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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Relationship Over Rules

RulesIn my last post I talked about the fact that the Bible isn’t meant to be a rule book. The Old Testament law teaches us that a set of rules could never bring us closer to God.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:13-15

This verse makes it abundantly clear that on the cross, Christ cancelled – obliterated, blotted out – the rule book. God no longer wants us to follow Him by rule, but by the Spirit.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1 Corinthians 15:56

This verse tells me that all of Satan’s so called power comes from the law. His only mode of attack is to enforce the law. That’s the power of his weaponry.

This verse also shows the basis of how Christ could disarm the demonic forces. On the cross, Christ obliterated the power source of the enemy. Satan’s kingdom is now an army of unloaded guns.

The only power they have is the power we give them, by subjecting ourselves, once again, to the law. That’s the trouble with our human nature. We all want rules. We’d rather someone tell us, “do this”, than to spend time with the Father and seek His will.

The verse we looked at in my last post showed us that following the apostles teaching as a rule opens us up to the sin of pride. Paul said that’s why they were talking arrogantly against one another. Pride is the sin that caused the devil to fall from the place he was created for.

Don’t let subjection to the law ruin your walk with God. The tendency of using the Bible as a rule-book causes many divisions and problems in the Body of Christ.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17

Using the Bible as a rule book causes most of the arguments we see between believers. We get so passionate about our own pet rules. It’s all talked about in this verse.

Believers argue about what Christians can or cannot eat and drink. There are controversies over whether or not to celebrate Christmas; or whether to worship God on Saturday or Sunday. None of these issues have any place under the New Covenant.

The reality is that God wants a relationship with His children. He’s not looking for robots. The Lord wants us to seek time with Him so that He can teach us to follow Him.

I realize that I’ve had to deal with this subject very quickly here. But I’m sure I’ll get back to it again in future posts.

Question: What divisions have you seen in the church over what the “rules” are?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2016 in Legalism, Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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What the Bible is Not

BiblesIn the past few posts I’ve talked about the many ways that we use the Bible. In all of these things – teaching, convicting, correcting, training in righteousness, and warning – the Scripture is useful to us. But at this point I think it is necessary to give a disclaimer.

Actually it’s a warning from Scripture itself. Believers are sometimes guilty of using the Bible in ways God never intended. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes of others.

Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
1 Corinthians 4:6

At the beginning of this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul rebukes the people for the many factions that were splitting their fellowship. He tells them not to go beyond what’s written. Literally that means not to over think the Scripture. Their problem was that they were basing their divisions on the apostles themselves.

“I follow Peter.” “I follow Paul.” “I follow Apollos.”

What does that mean? It’s clear that they were basing their lives upon certain doctrines that each apostle might have emphasized. Today, most of us realize that different ministers have specialties in their preaching.

Some tend to emphasize faith, some grace, while others are strong in Godly financial issues. There are also different personalities and teaching or preaching styles. That’s the way it should be. Diversity among the ministry gifts is a positive thing.

What the Corinthian church was doing, was making it an “either or” type of decision. Instead of receiving the blessing from each teacher’s particular ministry, they followed one certain apostle exclusively. In essence they were saying, “I only follow Paul’s rules.”

The Christian walk is not a matter of whose rules I follow. We’re not to over think what’s written. God never intended for the church to turn the Bible into a rule book. Yes the Old Testament contains many rules, but our doctrine must always pass through the cross to filter out the things that don’t apply to us.

If we could please God by following a set of rules, then we wouldn’t need Christ to die for us. The fact is that rules are not enough, no matter how good they are. In my next post I’ll show, from Scripture, exactly why this is true.

Question: Have you ever had a problem keeping the rules?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Warning!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMany 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 importance of Scripture in our walk with the Lord. We must let the Bible take its rightful place in our daily lives.

At one point in his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul used ancient Israel as an example of how not to serve God. In telling them 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.

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 will 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?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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No Pain, No Gain

JogI’ve been posting about the uses of Scripture as listed in 2 Timothy 3:16. Today I’m going to talk about training in righteousness.

This word training means to mentor or to train up like a child from infancy to adulthood. The Bible is written for all. It doesn’t matter where you are in your spiritual walk.

If you’re a baby Christian, who was just saved, it can be your milk bottle. If you’re mature in the Lord, it has the meat of the deep truths of God. It can satisfy any hunger.

But what exactly does it train us in? Paul is very specific – training in righteousness.

In Scripture, you’ll find that righteousness is the whole package of what Christ has paid for on the cross. Throughout the Word righteousness is associated with: Rewards, victory in battle, prosperity, salvation, honor, life, and healing. Scripture truly is the owner’s manual for our walk with the Lord.

When Paul speaks about training in righteousness, he’s talking about the whole plan of God for your life. The job of Scripture is to take you from wherever the Lord found you when you were saved to the heights of His perfect plan for your life.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

The word discipline in this verse is the same Greek word as training in Second Timothy. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there is pain associated with this kind of training. Why is that?

The answer is simple. This training is what causes us to grow from infancy to maturity. Growth means change, and change hurts. Think about it – when I was an infant I could throw my toys all over the floor and my parents would joyfully pick everything up.

Then, there came a day when I was told, “It’s time to pick up your toys and put them away.” There must have been a look of pain and distress on my face when I had to clean my room.

Then, there came a day when I couldn’t just do as I pleased all day long. My parents came to me and informed me that I would be starting school next week. Suddenly there was a place I had to be every day. At school, they made me read, learn, and take tests whether I wanted to or not. It was painful to me.

As a matter of fact, almost every new responsibility throughout our lives causes some degree of discomfort. That’s what this Scripture is talking about. As we’re brought to maturity there are going to be painful changes.

There are things we used to do, that we’re no longer able to do. There are also things we’ve never done that we’re now responsible for. Through it all we must let the Scripture do its work, so that we can be mature and complete – not lacking anything that the Lord has provided for us.

Question: What did you find painful in this maturing process?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Getting Back on Track

FallenFor the past couple of posts I’ve been talking about the purposes of Scripture as recorded in II Timothy 3:16. In it, Paul shows us what the Bible should be used for. These are teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. So far, I’ve talked about how the Scripture teaches and rebukes us.

In today’s article, we’ll look at the work of correcting that the Scripture brings into our lives. There are some misunderstandings about correction. So the first thing we need is to know what it means. It sounds a lot like rebuking, at least that’s what many people think.

There is, in fact, a subtle difference between rebuking and correcting. In my walk with God I need both. It’s interesting that the Greek word for correcting, in the verse from Second Timothy, is only used in this one place in the whole Bible. It literally means to straighten up again.

I need to be rebuked so that I’ll stop doing that which is not God’s will for my life. But the process can’t end there. If it did, then I’d be lost, out of God’s plan, and with no way to find my way back to where I should be. Praise the Lord! He doesn’t leave us in that condition.

While rebuking tells you to stop because you’re headed in a wrong direction, it’s correction that shows you the way back to the right path for your life. Correction changes your course so that you’re once again heading in the direction of the destiny God’s called you to.

What we need to realize is that true repentance requires both rebuke and correction. Just one is not enough. There are many believers who respond to the rebuke of Scripture – again and again. Week after week they’re seen weeping at the altar over their sin. Then they go right back to it, only to repeat the cycle over and over. This isn’t God’s way of repenting.

In their song, The Altar and the Door, Casting Crowns sings about this condition.

“O Lord I cry, like so many times before,
But my eyes are dry before I leave the floor,
O Lord I try,
But this time, Jesus, how can I be sure,
I will not lose my follow-through,
Between the altar and the door.”

Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
Revelation 2:5a

There are many times that we see this pattern in Scripture. It’s usually “repent and…” True repentance is not only a turning away from sin, but a turning to God’s best. Feeling sorry for my sin is not real repentance, even if it’s accompanied by great emotional distress.

True repentance takes place when I take the rebuke of Scripture and admit my fault to God. Then I must take the correction of the Word and start doing the right things that will replace the wrong. Only in this way will I have a greater chance for success in my walk with God.

Question: How have the rebuke and correction of the Word been helpful to you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Can You Admit when You’re Wrong?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the fourth in a series of posts that I’m writing about the Scripture. In my last installment we looked at 2 Timothy 3:16, which told us some of the uses for Scripture. These were teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. So far, I have talked about how the Scripture teaches us.

Next, is rebuking – we don’t even like the sound of that word. The question is; do I want to be thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has prepared for me? If so, then there are times I need to be rebuked. What exactly does that mean?

This word rebuked means to be convicted or to be told that we are wrong. There are times when I’m reading the Bible that I suddenly realize that I’ve been wrong concerning something. This is usually the hardest thing for me to admit.

I think it’s the same for all of us. Teaching is one thing, but being told that we’re wrong is something totally different. In order for us to rise to the level that God is calling us to, we must first see where we’re operating incorrectly.

We must be shown what we’re doing wrong. We need to know those things about our life that please God, and what doesn’t please Him.

Sometimes we get so positionally minded that we lose sensitivity to the rebuke of the Word. Yes, I firmly believe that I’m the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I also believe that because of the blood, God the Father is always pleased with me.

But these truths don’t negate the fact that there may be things I’m doing that are not pleasing to the Father. In those cases it’s up to the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin. He wants to lead me to repentance. This is very clear throughout Scripture.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
Revelation 3:19

It seems that we rarely hear the Bible used for this purpose in our modern generation. We need to read the Scripture as it was intended.

There are times that the Holy Spirit wants to use His Word to drive me to my knees. Not so that I’ll feel worthless and no good, but so that I can rise from the ashes of my self-will and truly enter the fullness of God’s life in me.

Questions: How have you been rebuked by the Scripture? What was the outcome?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Your Free Life Coach

weightsI’ve been posting about Scripture and the role it has in the lives of God’s people. We should be grateful that the Lord allowed His Word to be written down for our enrichment.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Scripture was given to thoroughly equip us for the good works God has prepared for us. Accordingly, Scripture is useful profitable – for certain things that we need. The first thing Scripture is useful for is teaching.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

We need to know who God is and how He operates. The Bible looks at people that the Lord has worked with in the past and how He dealt with them. It also shows us what the Lord likes and dislikes. That’s the place of Scripture. As I study its pages, I come to know who this God is, that I’m serving.

Endurance. The first thing that being teachable brings me is cheerful endurance. God has put certain things in writing so that I’ll know what to expect. I learn that as long as I’m in the world, there will be troubles and trials coming my way.

Because of this Word, I won’t be offended that the path before me isn’t an easy one. But I also know that God is with me, and He has already triumphed over my problems. All I have to do is keep walking forward in faith and trust in Him and I’ll see His deliverance manifest in my life.

Encouragement. The Scripture also encourages me. The closest concept we have to the Greek word for encouragement is coaching. The Bible is my life-coach.

I can see what others have done in my situation. I have the example of those who went their own way and lost out, as well as those who trusted God and were victorious. This gives me the strength to carry on even when I don’t feel like it. That’s what a coach does. It inspires me to a higher walk in the Lord.

Hope. The Scripture brings hope. It’s because of this endurance and encouragement that I can walk in the hope that only comes from knowing what God has promised to those who serve Him.

Please understand that the word hope in the Bible is not like the watered down version that the world uses. They say things like, “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” It’s more like wishful thinking. That’s not the hope found in the Scripture.

Our hope is fully expecting things to turn out the way God said it would. It means that I know in my heart that God doesn’t lie. It doesn’t matter what the situation looks like right now. It doesn’t even matter whether I can see a way out or not.

What I rely on is the fact that God said it, so therefore I expect it. That’s the hope that Scripture will equip us with if we let it be our teacher and life-coach.

Question: How has the Scripture helped you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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