The Beast from the Sea

Revelation 13.1-10

A terrifying beast with all the power, dominion and authority of the dragon behind him wages war with the saints and overcomes them. And he causes all the earth-dwellers, all those who have not trusted in Jesus, to worship him. Who is like the beast and who can make war with him? The King of kings and Lord of lords aka a Guy named Jesus. That’s who.

As we are going through Revelation, there are two different lenses through which we see the world: one earthly and one heavenly. On earth…seemingly total chaos with the enemy apparently winning. Waging war and overcoming. And if you are a Jesus-follower…not looking too good for you. Sure looks like you picked the wrong side.

In heaven…God is in complete control. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The enemy and his minions may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited…the kingdom will come and God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Then all the kingdoms of this world will be judged… In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. Good triumphs over evil. Jesus wins.

With that in mind, what are we to do? Simple. We are to live our lives as a citizens of the eternal kingdom right now, today. To influence others by our uncompromising faith. And come what may…to faithfully persevere. Remember that suffering comes before glory. So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

pro rege

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. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

Joy in God’s Proclamations

1 Peter 1.6-9

We can experience inexpressible joy even in the midst of trials when we see our lives from a kingdom perspective…because we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God.

Everyone who walks this planet will suffer…guaranteed. It’s part of living in a fallen world. Death. Loss. Broken relationships. Pandemic. Disappointment. You name it. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices. Some of it’s due to the bad choices of others. Some of it’s a result of the fall. But everybody will suffer in some way at some time. But not all will suffer for their faith.

The picture that Jesus frequently uses for discipleship…for following Him…is taking up our cross. It’s a clear picture of suffering. Now why does suffering have to be a part of the deal? I mean if we’ve chosen to follow God, if we’ve been adopted into His family, if we’re kingdom citizens, then why doesn’t He keep us from suffering? If we are on the winning side, then why does it feel like we’re losing? It goes back to the fall…

When we rebelled against our Creator, it had a devastating effect not only on us but also on the good world that God had made. The benevolent rule that man was supposed to exercise over creation was forfeited to the enemy (Luke 4.6), who subsequently became “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4.4) , “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2.2). Before we trusted in Jesus, we were “sons (and daughters) of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2) and were citizens of this world and thoroughly committed to life in the kingdom of darkness.

When we trusted in Jesus another rebellion occurred, but this one was really a return. And while it is true that we are citizens of a new kingdom and children of God, we are still living in enemy territory. Because our allegiance has changed, we are at odds with the world around us and traitors to its malevolent king. The more we look like Jesus…the more we live as citizens of His kingdom…the more at odds with this world we will be. The more at odds, the more suffering. The more suffering, the more rejoicing. Why can we rejoice? Because our faith has been purified and strengthened. Because we know that our salvation is sure. Because we’ve chosen to respond to our circumstances with joy, knowing that God will use these experiences to accomplish His work in and through us. Because we are becoming more like Jesus.

The counterfeit joy that this world offers is based on avoiding unpleasantness of any kind…forget about suffering. It’s a joy that is hollow, self-seeking and fleeting. It disappears when the storms of life come. Unfortunately that’s the only joy that many of us pursue. But true joy…inexpressible joy…comes only from following Jesus, taking up our cross and being willing to suffer with Him. Seems like an odd way to find joy…especially an inexpressible joy…but there it is. That kind of joy is independent of circumstance…good or bad, suffering or rejoicing…it remains unshaken.

So what difficulty are you facing right now? What trial are you going through? How might God be using it to purify and strengthen your faith in Him? What, if anything, is preventing you from choosing joy despite your circumstance?

May you experience Joy in God’s Proclamations this Christmas season.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series: Christmas at Central. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

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.

pro rege

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.

pro rege

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

NT Reading – July 8

2 Thessalonians 1-3

Thanksgiving for Faith and Perseverance

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Man of Lawlessness

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

Exhortation

Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)