The Fate of Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5.1-16

Ananias and Sapphira learn quickly the deadly consequences of lying to the Holy Spirit. Sin is dealt with swiftly and decisively. 

God takes sin seriously and so should we. And while we may not see the consequences of our choices quite so quickly, they do not go unnoticed. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 5.15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

We are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…doesn’t mean that we are perfect or will do it perfectly. But it means that we are learning more and more what it is to walk by the Spirit, to put off the old self and put on the new…to live and love like Jesus.

Character…integrity…matters. There is no such thing as a small fib…a little white lie…a half truth. Who we are on the outside should match who we are on the inside. Our walk should match our talk. If we claim to follow Jesus, then our lives should reflect that. When they don’t, it’s obvious to those around us. It’s called hypocrisy. And the only person we are fooling is ourselves…the truth always comes out. Who we are matters.

That’s why it is so important for us to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus. Left to ourselves, we will never live and love like Him. But when we intentionally pursue our relationship with Him…when we spend time in His Word, time in prayer and time with other believers…then the Spirit slowly but surely begins to transform us into the image of the Son. Little by little, moment by moment, day by day. As we spend more time with Him, we learn to recognize His voice. We begin to notice Him directing our steps. And as we say “yes” to His direction, we become more like Him. But we have to be intentional. It won’t just happen.

One more thing… The mark of a maturing Christian is the realization that our greatest regret when we blow it is disappointing our Father in heaven. Not the regret of being embarrassed or even the harm to others, as bad as that may be, but the deep regret of disappointing the One we love the most…the One who loves us more than any other. After David’s epic failure in the Bathsheba-Uriah affair (2 Samuel 11), he cries out to God in Psalm 51.4 saying, “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.”

As parents we need to teach our kids that they should choose to do the right thing, not because doing the wrong thing leads to physical consequences and not even because the Bible identifies it as the wrong choice, but because when we love someone, we want to serve them and do what pleases them…living right out of love for the Father as opposed to just living right because the Bible says it is the right thing to do.

God takes sin seriously…that’s why Jesus had to die on a cross…to pay the penalty for our sin. That’s what we celebrate in communion. Jesus died so that we might live. So choose life. I want to give you a few minutes to talk to the Lord. What do you need to confess? What do you need to celebrate? What do you need to commit to?

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 Fig Tree

Luke 13.1-9

The message for us is pretty simple…life is fragile and unpredictable, and so we need to repent so that we are not caught off guard and perish. God is patient, but judgment is coming…it will not wait forever. Now we are in a time of pure grace and divine forbearance. Paul in Romans 2.4 says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…” (2 Peter 3.9-10)

We live in a broken world plagued by sin and death. Because of sin, death is the common denominator of us all. No one escapes. Death is one for one. All will die, but not all truly live…only those who have trusted in Jesus to rescue them, to forgive them of their sins, and have chosen to follow Him will experience life.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus should be obvious…the fruit of repentance should be evident in our lives. I want to ask you to reflect for a few moments…I want you to take a spiritual inventory and ask yourself the question…what evidence do I see in my life that I’ve trusted in Jesus? Do you see the fruits of the Spirit increasing in your life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Do you have a greater desire for God and the things of God? Do you enjoy being around His people?

If the answer is “yes”, spend the next several moments thanking Jesus for rescuing you. If the answer is “no”, don’t wait. Your parents or your spouse may be believers…but there are no +1’s in the kingdom and God doesn’t have grandchildren. You may have said a prayer at some point, but when you trust in Jesus, you are not who you used to be…a fundamental change has happened at the core of who you are. If nothing has changed for you, then something’s wrong…maybe you haven’t trusted in Jesus. Maybe there is something else that’s keeping you from growing. Either way, ask God to rescue you.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Divine Invitation

Luke 5.1-11

Simon is initially willing to obey Jesus out of a sense of obligation…he had seen what Jesus had done for others, he knew that God was at work in Him, but until now, he really hadn’t had an encounter with Jesus. But when he does, he responds in awe, humility, and then total surrender…he’s all in. He went from being a fan to a being a part of Jesus’ team, a part of Jesus’ rescue mission…saving folks from death to life. Jesus changed everything for him. Jesus ruined Simon, so that He could remake him.

Jesus is still in the business of turning sinners into servants. Have you been wrecked by Jesus? Have you recognized your sinfulness in the presence of His righteousness? Has is undone you and cause you to fall down before Him? Have you been rescued by Him? If so, what impact has that had on your life? Have you left all to follow Him? Are you following Jesus because you’ve experienced His grace at such a profound level that there really is no other option for you, or are you following Him begrudgingly, more out of a sense of obligation or duty, than joy? It starts with that personal encounter with Jesus…realizing His grace that invades and impacts your world…that ruins you and remakes you.

If you have been rescued, have you joined Jesus’ rescue mission? Have you become a fisher of men? Are you spending time daily with Him, so that you can recognize His voice? Take a look at your impact list…who can you help bring one step closer to Jesus. Ask God for a divine appointment this week. Be intentional. Have a conversation. Invite folks to come to church with you and whatever group you are a part of (Community group, young adults, students, MOPs, women’s Bible study, a men’s group, Saints Alive, STOP, etc). While God gives us various jobs…student, teacher, business person, etc, our main task whatever our job is catching folks for the kingdom. We are all called to the same mission…we are all a part of the same team.

But maybe you haven’t had a personal encounter with Jesus yet. Maybe you are still a part of the crowd considering who Jesus is. He wants to rescue you today. He wants you to be on His team. The great news about Jesus…the invitation is open to all, but we do have to accept it. And when we do, we are off on the greatest adventure of our lives.

Are you going to be a fisherman or a fisher of men?

Until next time, stay salty…

“May we be fishers of people who have given up all to follow Jesus.”

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

To Err Is Human?

Luke 4.1-13

Jesus knew the Word and was in-dwelt by the Spirit (Ephesians 6). He never doubted the Father’s love for Him, and He fully trusted God. Jesus knew that His Father would provide for Him and that the short-term, fleeting pleasures of this world, even good things like daily bread, could not compare with His relationship to the Father. That allowed Him to forego grabbing power and to wait on the Father’s timing and endure intense suffering even for the things that had been promised Him by the Father. That allowed Him to trust in the Father’s protection without having to test it.

This all flowed out of a deep understanding of the Father’s words spoken through the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Word…He was the Word! But while Luke builds the case for Jesus’ deity, he also presents a very human Jesus. And Jesus who goes toe-to-toe with the enemy does not rely on His deity to defeat him. He leans into His humanity and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who dwells in all of us who have believed. But how did He do it? Well, I believe that Jesus immersed Himself in the Scriptures so that He might know His Father’s Words and might recognize the truth of the Father’s love for Him. So when He responds, the words of the Father naturally come out.

So what about you?

We can let Adam and Eve be our example and believe the lie that God really doesn’t love us, is holding out on us, and take things into our own hands…I think we all know how that turned out…or we can let Jesus be our example, and we can walk away from current temptation and instead trust in God’s provision, power and protection. We can remember that God is who He says He is – a loving Father who wants the best for us.

How do we build this trust in our Father the way that Jesus did?

We submerge ourselves in the truth. Only then can we recognize the lies and false promises of the devil, so that when temptation comes, we can remember the words of our Father. Remember the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to face temptation lives in us as well. That same Spirit can also empower us to face temptation.

The Scriptures tell us that all of us who have believed are children of God the Father. It’s not just a distant, theological relationship. It’s the intimate relationship of a Father to His child. He wants that for us, He wants that for you. He wants you to spend time with Him, to hear His words so that you might know and be settled in the truth that He really loves you and has amazing plans for your good. You are His beloved son/daughter…not because you are the prettiest or the funniest, the fastest on the playground, or because you got the best grades, or for any other reason other than that He loves you. If those were the words that we heard and had settled deep in our souls, then the lies of the enemy…God doesn’t love, you’re not good enough, don’t you deserve more, etc…truly would fall on deaf ears. We would not be so easily crushed by temptation.

One practical way to settle the Father’s words deep in our soul is through time spent reading His Word. Our daily reading blog is a great vehicle for that. Regular time in the Bible will begin to combat the false messages you hear everyday and the lies of the enemy. Spend time in the Word with a group of friends in community. Encourage one another with the Word. Memorize Bible verses like Psalm 119.11 “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Or 1 Corinthians 10.13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We call it renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching.

And it’s key to victory over temptation.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be like Jesus, led by the Spirit, relying on the Word, never doubting for a moment the Father’s love for us, fully trusting in Him so that we too may be able to resist temptation.”

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

If the Rooster Crows…

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he (Peter) said emphatically, ‘if I must die with you, I will not deny you.’” Mark 14:30 ESV

As we discovered last week, Mark is believed to have been written by John Mark, a protege of Peter. In a way, you can say this is actually Peter’s Gospel, for it would’ve been Peter who informed Mark of the events that are contained in this narrative.

Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant. The first ten chapters portray Jesus living His life in service, the final six chapters portray Jesus giving His life in sacrifice.

We arrive now at Chapter 11, the triumphal entry! Hosanna!

Chapters 11 to 16 cover the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

As I considered which portions of these last six chapters I should write on this week, staying with the theme that Peter has influenced this gospel, I thought I would blog a little on Peter’s denial.

In chapter 14, versus 26 – 31 Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial. We all know the story, Jesus warns his disciples that after his death, they will all scatter. In response, Peter tells Jesus that even though all the others may fall away he will not!

Jesus looks at Peter and tells him that this very night before the rooster crows he will deny Jesus three times.

Peter in turn tells Jesus that he will never deny Him. Yet, deny Jesus he did.

All four Gospels record this conversation and Peter’s subsequent denial (See Matthew 26, Luke 22, Mark 14, and John 13,18).

After his denial, Peter heard the rooster crow and we are told that he broke down and wept.

Now, our story does not end there, Jesus would appear to Peter and others following the resurrection. Peter would go on to be a major player in the early church, we are told of his exploits in Acts. He would write a couple of letters we hold dear in the New Testament.

I have often wondered if Peter felt a twinge of sorrow whenever he heard a rooster crow the remainder of his life.

Do you ever find yourself reminded of past sin when you are in certain situations? Are there “rooster crows” in your own life? Reminders that make you cringe, cause you to weep with sorrow?

Jesus paid the price for your past sin, my past sin, and even covered our current and future sin. We have been forgiven, Jesus died that we would be forgiven of all past wrongs.

Yet we struggle to forgive ourselves. Know this child of Christ, we have been forgiven! We can live in that knowledge and freedom. Be it Mary Magdalene, the thief on the cross, or Nicodemus – a religious leader, Jesus paid the price for our sins and has forgiven us – isn’t it time we forgive ourselves?

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Easter Devotional – March 11

Matthew 12:27-32

27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

The Unpardonable Sin

30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

We’ve seen Jesus as the humble, gentle Messiah. Here we see Jesus as the warrior – but not a warrior against flesh and blood and soldiers. He’s fighting powers of darkness and death, sometimes referred to as Satan. Jesus could have fought the obvious battles, He has the ability and access to legions of angels. Fighting fire with fire is futile as fire would still win. Jesus has victory over the fire. God is at work in and around us, even if it’s not fighting the battles that are obvious to us. He’s at a whole other level.

Prayer: Lord, give me the humility to see You at work, and to work alongside You in the power of Your Spirit.

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

OT Reading – February 16

Malachi 1-2

Malachi 1

God’s Love for Jacob

1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?”  “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.” Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”

Sin of the Priests

“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts. “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts. 10 “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you. 11 For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts. 12 “But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ 13 You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?” says the Lord. 14 “But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is feared among the nations.”

 

Malachi 2

Priests to Be Disciplined

2 “And now this commandment is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,” says the Lord of hosts. “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of hosts. “So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction.

Sin in the Family

10 “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?11 Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord which He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, may the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the Lord of hosts.

13 “This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16 For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?”

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