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Who are You Listening to?

I love the Lord.  But does it really make a difference what I watch, the music I listen to, or the internet sites I go to?  Even though it was written 2000 years ago, Paul’s letter to the Galatians still speaks to us today.

You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
Galatians 5:7

You were running a good race – past tense.  That sounds ominous.  The question is; how are you going to finish?  After all, it’s not about how you started off your race, it where you finally end up.

Paul sees that these people had left the path.  The problem is that it doesn’t take much.  You could be only one degree off course, but after traveling in that direction for a while, you could be miles away from your planned destination.

They had let someone cut in on them.  They allowed somebody to lead, who wasn’t supposed to.  Because of that, they were losing the truth.

The word, obey, literally means to be convinced, assured or confident in.  So what Paul was saying is that by listening to this person, they were losing confidence in the truth they originally received from the Apostle.  Why was this happening to them?  Could it happen to you?

That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.  “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
Galatians 5:8-9

The issue is that now there are two signals being followed.  There’s the One who calls us – the Holy Spirit.  But there’s also someone trying to take us in a different direction.  This is where we start leaving the path.

The problem starts when we don’t listen with a critical ear.  What do I mean by that?  I’m talking about being convinced that Scripture and what the Holy Spirit has taught me is the truth.

Unfortunately, there are Christians who will hear something different.  Then their first thought is, “It sounds logical.  I wonder if that’s true.  I’ll have to think about that.”  When you think like this, you’ve allowed someone to cut in front of you.

Critical thinking doesn’t allow for that.  When you hear a teaching that doesn’t line up with the Word, you immediately label it as a lie.  You can then, through prayer and the study of Scripture, receive insight and understanding as to exactly why this teaching is not the truth.

Paul talks about this in regards to the spiritual weapons we’ve been given.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5

This is what has to happen with the lies that bombard us each day.  The media provides a constant stream of ideas that, left unchecked, will ruin our faith.  We must be on our guard to protect the truth that we’ve received.

I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view.  The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.
Galatians 5:10

The truth beats the lie every time.  I believe that these Galatian Christians came back to their senses after hearing the truth in this epistle.  I also believe the same for us.  Being forewarned is being armed and ready.

Question: How is a half-truth worse than a total lie?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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The Right Fuel for the Job

In the natural world, you must always have fuel to use power.   No matter if it’s electricity, cooking, heating, or driving.  Even something as simple as a candle requires wax as a fuel.  The same is true for power in the spiritual realm.

The Galatian church was starting to think that they could get power to serve God by following the Law.  In his letter, Paul shows them the true source of their spiritual power.

What we commonly mean when we use the term fuel is combustible matter.  But there’s also a general definition of fuel.  According to this definition, fuel is whatever feeds or sustains any expenditure, outlay, passion, or excitement.  What, then, is the fuel for our spiritual power?

It doesn’t take much study of the Bible to realize that faith is the fuel – that which feeds and sustains our spiritual passion – for the Christian life.  Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.  Without faith, we would have no access to the grace of God.  Faith is the requirement for God to do anything at all in our lives.

Having the fuel is important.  But we must also know how to utilize it.  Just holding a can of gasoline doesn’t automatically make me travel 60 mph.  I need to put it in the gas tank of a working automobile.

Unfortunately, there are many in the body of Christ who haven’t learned this simple concept.  We hold on to the fuel of faith and expect the light and heat of God to start working.  When nothing happens, we conclude that the Scripture is wrong, or that maybe God doesn’t do miracles anymore.  The Bible has the answer to this dilemma.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6

In this verse, the word value literally means force in the Greek.  It’s not how you look on the outside that gives spiritual force, or power, to your walk.  It’s the fuel, faith, expressing itself through love.  What that verse says in the Greek is that faith must energize or activate itself through love.

If I put this in natural terms I could say that faith is the fuel, and love is the generator producing the voltage needed to maintain the power of God in us.  The Bible clarifies this truth.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

If I have all the faith-fuel in the world but don’t have the love-generator to use it in, I am nothing.  This is where much of the church finds itself in this generation.  We seem to be so full of faith, yet accomplishing nothing for God.

According to this verse, it sounds like a love problem to me.  If we’re not using our faith correctly, then there’ll be no manifestation of power.  I must use my faith to power my love-walk.

Trying to follow the Law is totally different.  I don’t need any love at all.  I could even look down on you because, after all, I follow the Law so much better than you do.

It should be obvious that following the Law of Moses will never bring about the changes that God is looking for in His people.  Just the opposite; it puts us into competition with each other.

We need to serve God the way He wants us to.  We need faith in His Word.  Then we must use that faith to fuel our love-walk.  That’s where true power originates.

Question: How have you experienced the failure of faith without love?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Short-Circuiting God’s Work

Today, many Christians are trying to win God’s blessings by striving to make themselves more worthy. In New Testament times there were some who thought circumcision and submitting to the Law of Moses would help get you closer to God. Paul wrote about these people in his letter to the Galatians.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Galatians 5:1-2

Wow! Paul uses some powerful words in this passage. Christ will not benefit you at all if you strive to do the work in your ability. Nothing on the outside will avail you in trying to deserve the power of God.

As a matter of fact, it will have just the opposite effect. It will hinder your ability to flow in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul continues.

Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:3-4

We’re always looking for the quick fix. So, in order to get around the time needed to be intimate with God, we’d rather try different Old Testament acts, hoping that they’ll do the trick. People try tithing, food laws, vows, and other Old Covenant traditions thinking that somehow it will make them more worthy.

Unfortunately, by doing this one simple act, Christ, the Anointed One is rendered idle in your life. That’s what the literal Greek in this verse says. Paul states that you have gone off course from grace.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
Galatians 5:5

The only way to walk in the power and righteousness of God is to wait in the Spirit. It’s only by intimacy with the Lord that we’ll gain this precious gift. It’s not going to manifest through your work and ability. It will only come about as God declares you worthy as a mature son.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there’s something wrong with tithing, eating healthy, reading the Bible, confessing the promises or going to church. These are a necessary part of our growth in the Lord. They’re also a normal part of a mature Christian’s life. What I’m saying is that if your sole purpose in doing these things is to make points toward receiving God’s power, then you’re going to be disappointed.

What I desire is to see the church reach its maturity in Christ. Only then will we see the manifestation of the power of God in our services. As long as we have the mentality of spiritual childhood, we’ll never experience it. Having to recite and claim the promises are a part of childhood.

It’s what children do in the natural. It’s the “are we there yet?” attitude. If we decide to go fishing on Saturday and I tell you I’ll be by to pick you up at 5:00 AM, you don’t keep calling me to remind me. I show up at your house at 5 and you’re ready and waiting. That’s what adults do (or should do).

My children don’t have to keep reminding me that it’s my responsibility as a parent to feed them. They know where the refrigerator is and they know they’re free to get something whenever they want.

It’s the same with God. Jesus, as a mature Son, did not have to keep reciting the promises to the Father. He knew that they’d activate when needed. Maturity lives above the promises. If only we could grasp the freedom and power of spiritual maturity. It would propel us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

Question: How does waiting on the Lord in the Spirit bring growth and maturity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Freedom vs. License

I’ve heard people say that if you preach too much about our freedom in Christ, then believers will start to think that they have a license to live however they want.  But is that the truth?  And if it was, would that be a reason to stop preaching the true Word of God?

Paul starts to deal with some of these issues in his letter to the Galatian church.

At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.  It is the same now.
Galatians 4:29

It’s obvious from this verse that Paul’s talking about the Judaizers who were causing him so much trouble.  They felt that the Gentiles needed to come under the Law of Moses in order to maintain their salvation.

In my experience, this verse is as applicable today as it was back then.  There are Christians in our generation who believe in a set of rules that must be followed.  They believe there’s a certain lifestyle that must be adhered to.

Understand me – if the Bible calls something sin, then God hates it.  If we’re involved in it, we need to repent and turn from it.  So I’m not talking about a freedom to sin.

What I am talking about, are believers who try to make it so hard for people to grow.  If a child spills his milk, you expect that; he’s a child.  Why don’t we give young believers that same benefit of the doubt?

I’ve been told that you can’t emphasize our freedom in Christ.  It causes believers to “backslide” and fall into sin.

Well, I’ve been a pastor for 30 years.  I preach about our sonship and freedom in Christ.  I preach about the walk of maturity and power.  So I think that I have some experience in this area.

What I’ve found over the years is that the vast majority of those I taught have gone on to a mature Christian walk as well as an understanding of their call to ministry.  Yes, some have fallen away.  But most of those who fell into sin, started by first rejecting me and my teaching.

Paul makes it very clear…

But what does the Scripture say?  “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Galatians 4:30-31

My belief is that new believers should start out being shown what they need to do to grow in Christ.  Reading the Word, attending a church, tithing, praying, etc.  Just like physical children, they need to be shown how to be responsible with their salvation.

Along with that, they need to be shown the freedom and joy of maturity.  That’s what works in the natural.  Children look up to their parents.  They want to be free to drive their own car someday.  They want to have a job and have their own money.

If you never show people what God offers, they’ll never strive for a deeper walk.  It’s not natural for a 25-year-old, living with his parents, to be told that if he cleans his room he’ll get an extra treat after dinner.  There’s a freedom that comes with maturity.

We just have to learn this truth in the family of God.  I like the way the Apostle Paul sums it all up.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

I believe that given the choice, most Christians will choose the power and freedom of a mature walk in Christ over sin every time.

Question: What’s been your experience with legalistic believers?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Born into Freedom

In my last post, I talked about Paul’s illustration using Abraham’s two sons.  We saw that Ishmael, born into slavery, was Paul’s example of viewing the Law as our covenant.  He’s adamant that we were saved into freedom.

But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.  For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”
Galatians 4:26-27

Paul explains to us that our spiritual mother, the one that birthed us into God’s family, is the Jerusalem from above.  We also know it as the New Jerusalem that Christ is preparing for us.  But how can a city be our mother?  To answer that, we need to look way ahead to the book of Revelation.

This is what the Apostle John describes as taking place after the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Revelation 21:1-2

He talks about the New Jerusalem as the bride of Christ.  It should be obvious that Jesus isn’t marrying a city.  It’s the inhabitants of that city who are the bride of Christ.

In the same way, Paul is not talking about the physical city being our mother.  The Jerusalem that is above is referring to the bride.  We were brought into the family of God by those who were fulfilling their calling.

A member of the bride of Christ spoke the Word of God to us.  When we heard this Good News, faith was birthed in our hearts.  We then responded by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  In that sense, the New Jerusalem is our mother.

Because we were birthed through faith in the Word, we are born into the freedom of Christ.

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Galatians 4:28-29

When we accepted Christ we were born by the Spirit of God into the promise.  What promise?  The same promise that Isaac was born into.

Now that the addendum of the Law has been fulfilled by Christ, we are under the renewed covenant of Abraham.  We are now entitled to all the blessings that were promised to his family.  If you don’t believe it, then let me remind you of what Paul already told the Galatian church just a few paragraphs before this.

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:29

Don’t let anyone try to tell you that you’re still obligated to follow the Law.  My blessings are not contingent upon my performance.  They’re based on God’s love for me and my family relationship with Him.

Having said that, we understand that we’re in a covenant relationship with Christ.  Therefore, I want to spend quality time with Him through the Holy Spirit.  I want to know Him in a deeper way.  I want the Spirit to make me more and more like the Lord.  In this way, I can experience all the blessings that Christ purchased for me.

Question: Why do some people seem to be so attracted to the Law?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Family or Slavery?

When it comes to serving Christ, why do some choose rules over a relationship?  I believe that, just like in a family, good relationships are harder to maintain.  This is the very thing that Paul talks about in his letter to the Galatian church.

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?
Galatians 4:21

Many people are under the assumption that following a set of rules is the best way to serve God.  They think that as long as they try to do good things and keep away from the evil things, then they’ll be okay.  Unfortunately, this kind of thinking shows a basic misunderstanding of how God operates through His people.

The Apostle Paul, an expert in the law, explains this important truth to the church.

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.  His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
Galatians 4:22-23

When we talk about a relationship, especially in the spirit, it has nothing to do with the works you’ve done.  The important thing is how you entered the relationship.  How do you begin to relate to God?

Paul says that there are two ways.  He uses the example of Abraham’s two children.  He tells us that one was born according to the flesh, the other by an announcement from God.  So the two ways of relating to God are by natural means; or by the Word of God.

Many people try the natural method.  They look at their lives and say, “It’s about time that I grow up.  I need to start taking more responsibility and act in a more mature way.”  They say that they’ve “turned over a new leaf.”

They start to read the Bible and think about how they can live like the good people described in its pages.  There’s no spiritual change, it’s all done in the flesh.  They use self-discipline and drive to accomplish their goal to live better.

Please understand – the desire to walk in maturity is a commendable thing.  The problem is that it’s nearly impossible in the natural.  Ask anyone who attends an AA meeting.  It only takes one weak moment to knock you back to the start of the whole process.

That’s what Paul’s talking about here.

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants.  One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.  Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.
Galatians 4:24-25

Paul talks about two covenants.  But if you remember, he already told the Galatian church that the law was not really a covenant, but an addendum to the true covenant.  (Click here to review it.)

What he’s saying is that if you want to view the Law as another covenant, then you’re headed for slavery.  And I can tell you plainly that this is not God’s will for you.  The Lord wants a family, not slaves.

Christ went to the cross so that His people could walk in total freedom.  As we continue to go through Galatians in future posts, we’ll see how this freedom is supposed to work in us.

Question: What are the similarities and differences between the family and slavery relationships?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Heed the Warning

How easy is it to take criticism?  We don’t like being told that we’re going down the wrong path.  But it’s necessary sometimes to keep us from bigger problems later on.

As we continue looking at the book of Galatians, the church has come to the point where they need to deal with Paul’s correction.  They’re being drawn down the slippery slope of legalism.  The Apostle is trying to warn them before it’s too late.

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Galatians 4:16

We would much prefer to be told how wonderful we are.  By pointing out their error, Paul risks their anger.  The word enemy in this verse actually means hateful.  They’re getting to the point where they don’t want Paul participating in their growth anymore.

That’s what happens when you start listening to the wrong people.

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you [from us], so that you may be zealous for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
Galatians 4:17-18

Paul is well acquainted with the methods used by false teachers.  They don’t have the Word of God to back them up, so they have to rely on other things.

According to this verse, they’re very loving and passionate towards you.  They show what seems to be a genuine concern for your welfare and growth.  But all the while, they’re really looking for your passion towards them.

It’s amazing how gullible we can be when someone starts by telling us what we want to hear.  That’s why false teaching usually begins with flattery.  Paul was clear that he never used this method to win people over.

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Romans 16:17-18

That’s the danger of listening to these false teachers.  After all, would you rather listen to someone telling you how great you are; or that you’re headed in the wrong direction?  The Galatian people were being tempted to end their relationship with Paul in order to serve these deceivers.

Paul is clear that zeal is really a good thing, as long as what we’re zealous for is the truth.  We must always ask ourselves if our zeal is for the Word of God for the goals of man.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Galatians 4:19-20

Because of their wavering, Paul has begun a campaign of intercessory prayer for them.  He was there when they were birthed into God’s kingdom.  But now, through self-righteous legalism, they’re trying to win God’s favor by their works.

Paul knows that this course will end in spiritual disaster for them.  He also knows that only the power of the Spirit of God can change the hearts of people.  So just like he interceded for their salvation, he’s now diligent in praying for their freedom from this deception.

Don’t be fooled.  Good works, in and of themselves will never bring you closer to the Lord.  It only comes through intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Question: What has been your experience, if any, with deceptive teachers?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Legalism, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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