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Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Pharisee Comes to Jesus

HandsI’ve been posting about how Scripture describes the born-again experience. It’s deeper than simply reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer.” It’s about clothing ourselves with Christ by the power of the spirit.

There’s only one way to put on the new man. Unfortunately, it’s also a concept that the church has pushed to the side in many instances.

To understand it, we’ll now look at the most recognizable Scripture concerning the concept of being born again.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
John 3:1-2

We need to look at a conversation between Jesus and a young man named Nicodemus. To understand what takes place, we must look at the background. First of all, this event is only recorded in the Gospel of John. That’s an important point.

All of the other Gospels were written to the unsaved people groups of world. Matthew was written so that the Jews would see Jesus as their promised Messiah. Mark was written so that the Romans would understand that Christ was the conquering servant-king. Luke was written so that the Greeks would know that perfection can only be found in Christ.

John, on the other hand, had a totally different purpose. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give the church a deeper view of Christ Jesus, the Living Word, God taking on flesh. This is important for us to realize in grasping what’s being said. It’s a story that directly applies to the church – those who are already saved and want a more intimate knowledge of Christ.

The second thing we find out is that this man, Nicodemus, is a Pharisee. Often, the Pharisees get an undeserved bad reputation in Christian circles. Of all people that lived back then, the Pharisees were the closest to us in doctrine.

They believed that God took notice and acted in the affairs of men. They believed the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. They knew that there was a spiritual realm that included the demons as well as ministering angels. They also believed that there would be a resurrection day at the end of the age. It’s unfortunate that the few who hated Jesus are the ones who get all of our attention.

Nicodemus was his own man. Think about the facts of the situation. He begins by calling Jesus Rabbi. This was a term that literally meant my great one. It was reserved for those who you felt were an example to you. It implied that I want to be like you. So it’s significant that a Rabbi is calling Jesus a Rabbi.

Furthermore, Jesus, Himself commends Nicodemus. In verse 10 of this chapter Jesus calls him the teacher of Israel. Obviously the Lord was pleased with his work.

Another event of note is the fact that when Christ was taken down off the cross it was Nicodemus who prepared the body for burial. (John 19:38-40) This was unheard of. You would never see a Pharisee handling a dead body on the eve of the Passover feast.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Nicodemus is a believer. He is someone trusting in Christ and looking for the next step in the process. We need to listen carefully to the teaching of Christ in this conversation.

In my next post we’ll see exactly what Jesus said was needed for Nicodemus to reach the next phase of his walk with the Lord.

Question: How would you counsel someone who wanted to progress to their next step in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Born Again – The New Man

SproutIn my last post I looked at a verse that talked about the possibility of becoming born again.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
John 1:12

To have the right, simply means that believers have the permission to become sons of God. Do you do everything that you have permission to do? Of course not.

The next verse goes on to tell exactly how this change takes place.

…children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 1:13

The term natural descent is talking about our flesh. This born again process is not a work that our flesh can do. Neither is it accomplished by human decision or the will of man. It’s not a process of my mind. I could decide to receive Christ and be saved – I cannot just decide to be born again and have it automatically take place.

God is Spirit. Being born again is a work of the spirit. Yes, we have permission to let it take place in us. But in order to go through with it we must yield to the Spirit. This is a work that can only take place in the spiritual realm.

That brings us full circle to the passage we looked at in the first post of this series.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5-7

Paul continues on to say that we have been justified by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s our salvation. It’s the free gift to all who believe in His name. But there’s more. Having entered His saving grace there’s the hope that we might become heirs.

As I said before, Scripture is clear that not all believers will inherit anything. Some will make it to Heaven with no rewards. Their works will be burned up. In order to receive your inheritance you must put on the new man. They’re the ones who overcome the world and receive their reward.

We must come to the understanding that it’s those believers who are born again that can walk in the authority of Christ. It’s not enough to give lip service to the Word of God. It must be a part of your spiritual DNA.

John had a deep understanding of this truth, but so did Peter.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:22-23

Peter is talking to a church that had purified themselves. They allowed the life changing work of the Word to take root in them by immersing themselves in Christ. To these people Peter says, “You have been born again.” He shows us that it’s through the Word of God – the imperishable seed – the work of the rebirth is accomplished in us.

This is an important concept because it shows us what it takes to yield to the Holy Spirit. In my next post we’ll see how Jesus described it in detail to a Pharisee.

Question: How would the church of our generation look if we were all immersed in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Born Again – Letting the Scripture Speak

BibleI’ve started a new series on what being Born Again means according to the Scripture. I want to show that how the Bible describes it is very different from our current vocabulary.

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
1 John 2:29

The phrase does what is right is literally does righteousness in the Greek. John is not talking about doing good things. It’s more than that. He’s referring to living the life of righteousness as Jesus did.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:9

I’ve heard self-righteous people use this verse to prove that others in the body of Christ are not even saved. Usually they only apply it to the externally evident sins that others commit, and not the internal ones that they enjoy.

The original language of this verse says that those who have been born of God do not have the power to go on sinning. This is because God’s seed remains in him. That’s the important point – God’s seed. What many like to do, is to go in and out of God’s presence. We don’t let the seed remain in us for very long before we go off on our own.

This verse is easier to understand if we realize that being born of God is the act of putting on the new man – created to be like God. We must come to the understanding that you can be saved and on your way to Heaven, yet not be born again. The term born again means that your life has been changed.

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:4

Are there believers who don’t overcome that are going to Heaven? Of course. The Bible clearly talks about people who are going to make it into Heaven by the skin of their teeth. (I Corinthians 3:14-15)

The problem of believers who don’t overcome the world is not that they aren’t saved. It’s that they have yet to put on the new man. We’ve missed this teaching in the modern church. As a result, we’re suffering from an epidemic of unproductive and defeated Christians.

The Apostle John understood this concept. He wrote about it in his Gospel.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
John 1:10-11

He came to the world that He made. Yet most of the world did not even recognize Him. The coming of Christ went largely unnoticed by the ancient people.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
John 1:11

Of course there were those – a small group – who did recognize who He was. But even among them, there wasn’t total acceptance. Only a small percentage of them received Christ.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
John 1:12

Now we get to the even smaller group of those who received Christ. Those who received Christ are described as those who believed in His name. That means that they were saved – they are now a part of the kingdom of God and on their way to Heaven.

This group of believers has been given something unique. Notice that they’re not automatically born again. On the contrary, they are merely given the right to become sons of God.

In my next post we’ll continue looking at this truth in more detail. Please hear my heart. I want to see the church of our generation arise to its potential in Christ Jesus.

Question: How do these verses differ from our current definition of being Born Again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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What does it Mean to be Born Again?

ButterflyWe’ve been told throughout the New Testament that we must clothe ourselves with Christ. Anything less is a refusal of the blessings that have been obtained for us. To ignore this call is a willful decision to live outside the kingdom blessings that are only available in Christ.

But the real question is; how do we clothe ourselves with Christ? I believe this is something that the church has lost sight of over the past 2000 years. We need to get back to the basics of Christianity. We need to relearn things that were a way of life to the early church.

I need to warn you. What follows is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to teach. In many ways it goes against 100 years of church teaching. But as I study the Word of God, I’m convinced that it’s the only way to experience the abundant life that Jesus spoke about to His disciples.

We need to put on Christ – the new man. If we’ll do this, then we’ll walk and minister as Christ did. We’ll see an increase in the miraculous. We’ll also see a great harvest of souls as the world sees the church walking in the glory of God. In order for this to happen, it will require a change in our mindsets.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Titus 3:3

This verse is talking about what should be our past lifestyle. It also reveals a sad truth. Read it carefully – slowly. Do we know any Christians that are still living like some of the descriptions given? This actually describes a large segment of the church today.

This is the old man. It needs to be released and we need to take on the life of Christ. Where does this change come from?

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…
Titus 3:4-5

We are saved by the kindness and love of God, manifested in Christ. This is the on-going work of the Lord in us. But do we really hear what’s said in this passage? Paul explains that the change in our lifestyle is accomplished by the washing of rebirth. This is a foundational principle.

Washing is a choice, but so is the rebirth. Somewhere along the line we’ve missed this basic truth. Washing and renewal is the putting on of the new man. This is a very tough revelation for us to grasp. It was for me.

Let me state it as plainly as I can. The laying down of our sin, renewing our mind, and the subsequent putting on of the new man is the essence of being born again. This term, born again, has become so watered down that it’s barely recognizable in our generation. The fact is, putting on the new man is being born again.

Let that sink in for a while. We’ve been taught that the initial act of receiving Christ – praying the sinner’s prayer – is being born again. As I’ve studied Scripture, the Holy Spirit has impressed me that this is not the case. Being born again is something that we must attain to.

Please understand what I’m saying. You can be saved and on your way to heaven and yet not be born again in the Biblical sense. I believe that our modern terminology is at odds with what Scripture teaches.

I’m not going to try to change hundreds of years of Christian vocabulary; but when we read the Scripture, we need to understand what it’s saying. I pray that you won’t shut me off at this point, but read this series with an open heart. In my next post, I’ll bring you through the Scriptures that show this to be true.

Question: How do you define the phrase Born Again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Shaken, not Stirred

As I was sitting in church a few months back, I received a thought from the Lord. It was a quote from a movie franchise.

Many people are familiar with the secret agent, James Bond. In his movies, he likes his drinks shaken, not stirred. That may be okay for 007, but that’s not what the Lord is looking for in His church. Let me explain.

As I began studying this out in the Scripture, I found that being shaken is not a part of God’s plan for us. As a matter of fact, when God’s people are shaken, it’s a sign that they’re not trusting Him fully. They’re looking for help and security apart from His presence.

In talking about those who reject God, the Psalmist Asaph says…

“They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”
Psalm 82:5

If the world is where your hope lies, then you’ll find yourself shaken whenever you hear bad news. Lately, that comes to us pretty often. The world is in chaos right now. No one seems to have the answers.

Contrast that to life in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29

If we’re firmly grounded in Christ, and His Word, then we will not be shaken no matter what happens in society around us. We should, however, be stirred up.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew 21:10-11

When the Lord is present, hearts are stirred. We need the stirring presence of the Holy Spirit to move through the church. That’s when great things begin to happen.

When Israel returned to the Promised Land after their captivity, they were apathetic about the things of God. Then something happened.

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God…
Haggai 1:14

When the Holy Spirit stirs up His people, the miraculous takes place. We start to see the Kingdom of God built up. We see souls coming into the kingdom. We see people being delivered from the chains of demonic oppression.

We need the stirring power of the Holy Spirit to be released in us. The church needs to be stirred, not shaken. Seek the Lord for His move to take place in us.

Question: How would the church look if we were truly stirred by the Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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Walking with Christ…and You!

WalkI’ve been posting about the benefits of walking closely with the Lord. It’s how we get to truly know Christ. It’s also how we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.

But there’s another aspect to walking with Christ that we sometimes overlook. It’s why many don’t want that close a relationship with Christ.

Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.
Psalms 26:2-3

To walk closely with the Lord requires testing. We don’t like that word – testing. It sounds uncomfortable.

But actually, testing is a good thing. It shows us how far we’ve progressed. It lets us know that we’re becoming more and more mature in Christ.

It’s a part of everyday life. If you’re in a close relationship with someone, and you truly love that person, something will happen. It’s called change. People in relationships undergo change. There’s no way around it.

Our relationship with Christ is no different. The more I know of Christ, the more I want to be like Him. This puts the pressure on me to change. All testing does, is confirm the changes that are taking place in my life.

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

What a privilege we have. God has placed in us the potential to walk and minister just like Jesus did. We should desire this type of walk.

One thing is clear. You can’t live like Jesus did unless you can access the same power He had. That’s the key to a supernatural ministry.

If I’m going to walk His walk, then I am going to have to be tested just like Christ was. The more I learn, the more I grow in knowledge and faith, the more testing will take place in me. Our greatest desire should be to walk as the Lord did.

Then, as this begins to take place in us, there will be another effect that we see.

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:6-7

As we walk closer to God on an individual basis, we end up walking closer to each other collectively. That’s because we’re all headed toward the same goal. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are to each other.

There’s two ways of working for agreement among believers. I can spend all my time and energy trying to convince you that I’m right, and you need to agree with me. Or…we can spend time in the Lord’s presence and become convinced that He’s right, and we both agree with Him.

The second method is obviously the correct one. We need embrace the privilege we’ve been given to walk with Christ. To learn and grow with Him. To become like Him and draw closer to others on the same path. Then the world will see Jesus in His people.

Question: How has testing shown you areas of growth in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Holy Spirit Guidance

GPSI’m posting about how the closer we walk with God – the more He shows us of Himself. This is key if we truly want to know Christ.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ. Our vocabulary is watered down sometimes. We talk about how long we’ve known Christ, but we mean how long we’ve been saved. Our salvation and truly knowing Christ are two separate issues entirely.

When you walk with Christ for the purpose of knowing Him better, things start to take place.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

You will not walk in darkness. In other words, the Holy Spirit will begin to guide you every step of the way. You don’t have to wander around through life. The direction to go will be clear.

This is how Jesus lived and ministered when He was with the disciples.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
John 11:7-10

The Lord was led by the Spirit in all that He did. He didn’t go somewhere just because it was expected of Him. On the other hand, He didn’t stay away because of a fear of being killed.

Fear of the future is one of humanity’s greatest fears. We worry about what’s ahead all the time. But if we walk with Christ, listening to the voice of His Spirit, then we need not fear.

If the Spirit is leading, then He’s also protecting.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.
Psalms 138:7

That’s why we need to cultivate a close relationship with the Holy Spirit. He’s our guide through all the uncertainties of life.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Isaiah 30:21

I love this verse. In it I see the Holy Spirit as my “Life GPS”. We can’t afford to live without His presence.

Question: What was the last guidance you received from the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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