Jerusalem Outbrief

Acts 15.22-41

The church in Antioch anxiously awaits the decision of the Jerusalem Council regarding the question of whether the Gentiles had to first become Jews before becoming Christians. The Council is unified in its decision…a decision that they discerned the Holy Spirit leading them to. Salvation is by faith alone. For both Jews and Gentiles. Both must believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and new life in Him.

We get in trouble when we expect unbelievers to act like believers before they can be believers. Or when we want them to clean up their act before they come to church. Adding a list of do’s or do not’s to faith is legalism. Until a person has trusted in Jesus, the do’s and do not’s have absolutely no impact on their lives. Dead is dead. It is only faith in Jesus that saves…only faith in Him that gives life.

We also get in trouble when we impose our version of Christianity on other believers. When we expect their walk with Jesus will look exactly like ours. No doubt the Bible has a lot to say about the things we should do and the things we shouldn’t do as believers. But the doing or not doing of those things doesn’t save us, and in and of themselves those things cannot make us more like Jesus. Only the Spirit can do that…only He can transform us to live and love like Jesus. But we do or don’t do out of obedience to Him…because we love Him…not because we intend to get something selfish out of it.

One last thing, and it’s a big thing. We are to turn from vain things to the living God because those vain things only bring death. But I think sometimes we don’t really want to turn from those vain things. We want to hold on to them. Even though Jesus has freed us from them, we keep running back to them and we continue to drag them along because we foolishly think they will somehow give us life. Like the Israelites, we keep wanting to run back to Egypt. And so we may continue in a sexually immoral relationship because we think that’s life. And so we continue our shady business dealings because we think the bank it generates gives us life. And so we continue to live our lives like the world revolves around us…promoting ourselves…because we think it somehow gives us life. But those things don’t bring true life. Only the illusion of life. And once it’s gone, then we can see them for what they really are…vain idols that only bring death.

What is it you need to turn from today, so that you can turn to Jesus? What do you need to let go of, so that you can lay hold of life?

pro rege

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

A Level Playing Field

Acts 11.1-18

Jewish believers are questioning Peter’s reasoning, not for preaching to Cornelius and his household, but for eating with them. They struggle to understand how Peter, an Apostle and their fearless leader, being a Jew could have fellowship with the Gentiles.

Buried in their criticism there seems to be this underlying assumption that will become more clear later on that before the Gentiles can be welcomed into the church, they must first become Jews. After all, the OT covenants with Abraham and David and even the New Covenant were all made by God with the Jewish people. The nations could be blessed through Abraham, but even then they weren’t on the same footing. The Jews were God’s chosen people.

The scandal of the gospel is that Gentiles too could enter into the kingdom simply by believing in Jesus without first becoming Jews (Colossians 1.21-27). The gospel + anything is legalism. It’s what Paul rails against in Galatians. Salvation is by grace through faith alone… In other words, the Jews and the Gentiles are on equal footing. There is now one people of God…doesn’t mean that God is done with the Jews as a people (stay tuned for Romans and Revelation), but it means that we have equal access to the Father through Jesus, that we have the same Spirit living in us. I think it’s hard for us to understand how big a deal this is. We who were the furthest from God and least deserving of His mercy…that He could love even us, that He would welcome us into His kingdom. We of all people should be the most thankful. There’s this awesome picture in Revelation 7.9-10…“a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” 

And while we may think this was just their problem aka this group of Jewish believers, how often do we in the church look at others and jump to conclusions because they don’t do things the way we would like for them to? We say that we want unbelievers coming to church, but the reality is that it’s messy. It’s much easier if someone becomes a Christian before they start attending church. How often do we miss what God is up to because we are caught up in our own agenda?

Often we’ve said we should expect persecution…following Jesus is counter-cultural and revolutionary…it’s treason against the god of this world and an affront to those living according to this world’s values…so we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a predictable outcome. They persecuted Jesus, and they will persecute us. So far so good. But what happens when the persecution comes from inside the church…so-called friendly fire or team kills? We expect it out there, but when it happens in here? It just shouldn’t be. We’re all on a level playing field because of Jesus. Just Jesus. Because Jesus + ______= Legalism. Is there a + _____ in your life? If so, what is it? And what are you going to do about it?

One day we will be gathered around a throne worshiping God, not worried about what divides us, but celebrating the One who unites us. Amen, Come Lord Jesus.

pro rege

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

Saul’s Story

Acts 9.1-19a

Saul has an encounter with Jesus, and his life is forever changed. And not just his life. God will use him to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth…planting churches and writing letters which will make up a majority of the NT. Saul’s encounter with Jesus is so significant not only to the book of Acts, but also in the history of the church that this is the first of three times that his conversion is talked about in the story.

Saul was chosen for a purpose…God would use him to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Ananias was chosen for a purpose…he will be the one to commission Saul. God has also chosen you for a purpose…He wants to use you to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Do you realize that? Maybe you’ve never heard that before, but God chose you for a purpose…and the purpose isn’t so that you could go to heaven. If that were the case, you would already be there. No, He chose you so that you would have a kingdom impact on the folks around you. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2.8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Jesus calls it “bearing fruit”. You have been chosen for a purpose.

Ananias was surprised that the Lord would have him go and find Saul…probably even more surprised that the church’s greatest enemy would become its greatest ally. Who is it in your life that God may be calling you to share your story with? Who is it that you think is beyond reach? Saul’s story is a reminder and an encouragement that no one is beyond the reach of the gospel. No one is so lost that they cannot be found, so blind that they cannot see, so dead that they cannot be made alive. Do you believe that today? Do you believe that there is nothing you could have ever done that could keep you from Jesus?

We see God’s fingerprints all over this story. It’s no accident that Saul comes to faith. Not only does Jesus appear to Saul on the road to Damascus, He also appears to Saul a second time and to Ananias to arrange a meet and greet. God is in control. He’s in control of the events of this story, and He’s in control of the events in your story.

Maybe you haven’t yet had an encounter with Jesus. Maybe you think you are too far gone to be saved. You’re not. Saul wasn’t. Neither are you. God wants to work a miracle in your life…to bring you from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son…to give your life new purpose and meaning and to use you to impact the lives of those around you for His kingdom. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

If you have had an encounter with Jesus, who do you need to share your story with this week? Who is it that God wants to uniquely use you to reach? What kind of impact are you going to have on the kingdom?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Good News…Jesus is Risen!

Jesus is alive. God raised Him from the dead. His resurrection proves that Jesus is the Hero He claimed to be and that everything He said is true…His death satisfied God’s just punishment for sin, and He is able to raise us to new life, to give us eternal life. And as He promised, Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. So no matter how much the world may shake around us…God is able to bring life out of death, hope out of despair, victory out of sure defeat.

The resurrection changes everything! Jesus makes all the difference. He gives purpose and meaning to life, He brings real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

Do you know Jesus as Savior today? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. Recognize your need to be saved…we are all sinners. Believe that Jesus came to save you by dying a sacrificial death for your sins. Then trust Him to save you. Then you too can truly celebrate Easter, and the good news that Jesus is risen.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

It’s Not Too Late

Acts 3.11-26

In this Peter’s second sermon, he once again implicates the Jews for killing their Messiah. But if they will repent and return, forgiveness is available. Only then will they realize the promises that God made to their fathers. If not, they stand condemned.

Jesus is the answer the Jews had been waiting for, but they missed it. Even though they were wrong about Him, they were convinced they were right. Unfortunately I think we often believe the lie that the answer we’re looking for…whatever it is we think will give our life meaning…can be found in the pursuit of self and the things of this world…relationships, careers/jobs, etc. Even though we may think we’re right, we’re dead wrong. That’s not life, but death. So if you are looking for the right answer in the wrong place, it’s not too late. Jesus is the answer for you too.

Jesus came to bless us…I think it’s such a beautiful picture. Though we were His enemies and our only thought was to put to death the Author of life, yet He willingly gave His life so that we could experience life. Real life. Life with Him in His kingdom. He came to bless us by turning us from our wicked ways. By believing in Him you can be saved.

So how is repentance taking root in your life? We have been called to repent time and time again throughout this series…there’s that first act of repentance when we trusted in Him initially, but then there’s the ongoing repentance…the turning back again. Are we actually doing it? Are we learning to live and love like Jesus?

I love the boldness of Peter to stand up and proclaim Jesus, even when it wasn’t easy. I wonder if we are willing to do the same. Why not start with your impact list? Who is the one you are praying for…that you are inviting to come with you for Easter? Maybe you can share your story with them this week…

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Beginning of the Church

Acts 2.14-41

The crowds ask Peter that day, “What must we do to be saved?” Maybe that’s you today. If it is, the answer is the same…repent. Recognize that you stand condemned, guilty before a holy God. Believe that Jesus can save you, and then trust Him to do so. When you do that, you too will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit. You will be adopted into God’s family, a son or daughter of the King with an eternity to spend with Him. The first step of obedience then is baptism.

If you have trusted in Jesus, but have not yet been baptized, what are you waiting for? We will see throughout the book of Acts that those who believe are baptized. And in Matthew 28 as Jesus is giving His final instructions to the disciples, part of the disciple-making process is “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded…” So what are you waiting for?

For the rest of us, who are you praying for? Who’s on your impact list? Last week I asked you to start building your testimony by considering the question, “Who was I before Jesus?” This week I encourage you to interact with the question, “How did you recognize your need for Jesus?”

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Ascension Revisited

Acts 1.1-11

Jesus’ last words to His Apostles are His final instructions for the church. Until He returns we have a job to do. We are to be His witnesses…to share the good news of the salvation we have in Jesus. And our job is not done until we go to be with Him or He comes for us.

In Luke 19.11-27, Jesus tells the parable of the minas. A nobleman going off to receive a kingdom gives each of his slaves a mina which they are to invest until he comes back. When he returns, he calls three of his slaves forward to report what kind of return they had on their investments. The first slave exclaims, “Master, your mina made ten minas more…isn’t that awesome!?!. The King’s response, “That it is. Well done good slave…you will be ruler over ten cities.” The second slave made five minas. The King puts him in charge of five cities. But the third slave said, “Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” The King’s reaction, “You worthless slave…at least you could have put my money in the bank, so that I might have it back with interest.”And his one mina is taken away. The mina in the parable is the gospel. Our King has entrusted each of us with the message of the gospel, and each of us will have to give an accounting to Him of how we invested the gospel in the lives of others when He returns.

Jesus is coming back. Until He does, our work is not done. So let’s invest our minas well. The Spirit is the One who empowers us to tell our stories…to bear witness…of the impact that the gospel has made in our lives and to share the hope that we have in Jesus with a lost and dying world in desperate need of saving…

Until next time…stay salty.

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