Put the Kingdom First

Romans 14.13-23

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said it this way, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Never confuse the externals with the eternals.

Martin Luther, in his book, On the Liberty of a Christian, says this, “A Christian is a most free lord of all, subject to none” and “A Christian is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Which is it? Both. There is great individual freedom in following Jesus, but the goal isn’t exercising that freedom…it’s building one another up. Pursuing our shared life together. Unity in diversity. Putting the kingdom first.

It’s all part of our debt to love. What does love look like in this situation? What does it look like to love this person? Sometimes that involves sacrificing some things that I really don’t want to sacrifice. But that’s when I have to remember…it’s not about the externals. It’s about the eternals. The things you may have to give up are temporary. Your brother or sister? They’re not. They are forever. And so are you.

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

Unity and Diversity

Romans 14.1-12

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

If we all spent a little less time worrying about what everyone else was doing and focused on what we’re doing…on what Jesus has called us to do…the world…and for sure the church…would be a much better place. Less judgey and more friendly. Less about me and my preferences and more about “we” and the mission we’ve been given. Unity in diversity.

It’s definitely one of the things that makes the church unique. Folks come from all over with myriad backgrounds and sometimes very little common ground besides Jesus. And He brings us together, not to make us the same, but to make us one. And that’s way cooler. But it takes work. It takes a willingness to accept each other…to welcome one another into fellowship despite our differences. To really love each other well.

I still remember fondly the days of kickball at recess, of working out our differences and learning to play together on the playground. We are striving to do the same as a staff. May we also run after that as a church.

How you live your life today matters. Who you live your life for today matters. You see, the King is coming back. What will He say to you when He returns?

Jesus is coming back. And He will either be your King or your Judge. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Make today the day. Recognize that you need to be saved. Believe that Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death so that by believing in Him you can have eternal life. And then He will be your King, too.

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

Let Love Be Your Outstanding Debt

Romans 13.8-14

Owe nothing except the debt to love.

I wonder what it would look like if we took that challenge seriously. If the first thought we had when we saw someone is, “How can I love them?” Or “What would love look like in this situation?” Kind of a scary thought, huh? It would no doubt raise a few eyebrows and would certainly be countercultural. But there would also be no mistaking who we are and whose we are.

A few weeks ago, Scott said his word for the year is intentional. That comes to mind with this passage. In order to live out our faith and to live like Jesus could come back at any time, we have to be intentional. Intentional in renewing our minds through time spent in God’s Word and God’s Word spending time in us. Intentional about prayer…seeing it not just as a luxury when I can get to it, but a vital part of our day throughout the day. Intentional about time with other believers…are you in a community group? Intentional about living a generous life (Who can I bless? What needs can I meet?). Intentional about sharing our story. Intentional about investing our mina…our life…for maximum kingdom impact.

Back to the parable of the nobleman from Luke 19. Those who know the King and are living intentionally for the kingdom are anxious for His return. They can’t wait to share with Him stories of how they’ve invested the mina He entrusted to them and rejoice with Him in the impact it’s made. They are living today in light of eternity. Is that you?

If not, what is it you need to put aside…how are you conforming to this world? What compromises are you making? What needs to change in your daily/weekly routine? What relationships do you need to reevaluate? What intentional step can you take this week?

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

Religion and Politics

Romans 13.1-7

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” Religion and politics…maybe they are not so taboo. Our allegiance to God doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t be good citizens, neither should being a good citizen trump our allegiance to God.

We have a duty to both the state and to God. What Caesar requires of us irrelevant unless it interferes with our duty to God. Paul doesn’t tell us what to do when the two collide…when they are in conflict, but we have a few biblical examples. We already talked about Daniel and the lions’ den (Daniel 6). Another one from the book of Daniel is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they handled Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the golden statue (For Veggie Tales fans: Rack, Shack and Benny…and the chocolate bunny) (Daniel 3). When the choice is between obeying God or obeying man, we have to choose to obey God (Acts 5.28-29). If you, as a Christian, are asked to do something that violates the Word of God, you should say “no”, but you should do so respectfully and then be prepared to face the consequences. Just like Daniel and his buddies. And just like Christian martyrs have done throughout the centuries.

Fundamentally the question is: where is our hope? Is our hope in an earthly kingdom, a political system that no matter how good it is is doomed to fail because of sin, or in the unshakeable kingdom that Jesus brings? Are we looking for an earthly king to save us, or are we looking for the King who has already saved us?

And as those who follow Jesus, how do we engage the culture? What does it mean to live and love like Jesus? What’s our responsibility? First and foremost to remember that Jesus is our only Hope and our King. We have to remember who we are and whose we are. So we don’t give up (persecution, etc.), we don’t give in (conform) because we know that Jesus wins. And knowing that…We as followers of Jesus are called to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2) because we know that God has placed them there. We are to be markedly law-abiding, even down to the traffic laws and paying taxes. To be good citizens.

And we are to pray…PRAY, PRAY, PRAY…prayer is our greatest weapon in spiritual warfare. Make no mistake…as Paul says, our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers, against the rulers, against the spiritual forces in heavenly places…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Pray first. Ask God for wisdom. And then follow His lead. Let Him fight for you. Let Him make a way where there may not seem to be one. He can…He will…but even if He doesn’t, He’s still God. And remember what Paul said to Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, for prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2.1-2).

We might also need to confess our pride and our sinful attitudes…conversations, statements and responses that have reflected more fear than faith, more of my kingdom than God’s kingdom.

We now have a new president…Joe Biden…for whom we are called to pray and be in subjection to his authority. May not be easy to do, especially if he wasn’t your candidate. But we have to trust it’s God’s good and acceptable and perfect will. He’s still in control. Just as He was when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stepped into a fiery furnace. Just as He was when Daniel was lowered into a lions’ den. Just as He was when Jesus was nailed to a cross.

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

Renewed Thinking

Romans 12.3-21

Renewed thinking allows us to see the world from a very different perspective than those around us. It causes us to think rightly about who we are and how we fit within the church. And it’s the catalyst for us to live and love like Jesus.

Renewed thinking comes from a renewed mind…a mind that has been transformed by God’s Word. As we spend more time in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to spend more time in us, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and transform us to live and love like Jesus. We begin to see the world more and more through His eyes. We begin to want what He wants. We begin to love like He loves. We begin to live out our role as ambassadors for His kingdom. And so come what may…good times or bad, blessing or cursing, feast or famine, tribulation or persecution or suffering of any kind…we can rejoice. We have hope. We trust God. And we see that His will for us is perfect…good, acceptable and perfect.

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

Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind

Romans 12.1-2

We all have things in our lives that are stumbling blocks to us following Jesus…those sticky points that can cause us to be spiritually stuck. Ways that we are conforming to the world around us. But as we spend more time in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to spend more time in us, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and transform us to live and love like Jesus. We begin to see the world more and more through His eyes. We begin to want what He wants. We see that His will for us is perfect. And then offering the whole of ourselves to Him just makes sense. It’s the only reasonable thing to do.

Every moment of every day we make choices that either lead us to being conformed to this world or transformed to live and love like Jesus. What choices are you making? Is your mind being renewed, or is it being assimilated into the culture? Depends on what you’re feeding it, right? Either the Truth of God’s Word or the lies of the enemy. In Romans 6.12-14, Paul said, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

God used this passage in Romans to pry me loose from the spiritual quicksand that I found myself in a few years ago. Every now and again I have a tendency to wander towards the sandtrap…part of being a new creation in a fallen world I suppose, but as I’ve made the effort with God’s help to pursue Jesus a lifestyle rather than an experiment…training vs. trying…, and as I’ve surrounded myself with other believers who are doing the same, I don’t find myself getting stuck quite as often. My prayer is that God will do the same for you.

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

The Restoration of Israel

Romans 11.25-36

God is not done with His people Israel. Though things haven’t turned out quite the way we might have expected, God is using Israel’s disobedience to bring the gospel (mercy) to the Gentiles which in turn will result in Israel’s turning to God (mercy) because of the blessings of salvation being shown to the Gentiles…blessings that are part of the OT promises.

Only God could do it. He makes a way when there seems to be no way. He is in a category all His own. He’s God.

And when we think about our own salvation, like Paul it should cause us to break out in praise to God. Is that true for you? Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve really thought about it. Might be worth a walk around the block or an hour or so sitting on the back porch thinking, pondering, meditating on the goodness of God in your life…then thanking and praising Him. Sounds like a great plan for the week of Thanksgiving.

I said this last week, but I want us to keep it in mind. Pray for Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for individual Jews that you know. Pray for the nation that they would accept Jesus as their Messiah. If their failure is riches for Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be…right? It’s as they see the difference that Jesus has made in our lives that they will become jealous in a good way…a life changing, eternity transforming way…a passing from death to life way.

Next week we start our Advent series, Joy Delivered.

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

The Jewishness of Christianity

Romans 11.11-24

Being grafted in to the people of God is a huge privilege for us…for a “no people without understanding”, wild olive branches that had no hope of salvation outside the kindness and mercy of God. By faith we have been grafted in and by faith we stand.

God is not done with His people Israel. They still are His people. We benefit from the promises given to them. We are partakers of the rich root of the olive tree…not as natural branches, but as those who have been grafted in. So there is no room for boasting. We, the Church, have not replaced Israel. We have been grafted in to the people of God. Reminds me of the picture of New Jerusalem in Revelation…the twelve gates have the names of the twelve tribes written on them (OT), while the twelve foundation stones have the names of the apostles (NT) (Revelation 21.12-14)…a picture of the cultivated olive tree to which the nations coming streaming in.

Pray for Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for individual Jews that you know. Pray for the nation that they would accept Jesus as their Messiah. If their failure is riches for Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be…right?

God takes our faith seriously, and so should we. We are saved by faith and not by works. But we are saved to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do. We are to live out our faith. We are to provoke others to jealousy…living our lives in such a way that they want to come to know and follow Jesus. Can that be said of you? If not, what needs to change?

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

Israel’s Believing Remnant

Romans 11.1-10

God has not rejected His people. There is a believing remnant of Jews now just as there has always been…a remnant chosen by God. Not because they deserve it. But because of God’s mercy. A remnant who have trusted in Jesus.

Two things that I want you to think about. First, you are not alone. Often in the Christian life we find ourselves in situations where we feel all alone. Like we are the only ones who are following Jesus. And it’s tempting in those times to despair…to throw our hands up and want to give up. But don’t. My guess is you’re not alone. If you will lift your head up out of the dark cloud you’ve created, you’ll often find there are other believers around that you were not previously aware of. And in the workplace or at school, it’s good to know others who share your faith and can be a support when times are tough. Maybe it’s the push you need to share your story…tell others about the hope that you have in Jesus.

Second, there is an implicit warning for us not to disregard the truth. If we are constantly hearing the Word preached/taught and yet not responding to it, our hearts become hard. Eventually we are unable to respond to the truth. Now God can work miracles in hard hearts, but don’t let it go that far…don’t neglect to respond to the truth that you hear.

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

Israel’s Accountablity

Romans 10.14-21

How beautiful the feet of those who bring good news of good things! Israel had every ingredient necessary for salvation but one…faith. God had sent messengers to proclaim the good news. Those messengers had preached the gospel to the people. The people heard…but they did not believe. And because they did not believe, they did not call upon the name of the Lord. They didn’t trust in Jesus.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve talked about God’s sovereignty. A very weighty topic for sure…for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. And whom He predestined, these He also called. And whom He called, these He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified. God chooses…and yet we have a choice. In fact, Paul makes it clear that Israel had every opportunity…so they are without excuse. They chose to reject God’s mercy.

We have a part to play in this divine drama. Like Paul and his traveling buddies and the rest of the Apostles, we have a job to do…a mission to complete. To share our story. To tell folks the good news. The gospel. The reason for the hope that we have. God has put you in a unique position to reach the folks he’s placed in your life. Some will never come to church. They won’t hear unless you tell them.

I remember when I was working for Waste Management in Houston that it struck me…most of the folks I was working with didn’t go to church. They weren’t believers. As far as I know, I was the only Christian influence in their lives. So if they didn’t hear about Jesus from me, where would they hear about Him? And so I became intentional about looking for opportunities to share my story. And over the years, God opened up windows of opportunity to talk to most of them that I worked closely with.

We want to partner with you as you make an impact for the Kingdom. Two helpful tools I want to mention…both can be found on our website at centralchristian.org. The first is: “Your Story”. It’s a great tool for helping you think through and articulate your story…not your biography, your testimony. Once you’ve written out your story, pray about who to share it with and ask God for opportunities.

That leads us to the second resource which is: “Your Impact List”. These are the folks that God has placed in your sphere of influence who need to hear the good news. It could be people from work, school, neighbors, family, friends, etc. A good way to start is to pray and ask God to bring to mind folks you need to reach out to, and then write their names down on Your Impact List. A printable version is available on our website. You can stick it to your fridge, your mirror, put it in your Bible or journal. Wherever you’ll regularly see it and remember to pray for those people and to look for opportunities to share your story with them.

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