Final Words

Romans 16.17-27

“…to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.” Only God could do it. Only God.

And so we come to the end of the book of Romans, Paul’s great treatise on the gospel. Packed full of doctrine and practical advice. It really is Paul’s magnum opus.

Paul starts by highlighting our deep and desperate need for a Savior…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (1-3). The problem is universal…both Jews and Gentiles. We are not all as bad as we could be, but we are all as bad off as we can be without Jesus.

Paul moves on to point out the great salvation that God offers through Jesus…a salvation that’s available to both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Jesus (3-5). The same faith that the OT saints had. By faith we are justified…declared not guilty. Because Jesus paid the penalty that our sins required. He satisfied the wrath of God that we deserved. He reconciled us to Him, so that now we have peace with God. Once we were united with Adam in sin and death, but now we are united with Jesus in resurrection and life.

Next Paul tackles the reality of our new life in Jesus (6-8). We are not who we used to be, so we shouldn’t live like we used to live. We are to present ourselves alive in Christ Jesus. And yet, a battle still rages in our mind and body. Though our sin has been forgiven, and we have been given new life, we have to choose to live that new life. The flesh will always war against our spirit in that choice. But the good news is that we have the Spirit of God living in us, empowering us to live the life God calls us to, interceding for us and making us more like Jesus. Reminding us that we are perfectly loved by God.

Then Paul circles back around to the question of the Jews and God’s promises to them (9-11). Our unfaithfulness does not invalidate God’s faithfulness. He will keep His promises. He chooses, and we have a choice. Both are true. We are fully responsible for our own actions, and yet everyone of them falls within the purview of God’s will. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Olive tree theology. As believing Gentiles, we have been grafted into the people of God…we have been made beneficiaries of the promises made to the fathers.

Finally, Paul challenges us to offer ourselves as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God (12-16). That’s only possible when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and only then can we see that His will for us is good and acceptable and perfect. That His way is the best way. And then we will have a desire to pursue one another in love. We not me. Asking the question, what would love do? Celebrating unity in diversity. One…not the same, but one in Jesus.

And when that’s true of us, then our faith…our obedience…will be evident to all.

One of my favorite quotes is from a guy named A.W. Tozer and goes something like this, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come” (A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, p. 71). Does the enemy have anything to fear from us? From you? When we live the kind of life that Paul talks about here, then he will. Then get ready because we will have a target on us. And that’s not a bad thing. It means we are doing something right.

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

Personal Greetings aka Super Friends

Romans 16.1-16

Earlier Paul had said, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” And clearly Paul modeled that in his own life. Reading a book like Romans we can sometimes forget that Paul wasn’t just an academic sitting in his study cranking out doctrine. Paul was a people person. He loved people. He genuinely loved people. And that was the driving force behind his ministry. He wanted them to know his Savior. And so he did everything he could to introduce them to Jesus.

Thinking back to our time in the book of Acts and following Paul’s missionary journeys, we rarely see him on his own. Maybe Athens, but even then he was waiting for his buddies Silas and Timothy. He knew the value of “we”. He knew his need for other folks, and he trusted them. How many times does he call someone beloved? And in a time when you didn’t have social media or cell phones or texts or email or even good ole fashion land lines to keep in touch…not even a postal system like we have today…how did Paul keep up with all these folks? Because he loved them. He genuinely loved them. Because they made an impact in his life, just as he made an impact in theirs.

Paul never did ministry alone, and he continually invested in the lives of those he was bringing along. So who are your traveling buddies? Who are you following Jesus with? And who are you bringing along? Who are you building into? Who’s building into you? Who are you teaching about the faith? Who are you challenging to bring another along?

Let me challenge you with this this week…if you are not involved in a community group or small group of some kind, get involved. If you are not investing time bringing someone else along in the faith, pray about who that might be and then be intentional about building into his or her life.

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

Just Like Paul

Romans 15.14-33

“And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named…” Like Paul, we too are called to share Jesus where He is not already known/named. It might not be in some far-flung locale like Illyricum. It might just be one desk over…one cubicle over…one house over.

We all have a story to share…I’m not talking about your biography. I’m talking about your testimony…the story of how Jesus changed your life. And these days it’s a story that folks desperately need to hear. They need to know about the hope that you’ve found in Jesus.

God has uniquely wired you for the ministry He’s given you. There is no one like you. The gifts and talents and experiences and passion and personality all flowing together to make you uniquely you. But He’s given you all of those things for a purpose…and that’s to minister, to serve as a priest in the place, in the context He’s given you to minister in….to offer up those who don’t know Him as an acceptable sacrifice, a pleasing aroma. To bring more folks into the kingdom. That’s the only thing worth boasting about…not what I’ve accomplished, but what Jesus has accomplished through me. And what Jesus has accomplished through you. And what Jesus is accomplishing through us as a church.

Finally, let me come back to prayer. I hope you see that prayer is your primary weapon against the enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Prayer is something that should not just be a daily habit, but a throughout the day habit. And it’s something we should be doing for/with one another.

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

Just Like Jesus

Romans 15.1-13

“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Why does it seem so hard sometimes? I think we have a hard time with the first part when we forget the example of the second part. Just like Jesus.

It’s kind of like our struggle with forgiving others. When we forget how great a debt we’ve been forgiven, we have a much harder time forgiving others. But when we remember God’s mercy towards us, and we allow that to blow us away…then forgiving others is just not that hard. How could we not?

What does love look like? Sometimes it looks like giving up…my preferences or my freedoms or my rights…and sometimes it looks like putting up…with others convictions or opinions…but it always looks like building up…looking out for the good of the other person. Pointing them to Jesus. Living for the kingdom and not for the here-and-now.

Just like Jesus.

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

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