Drawing Near to God

Hebrews 10.19-25

The author of Hebrews writes to encourage Christians not to abandon the faith, but rather to endure persecution and draw near to God. He wants to spur them on to love and good deeds. Jesus is the Son of God. The only way to Salvation. As Hebrews shows us, Jesus is greater than anything and everything in all of creation. Jesus is the One to whom every prophecy and every symbol in the OT points. He is the fulfillment of every promise of God. Jesus reigns supreme. Problems and persecutions may come, but since we have Jesus let’s keep the faith, and draw near to God. He’s got some amazing things planned.

Twice in this passage we read “…since we have…” That’s an awesome statement…It’s what’s ours…what has already been secured for us…what is true about us…

The first “since we have” is “…since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…” Now that’s a big deal. You see the “holy place” was the room in the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept, where the mercy seat was, and the place where God’s presence was said to have dwelt above the cherubim (Exodus 25.10-22, Numbers 7.89, Hebrews 9.3-5). Only the high priest could enter the holy place and that once a year to offer sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9.7). It was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge veil (Exodus 26.31-37, Hebrews 9.3). So while folks could still come to God in faith and cry out to Him in prayer like David or Daniel or Jeremiah, full access to God was limited and forgiveness was only symbolic (Hebrews 10.1-10).

But now we have full access to God and true forgiveness of sins…why? Because of Jesus. Because He died so that we might live. The Innocent for the guilty. We can gather together and celebrate our life as a church because of His work on the cross two-thousand years ago. The Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the people.

In the upper room as He was celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…” The new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34 (Ezekiel 36.25-27)…new heart and the Spirit dwelling in everyone who believes. But first sin had to be atoned for, the blood of the Perfect Passover Lamb had to be shed. Jesus’ death brings the new covenant in to play, allowing us to confidently approach the Father…when Jesus was crucified the veil of the temple was torn in two signifying that He had cleared the way (Luke 23.45), a new and living way. A way based not on bringing sacrifices for sin year after year, but a way that rests in the one perfect sacrifice that Jesus, the One who died and is now alive, has secured for us.

The second “since we have” is “…since we have a great priest over the house of God…” The high priest was kind of a go-between…representing God to the people, and the people to God. So now not only is Jesus the Perfect Sacrifice, the Ultimate Passover Lamb, but He’s also the Great High Priest who intercedes for His people (Hebrews 5). I don’t know about you, but that’s good news for me. That Jesus intercedes with the Father on my behalf… And because Jesus is both Perfect Sacrifice and Perfect High Priest, we can have confidence when we approach God, not in ourselves or in our own abilities or the things we’ve done, but in Jesus…who He is and what He’s done. In Him and in Him alone.

Because of the confidence we have in Jesus, the author of Hebrews says three times, “…let us…” The “let us” is important because following Jesus is not just an individual pursuit. We are to run after Him together. And we have a plan for doing just that. A strategy if you will. We call it Gather, Grow, Impact.  And it just so happens that each one lines up with these “let us” statements.

“…let us consider how to provoke/stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another…” In other words let us GATHER. The author of Hebrews says we gather to provoke each other…now not in a bad way, but in a good way. We provoke each other to love and good deeds by encouraging one another. Following Jesus is not a solo gig. It’s what we do as a tribe. We run after Him together. Our weekend services are our main opportunity to Gather. It’s a time that we sing praises to our God, we celebrate communion, we hear the Word taught, we fellowship together. Now there are all kinds of reasons and excuses to forsake the “assembling together”, but it’s hazardous to do so. It’s dangerous to your spiritual walk…you are more vulnerable alone. Paul describes the church as a body and Peter uses the imagery of a spiritual house. We need each other. Not only are you more vulnerable alone, but we are also less effective when you’re not here. There has to be an “all in-ness” to our life together. That’s not just in our worship together, but also in how we serve one another and how we invest in the kingdom together.

“…let us draw near with a true/sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Let us GROW. We are to intentionally pursue our relationship with Jesus. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. We don’t just stumble into it. There has to be a turning away from sin and a turning toward Jesus . Our hearts have been cleansed…we have been set free. So we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Our mission statement is: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. We know that that is something we cannot do on our own…only the Spirit can transform us as individuals and as a church. But God invites us into that process of transformation…He invites us to draw near to Him in prayer and time spent in His Word and fellowship with each other, and as we do that, the Spirit transforms us to live and love like Jesus a little more each day.

“…let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” So what is the “confession of our hope”? Our hope, as believers, is the resurrection. It’s the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the kingdom. It’s an eternity spent worshiping, celebrating and enjoying our Triune God in bodies that no longer break down or wear out, in a place where there is no more death or tears or sorrow or pain. Perfect peace, joy, bliss, seeing our Savior face to face and delighting in the Father. The confession is our testimony…our belief that what God has promised He will fulfill. Our belief that the Hero has come and saved the day, and that we will reign with Him forever. So let persecution come, let suffering come, let the world crumble around us…our God will not fail us. He is faithful. So let us not fail Him by doubting or allowing our confidence in Him to be shaken. No matter what happens. And because we have this hope, we should share it with others. So lets make an IMPACT.

My prayer for us as a church is that we would always provoke each other to love and good deeds, that we would continually draw near to God, intentionally pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon, and that we would hold fast our confession, being a light and a beacon of hope in our community, being generous with our time and with our resources, anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

In the Courtyard

Luke 22.54-71

Peter denies Jesus. The guards mock Him. The council rejects Him. None of it catches Him by surprise. The cross is the only way. He loves us too much to turn back. He will die so that we can live. What a wonderful Savior!

Unfortunately failure is a reality that we must contend with as we strive to follow Jesus. It’s not something that we should accept with an “oh well” attitude, but it should lead us to godly sorrow. Big or small sins…whatever…they are a denial, a betrayal of Jesus. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. And that leads to the turning back. The Christian life is a sifting process…Jesus is committed to making us like Him, and prayer is one of the ways He does this. Is prayer a daily part of your relationship with Jesus? Is it a nice to have or a have to have for you? Learn from the Peter’s experience…prayer is not just a nice to have, but a must have in our pursuit of Jesus. Through prayer, not only are we provided with a way of escape from temptation, but we’re reminded of who Jesus is.

Much like the council who questioned who Jesus was, the world still asks the same question today. Was He just a Man who claimed to be God…because make no mistake, He did claim to be God…? And if He was just a Man who claimed to be God, was He insane or just a con-artist? Because if Jesus was just a Man who claimed to be God, He was not a very good Man. Despite how He’s portrayed in the Gospels, if He was just a Man who claimed to be God, He was a deceiver and a liar. If He was just a Man… But Jesus was not just a Man. He was and is the eternal Son of God. He is the King that we’ve long awaited, the Hero come to rescue us. He is both the Lamb and the Lion, enduring the cross to wear the crown, being sacrificed on the altar to sit on the throne. He is the forever God-Man, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Ruler of the nations, Creator of the universe, Savior of His people. Unequalled. Unmatched. Unrivaled. Unparalleled. Before whom every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that He is Lord. That’s who Jesus is!

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Parable of the Soils

Luke 8.1-21

Plants reflect the soil they are planted in. If there is something wrong with the soil, then it’s reflected in the crop. A tree is known by its fruit…

What soil best represents you? Hard…shallow…distracted…good. The goal of the Christian life is fruitfulness…the seed planted is intended to produce a bumper crop. If you are not seeing the fruits of the Spirit increasing in your life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…if you’re not growing in your love for God and others…if you identified with any other than the good soil, that’s not good news. The word is not having its intended effect on your life. You are not experiencing the abundant life Jesus intended you to have.

The devil, persecution, wealth and the cares of this world all can and do get in the way of our experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus wants for us…the fruitfulness that the word is intended to produce. The good news is…the hard soil can be broken up, rocks can be removed, weeds can be pulled…the good soil, that receives the word and perseveres producing a great harvest, can be cultivated.

So how do you cultivate good soil? Jesus says it’s the right kind of heart that holds fast to the word and perseveres…steadfast endurance over time. We have to hear what Jesus says and then do it. Fundamentally, we have to believe that God really does love us and desires our good. Until we believe that, we will never really trust Him enough to do what He says. Obedience should follow trust which follows love. Obedience that comes from fear is feigned obedience…I obey because I don’t want to face the consequences of not obeying. But when I obey because I trust the One I’m obeying, there’s a freedom to risks and to live life boldly that cannot be experienced any other way. To get to that point, we have to spend time with the Father…in His Word and in prayer, asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to instruct us and guide us, to reveal to us more of Jesus…then we will be able to overcome trials, worries about wealth, and the pursuit of pleasures because we have found the greatest of all pleasures…God Himself. [I read a great quote this week…”Live your life in such a way that it only make sense if God exists”]

The different soils reflect differing responses to Jesus. How will you respond to Him?

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May Jesus’ word fall on the good soil of our hearts, producing much fruit in our lives.”

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

According to the Law of the Lord

Luke 2.22-40

Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, the faithful remnant within Israel who were anxiously awaiting the coming of Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people are blown away when Jesus shows up. They experience the joy that salvation brings…the joy that can only truly be known when what is most hoped for has been realized.

Salvation is here! It’s a day of joy or a day of dread…for those believe in Jesus, for those whose hope has been realized, it’s a day of joy. That’s why I love the picture of Simeon and Anna who were daily looking for Jesus. There’s no doubt what they most hoped for. Their actions demonstrated it. I wonder what our actions demonstrate… You see, we as the church, are a part of the family of God like Simeon and Anna were. Are our lives marked by the same love and devotion to God, the same sense of expectancy and anticipation? Could it be said that we are daily looking for Jesus? Not just for this life, but also anxiously awaiting His Return? Is our faith clear by our actions? Is Jesus our Savior and Lord? Do we count it a privilege to be the Lord’s slave or have we forgotten that we were saved to serve fearlessly?

If you are one of those faithful saints who, like Simeon and Anna, are daily looking for Jesus, let me encourage you to keep at it. To serve the Lord with gladness and proclaim the good news that salvation is here. If you are not living a lifestyle of worship, serving and proclaiming the good news, what are you willing to do about it? You are having an impact on those around you…what kind of impact are you having? Is it for good or ill? Are you leading them one step closer to Jesus, or turning them away? Make the commitment to be all in. Pray and ask God for help. Make it a regular practice to spend time reading God’s Word and meditating on it. Pray daily. Give generously. Look for opportunities to help/serve others. Join a community group. Talk to one of the pastors or your community group leader. Get involved in serving on the weekends. Just like my boys, I want you to know the joy, peace and love, and all the other good stuff that only can be experienced when you are running after Jesus, and the sense of adventure when you trust Him in big ways in your life. The Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

But for those who reject Jesus it’s a day of dread because He is the only hope of rescue. He is the only One who can save us from our sins and give us new life. You are either for or against Him. You can’t remain neutral. There is no fence. What are you waiting for? What will you do with Jesus today?

Salvation is here! May we daily look for Jesus, experiencing the joy of His salvation and sharing that joy with others.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

NT Reading – July 7

1 Thessalonians 4-5

Sanctification and Love

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

Those Who Died in Christ

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The Day of the Lord

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Christian Conduct

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

25 Brethren, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)