The 144,000

Revelation 7.1-8

The 144,000 are sealed for the coming days of judgment. It’s not clear as of yet what God has in store for them, but we will find out in the coming weeks.

God is in control, and He has a plan. His ways are not our ways, and while we won’t understand everything, we can trust in a God who does. He has a plan for Israel, He has a plan for the 144,000, and He has a plan for you and me.

If you have trusted in Jesus, you too have been sealed. Sealed with the Holy Spirit that Paul says is a downpayment on our future inheritance. So we need not be afraid. We belong to God. We are His, and no one can snatch us out of His hand.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, please don’t wait. No one can stand on their own in the day of God’s wrath. I know that’s not easy to hear. I know it’s not popular to talk about. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. But He is also just. And there will come a day when it’s too late. So don’t wait.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the app store or google play.

Worship of the Lamb

Revelation 5.1-14

All of creation will one day worship God. Some will do it willingly, some will do it unwillingly. But all will do it. The Lamb is worthy…He has the right to rule and to execute judgment and to establish His kingdom. He purchased that right with His own blood.

Jesus came first as a Lamb…a Lamb who would sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world. He will return as a Lion to execute judgment and reign over the earth. The irony is…it’s the Lamb who has overcome. By His weakness He defeated the might of the enemy. The cross was the serpent’s undoing. He sealed his own fate when he thought he was sealing Jesus’.

Jesus is coming back. And He’s coming as a Lion. As the Lion, He will either be King or Judge. For those who have trusted in Him, He comes as King to welcome us into His kingdom. For those who have not trusted in Him, He comes as Judge. And you don’t want Him as Judge. You see, heaven and hell are real, and our decisions now have eternal consequences for our future. So don’t wait. If you have not trusted in Jesus, make today the day.

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

Our Resurrected King

John 20

The resurrection proves not only that everything Jesus said and did was absolutely true, but that He “crushed sin and death for all eternity.” Jesus’ death pays the penalty for sin. However, if we stopped there, we might be forgiven; but what about the life He promises us? The abundant life? It’s not Jesus’ death, but His life…His resurrected life…that gives us the ability to experience life today…real, abundant life.

John says that he wrote “these things that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life in His name.” While Mary and the disciples had believed in Jesus…their experience of a crucified Jesus hadn’t brought life (fear, doubt, distress, confusion). Although Jesus was alive and although He had crushed sin and death, they were not experiencing this life.

And if I’m honest, that’s me too sometimes…I practically live like Jesus is still in the tomb. I know I’m forgiven, but I am often consumed by my circumstances – distraught, confused, fearful, and even doubting that Jesus can/will bring me out of the current situation. My guess is, I’m not alone.

Some of us today are believers…we’ve believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, but we are not experiencing the life of Jesus that is ours through His resurrection. Maybe we are like Mary…distraught and grieving, focused on our circumstances and having a hard time seeing Jesus. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Mary, Jesus patiently waits for us to recognize Him, wanting to turn our mourning into joy.

Maybe we are like the disciples…fearful, betting on Jesus but feeling like we are on the losing side. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like the disciples, Jesus speaks peace over us, wanting to transform us from being fearful to being fearless.

But maybe we are like Thomas…doubting, needing evidence that Jesus can help us in our present predicament. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Thomas, Jesus meets us in that place of unbelief and wants to turn our doubting to believing.

Some of us today would not put ourselves in the believing category at all. We may be somewhere on the road of our spiritual journey, but we are definitely not there. That’s ok. These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus changes everything. He wants to meet us right where we are. He knows us…He knows our name, our doubts and fears, our circumstances. He’s not afraid of our questions, but is patient with us.

We all need to be reminded of the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is alive. And because He’s alive, we too can have life in Him.

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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, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

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.

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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

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.

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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

Joy Delivered

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, don’t we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives? If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

That’s why the angel’s pronouncement in Luke 2.8-15 is such joyous news…“good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” God’s not done yet. The Hero has come to save the day. Joy has returned. Unimaginable, unspeakable, incomprehensible joy. The joy that only Jesus can bring.

So in the midst of a worldwide pandemic when it would be easy to forget…here’s a practical way to remember: finish this sentence on a post-it or piece of paper that you can put around your house…“I rejoice today because___.” (The Hero has come…Jesus has saved me.)

May you experience the all-surpassing joy of Jesus this Christmas season. May you experience Joy Delivered.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Joy Delivered. 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.

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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

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.

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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

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