of potential. All the advantages that being the OT people of God afforded them, and yet many individual Israelites still rejected Jesus as their Savior.

As believers, we have great potential too. God has entrusted us with the gospel…each of us has been given a mina (Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19). How will we invest it? Will we take big risks with it looking for great reward? Or will we bury it hoping nobody discovers our secret? Will we live boldly for Jesus or only for ourselves? Having every advantage doesn’t mean that we will necessarily realize our potential. We have to be intentional. We have to choose to say “yes” to Jesus, and “no” to sin. We have to live out who we are our in Jesus on purpose.

Don’t waste your potential. Invest your life in the kingdom. Share your story with those around you who don’t know Jesus. Be generous with your resources.

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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

Victory in Jesus

Romans 8.28-39

Confidence in the right thing makes all the difference. For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, our confidence is in exactly the right place. Not in ourselves or in anything that we’ve done, but in Jesus and all that He’s done on our behalf. From beginning to end, our salvation is secured.

Paul wants us to be encouraged…what God has started, even before the foundation of the world, He will bring to completion. If we have trusted in Jesus, we can be assured that one day we will reign with Him in His kingdom.

No doubt suffering will come…everyone who walks this planet has suffered, is suffering or will suffer. Guaranteed. But the difference is this…for those of us who have trusted in Jesus, our suffering is not wasted. God is using it to make us more like Jesus. And not only is our suffering not wasted, but in the midst of our suffering, we never have to doubt God’s love for us. The Spirit is constantly interceding for us (along with Jesus) and is pouring out God’s love within our hearts.

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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 Glory to Come

Romans 8.18-27

In this in-between time, this already/not yet time that we live in, we eagerly await the glory to come. And as we do, whether in good times or in bad, we have the Spirit who not only empowers us to put to death the deeds of the body, but who is also praying for us in the midst of our waiting…our groaning and suffering. He is battling on our behalf. And He will see us through to glory.

Suffering before glory…it’s the reality of the world that we live in today. It’s true for us as believers, but it’s also true for all of creation. The world as it is is not what God originally intended. It’s under the curse, waiting eagerly as are we, the revelation of God’s glory and the redemption that is to come.

So while we wait, we pray. We share our stories. We share the hope that we have. You see, though we groan…in our suffering, we have a hope that this world cannot offer. A hope that the Hero has already won the day and that one day we will reign with Him. A hope that we must share…we must share… with a lost a dying world. And while sharing that hope, we minister to those around us who are in need. We point them to Jesus.

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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

Living Generously

Ephesians 4.1-16

We all have a part to play when it comes to preserving unity. Not just some of us…all of us. But within this unity there is diversity. We have all been given gifts for the mutual building up of the body, the Church. Gifted leaders equipping the saints for works of service… Each of us has to do our part.

This passage always reminds me of when Jack and I decided to try tae kwon do. The first day we entered the dojo aka YMCA, it was clear that the goal was for us to be black belts. Even though there were a number of them present, the sensei didn’t consider his job done until we all crossed the finished line and mastered the art. The idea in this passage is very similar…it’s not about one of us making it to maturity. It’s a group project. The job’s not done until we all attain to the unity of the faith… 

If you have trusted in Jesus, He has given you a spiritual gift. A gift that He expects that you will use to build up His body. Every gift is unique…even the same gift is given in differing measures. But each gift is needed for the body to function properly, and each gift is needed to be exercised to its full measure for the body to grow. Each of us is called to be a steward…not only of our resources, but also of the spiritual gifts that God has given us. Reminds me of the parable of the talents. Not everyone got the same number to start with, but each was expected to invest what they were given in the kingdom. So are we.

Being equipped for works of service is not just so that we can serve each other, although that is super important. But part of building up the body is bringing in folks who once were lost but now have been found. Let me suggest that maybe, just maybe, our primary ministry is outside the walls of the church building. It’s in the marketplace and in the schoolyard. It’s with our families and our friends. It’s when we walk outside these doors. And maybe our coming together as a church is like going to the gym. You come here to train…to prepare for the fight, to get ready for the big race. And after doing your bag work, the speed and agility drills, maybe a little foot work…once you walk out those doors, ministry starts. All of life is ministry. Opportunities abound to share our story and to introduce folks to Jesus.

So let me challenge you with two last words…first, if you are not using your spiritual gifts in some way to build up the church and serve others, we need you. We have provided a tool on our website (centralchristian.org) called SHAPE to help you discover not only your spiritual gifts, but also to help you identify areas that are a good fit you in serving.

Second, if you are not yet a part of a community group, let me encourage you to join one. CGs are one of the best ways to use your gifts and build one another up.

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This post is based on a sermon from our UN/Stuck: A Season for Discipleship series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Living by the Spirit

Romans 8.1-17

In the war against sin, we have been given an Ally who is truly OP (over-powered), as my son would say. The Spirit who is life and peace, puts to death the deeds of our body when we rely on Him. The Spirit also testifies to our spirit that we belong to God. That we have been adopted into His family. That we are sons and daughters of the King.

If you have trusted in Jesus, choose to live your identity in Him. So much is true about you…Forgiven. Justified. Righteous. Alive (eternal life). Reconciled. At peace with God. Free from the rule of sin. New heart. Spirit living within. Adopted into God’s family. Co-heir with Jesus. What would it look like to live your life based on those truths? How would it change your outlook on things? Your day-to-day interactions (social media)? What if every morning you reminded yourself of who you are…before your first cup of coffee, or checking your social media accounts, or catching up on the latest news…before you interact with your spouse or your kids (or your parents) or with folks at work or school? What if you reminded yourself of you are before you post or comment or forward…how might that change things for you and those around you? How might your life and your relationships look different? How might it impact the choices you make?

But you have to make the conscious choice. You have to choose to live out the reality of being “in Jesus”. You have to train yourself…discipline yourself…to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to sin. The good news is…you are not alone. You have the best Partner ever…the Spirit. Why not try it today?

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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 Battle Within

Romans 7.14-25

A battle rages within every believer…a battle between the law of God and the law of sin, a battle between the mind/heart and the body, a battle between who I am and who I used to be. And though we wish it were otherwise, while we live in the already/not yet…in the in-between time of who we are ontologically and who we are experientially, the battle continues.

Some might be tempted to simply give up or give in. I mean, what’s the point? If I’m already saved, and it’s going to be this ongoing struggle to follow Jesus, maybe I should give in to sin. Just live life the way I used to live it. It’ll be easier that way. Paul has already addressed that…you are a slave of the one you obey.

Grace doesn’t mean that we’ve been saved from obedience. No, we’ve been saved for obedience. We don’t do good works to be made right with God…we do good works because we are right with Him. Grace simply gives us the ability to do what we couldn’t do on our own…obey God.

It strikes me in Romans 6 that the believer who is a slave of sin has chosen that route. They volunteered to be enslaved. As ridiculous as it may sound they have picked sin as their master even though they know that all he can and will offer them is death. In Romans 7 the believer who is a prisoner is being held against his/her will. They are actively involved in the battle against sin in their own lives. They are pursuing Jesus, and though they may fail, they continue to get up and fight on.

And while the distinction between slave and prisoner may not seem to be a big one, I believe it has huge implications for our spiritual walk. When I present myself to sin and allow it to become my master, then like the seed among the weeds in Jesus’ parable of the soils, the Word becomes choked by worries and riches and pleasures of this life and brings no fruit to maturity. But when I continue the fight against sin…sometimes winning and sometimes losing, but always fighting on, then like the seed in the good soil, the Word falls on a generous and good heart that holds it fast and bears fruit with perseverance.

The good news that Paul will talk about more in Romans 8…we are not alone in the struggle. We have been given the Spirit who helps us in our weakness when we rely on Him. And not only that, but when we have fellow believers who we are pursuing Jesus together with, they can be a source of encouragement and strength for us in the fight. We weren’t made to walk this path alone.

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

Joined to Jesus

Romans 7.1-13

We who are “in Jesus” have been set free from the Law in two ways…first from any attempt on our own to be justified before God (those trying to do good), and second from a rebellious heart set off by any “thou shalt not” (those not specifically trying to do good). We have been set free from the Law because we have been joined to Jesus. We are justified before God, and we’ve been given the Spirit and a new heart with the Law written on it.

Once again Paul presents two paths…one in which we bear fruit for God and the other in which we bear fruit for death. Which one best describes you?

If you have trusted in Jesus you have been set free from your old way of life. So why continue in it? Why not choose differently?

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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

Who Will You Serve?

Romans 6.15-23

We all serve someone. We all have a master. Either sin or obedience. We are either running away from God, or running toward God. There is no neutral. No third option. “In Adam” the choice is made for us, and it’s the one we would choose anyway…the one we have chosen. And that’s sin. But “in Jesus” we have a decision to make…a master to choose. Will we choose obedience in following Jesus, or will we choose to enslave ourselves once again to our old master, sin?

Jesus used a similar analogy in Matthew 6.24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Joshua said it this way, “If it disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24.15)

Who will you serve? Maybe you didn’t know you had a choice. You simply defaulted to what you have always chosen in the past. Unwittingly you’ve enslaved yourself again to sin. You find yourself living the same life you did before you trusted in Jesus, but now you just feel guilty about it. That’s assuming of course that you’ve trusted in Jesus. The good news is you don’t have to keep making that same choice. If you are “in Jesus”…if you’ve trusted in Him, then you don’t have to live like you’re “in Adam” any longer.

If that’s you, you might say… “that sounds good, but how?” Last time we said there were some things to know, to reckon, and then to act on. It’s starts with knowing…that’s what we’ve tackled today. The knowing part. The Truth. The truth is…you are not who you used to be so you should not live like you used to live. You are “in Jesus” which means that you have a new King and that you live for a new kingdom. Therefore you no longer have to pursue the same lifestyle or make the same bad choices. You can choose to follow Jesus in the moment.

Knowing that truth, you then have to reckon it as true for you. Sometimes this is where the heavy lifting comes in. You may have to unwind some faulty thinking. You might have to unlearn some bad habits, or better yet learn some good ones. You may have to let go of some lies that you’ve held onto about yourself for way too long.

Reckoning on that truth, then you just have to act on it. This takes practice. Like anything in life we want to excel at, it takes training. Try and fail, and try again and fail better, and repeat until…success. I catch myself saying foolish things often enough to my wife. But I’ve learned over the years to at least recognize it and ask forgiveness. The time between those two has gotten shorter, and my goal is to someday be able to catch myself before saying the foolish thing. What encourages me is that it doesn’t just depend on my efforts, but I’ve been given the Spirit to empower me to make the right choices.

Choose to follow Jesus. Say no to sin and yes to what God is calling you. Obedience starts with knowing what God has said. That’s in His Word. Are you spending time in His Word on a daily basis? Are you spending time with Him in prayer? Are you spending time with other believers? Sharing your story? Living generously?

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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

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Romans 6.1-14

Thinking that God’s grace somehow gives me a license to sin is a gross misunderstanding of God’s grace. You are not who you used to be…so why would you live like you used to live?

Just as “in Adam” we somehow and in someway participated in his sin, so we who are “in Jesus” have also somehow and in someway participated in His death and resurrection. His righteousness is our righteousness. His life is now our life. So how is that impacting the way that we live? How is it impacting the way that you live?

The question, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” is a question that the church seems to have answered in the affirmative today…a resounding yes…especially the American church. We’ve interpreted grace as license…better to ask forgiveness than permission. We only really seem to care about sin when we get caught. Otherwise we have adopted the same, “Eat, drink, for tomorrow we die” attitude that plagues the rest of our culture. In fact, we really don’t look any different than the world around us. We reminisce about “the good ole days” and long to go back to Egypt.

What happened to being sojourners in a strange land? Seems we’ve traded in our tent for a home in the suburbs. We’ve become citizens of this world. We certainly don’t live like we’re “in Jesus”. At least that’s true of a good chunk of folks who would identify themselves as Christians. Maybe we are at church on Sunday, but where are we Monday through Saturday? Would folks who know you well be surprised you’re a Christian? Would it catch your co-workers or classmates or neighbors off guard? What about those who follow you on social media (posts, comments, pictures, likes, etc.)?

If you have trusted in Jesus, you are not who you used to be. You have changed allegiances. You have a new King. You are free from your old life of sin. Do you know that? It’s starts with knowing the truth. And once you know the truth, then you need to reckon it as true for you. Then you are ready to act on the truth. Know…reckon…act.

If you have trusted in Jesus, your life should be heading in a new direction. Doesn’t mean that you won’t sin, but it does mean that you have a choice not to. And learning to choose not to takes practice. Little everyday choices…what to read, what to listen to, what to watch…or not. There should be a growing desire to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer, to spend time with other believers and to share your story, to live generously. If that’s not true of you, either you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus or there’s something that is in the way.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus and would like to, it’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, that Jesus is that Savior who died a sacrificial death on your behalf and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, satisfying God’s wrath against sin…your sin…and giving you His righteousness so that you can have peace with God, being reconciled to Him, and so that you can experience His love poured out in your heart through the Spirit, giving you a sure hope that will not disappoint.

Last thing…let me challenge you dads to lead the way. Let your family see you making the choice to follow Jesus…saying no to sin and yes to Him.

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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

First Adam vs. Second Adam

Romans 5.12-21

The gift vs. the transgression. What Jesus gained vs. what Adam lost. There really is no comparison. The gift really is not like the transgression. At all. The gift is so much greater!

The idea that Adam’s sin, somehow wrecked everything for the rest of us…Pascal said that it offends the rational mind. And yet it’s true. We know it in our own lives. We can see it in the world around us. Sin and death abound. Hatred. Racism. Hostility. Violence. Murder…evidence that it is indeed true. And we might think…“Yeah, I would have made a different choice than Adam did. I would not have eaten the forbidden fruit. And now I have no choice but to sin because of him? That just doesn’t seem fair.” The actions of one man impacting us all…

The truth is, we don’t know for sure what we would have done if we were in Adam’s place. Pretty sure the exact same thing. But that’s really not the point. We are not in Adam’s place. We are in our place. And the good news is…the really, really good news is…that the actions of one Man can impact us all today. Paul has already spilled a lot of ink talking about the amazing things that Jesus accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. Whatever Adam lost in the fall, Jesus more than makes up for for those of us who trust in Him.

So the question is…are you still “in Adam” or are you “in Jesus”? Those still “in Adam” are ruled by sin, are under God’s wrath and have a destiny of death. Those “in Jesus”…grace, righteousness and life. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, why not make today the day?

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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