Setting the Captives Free

Luke 4.31-44

Luke shows us examples of how Jesus fulfills His ministry (Isaiah 61)…He preaches the good news to the poor (4.31-32, 43-44), frees prisoners oppressed by the devil (4.33-37, 41) and heals the sick (4.38-40), demonstrating His authority and power over demonic forces and physical infirmities, in both the spiritual and physical realms. These miracles prove that His message is Good News for All!

Are you being held captive by the enemy today? Then Jesus is good news for you. Are you suffering today? Then Jesus is good news for you. Jesus came to seek and save the lost…to set the captives free, to rescue the oppressed, to give sight to the blind, to bring good news to the poor. Jesus wants to rescue you today. Will you let Him?

Just like Jesus, we also have mission. We are to show the same compassion and love that He did for each person. No one should be left behind. Every single person is worth the investment of our time. Jesus spent the entire night making sure that each person received a touch from His hand. We should do the same, running into enemy territory and setting free the captives. Out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, we too should joyfully look for ways to serve Him by serving others. Who can you intentionally serve this week? Who Can you intentionally share the Good News with? The King is here! Like Jesus, we do that by leaning into the Spirit and allowing God’s Word to dwell in us richly, as Paul puts it.

Have you ever officially given everything over to Jesus…given Him full administrative rights to your life? Your relationships…spouse, children, parents, teachers, coaches, classmates, teammates, co-workers, etc.? How about your hopes and dreams, your fears and anxieties, your future, your ambitions and longings, your job, your independence, your heart? Why not do it now? Maybe the reason we don’t experience the abundant life that Jesus promises is that we are holding out. We’re building a rival kingdom…because you cannot enjoy the kingdom Jesus brings unless you are submitted to the King.

“What would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would your church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?” (Francis Chan)

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we join Jesus on His mission this week to share the good news of the kingdom with a lost and dying world in dire need of rescue.”

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

Hometown Reception

Luke 4.14-30

In this episode we get a glimpse of what Jesus’ ministry will look like…fulfilling OT prophecies, being filled with/empowered by the Spirit, preaching good news to the marginalized whether Jew or Gentile…some will accept and some will reject.

Jesus is good news!

Jesus’ words are good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed…to the outcasts and those on the fringe of society. They are good news for those who recognize their helplessness and hopelessness, their overwhelming need of rescue. For them, for us, they are the good news of salvation. But there is no good news without Jesus. God’s rescue plan depends on Him. His teaching exposes the reaction of human hearts to that plan…wonder along with rejection.

Is Jesus good news to you? Do you recognize your desperate need to be rescued? For some of us, we don’t need to be convinced that we need to be rescued…the poor man doesn’t need to be convinced that he’s in desperate straits, the captive doesn’t need to be convinced that he needs to be set free, the blind woman doesn’t need to be convinced she needs to receive sight, and the kid being bullied in the school yard doesn’t need to be convinced that he needs to be rescued from his oppressor…we just need to know that there is Someone who can rescue us. The good news is…the Hero has come, the Savior is here. Today can be the day of Salvation for you.

But some of us aren’t convinced of our need for a Savior…we see ourselves, like the folks at the synagogue that morning, as good people. We don’t need to be rescued…I pray that God would reveal that you, like all of us, are poor, captive, blind, oppressed…that sin and death are the destiny of everyone who doesn’t realize their need and humbly turn to Jesus, so that you too may be rescued.

Maybe you’re here today and have put your faith in Jesus, but have been going through the motions. You have lost sight that just like everyone else you are poor in spirit and need to humble yourself before Jesus. Ask God this week to begin humbling you, to begin bringing you back to him.

And maybe you’re like Jesus…your hometown crowd has rejected you. Often times we offend our family members or peer groups when we become a Christian or are bold about our faith, because they feel condemned…they feel like they are ‘good people who live good lives’. They can’t see you for who you are, a new creation in Christ, but only for who you were. Whether they are rejecting your words or you, it still stings. But know that Jesus had the same experience…His boldness caused some to accept and some to reject. The writer of Hebrews tells, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame…” Knowing who we are and whose we are…knowing the bigger story should give us the courage to face rejection and persecution and the ability to love those who may not love in return.

I’ll close with a story: “A large prestigious British church had three mission churches under its care. On the first Sunday of each new year all the members of the mission churches would come to the parent church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, located in the slums of a major city, were some outstanding cases of conversions—thieves, burglars, and others. But all knelt as brothers and sisters side by side at the Communion rail.

On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England—the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker.

After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?” The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “A marvelous miracle of grace indeed.” The judge then inquired, “But to whom do you refer?” “The former convict,” the pastor answered. The judge said, “ I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The minister, surprised, replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I don’t understand.”

“You see,” the judge went on, “it is not surprising that the burglar received God’s grace when he left jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he understood Jesus could be his Savior, he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me—I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman, that my word was to be my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take Communion and so on. I went through Oxford, obtained my degrees, was called to the bar, and eventually became a judge. I was sure I was all I needed to be, though in fact I too was a sinner. Pastor, it was God’s grace that drew me. It was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m the greater miracle.”

The folks that morning had a decision to make…and so do you. Who is Jesus? How will you respond to Him?

Until next time…stay salty.

 “May we rejoice in both the message and the Messenger of good news, the King and His kingdom.”

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

To Err Is Human?

Luke 4.1-13

Jesus knew the Word and was in-dwelt by the Spirit (Ephesians 6). He never doubted the Father’s love for Him, and He fully trusted God. Jesus knew that His Father would provide for Him and that the short-term, fleeting pleasures of this world, even good things like daily bread, could not compare with His relationship to the Father. That allowed Him to forego grabbing power and to wait on the Father’s timing and endure intense suffering even for the things that had been promised Him by the Father. That allowed Him to trust in the Father’s protection without having to test it.

This all flowed out of a deep understanding of the Father’s words spoken through the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Word…He was the Word! But while Luke builds the case for Jesus’ deity, he also presents a very human Jesus. And Jesus who goes toe-to-toe with the enemy does not rely on His deity to defeat him. He leans into His humanity and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who dwells in all of us who have believed. But how did He do it? Well, I believe that Jesus immersed Himself in the Scriptures so that He might know His Father’s Words and might recognize the truth of the Father’s love for Him. So when He responds, the words of the Father naturally come out.

So what about you?

We can let Adam and Eve be our example and believe the lie that God really doesn’t love us, is holding out on us, and take things into our own hands…I think we all know how that turned out…or we can let Jesus be our example, and we can walk away from current temptation and instead trust in God’s provision, power and protection. We can remember that God is who He says He is – a loving Father who wants the best for us.

How do we build this trust in our Father the way that Jesus did?

We submerge ourselves in the truth. Only then can we recognize the lies and false promises of the devil, so that when temptation comes, we can remember the words of our Father. Remember the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to face temptation lives in us as well. That same Spirit can also empower us to face temptation.

The Scriptures tell us that all of us who have believed are children of God the Father. It’s not just a distant, theological relationship. It’s the intimate relationship of a Father to His child. He wants that for us, He wants that for you. He wants you to spend time with Him, to hear His words so that you might know and be settled in the truth that He really loves you and has amazing plans for your good. You are His beloved son/daughter…not because you are the prettiest or the funniest, the fastest on the playground, or because you got the best grades, or for any other reason other than that He loves you. If those were the words that we heard and had settled deep in our souls, then the lies of the enemy…God doesn’t love, you’re not good enough, don’t you deserve more, etc…truly would fall on deaf ears. We would not be so easily crushed by temptation.

One practical way to settle the Father’s words deep in our soul is through time spent reading His Word. Our daily reading blog is a great vehicle for that. Regular time in the Bible will begin to combat the false messages you hear everyday and the lies of the enemy. Spend time in the Word with a group of friends in community. Encourage one another with the Word. Memorize Bible verses like Psalm 119.11 “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Or 1 Corinthians 10.13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We call it renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching.

And it’s key to victory over temptation.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be like Jesus, led by the Spirit, relying on the Word, never doubting for a moment the Father’s love for us, fully trusting in Him so that we too may be able to resist temptation.”

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

The Long Awaited Hero

Luke 3.15-38

John’s job was straightforward…prepare the way for Jesus, so that when Jesus came folks would be ready to receive Him. His coming would be good news for those who were ready…but His coming would be bad news indeed for those who were not.

Jesus is the long awaited Hero of our story. It was confirmed by both the Father and the Spirit at His baptism. It was confirmed by His ancestry tying Him to the promises God made to David, Abraham and the serpent (Genesis 3.15). He is the Hero of our story…the One and only One.

John knew his place before God. He knew he wasn’t the Hero…that even he needed to repent of his sin. True repentance and a life of faith come from a deep understanding of who God is, and who we are before Him. He is our Creator and our Redeemer. He is the boss, we are not. John understood who God was and had the right perspective here on earth. He knew that the most important thing he could do with his earthly life was to spread Jesus’ message, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

John’s audience only had two options…accept his message and repent (aka believe in Jesus) or reject his message and face judgment. There was no middle ground. There was no riding the fence. There was no “one foot in, one foot out”. The choice was simple…

The same is true for us today. We can either choose to believe in Jesus, or we choose to reject Him. There is no middle ground. There is no “both” option. Those who believe in Jesus should be evident by their actions…actions that flow from a life that has been transformed by Jesus. John calls it “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance”. As believers, living the way John the Baptist did, our lives should be marked with gratitude, confidence and freedom…gratitude knowing how good God is…to create us and then provide a path of repentance after our rebellion. How can we not live a life of gratitude, knowing that we are loved that much? Everything has been taken care of by Him. Confidence that our salvation is wrapped up in what Jesus did.. not what we do. That should make us breathe a sigh of relief. Freedom to love others despite how they love us.

Those who have not believed in Jesus, whether they’ve rejected Him outright or have not heard the gospel are mostly revealed by their actions…actions that flow from a life that is still dead in trespasses and sins. For them, Jesus’ coming is the unquenchable fire of judgment. One thing I want to be clear…we were all on the path of destruction. Every one of us. But Jesus came to offer a way of escape. He came to rescue us. So those who reject Jesus will face judgment, not simply because they rejected Jesus…we were all on under judgment, condemned to hell because of our rebellion against our Creator long ago…but because they rejected His offer of rescue. If that’s you, or you suspect it might be you, please know that it doesn’t have to be. The Bible says that if you believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life, the one we were supposed to have lived, He died a sacrificial death in our place, He was resurrected on the 3rd day conquering both sin and death, and that He is now at the right hand of God the Father, you are saved.

Then Jesus will be your long awaited Hero.

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live like those who have been rescued and transformed by Jesus.”

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

Ready or Not

Luke 3.1-14

John’s goal is to prepare a people ready for God’s salvation that comes through Jesus. His message is hope for the spiritually hungry, but a stern warning for the unrepentant. With the day of hope, comes the day of judgment as well…with the opportunity of promise comes the risk of rejecting the promise.

Just like John’s audience, we too need to be prepared. What needs to change? What then shall we do? For some of us, there are some barriers to faith that need to be removed…some things that we need to turn from or let go of so that we can lay hold of God. Judgment is coming…and it will be a day of wrath for those who are God’s enemies. The only One who can rescue is Jesus, but you have to have a personal encounter with Him. Your friends’ faith, your parents’ faith, your spouse’s faith…none of that can save you. There are no +1’s in the kingdom. But you may be saying, “You don’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve done”…there ain’t no mountain high enough, there ain’t no valley low enough, there ain’t no road too crooked, no heart to wicked that Jesus can’t save… But you have to choose to believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life, the one we were supposed to have lived, He died a sacrificial death in our place, He was resurrected on the 3rd day conquering both sin and death, and that He is now at the right hand of God the Father. By believing that, the Bible says that you are saved.

For some of us, we may say we’ve believed, but there has been no real change in our lives. If so, there’s a problem…because Jesus changes everything. Paul says you’ve passed from death to life. You are a new creation. You’ve been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son. If nothing’s changed… Things won’t likely change all at once, but you should see some kind of growth in your desire for God and the things of God. You should see some change in character (fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, etc.). Either you haven’t truly believed, or like the weeds in the parable of the soils, the cares of this world are choking out the fruit. I would challenge you to take some time today to examine your life. Ask the Spirit to bring to light what needs to change…what’s keeping you from Jesus?

For some of us, we’ve believed and we’ve seen some changes…some fruit but we want to see more. Continue to pursue your relationship with Jesus. Last week we talked about Grow and discipleship. Join a community group or another group where you can study the Word together, pray together, encourage and challenge each other, where you can make much of Jesus. Find a place to serve. Prepare the way for others. Your impact list is a great place to start. What can you do to bring those around you one step closer to Jesus?

Ready or not, Jesus is coming.

Until next time…stay salty.

The psalmist challenges us…“Search me of God and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way within me and lead me in the everlasting way.” Ask God to search you and reveal anything that might be keeping you from Him.

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

Examining a Lifestyle of Worship

Luke 2.41-52

Jesus lived a lifestyle of worship…a lifestyle that was modeled by His parents and reflected His absolute devotion to God. There is no doubt He was totally sold out.

We see Joseph and Mary’s lifestyle of worship in their pursuit of God…their obedience by doing everything according to the Law including the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Following God wasn’t just a part of their life…an event reserved for the Sabbath or special holidays…it was their life. A lifestyle of worship…it invaded every corner of who they were. We see it in their investment in Jesus’ life…passing on a spiritual legacy to their Son.

Jesus’ lifestyle of worship is evident in His relationship with His Father God. Not only did He participate in the celebration of Passover, He wanted to learn everything He could…energizing His heart and mind through biblical teaching. He had a personal relationship with God. And He obeyed those God had placed in authority over Him…even though He was and is eternal God.

What does it look like for us to live a lifestyle of worship? For both parents and students, it looks like all out pursuit of God, walking in obedience and learning all that we can about Him, and passing on a spiritual legacy to the next generation. It’s more than the songs we sing or a weekend event…it should infect every aspect of our lives. Make the commitment to pursue a lifestyle of worship today.

There are no +1’s in the kingdom of God. Each of us can only enter by being a son or daughter of the King. That means that each one of us must have his or her own relationship with Father God. You can only have that through Jesus. Joseph and Mary went looking for Jesus because they thought they had lost Him, but He was where they had left Him all along. Are you searching for Jesus? Then look no further. He’s here today and wants to welcome you into the family.

May we pursue a lifestyle of worship this week, growing in our understanding of who God is and who we are as His children and pointing others to Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

According to the Law of the Lord

Luke 2.22-40

Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, the faithful remnant within Israel who were anxiously awaiting the coming of Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people are blown away when Jesus shows up. They experience the joy that salvation brings…the joy that can only truly be known when what is most hoped for has been realized.

Salvation is here! It’s a day of joy or a day of dread…for those believe in Jesus, for those whose hope has been realized, it’s a day of joy. That’s why I love the picture of Simeon and Anna who were daily looking for Jesus. There’s no doubt what they most hoped for. Their actions demonstrated it. I wonder what our actions demonstrate… You see, we as the church, are a part of the family of God like Simeon and Anna were. Are our lives marked by the same love and devotion to God, the same sense of expectancy and anticipation? Could it be said that we are daily looking for Jesus? Not just for this life, but also anxiously awaiting His Return? Is our faith clear by our actions? Is Jesus our Savior and Lord? Do we count it a privilege to be the Lord’s slave or have we forgotten that we were saved to serve fearlessly?

If you are one of those faithful saints who, like Simeon and Anna, are daily looking for Jesus, let me encourage you to keep at it. To serve the Lord with gladness and proclaim the good news that salvation is here. If you are not living a lifestyle of worship, serving and proclaiming the good news, what are you willing to do about it? You are having an impact on those around you…what kind of impact are you having? Is it for good or ill? Are you leading them one step closer to Jesus, or turning them away? Make the commitment to be all in. Pray and ask God for help. Make it a regular practice to spend time reading God’s Word and meditating on it. Pray daily. Give generously. Look for opportunities to help/serve others. Join a community group. Talk to one of the pastors or your community group leader. Get involved in serving on the weekends. Just like my boys, I want you to know the joy, peace and love, and all the other good stuff that only can be experienced when you are running after Jesus, and the sense of adventure when you trust Him in big ways in your life. The Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

But for those who reject Jesus it’s a day of dread because He is the only hope of rescue. He is the only One who can save us from our sins and give us new life. You are either for or against Him. You can’t remain neutral. There is no fence. What are you waiting for? What will you do with Jesus today?

Salvation is here! May we daily look for Jesus, experiencing the joy of His salvation and sharing that joy with others.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster