What About Israel? Part 1

Romans 9.1-18

Probably nothing sadder than wasted potential, and the Israelites had the greatest of potential. All the advantages that being the OT people of God afforded them, and yet many individual Israelites still rejected Jesus as their Savior.

As believers, we have great potential too. God has entrusted us with the gospel…each of us has been given a mina (Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19). How will we invest it? Will we take big risks with it looking for great reward? Or will we bury it hoping nobody discovers our secret? Will we live boldly for Jesus or only for ourselves? Having every advantage doesn’t mean that we will necessarily realize our potential. We have to be intentional. We have to choose to say “yes” to Jesus, and “no” to sin. We have to live out who we are our in Jesus on purpose.

Don’t waste your potential. Invest your life in the kingdom. Share your story with those around you who don’t know Jesus. Be generous with your resources.

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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

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Romans 6.1-14

Thinking that God’s grace somehow gives me a license to sin is a gross misunderstanding of God’s grace. You are not who you used to be…so why would you live like you used to live?

Just as “in Adam” we somehow and in someway participated in his sin, so we who are “in Jesus” have also somehow and in someway participated in His death and resurrection. His righteousness is our righteousness. His life is now our life. So how is that impacting the way that we live? How is it impacting the way that you live?

The question, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” is a question that the church seems to have answered in the affirmative today…a resounding yes…especially the American church. We’ve interpreted grace as license…better to ask forgiveness than permission. We only really seem to care about sin when we get caught. Otherwise we have adopted the same, “Eat, drink, for tomorrow we die” attitude that plagues the rest of our culture. In fact, we really don’t look any different than the world around us. We reminisce about “the good ole days” and long to go back to Egypt.

What happened to being sojourners in a strange land? Seems we’ve traded in our tent for a home in the suburbs. We’ve become citizens of this world. We certainly don’t live like we’re “in Jesus”. At least that’s true of a good chunk of folks who would identify themselves as Christians. Maybe we are at church on Sunday, but where are we Monday through Saturday? Would folks who know you well be surprised you’re a Christian? Would it catch your co-workers or classmates or neighbors off guard? What about those who follow you on social media (posts, comments, pictures, likes, etc.)?

If you have trusted in Jesus, you are not who you used to be. You have changed allegiances. You have a new King. You are free from your old life of sin. Do you know that? It’s starts with knowing the truth. And once you know the truth, then you need to reckon it as true for you. Then you are ready to act on the truth. Know…reckon…act.

If you have trusted in Jesus, your life should be heading in a new direction. Doesn’t mean that you won’t sin, but it does mean that you have a choice not to. And learning to choose not to takes practice. Little everyday choices…what to read, what to listen to, what to watch…or not. There should be a growing desire to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer, to spend time with other believers and to share your story, to live generously. If that’s not true of you, either you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus or there’s something that is in the way.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus and would like to, it’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, that Jesus is that Savior who died a sacrificial death on your behalf and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, satisfying God’s wrath against sin…your sin…and giving you His righteousness so that you can have peace with God, being reconciled to Him, and so that you can experience His love poured out in your heart through the Spirit, giving you a sure hope that will not disappoint.

Last thing…let me challenge you dads to lead the way. Let your family see you making the choice to follow Jesus…saying no to sin and yes to Him.

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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

Justified by Faith

Romans 3.21-31

Finally some good news. Though we all are guilty and deserving of God’s wrath, we all can be saved from His wrath through faith in Jesus.

At the cross, God’s love and His justice collide. Because of His amazing grace and His abounding love, God does for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves…He provides the way that His wrath against sin can be satisfied without compromising His righteousness. He Himself in the Person of Jesus will take on the full measure of His wrath and pay the penalty that sin requires…death. Did I say it was because of His love? God is the Initiator. He the Pursuer. He the Father anxiously looking for His wayward sons and daughters.

So where are you? Still under His wrath or robed in His righteousness? All can be justified, but not all will be. Everyone who believes… but not everyone will believe. You have the opportunity today. Jesus has already done the heavy lifting. He’s already died in your place. And He arose the third day. He conquered both sin and death so that you can be forgiven your sins and have eternal life. If you will believe…what’s holding you back?

If you have trusted in Jesus, don’t take for granted the magnificent gift He’s given you in salvation. Spend some today thanking Him for what He’s done and worshiping Him for who He is.

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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

Law Breaker

Romans 2.17-29

The Jews, no doubt, had a privileged position. Theirs were the fathers. Theirs the promises. They were entrusted with the OT Scriptures. From them would come the Savior of all mankind…the Hero of Genesis 3.15. A position that should have caused them to be grateful and graciously humble, sharing the knowledge of the riches of God’s grace with the world. Instead, for many it became a cause of pride and self-righteousness.

Paul isn’t picking on his people anymore than he was picking on the rest of mankind in chapter one. Yet he is picking on his people just like he did the rest of mankind in chapter one. His point is that we are all guilty. Both Jews and Greeks. None of us lives up to the standard that we have…natural revelation or special revelation, in creation or the Scriptures, we all fail miserably at following God on our own. We face plant every time. There is none righteous, no not one. We are not all as bad as we could be, but we are all as bad off as we can be…without Jesus.

So…since we couldn’t follow God on our own and since our failure left us under His wrath, God provided a way to both escape His wrath and follow Him through Jesus. Because Jesus did fulfill the Law perfectly and He followed God flawlessly, yet He willingly died sacrificially to pay the penalty for our sin and satisfy God’s wrath. And now we have His righteousness credited to our account. The benefits of the New Covenant…forgiveness of sins, a new heart and God’s Spirit living within us…we are His people and He is our God.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. Don’t wait.

If you have trusted in Jesus, are you living like it? Is your life helping folks come to Jesus or hindering them? Would they be surprised to find out you’re a Christian, or would it just make sense based on the way you conduct yourself and the way you treat others? We are not called to be perfect, but we are called to live a different kind of life…a worthy-of-the-calling kind of life.

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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

Essentials: Salvation

Ephesians 2.1-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. A dead man can’t do anything to save himself…he’s dead! He must be made alive again.

The bad news…if you have not yet trusted in Jesus, you are dead. Your sin has killed you. And if something doesn’t change, nothing will change. You will remain dead. Separated from God forever. Not a very pretty picture. In fact it’s a very grim picture. An unsettling picture. But an accurate picture. The bad news is you’re as bad off as you can possibly be.

The good news…Jesus came to change all of that. He came to give you life. He has already taken care of the sin problem so that through faith in Him, you can be saved by His magnificent grace. Salvation that not only impacts your eternal destiny, but also transforms your present reality. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are saved to bring glory to the One who saved us…to highlight His goodness and His grace and His mercy and His love. So why not trust Jesus today?

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This post is based on our January Series, Essentials. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Jonah and the Great Fish

Jonah

God’s plan has always been for the nations. He promised Abraham that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son…

How did Jonah miss that? He had a tremendous response from folks he seemingly couldn’t care less about…first on the ship and then in Nineveh. And the overwhelming response of the folks in Nineveh even makes him angry. He definitely doesn’t share God’s heart on the matter. Remember what I said last week about Joshua and Jericho…had the folks in Jericho repented…had they aligned themselves with Israel like Rahab…God would have shown mercy. Judgment is always the last resort. They too could have been included among God’s people. Jonah reminds us of that.

I think if we are honest with ourselves we can be like Jonah. Maybe for good reason…or so we think. Maybe someone’s hurt us in some way. Maybe they are making bad life choices. I don’t know. We can come up with all kinds of reasons why, but the bottom line is: we don’t think they deserve God’s mercy. We of course do. But they definitely don’t. Oh, we would never say it out loud, or at least not where everyone could hear us. But our action or inaction speaks louder than words. Who are you avoiding/refusing to share your story with? Maybe you think they won’t respond in faith, or maybe you think they will. But how can we expect God to be gracious to us if we won’t share His grace with others?

Two things that are unmistakable in this story…God’s sovereignty over and His love for His creation. He appoints a great wind and a great fish, a plant and a worm and a scorching east wind. He directs His prophet and even uses the prophet’s disobedience to accomplish the salvation of a great number of folks. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of calamity. He loves the lost. He loves us too. And like a good Parent, He pursues us even when we are running from Him.

God’s question to Jonah at the end of the story isn’t answered. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh?” We all need the LORD’s compassion. Who do you need to share it with this week?

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

Joshua and the Walls of Jericho

Joshua 6

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho…well not quite. The LORD fought the battle of Jericho. And the walls came tumbling down.

This is a story of God’s promise and its fulfillment, of faith and obedience. From start to finish, the battle is the LORD’s. He had given Jericho into Joshua’s hand well before the battle commenced. It reminds me of Paul’s journey to Rome. No matter what the obstacle…be it the plots of the unbelieving Jews or the ferocity of the storm or the fear of the sailors or the fangs of the viper…God said that Paul would appear before Caesar in Rome and Paul did. What God says, God does. He can be trusted.

But Joshua had a part to play. His was to respond in faith to what God had said. Jesus said, “Those who hear My words and act on them may be compared to…” Hearing alone won’t do. There must be a response in faith.  For us as believers, it’s important to remember that faith is demonstrated by action. To hear and not to do is not to hear. To believe and not to act is really not to believe. What is it that you need to obey God in? What response do you need to make?

What if Joshua had decided not to listen to God and instead went with conventional wisdom? He’s a military guy. What if he devised his own plans? Joshua already knew the answer to that…he knew the consequences of not doing things God’s way, of not trusting Him but instead choosing to go his own way. When the Israelites failed to trust God and enter the land after coming out of Egypt, God said you’ve got forty years to think about it. None of those who were supposed to enter would be able to. Then they decided to make a run at it and were soundly defeated. The battle is the LORD’s. Forty years of wilderness wandering. Moses unable to enter the promised land. Had Joshua decided to forego God’s instructions and rush the city using whatever military acumen he may have possessed, the results would have been disastrous. The same is true for us when we choose to ignore God’s instructions and do things our own way. And we wonder why things aren’t working out…we’ve forgotten that the battle is the LORD’s.

But what if God’s instructions don’t make sense? Last first, love your enemies, etc. Probably didn’t make sense to Joshua either, but the battle is the LORD’s. Ours is to trust and obey. Proverbs 3.5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your path.”

Presumably all of the folks in Jericho believed the Israelites were a threat. That’s why they shut themselves in their fortress. They believed that God was on Israel’s side. They had a choice to make in the moment…they could have responded in faith like Rahab. They could have acknowledged and turned to God and welcomed the Israelites in. And like Rahab, they could have become a part of the community of believers. Instead they chose to turn away from Him. And they experienced God’s wrath. Sin is serious, and God takes sin seriously. So should we. Jesus is either your King, or He will be your Judge.

Let me leave you with this. There is room for all in the kingdom. Rahab may have seemed like one of the least likely folks to make it in. She hasn’t made the greatest of life choices. And yet, when she has an encounter with the LORD, everything changes. Her life takes a different trajectory. Her past isn’t erased…it is a part of the story of God’s grace in her life. And she has the high honor of being listed in the genealogy of the King (Matthew 1.5)!

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This post is based on a sermon from Joshua 6. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

This Is Living Like Jesus

1 Peter 1

Jesus changes everything! Because of His death and resurrection we have a living hope…a hope that’s alive because Jesus is alive and a hope that continues to grow and mature as we follow Him. We need not live a life of fear, though the world around us is shaking, we can have confidence knowing that the temporary things may fade, but the kingdom remains.

If you have trusted in Jesus, He has rescued you from sin and death and has given you new life. This world is no longer your home. You have a new address…the kingdom where you have an inheritance awaiting you. You are protected by God’s power in this life…doesn’t mean that you won’t have physical pain or sorrow or even death…but it does mean the eternal life you have cannot be taken away. And even the trials that come are meant to strengthen your faith and remove everything that keeps you from fully trusting God.

And because we have this living hope and unshakable salvation, we are freed up to love. To love the way God loves. To love full on. Nothing held back. A love that shares the same message of hope…the gospel…with others.

So let us live as sojourners in this world. Let us live courageous and generous lives, preoccupied with the kingdom. Let us make an impact in the lives of those around us for Jesus.

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This post is based on a sermon from our This Is Living series in 1 Peter. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

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?

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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.

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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