Forgiven Much

Luke 7.36-50

Folks of Jesus’ day would have assumed that the religious elite…the pious Pharisees, the lawyers, the priests, etc. loved God most. Yet Jesus here praises not a religiously astute Pharisee but a notorious sinner for her great love. The story reminds us that loving God is not self-righteous acts done to earn His favor, but gratefully accepting the free gift of salvation available through Jesus.

Jesus came to save sinful women, but He also came to save sinful Pharisees…unfortunately the Pharisees were too blind to see their need for saving. We all have a spiritual debt that we cannot pay. It doesn’t matter how long or short our list of sins, or how great or small we perceive them…what matters is that we realize we have a debt we cannot pay. No amount of “doing good things” will satisfy it, but only God’s gracious offer to forgive our debt…our sin. The good news is…Jesus has already paid our debt in full. We simply have to receive His gracious gift by faith.

So what keeps us from coming to Jesus? Sometimes it’s our labels that keep us from Jesus. As “sinner” we might feel like we are too far gone for Jesus to rescue us. But no one is so bad that Jesus can’t forgive them. Just ask folks like Paul (worst of sinners), Augustine of Hippo, John Newton…me.

As “Pharisee” we might assume we don’t need Jesus. We’re good enough. I hate to break it to you…you’re not that good.

Simon wondered if Jesus knew who and what sort of woman this is…He does. She is a woman who loves, who serves, who surrenders, who humbles herself, who worships, whose forgiven…a child of King. Her faith expressed itself in love, gratitude and devotion…how is your faith expressed?

Repentance/faith leads to forgiveness from God, which leads to affection for Jesus. No repentance/faith leads to no forgiveness, which leads to no affection for Jesus. So if you have no affection for Jesus, something’s wrong…maybe you’ve forgotten the huge debt that you’ve been forgiven. Maybe you’ve yet accepted God’s gracious offer.

Are you one who loves much or little? Do you recognize the tremendous debt you’ve been forgiven in Jesus? Is it obvious to others?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show how much we’ve been forgiven by our great love for God and others this week.”

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

Failed Expectations

Luke 7.11-35

Jesus said, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Three groups are represented in our passage today…John, the people and tax collectors (those who had been baptized by John), and the Pharisees and lawyers.

John had expectations of Jesus…right expectations, but mistimed. John wrestled with seeing God’s kingdom coming through Jesus in physical/political ways (conquering the Romans) versus spiritual ways (conquering sin and Satan). And while you can’t separate the spiritual from the physical when it comes to the kingdom, the present form of the kingdom is mostly spiritual with some physical aspects. But one day, the kingdom will be both fully physical and spiritual (God’s kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven)…politically Jesus will come as conquering King…but not yet. We’re not told for sure, but we presume that John accepted Jesus’ message from the messengers.

The people and the tax collectors seemed to have come to Jesus with the only expectation of being rescued by Him. They weren’t looking for a political agenda…they were just sinners in need of repentance, and in Jesus they found the Physician who could heal them. They see Jesus for who He is.

The Pharisees and the lawyers also had expectations of Jesus…they wanted Him to conform to their rules. They wanted Him to look and act like them. They wanted Him to validate their self-righteousness. When He didn’t, they rejected Him.

Which of the 3 groups do you find yourself in? Are you like John, wrestling with your expectations of Jesus or what the Christian life is supposed to be like? Are doubts creating a crisis of faith? Do you feel like John…like you’re sitting alone in prison wondering if God even cares? Do you need to be reminded of who Jesus is and that He hasn’t forgotten you? That although it may feel like you’re losing, Jesus has already won the victory? Or are you like the Pharisees and lawyers, wanting Jesus to conform to your image rather than the other way around? Now’s the time to see Jesus for who He is…the only One who can rescue you, the only Physician who can heal you. Don’t wait…today’s the day.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show forth the wisdom of God as we rejoice in His salvation through faith in 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

Unshaken Faith

Luke 7.1-10

I wonder what Jesus thinks about our faith…do we have a faith that would cause Him to marvel, or would He say, “O you of little faith”? And if our faith is small, how do we grow it? How do we develop a faith that causes Jesus to marvel?

The centurion had a proper estimation of himself. Even though the Jewish elders promoted him as a big deal…as one who was worthy for Jesus to do a miracle for…he recognized that he wasn’t a big deal and had no right to demand or presume that Jesus owed him anything. His “I’m not worthy” didn’t come from poor self-esteem, but from a proper evaluation of who he was before God. We have to do the same. Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” We have to recognize that God doesn’t owe us anything but judgment…it’s by His grace that we can become His sons and daughters, it’s by His grace that He acts benevolently toward us, it’s by His grace He gives us good gifts…

The centurion also had a correct view of who Jesus was. He knew that Jesus could help…that with a word his servant could be healed. He didn’t doubt Jesus’ power or willingness to help. He simply had to ask. I think this is where we sometimes get stuck…either doubting Jesus’ ability or His willingness to help in our situation. We wouldn’t say it out loud, but many times we show by our actions or attitudes that we don’t really think that Jesus can help us…oh, sure maybe for the whole “heaven-thing” but not in our day-to-day life. And even if He could, why would He?

To have a faith that causes Jesus to marvel means that we have to believe at the most fundamental levels of our being that He can and will help us. That only comes from the Spirit’s work in our lives as we spend time with God in His Word and in prayer…that’s how He renews our hearts and minds, so that we can begin to see ourselves for who we really are and Jesus for who He really is. Only then can we come to know God as Father…a Father who delights in and gives good gifts to His children.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we exercise a faith that makes Jesus marvel this week.”

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

Judge Not

Luke 6.37-49

If we want to be merciful just as the Father is merciful, then we must reject condemning judgment and instead forgive freely and give generously, knowing that we will reap what we sow.

We have to be careful who we follow…and how we lead. We must first recognize our own need for a Physician, that we are sinners in need of repentance, before we will be able to lead others to Jesus. If we fail to recognize our own need first, then we become hypocritical and judgmental Pharisees puffed up on self-righteousness.

We become like those we follow…if we follow the world, we will look like the world, talk the world, act like the world. But if we want to live and love like Jesus, then we have to listen to His words and act on them. We must become doers of the Word, as James calls it. Our fruit…our words and our actions flow out of who we are. What does your fruit tell you about you?

It’s good to be reminded that the ability to reflect Jesus and obey even in the smallest matters is a work of the Spirit in our lives. We have to be willing to partner with Him and submit to His leading, but He is the One who transforms us.

Only two houses being built…those with a foundation and those without, there is no middle ground…which one is yours?

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we, out of the good treasure of our heart, bring forth what is good this week.”

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

True Blessedness

Luke 6.20-36

If you are like me, the first question that comes to mind is “How?” How do I love my enemy? How do I do good to those who hate me? How do I bless those who curse me? How do I pray for those who mistreat me? Especially when my natural inclination is revenge, self-preservation, protecting my stuff? How can I live and love like Jesus?

Dallas Willard in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines said, “It’s not just turning the other cheek, but becoming the kind of person who would turn the other cheek.” It’s not just a sheer act of will in the moment, but the cultivation of a lifestyle. It’s our daily practice of turning the other cheek…of loving our enemies, which is only possible by the power of the Spirit. The good news…the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to love His enemies wants to empower those who follow Him to do the same.

I read an article about a missionary who returned home after years of service. She moved into an apartment and was excited about having her own space to fix up and enjoy, especially the patio where she anticipated making her place of solace. But shortly after she moved in and decorated her patio and got everything just right, a family moved in next door…obnoxious neighbors who played loud music at all hours of the night, whose kids ran wild around the neighborhood, who seemed to have little or no respect for others. The final straw came when the kids spray painted her beautiful patio and wrecked everything on it. She tried praying to love them anyway, but only felt hatred. So she kept praying and got the image of love as a garment (Paul in Colossians 4) that she needed to put on. So she prayed that God would help her put on love. Then she began to list all the things she would do for this family if she truly loved them…bake cookies, babysit the kids, coffee with the mom…she began working the list. She chose to show them love (agape…act of the will) even though they surely didn’t deserve it, and before long she found herself truly loving them (her emotions caught up). So much so that she was sad when they moved.

You or I might think…yeah, but Jesus doesn’t know my enemy! They deserve everything they get. You don’t know my family…they’ll just take advantage of me. Poor people buy alcohol. Whatever. Jesus really meant what He said. This is what the church in Acts actually did. This isn’t hyperbole or just making a point. When Jesus said, “love your enemies”, He meant, “love your enemies.” When He said, “give to anyone who asks”, He meant, “give to anyone who asks.” He even told us not to demand back things that are stolen! Speaking for myself, it’s too easy to rationalize away that Jesus didn’t really mean to give to the people in my life. Forget tithing, Jesus is talking about renouncing a hold on every convenience and every dime for the sake of love…. and the person who does that is blessed.

Living and loving like Jesus is a moment-by-moment decision, leaning into the Spirit, praying for God’s help, and finding practical ways to love…even when the other person doesn’t deserve it. That’s when we begin to reflect the Father’s character…that’s when we are most like Jesus who loved folks like you and me who didn’t deserve it.

Jesus invites us to experience the abundant life…the blessed life…a life that looks beyond present circumstances to the ultimate reality of an eternal life with Jesus. The invitation is open to all who will follow Him. So how about you? Will you choose to follow Him today?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live and love like Jesus, loving our enemies and treating others the way we want to be treated.”

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

Attack of the Pharisees

Luke 6.1-11

Both of these Sabbath encounters, picking the grain and healing the man with the withered hand, remind us of what God intended for the Sabbath, foreshadowing the coming kingdom when all sorrow and illness will be healed for His people for all time. It’s a reminder of what we lost in the garden but also of where we are headed as sons and daughters of the King. Through Jesus, the kingdom of God invades this fallen world with a glimpse of what it will be like when Jesus returns.

As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus has the ultimate authority to restore what God intended for the Sabbath. Because of His intimate relationship with the Father, He gives us God’s perspective. The conflicts with the Pharisees highlight the conflict between man’s authority and God’s authority. Rules are not a bad thing…in fact, many times they can be helpful…but when following the rules takes the place of loving people, it’s no longer pleasing to God…even if they are followed with good intentions. The Pharisees designed rules to help folks know how to keep the Sabbath. They thought their rules clarified what God intended. Before long their rules became the authority instead of God’s Word. Self-righteousness had set in. The self-righteous mind is not interested in mercy or truth…just following the rules. Their traditions became like old wine skins that could not contain the message of the gospel that Jesus brings…a gospel of compassion of mercy, a gospel of God’s love for all of us.

So who has the authority over your life? Is it the rules that you have set up or is it God’s Word?

What pleases God is a heart devoted to Him and a life characterized, that’s deeply marked, by compassion and mercy. Faith produces a merciful heart…and whenever we show mercy it reflects the life of Jesus in us. When we see someone showing mercy to others, we recognize, “There’s someone who has experienced mercy”. But if we have not experienced mercy ourselves, then, chances are, we will not show mercy to others. And religion…faith without of mercy does not please God (Micah 6.8 “What does the LORD require from you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”)

So what characterizes your life? What are you deeply marked by? Would others describe you as compassionate or merciful? If compassion and mercy don’t mark your walk with Jesus, what does? Pursuing God is not a matter of meticulously following rules but learning more and more how to love God with all that we are and learning more and more to love others selflessly. That’s what it means to follow Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May our lives be marked by the compassion of Jesus as we seek to follow Him this week.”

 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

Get In the Game

Luke 5.27-39

It is not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus is still in the business of restoring social outcasts to community and forgiving notorious sinners. He did it for Levi. He wants to do the same for you. He sees you and me…all that we’ve done and will do, and still He calls us. Levi is a reminder that no one is so far gone that Jesus can’t rescue him/her. He wants to ruin you and remake you…to wreck your self-righteousness and give you His true righteousness. And not only does Jesus want to rescue you, He wants to put you to work. Like Levi, He wants you to be a part of His rescue mission…fishing for men. Robert Munger once said, “The church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate.” How about you? Do you recognize your need for Jesus? Jesus’ invitation is for everyone who will respond, “Come, follow Me,” anytime, anyplace…today is the day of salvation. Is Jesus calling you today?

Maybe you’ve already trusted in Jesus…if so, are you a fisher of men…are you seeking the lost and relating to them in such a way that they can see God’s grace at work in your life? Jesus spent time with people like Levi. Levi and his friends could have ruined a man’s reputation. Who do you spend time with? Who is on your impact list? Who are you intentionally building relationships with? Are you having any risky conversations? Are you willing to put your reputation on the line to reach the notorious for Jesus? Are you willing to love the unlovable? Many times when we trust in Jesus, He not only changes us; but we begin to make some changes ourselves. We find new set of friends (all Christian of course), maybe get a new job (in a Christian environment), start listening to new music (of course Christian)…we so surround ourselves with other believers that we become irrelevant to a lost world. Not only do we no longer have friends who are lost…we have a hard time thinking of anyone in our normal routine who’s lost. Maybe it’s time to take a risk. Maybe it’s time for some dangerous conversations. Maybe it’s time to ruin your reputation by hanging out with some nefarious characters, looking for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus and invite them to the never-ending party of knowing Jesus…experiencing the joy that can only be found in Him. Maybe it’s time to get in the game.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we, like Levi, let go of our old life and lay hold of the new life we have in Jesus, and may we, like Jesus, have some dangerous conversations this week.”

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