RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2017

Judgment and Mercy

In my last post I talked about the judgment of God that we all need to be prepared for. James completed his thought by talking about mercy.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13

But what is this mercy? I believe that our generation has no concept of what this word means.

When we use the word mercy it’s usually when we’ve done something wrong. We want to be shown leniency, so we say, “Please have mercy on me.” This is not the Biblical concept of mercy.

It’s interesting to note that two times were recorded in the Gospels where Jesus made the same statement to the Pharisees. In both cases they were condemning Him for what He was doing. He did things like eating with “sinners.” The Pharisees were thinking, “How can the power of God work in you if you do that?”

Jesus had a stern rebuke for them.

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
Matthew 12:7

This statement was directed at the Pharisees, But I have to admit that when I began studying about mercy I had no idea what He meant by it. I had always quoted the verse “to obey is better than sacrifice.” This view of the mercy of God was new to me.

If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture. Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters. For a detailed teaching on the mercy of God, click here.

This is why James talks about the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment. God would much rather reward your faithfulness than discipline you. It’s the same with sacrifice in the above verse. The Lord would rather reward your obedience than forgive your sin – even though His forgiveness is unlimited.

This knowledge of the mercy of God should color all we do in our relationships with other believers. If God wants to show us His favor, then we should have that same attitude toward fellow Christians.

James is clear on how we’re to do this. First of all, we’re to speak to each other in the understanding that the one we’re speaking to is under God’s favor. Why would I treat someone badly, that God loves and favors?

To do that would be to invite God’s discipline. It’s like that in any family. When someone is mean to their sibling, they’ll definitely get a time-out.

The second part has to do with our actions. Sometimes they speak more loudly than our words. How do we treat each other?

When we refuse to participate with fellow believers, it’s a sign that we don’t favor someone that God loves and wants to work with.

An understanding of God’s mercy is what should drive us forward. We need to let it work in us to live and act as Jesus did. Then we’ll see the results of God’s work in us and in those around us.

Question: How have you seen God’s mercy operate in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Perfect Law of Freedom

In my last post I talked about how we need to be careful in judging others. We’re never to make a judgment merely on appearances. But we need to keep in mind that all of us will be judged righteously by the Lord.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13

There are many Christians who ask; how are we going to be judged? Christ has rewards waiting for us at His coming. In order to qualify for them, I need to be found faithful in what’s expected of me.

That’s the way it is in all areas of life. If you know that you have to take a test, you make sure that you’re prepared for it. If you want the reward offered by the test – a promotion, a good grade, or a license – then you need to fulfill the requirements of the test.

In our case, as believers, we are judged by the law that gives freedom. I talked about that a few days ago when we looked at James 1:23. If you remember, this law is the mirror that we see ourselves reflected in.

I said then, that this is not talking about Scripture. The Law of Moses never gave freedom to anyone. This is talking about how well we follow the direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

How are we judged, then? It’s all about how well we’re hearing and doing what the Holy Spirit is instructing.

It’s truly unfortunate that there are many believers who have the wrong idea about our freedom in Christ. They think that it means they can now live however they want with no consequences. Even though we’re free, we must still walk in obedience to the Spirit of Christ.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2

It should be clear that we’re still under God’s law. But it’s not the Old Testament law. We serve the law of the Spirit. It’s this law that has set us free. That’s why James calls it the perfect law that gives freedom.

This freedom doesn’t mean there are no rules. It just means that each of us have a different set of instructions based upon what God has called us to do.

…in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:4

If I live according to the Spirit, then all the requirements of the law are met in my life. That’s what James is saying. We’re judged by the law that gives freedom. We’re judged by how well we hear and do what the Holy Spirit is instructing.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Some may think that following the voice of the Holy Spirit isn’t freedom, but I assure you it is. We are free to move unhindered into our destiny.

In the Olympic swimming competitions there are lanes in the pools. The swimmers are not allowed to cross into another lane. But that “law” is not there to stop their fun. Because of the rule, they know that they can swim their best without fear that they’ll run into another swimmer.

That’s the freedom of the law of the Spirit. Hearing and doing. Now we are free to do our best for the Lord.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit instructed you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Favoritism

Do you show favoritism? What does that even mean? As Christians we need to be aware of the correct way to treat people that we meet.

According to James, we need to be careful of our attitudes towards others.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
James 2:1

This verse implies that faith and favoritism don’t go together. But that brings up some questions. When we hear the word favoritism in our society, we think of something unfair. The King James Version of the Bible translates it as being a respecter of persons.

The Bible also says that God doesn’t act this way. Yet we know that some people are under His grace – His favor – and others are not. So in actuality, the word favoritism is not a good description of what’s being talked about here.

The literal Greek translation of the word being used in the above verse is face-accepter. It’s when we judge someone simply by their appearance. God’s ways are very different from ours.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Psychologists tell us that our attitudes about people are formed within the first five minutes of meeting them. Usually it’s based upon zero facts. It’s all about the impression we get when we look at them.

Sometimes we pick up attitudes for no reason. We think someone is lazy and dumb without ever getting to know them. Then there are others we want to be around, knowing nothing substantial about them. That’s what James is talking about. Look at his description.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:2-4

It’s obvious that this is about looking at people’s outward appearance and making a judgment based on sight alone. James tells us that if we approach people in that way, then we aren’t walking in faith.

That word discriminate means to separate in order to make a distinction. When we treat people in this way, it’s because we’re looking at their possible value in what they could give to us.

That’s the evil thoughts that this is talking about. Relationships based upon what I can get out of it.

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James 2:5-7

The word insulted in this verse means to render valueless. That’s the true problem. When we see someone as having no value simply based upon their appearance, we’re not operating in faith. I’m glad that God placed such a high value on us that Christ went to the cross for us.

We need to follow His example. He went to those that society had written off. We need to do the same.

Question: How do you judge people when you first meet them?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Faith, Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Are You Religious?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word religious? Do you think about someone who goes to church, reads the Bible, and prays a lot? The Bible has a very different definition of what religious should be.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:26-27

The word religious in this passage comes from a Greek word that means ceremonial observances. That means that you do things out of tradition. So to understand it, we need to realize that this doesn’t apply to our spiritual walk with Christ.

Being spiritual is all about relationship, not religion. I come to Christ in prayer, in the church, and in the Scripture, not because it’s tradition or ceremony. I come to Him because I want to know Him better as a person.

The better I relate to Christ, the more growth I experience in my Christian walk. I do know that there are many Christians who treat their walk with God in a religious way. However, in my opinion, it’s much better to cultivate a relationship with Christ, then to simply follow religious observances.

What, then, does this Scripture want us to be religious about? I can see three things that we need to observe as a tradition in our lives.

First of all, we need to religiously control our tongues. James goes so far as to say that if you don’t control your tongue, you’re deceiving yourself as to your maturity. It doesn’t matter what else you do, it’s all worthless without bringing the tongue under control.

That’s because our mouth doesn’t speak on its own.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Control of the tongue is about controlling what you put into your heart. So if you’re not constantly filling your heart with the Word, your tongue will declare it publically.

The next part of good religion is to help those in distress. We don’t just live for ourselves. There’s a world of hurting people around us. Orphans, widows, single parents, and those in prison all need encouragement and help. There are many more than just those groups.

If we truly want to start a tradition, it should be one of helping others in their need. More than any other group, Christians should be the ones that help those no one else cares about. After all, that’s what Jesus did in His ministry.

The final part is to keep yourself from being polluted by the world. That’s a tough assignment. The Scripture literally says to keep from becoming spotted or stained by the world.

Every day, as we work and interact with those around us, the dirt from society is coming at us. If we’re not careful, we can start picking up some of the same attitudes. This will greatly hinder our walk with God.

We need to be in the pattern, the tradition, of going to God daily for repentance. As the Holy Spirit prompts us that we need to be cleaned of something, we need to be quick to respond. In that way we’ll be free of the stains of the world.

If you want to be religious about something, these are the things you should major on; and keep your walk with Christ as a growing relationship.

Question: What are the religious traditions in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Law of Freedom

MirrorIn my last post I talked about the need to hear a Word from God. We have to spend the time listening for his voice. But it doesn’t just end there.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
James 1:23-24

Once you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit you need to follow through on what He spoke to you. This goes beyond simply thanking Him for speaking. There has to be a fulfillment of the assignment.

I like the illustration that James gives us here. It’s important for us to understand just what he’s saying to the church.

In my last post I talked at length about the Word of God being more than just Scripture, but God speaking to us. As James continues on that theme, he starts to give us more detail. We can’t ignore the implications of what he’s teaching.

When I read the Bible, I know that it’s the same for everybody. The life of Jesus, the teachings of the Apostles, and the histories don’t change from generation to generation. The truths that we read are timeless, and apply to everyone for all time.

A mirror is a completely different piece of equipment. What I see in a mirror is not at all what you would see. As a matter of fact, what I see when I first wake up in the morning is nothing like what I see as I’m preparing to go to bed.

Every time I look into the mirror, it’s a unique experience. That’s another reason why this has to be about our time spent with the Holy Spirit – hearing His voice. Whenever we spend quality time in the presence of God it should be a one-of-a-kind encounter.

What I need to hear from God today, may be about something totally different than what He speaks to me tomorrow. The Lord wants to work in us and in the lives of those around us. For that to happen, I need to hear from Him on a consistent basis.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25

Listen to what James calls this encounter. The perfect law that gives freedom. There’s absolutely no way he could be talking about the Old Testament here. Paul said almost the same thing in his letters.

Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:15-17

It’s obvious that freedom can only come through the Holy Spirit. He wants to speak a word that’s tailor made to the situations we’re facing. I believe that hearing and doing what the Spirit speaks to us is the perfect law that gives freedom.

It’s through time spent in the Spirit that God writes His law on our hearts. That’s where we find the freedom to live for Him without hindrance.

Question: What was the last thing the Lord spoke to you about?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are We Hearing?

AloneWhen you hear the term Word of God, what comes to mind? I’ve been posting from the first chapter of the book of James – the first New Testament Scripture to be written. Our understanding of the Word makes a difference in how we view what James is saying.

I’m convinced that when James talks about the Word, he’s not talking about Scripture, since the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. He’s talking about hearing a Word from God, either through your spirit in prayer or by anointed preaching and teaching.

I believe that it was this truth that made the difference in the lives of those early believers. I also believe that the next move of God in the church will be the restoration of our ability to hear a Word from Him on a consistent basis.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:22

This verse follows right on the heels of James telling us to accept the Word planted in us, which can save us. Now we’re told how to accept it.

The key word in this verse is listen. The word he uses is hearing – one of the five senses. Notice that he didn’t say we were not to merely read the Word. This is a Word that has to be heard.

There’s another point that we gloss over. If this is the first Scripture of the New Testament, and if James was referring to Old Testament Scripture when he talked about the Word; then he’s telling us to do what the Old Testament says.

That would mean we were to continue the sacrificial system and all the Law of Moses. We know for a fact that this goes against everything that Christ accomplished on the cross.

So when James tells us not to deceive ourselves, that’s not really our problem. Many believers aren’t even hearing a Word from God, let alone hearing and not doing.

The normal Christian thinks that it’s the job of the pastor, teacher, or minister to hear from God. It’s never been God’s plan to have an exclusive club of special people who hear His voice. God even made that clear to Israel.

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
Exodus 19:5-6

God’s plan was for all His people to be His priests. It wasn’t until Israel became afraid at the foot of Mt. Sinai, that they told Moses not to let God speak to them anymore. The Lord wants a people who will hear, listen, and respond to His voice.

We wonder sometimes why there was such a manifestation of the miraculous in the early church. It’s not because God changed His way of operating. It’s because His people stopped listening to His instructions.

When we spend time in God’s presence, we hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Then, when we follow through on what we’ve heard, we enter the realm of miracles. We start to see the power of God active in us on a consistent basis.

I believe that this is where the Lord is leading His church in our generation. Be a part of what God is doing. Spend quality time in His presence, listening for His voice.

Question: How much time do you spend before God just listening for His voice?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,