The Battle Within

Romans 7.14-25

A battle rages within every believer…a battle between the law of God and the law of sin, a battle between the mind/heart and the body, a battle between who I am and who I used to be. And though we wish it were otherwise, while we live in the already/not yet…in the in-between time of who we are ontologically and who we are experientially, the battle continues.

Some might be tempted to simply give up or give in. I mean, what’s the point? If I’m already saved, and it’s going to be this ongoing struggle to follow Jesus, maybe I should give in to sin. Just live life the way I used to live it. It’ll be easier that way. Paul has already addressed that…you are a slave of the one you obey.

Grace doesn’t mean that we’ve been saved from obedience. No, we’ve been saved for obedience. We don’t do good works to be made right with God…we do good works because we are right with Him. Grace simply gives us the ability to do what we couldn’t do on our own…obey God.

It strikes me in Romans 6 that the believer who is a slave of sin has chosen that route. They volunteered to be enslaved. As ridiculous as it may sound they have picked sin as their master even though they know that all he can and will offer them is death. In Romans 7 the believer who is a prisoner is being held against his/her will. They are actively involved in the battle against sin in their own lives. They are pursuing Jesus, and though they may fail, they continue to get up and fight on.

And while the distinction between slave and prisoner may not seem to be a big one, I believe it has huge implications for our spiritual walk. When I present myself to sin and allow it to become my master, then like the seed among the weeds in Jesus’ parable of the soils, the Word becomes choked by worries and riches and pleasures of this life and brings no fruit to maturity. But when I continue the fight against sin…sometimes winning and sometimes losing, but always fighting on, then like the seed in the good soil, the Word falls on a generous and good heart that holds it fast and bears fruit with perseverance.

The good news that Paul will talk about more in Romans 8…we are not alone in the struggle. We have been given the Spirit who helps us in our weakness when we rely on Him. And not only that, but when we have fellow believers who we are pursuing Jesus together with, they can be a source of encouragement and strength for us in the fight. We weren’t made to walk this path alone.

pro rege,

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

Paul at Ephesus

Acts 19.1-20

Paul returns to Ephesus where he will set up his base of operations for this his third and final missionary journey. Nothing like pitching your tent outside the Enemy’s stronghold as you make your assault on the forces of darkness.

Paul’s ministry in Ephesus is powerful both in word and in deed. Miracles abound…miracles of healing and casting out demons. Miracles that show the power of God over the demonic realm. The gates of hell cannot prevail against Jesus’ Church. In the battle between light and darkness, miracles and magic…it is the name of Jesus that is magnified. He has already won the victory.

As that truth dawned on these Ephesian believers, they were convicted of their sin…of the past they were still holding on to…and they did something about it. They made a clean break. So I want to challenge you with something this week…what is it that you need to confess and make a clean break from? What sin are you holding on to? For them the clean break meant destroying the objects that had caused them to stumble. What might that look like for you?

Take the next few minutes to confess whatever sin it is that you are holding on to and to turn it over to Jesus and ask Him what a clean break looks like for you. And then this week take the next step…whatever that might be…follow through and make a clean break.

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

Prayer, the Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18.1-14

Jesus tells two parables about prayer and the kingdom. The first, the widow and the unjust judge, challenges us to consider our view of God in prayer. The second, the Pharisee and the tax-collector, challenges our view of ourselves.

Prayer is a non-negotiable for a follower of Jesus. We live in an in-between time in enemy territory, waiting for our King to come back. In the waiting, it’s easy to become discouraged, especially in a culture which is becoming increasingly hostile to the gospel. So we are to pray at all times and not lose heart.  We pray for our circumstances in light of the kingdom and the return of the King. What does that mean? It means that we put our current situation…medical diagnosis, marital problems, work/school tensions, finances, etc. in perspective. What does God want to accomplish in and through me in this situation? How can I have the greatest kingdom impact in this circumstance? How do I reflect Jesus? We have a loving heavenly Father who hears our requests and who cares about our circumstances. He’s given us the Spirit. He will provide justice…He will vindicate His children. The kingdom awaits.

As a believer, we have been forgiven our sins. We have the righteousness of Jesus. But that does not mean that we can approach God with flippancy or spiritual pride. When we pray, we are still totally dependent on Him for His mercy. So we pray humbly, bringing our petitions to God, not as a Judge waiting to punish, but as a Father who delights in His kids. When we pray with a right view of God and a right view of ourselves, we become more moldable, more pliable, better able to be shaped…to be transformed, and then are in a good place to impact the kingdom by serving others out of our love for God and people.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, the tax collector’s prayer is a great model…no matter how far you may think you are from God, no matter how bad you may be, no matter what you’ve done…cry out to Him, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” Believe that Jesus can save you from your sin and trust Him to do so. Then watch Him work in your life.

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

Jesus | Demons: A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Luke 11.14-36

A battle rages between 2 kingdoms…the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, the kingdom of evil and the kingdom of good, the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. There is a clear Victor in this battle…Jesus. He has already defeated the enemy and plundered his stronghold. He invites any who are willing to join Him.

We must all make a choice…we are either for Jesus or we’re against Him. No middle ground. No compromise. So where do you stand? Where is your allegiance? Is it clear to a watching world…because the world is watching?

If we have trusted in Jesus, then the light of His truth has already shone into our hearts. But we still must be careful what goes into our eyes…what do we continue to accept as true? Are we being transformed by the renewing of our minds through God’s Word, or are we being conformed to the culture? If we want to live and love like Jesus and be wholly illumined, then we must continually feast on God’s Word…reading it expectantly, allowing His truth to shine on us dispelling the darkness.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus yet…don’t wait. He invites you to be a part of His kingdom…to be on the winning side. If you are not for Him, then you are against Him. The day of reckoning is coming…

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be for Jesus this week.”

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

A Renewed Spirit

Daniel 10

This is probably the clearest reference that we have to spiritual conflict in the OT. Spiritual warfare…angels fighting demons. The fate of the ancient world in the balance…sounds like it would make for a great movie. But this is no movie. What was happening to Daniel was real. And the spiritual conflict is no less real today, although we, the church in the West, have all but convinced ourselves it doesn’t exist. Not so in many places around the world. Last spring I took a trip to Nepal where spiritual warfare is more palpable. Much like many 2nd and 3rd world countries, temples and idols are everywhere and the spiritual oppression can be felt.

While the church in the West may be turning a blind eye to spiritual opposition, the American culture at large is not. There is a dangerous fascination and preoccupation with the occult and the demonic. They’re considered entertainment…they’re seen as cool, trendy, edgy, no big deal, cute or even laughable (Sabrina the teenage witch, Supernatural, The Secret Circle, Charmed, Hocus Pocus, tattoos depicting death or demons, tacos named El Diablo, Twilight). Hollywood seems to be fascinated with it. Horror movies in general.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, we have strayed away from biblical truths. What we learn from Daniel in this passage is this: Daniel’s prayer is somehow a part of this process. An angel was sent in response to Daniel’s prayer, the angel battled the prince of Persia, this dark angel, this demon, to deliver Daniel the message, and Daniel’s vision into the spiritual realm was so disturbing that he was terrified. There are powerful forces of evil at work in the kings and nations of the world to defeat and overthrow the people and the work of God…but there are also more powerful forces of good working harmoniously together who will overcome the wicked opponents…good triumphs over evil, the kingdom is in good hands, its success is assured.

Just as there was a “prince” of Persia and of Greece, there are “princes” behind the earthly kings and kingdoms of the world today who actively oppose God and His people. Terrorists attacks around the world. The ferocious violence of ISIS. The recent Supreme Court decisions…all are clear examples of that opposition where evil is called good, and good evil…where truth is determined by public opinion. And just as Daniel fasted, mourned and prayed, so should we. Prayer is a bloody battleground, where violent and decisive conflicts are fought over the souls of men and women, boys and girls in time and eternity…

C.S. Lewis saw 2 errors…basically ignoring the reality of devils or becoming overly consumed with them. We tend towards the former. In some ways, I think it’s easier to believe in God than the devil, even though a great deal of Jesus’ ministry was casting out demons. Most of us are functioning atheists when it comes to the dark side and its minions. And I believe that’s why many of us are defeated and enslaved by sin so easily. We are totally unaware that we are in a battle. Not fun to think about, but…the good news is, if you have trusted in Jesus, you, like Daniel, are highly esteemed (greatly beloved). Jesus has already won the day. At the cross, He conquered sin, death, and all the forces of darkness. Jesus promised, “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.” Jesus has already defeated the strong man and plundered his house. So when spiritual warfare comes, and it will, we are not to fear, but to pray, like Daniel, to the One who has already rescued us, Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman. And now we wait, as Daniel did, for Jesus’ return.

If you have not trusted in Jesus, know that only He can rescue you from the spiritual forces of wickedness that are fighting for your soul and are holding you in bondage. And He longs to rescue you if you will simply believe in Him…that He died in your place as a substitute for your sin, your rebellion against God. When you believe in Him, He rescues you from sin and death and gives you life eternal with Him in His kingdom. Don’t wait. Trust in Jesus today.

Until next time…stay salty.

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