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Navigating the Grey Areas

We’re approaching the conclusion of Paul’s teaching on the grey areas of sin.  These are activities that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.

The apostle now gives some advice on how to handle these things.  The specific issue he’s dealing with is the eating of food that had been previously brought as a sacrifice to a pagan temple.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1 Corinthians 10:25-26

God has placed His Holy Spirit within each of us as believers.  If the Bible is silent about it, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t activate our conscience, then don’t over-think it.  If it troubles your conscience, then keep away from it.

That’s for you as an individual.  There’s more advice once others are involved.

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
1 Corinthians 10:27

If an unbeliever invites you to an activity, and your conscience isn’t troubled, then you’re free to go.  The fact is that we need to be cultivating healthy relationships with the unchurched.  How else will they be affected by the Gospel of Christ?

That was easy, but what about a mixed crowd of both believers and unbelievers?

But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.  For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
1 Corinthians 10:28-30

This is where it begins to get complicated.  I now have to take my mind off myself and think of the good of others.  I can’t just run rough-shod over another person’s conscience and proclaim, “I’m free in Christ to do what I want.”

We have to be sensitive to the maturity level of those around us.  We don’t want to be the cause of an offense that hinders their walk with God.

“Well, they just need to grow up!”

Try telling that to a three-year-old.  Growth takes time and nurturing.  Take your eyes off yourself, and be a blessing rather than a hindrance.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33a

The bottom line is that it’s not about me, but God receiving the glory from my life.  I should be able to live with a little inconvenience in order for God’s kingdom to advance.  Our goal should be that the name of Christ is exalted.

Question: Why is sensitivity to the needs of others so important to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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All About Me

As we continue our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, he’s speaking about how idolatry relates to the grey areas of sin.  This is an important issue.  The apostle now lays down the principle of participation.

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17

The first part of participation that we need to understand is our fellowship with Christ. The words translated participation in this verse, are the same that are translated fellowship in other places in Scripture.  We have a fellowship in the body and blood of the Lord.

In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we’re showing a visible representation of our fellowship.  It’s because of our connection to Christ that we’re connected with each other.  We all have a share in His body and in His blood.

It’s this concept of participation that should guide some of our actions.  There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter what I do outside of the church.  What I do in my private time is my own business.  But is it?

Remember, it’s all about participation.  Am I participating with the world in things I shouldn’t be involved in?  That’s the issue Paul’s dealing with here.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21

Those are strong words.  In context, he’s talking about idolatry in a pagan temple.  But this could apply to us as well.  There are many things in society that could be seen as modern idolatry.  Gaming, the internet, the entertainment industry, sporting events, and a whole host of other things can steal our devotion.

Actually, anything that we participate in that causes us to reject time with Christ is idolatry.  No, I don’t think we should be worshipping 24/7.  But only serving God two hours a week on Sunday morning is a symptom of spiritual sickness.

Paul tells us the bottom line.

Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:22-24

Even things that are permissible, with no evil aspects, can be detrimental to your Christian walk.  The fact is, being a Christian is not all about me.  I’m a part of something bigger than myself.  The fellowship I share is on a spiritual level.  The things I do in the natural can have a spiritual effect.

This is key to understanding what’s right or wrong for me.  What I do as an individual affects the whole.   That’s life in a body.  When I stub my toe, my whole body is affected.   This is a lesson the current generation of believers needs to learn.

Question: How does a person’s private life affect the whole church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Faith Experiments

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul is still laying down principles for handling the “grey areas” of sin.  These are the things in society that the Bible doesn’t specifically speak about as being right or wrong.

Paul makes an interesting observation.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In order to understand what Paul’s saying here, we need to grasp the concept of temptation.  I think that we misunderstand this sometimes.

The Greek word translated as tempt and temptation has a few different English words associated with it.  In other passages of Scripture, it’s translated as test and trial.  It literally means putting to proof by experiment.

This tells me that temptation is simply a faith experiment.  It’s a test designed to see if you really believe what you say that you believe.

James, chapter 1, tells us that it’s these faith experiments that develop godly character in us.  They’re things that we all go through.  God allows things to cross our path that will bring out and expose our faith in Him.

James also tells us that God doesn’t use evil to test us.  It’s the enemy that tries to get us to fall into sin by putting evil across our paths.

You probably don’t look forward to trials and temptations.  I don’t.  But they’re going to be a part of our lives until the Lord returns.

Paul’s statement above is a bright ray of hope.  It’s a promise we can cling to.  God will not allow me to go through anything that He and I can’t handle together.  The key is that I need to be looking for the exit door.

That’s the reason for his next statement.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:14

Idolatry is anything that you place above God in your life.  Whatever or whoever you’re willing to rearrange your life or your schedule for is the one you’re serving.  Make sure that it’s Christ.

That’s an important key for testing these grey areas.  It might not specifically be called sin in Scripture.  But if it’s keeping you from serving God wholeheartedly, then you need to flee from it.  Or at least put it in its proper place in subjection to Christ.

We need to take inventory of our lives.  Just because something isn’t evil doesn’t mean that it’s not hindering your walk with the Lord.

Paul tells us that God gives you the ability to put your life into order.  You’re able to overcome the trials and tests in your life.  Allow the work of the Holy Spirit to bring you to your destiny in Christ

Question: What areas of testing and temptation are you going through right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in Encouragement, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Warnings from the Past

Many times I’ve been asked, as a Pastor, why the Old Testament is even important to us.  Many believers don’t ever read it.  They say it’s too bloody and violent.  Grace hadn’t been fully accomplished yet, so there are many instances where we see God’s wrath.  Why read that kind of stuff anyway?

In today’s post, I want to continue talking about the example of ancient Israel.  We must let the Bible take its rightful place in our daily lives.

We’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He used ancient Israel as an example of how not to serve God.  In telling the church about how God dealt with the Jews, he mentioned some of their rebellions as well as the judgments they received.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 Corinthians 10:11

This verse makes it clear that the things that happened under the Old Covenant, especially the negative things, are a warning to us.  The Greek word for warning in this verse means to place in our minds – in other words, the Lord is trying to grab our attention.

This is because we’re quickly approaching a time in history when all things will be fulfilled.  The goal line is before us.  We’re about to witness the final days of this entire age.

Because of that, we’re at a point in time that requires a different kind of walk from God’s people.  We can’t live the way they did in ages past – that will not work for us.

Israel saw and heard incredible things – yet they fell away.  We need to take this to heart.  Even though we’re under grace, the message of the Old Testament is still important to us.

No, we won’t come under judgment as Israel did.  But the fact remains, God still hates the same lazy attitudes that He hated back then.  He still loves the mindset that’s passionate for His will.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12

In this verse, the word, think, means to assume or to have a reputation of.  In other words, don’t believe your own press.  Just because people tell you that you’re standing strong doesn’t necessarily make it true.

We must take inventory of our walk with God and see if it lines up with the truth of God’s Word.  Only then will we be assured of the rewards that Christ has set aside for us.

The Jews thought that they would be rewarded simply on the basis of them being in Abraham’s family.  It didn’t work that way.  The Lord is looking for a combination of faith and faithfulness.  We need to serve God out of a heart of loving gratitude for all that He’s done for us.

Israel didn’t know the great lengths that the Father would go to in order to save us and bring us into His family.  They didn’t know about Christ dying on the cross.  We do.

How much more should we embrace all that God has for us – both the responsibilities and the glories?  The examples of Scripture warn us to be careful.

Even though we’ll not come under the judgment of the world, we may still lose some of our rewards if we live for ourselves.  Salvation is based on grace; rewards are based upon obedience.  Scripture is a warning to us that disobedience will always be dealt with.  If you want all the rewards the Lord has set aside for you, then heed the warnings of Scripture.

Question: How have the warnings of Scripture kept you out of trouble?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Bad Examples

We’re continuing our look at the example of Israel.  The way they served God in the wilderness should be a sign to us of how NOT to do it.

There are three specific characteristics that Paul wants us to beware of.

We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did — and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel.
1 Corinthians 10:8-10

The first thing that you need to know is that we’re now under God’s grace.  I’m very glad that I was born on this side of the cross of Christ.  We don’t have to worry about plagues and destroying angels anymore.

On the other hand, just because God won’t immediately judge us, doesn’t change how strongly the Lord feels about these sins.  Participating in these activities is displeasing to God.  Our goal should be to live a life that’s well-pleasing before Him.

The first thing listed is sexual immorality.  I guess nothing changes.  That’s probably the biggest area in which Christians refuse to change.

This covers all sexual activity outside of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.  Even pornography is included in this.

This is a huge stronghold in the lives of many believers, yet not many people talk about it.  Maybe they’re afraid that they may lose church members or followers.  But I can’t just gloss over it, because some of your future rewards depend upon the purity of your walk before God.

The next issue he talks about is testing the Lord.  This problem was recorded in the book of Numbers, chapter 21.   It was all about the people being impatient with the Lord.

When we pray, we want the answer right now.  With Israel, it got to the point where they accused God of sending them into the desert to die.  They also told Him that they hated the manna that God was providing for them.

Don’t fall into the trap of becoming impatient as you wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled.  It will develop ungratefulness for the things that the Lord is already doing in your life.  Rest assured that the Lord will fulfill His plan in you.

Finally, there’s a temptation for us to grumble about where we are in life.  This word means to speak a complaint in almost inaudible tones.

That’s something that used to really bother me as a pastor.  Someone would approach me and say something like, “Brother Joe is mad at you and has now left the church.  You need to talk to him.  He’s telling everybody mean things about you.”

The funny thing is that when I called Joe, he tells me, “Oh Pastor Nick, I’m not mad at you.  Who would say that about me?  I love your ministry.  I haven’t been in church because I have to take care of some family issues.”

Grumbling is when you voice your complaints to people who aren’t a part of either the problem or the solution.  You’re just looking for someone to tell you that you’re right and the other person is wrong.

Unfortunately, grumbling will open the door to the attack of the enemy.  Don’t give any ground to the devil.

The example of Israel is a negative one.  But they show us certain activities that the Lord hates.  He won’t kill you with a lightning bolt from heaven.  But your ministry will be hindered until you repent.

Question: Why is the walk of purity better, even though it’s a tougher road?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2019 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Modern Idolatry

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes learn more from the negative examples of others.  I see where someone failed and I now know how not to do it.  That’s how the Apostle Paul is using the example of the children of Israel.

Remember, in this verse he’s writing to a church where the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was strong and active.  So this verse is for believers.

Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”
1 Corinthians 10:7

When I read this verse it causes me to wonder about my pre-conceived ideas.  When I hear the word “idolatry”, I think of a group of people bowing and worshipping a statue of stone or metal.  That’s nothing like what Paul is saying here.

The Greek word that’s translated, indulge in pagan revelry, is simply the word for play.  So Paul’s description of idolatry is very different than mine.  It’s about sitting down to consume and getting up to play.

Wow!  If that’s not a description of our present society in America, then I don’t know what is.  We have a nation of consumers and players.

To be a consumer means that you pour your resources into things that have no lasting value.  You buy a new car and it loses half its value when you leave the parking lot.  You by a brand new electronic device and it’s obsolete in a few weeks.

This became real to me while I was helping someone move.  They had boxes of VHS movie tapes that they’d purchased over the years.  Thousands of dollars in movies, but they can’t even watch them anymore because technology has moved on.

Playing is another big area for us.  Online gaming is a huge industry.  Big league sports are another huge money-maker.  Our society will pay people millions of dollars to throw and catch balls, while those who help others have to work two or three jobs to support their families.  That’s where our priorities are as a society right now.

I realize that without Christ, the “eat, drink, and be merry” lifestyle is sometimes the only way to cope with the pressures of life.  My problem is when Christians get caught up in the frenzy of the world.

We seem to feel left out if we’re not doing what they’re doing.  We want to experience everything that’s available.  So, we consume much of our time and resources chasing after the same temporary things that the world does.

Throughout the Bible, that’s called dissipation.  We are dissipating our energy and resources on things that don’t matter for eternity.  All the while, the kingdom of God has relatively few who are moving it forward.

We need to rethink our way of life.  How should we be living in this day and age?  What should our priorities be like?  I like the way Paul answers these questions in another of his letters.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

Living a life that’s mostly consuming and/or playing is a symptom of idolatry.  Don’t let the world dissipate your life.  Live for Christ wholeheartedly.

Question: How do we keep ourselves separate from the idolatry of the world?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Our Example

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s teaching on how to handle the grey areas of sin – things that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.  We’re finding that it’s more about spiritual principles than a black and white list of do’s and don’ts.

He now begins talking about Israel under the Old Testament.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Paul is now talking about the spiritual walk of the ancient Israelites.  Specifically, he tells us about those who were saved and walking with God, the same as we are.  The only difference is that their salvation was “on credit”.

They were looking forward to what God was going to do in Christ.  They didn’t know how or when it would happen.  We look back on the completed work of Christ and know all the details.

Just like us, in order for them to be saved, they had to walk by faith.  It wasn’t the observing of the law that saved them.  The sacrificial system was simply an ongoing observance to which they could attach their faith.

Paul shows us that they went through the same type of ongoing process that we have in our walk with Christ.  They had to undergo two baptisms – representing water baptism and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

They were also provided with food (manna) and water through the wilderness.  It was only obtained through a daily act of faith in God.  Paul goes as far as to say that the rock from which the water flowed was an Old Testament manifestation of Christ.

Why is it important for us to know this?

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
1 Corinthians 10:5-6

Here are the facts.  Even though they were saved and in God’s kingdom by observing the law by faith, God wasn’t pleased with most of them.  Many of them ended up dying before seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Paul tells us clearly that this was recorded in Scripture as an example to us.  We need to understand how this applies to our walk with the Lord.

I think that in the modern church, we’ve mixed up the concepts of God’s love and God’s pleasure.  God can love us unconditionally, yet at the same time be displeased with us.  We need to take this truth to heart.

I have three children.  There have been times that I was absolutely displeased with them.  But even at their worst, I loved them and would give my life to defend and protect them.

We have to understand that the law of sowing and reaping is a definite part of the New Covenant experience.  The Bible tells us that we can either sow to please our flesh or our spirit.  What we set our hearts on will determine the outcome.

There are many Christians that are in bad situations.  It’s not because God doesn’t love them or because He’s judging them.  Instead, they’re simply reaping the bad seed that they’ve planted.

This is Paul’s warning to us.  Don’t follow the bad example of Israel.  Set your heart on the good things of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen the results of sowing and reaping in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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