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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Different but Effective

I don’t know about you, but in some circles, I’ve found Christianity to be very judgmental.  No, not about sin, but about other Christians.  I’ve heard so many believers commenting about a ministry they saw on TV.

“I don’t know if they’re really saved.  I’d never preach like that.”

As we go through Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that the apostles understood the Gospel.  The message will always be Jesus Christ – crucified, buried, risen, and ascended.  The methods we use to bring out the message will always change.

Here’s what Paul found when he met with the apostles in Jerusalem.

As for those who seemed to be important — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance — those men added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.
Galatians 2:6-7

I think that it’s interesting to note what Paul had to overcome.  When he met with Peter, James, and John, he knew that formerly they were fishermen.  None of them had any Temple training like Paul did.  Yet he humbled himself and submitted his ministry to their scrutiny.

This is a sermon in itself.  There are times that God has us serving under people who aren’t as smart, trained, or experienced as us.  We have to watch our attitudes, stay humble, and be committed to our calling in Christ.

But what I really want to bring out is that in this meeting, the apostles understood that there was a Gentile method of preaching and a Jewish method of preaching.  They didn’t try to change one another.  They realized that there’s no cookie cutter for the ministry.

The methods may change depending on who you’re trying to reach with the Gospel.  I find that this alone causes a lot of strife in the body of Christ.

“I just visited a church where they let their people take coffee with them into the sanctuary.  I think that’s sacrilegious.”

“That pastor preaches in jeans and a t-shirt, how can he be a real minister?”

The simple fact is that my methods and personality will never speak to everyone.  If we want the world evangelized; different cultures, generations, and education levels; then we need to embrace the different ministries that are speaking to these people.

For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:8-10

The bottom line is that in all of these methods, the Holy Spirit is at work.  People are being saved.  Lives are being changed by the power of God.

Yes, there may be some churches that I wouldn’t feel comfortable attending.  But that simply means that their method doesn’t speak to who I am.  It in no way invalidates that ministry.  I’m glad that the work of the Gospel is not limited to my comfort zone.

Question: How often do you pray for ministries that are very different from yours?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Ministry, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Freedom or Slavery

I’ve been posting through the book of Galatians and talking about legalism vs. our freedom in Christ.  We’re looking at the Apostle Paul’s personal battle against legalism as he ministered to the Gentiles.

[This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 2:4-5

Here, Paul gives the reasons for the struggle.  The words that he uses are very scary.  They should cause us to be wary of our motivations.

He’s specifically talking about a group known as the Judaizers.  They were people who felt that in order to be saved, you had to trust Jesus and follow the rules contained in the Law of Moses.  This was particularly hard for Gentiles to conform to.  In essence, these Judaizers wanted us to become Jews first, before we could become Christians.

What concerns me is the fact that Paul calls these people false brothers.  I think that puts legalistic people on dangerous ground.  Can you truly trust Christ to save you if you think that your works play a major role in God accepting you?

Paul says that their goal was to spy on or watch with malicious intent, the freedom Christ bought for us.  They want to see our freedom and then convince us that slavery is the better option.

“You have to obey the rules if you want to be a good Christian.  After all, you can’t just live however you want and please God.”

That statement does have a grain of truth in it.  But it will bring you into bondage that will keep you from growing in Christ.

The fact is, the Holy Spirit had a reason why He inspired both James and 1 Thessalonians before Galatians.  They stress the truth that a believer must spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  It’s in this way that our lives will constantly be transformed into the Lord’s image.

That has to be in place first, before you can truly walk in God’s freedom.  This is not a license to live by whatever your flesh wants to do.  It’s a freedom to walk according to the Spirit’s desire with no need for a set of rules to “keep us on the straight and narrow.”

When I look at the life of Jesus, I see the same thing.  He is the Messiah. Yet, He was always being accused of breaking the rules.

Paul understood this and wanted those under his spiritual care to be free from the bondage of religion.  The Christian walk is not about conforming yourself to a set of traditional, religious rules of performance.  It’s a personal relationship with Christ that’s constantly transforming us by God’s power.

The Apostle is writing to us from his personal experience.  The lifestyle of following rules and traditions is hard to break free from.  We see in Paul, the key to this release.

That’s why he says that he will never give in to them.  That phrase means to yield in submission.  Let me jump ahead for a moment so that you can see where Paul is bringing us to in this letter.

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

Between here and there, he gives a detailed look at how this freedom should work in us.  That’s where we’re going over the next few weeks of these posts.

Question: How do rules hinder your spiritual growth?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Freedom for All

The Apostle Paul is a great example to us of a life lived apart from legalism.  His letter to the Galatians is a testament to how God works in us under the New Covenant.

We’ll continue to look at Paul’s story as he relates it to the church.  Remember, Galatians was written long before the book of Acts.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.  Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.  I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they praised God because of me.
Galatians 1:18-24

Paul has a very interesting story.  He spent three years in solitude after his initial salvation experience.  He used that time to pray and learn to hear from the Holy Spirit.

He then compresses what happened next into a few short sentences.  We know from the book of Acts, that Paul went back to Tarsus, his home town; because there were many who didn’t trust that he had really come to Christ.

After being there a while, Barnabas came and convinced Paul to go to Antioch.  There was a Gentile church in that region that needed a strong teacher who was well versed in the Scripture.  So Paul made the journey and became a part of that work.

Years later, during a time of fasting and prayer, Paul and Barnabas felt the call of God to go around the Mediterranean Sea, preaching the Good News of Christ.  Because of their faithfulness, Gentile churches began springing up all over Asia Minor.  The Galatian churches were a part of his work.

Paul ran into problems in doing this.  There were some who felt that Christianity was still a part of Judaism.  They felt that for a Gentile to be saved, they needed to submit to the Law of Moses.  This included all of the food laws as well as circumcision.

Both Peter and Paul had separate revelations showing them that, under grace, the Law had been fulfilled.  Then the tension came to a head, and a meeting took place.

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  [This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 2:1-5

The Good News of the Gospel is that we’re not slaves.  We’ve been given freedom in Christ.  The revelation that Paul received is for all time.

It’s unfortunate that many have fallen back into the slavery mindset throughout the next generations.  I believe that it’s God’s desire to once again restore His freedom to us.

Please understand; I’m not talking about a freedom to live however we want.  Instead, it’s a freedom to serve God without being hindered by a man-made set of rules.

As we go through the book of Galatians over the next few weeks, Paul will explain in detail how to walk in this freedom.  Don’t miss a single installment.  It will help you to live on a whole new level in Christ.

Question: How does following a set of rules hinder your Christian walk?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017.

 
 

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No Man-Made Gospel

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  It’s a letter of correction because they were beginning to fall into legalism.  He had to warn them that a gospel of legalism was no gospel at all.

He begins by telling them of his personal walk with God.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11-12

Paul tells us that he did not preach a man-made gospel.  It was received from Jesus Christ by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

This is important for us to understand.  It’s the first time that Paul shares about his conversion to Christianity.  The book of Acts had not been written yet when Paul wrote this letter.  So he’s explaining the most important parts of his transformation.

Paul was a Pharisee.  He had to be trained for that role.  He went to a Jewish seminary.  He had huge portions of the Scripture memorized.

Yet, with all that training, he needed the revelation of Jesus Christ in order to preach the Gospel.  That tells me that the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus – has to be learned by the Spirit.  Paul makes it clear by describing what happened directly after his salvation.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Galatians 1:13-17

I think that in our efforts to read through the Bible, we sometimes miss the little, important details.  The fact is that Paul preached a revealed Gospel rather than a taught Gospel.   But we say, “That was the Apostle Paul.  He was a special case.  He was writing most of the New Testament.”

In reality, Paul was human, just like us.  The difference was that he had already gone through the process of getting his theology from other people.  Now he wanted to operate by grace.

In telling us that he got his Gospel by revelation, he was not saying that Jesus Christ personally appeared to him in his room.  Jesus didn’t show up and audibly teach Paul the Gospel for three years.  That’s not the method the Lord uses under the New Covenant.

The key phrase in the above passage is when Paul says that God was pleased to reveal his Son in me.  The Lord was not revealed TO Paul, but IN Paul.  That’s what we need to grab hold of.

An understanding of the Scriptures concerning our salvation is a plus.  But in all honesty, our post-Christian generation couldn’t care less about what the Bible says.  It’s all about Christ revealed in us.

The true Gospel is not a list of memorized Bible verses.  It’s the story of how Jesus Christ broke into my world.  How He revealed Himself in my circumstances and changed my life.  The Gospel is not hearsay, but a valid testimony of what I’ve experienced.

That’s why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit.  Praise God for the New Testament Scripture that can teach us about God’s grace.  But we need the Spirit to make it relevant to those around us.

They don’t want to know about the Book you’re reading, they need to know about the Savior you met.

Question: How did Christ first reveal Himself in your situation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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God Pleaser or Man Pleaser?

Who are you trying to please by your ministry?  That’s a question we all need to answer.  It determines your destiny in Christ.

I’m continuing my look at the book of Galatians.  It’s Paul’s letter combatting legalism.  He starts off by talking about his own walk with the Lord.  What was the Apostle’s motive toward the ministry?

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

This verse deals with some key motivational attitudes.  What is it that you’re actively trying to accomplish in your ministry?  If your fulfillment isn’t coming from Christ, then there may be some course correction that’s needed.

The first important word in this verse is approval.  The phrase, trying to win the approval of men, means to convince men.

Are you trying to convince people that they need to serve God?  If you are, that’s the first sign of a man pleaser.  It’s not our job to convince people.

We’re called to hear from the Holy Spirit, then to speak the Word that we’ve heard.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to use the Word to convict and convince those listening.  This is something Paul was keenly aware of.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

The next important word is trying.  It means to desire and seek after.

Where are you seeking your validation from?  That may require some soul searching to truly answer the question.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re looking to man.

You preach the Word.  Many lives are touched and blessed by the message.  One person comes up to you after the service and tells you they didn’t agree with you.  Suddenly you feel like a failure and want to quit the ministry.  That’s a sign that you’re seeking in the wrong direction.

It’s nice when our ministry has a positive effect on those who receive it.  But that’s not always a requirement of the assignment we’ve been given.  I’m glad that Christ didn’t rely upon the response of the Pharisees to continue His plan to save us.

The final phrase I want to look at is to please men.  That literally means to get an emotional response from people.

Are you trying to stir people’s emotions?  Emotionalism and hype are the mainstays of the entertainment industry.  In case you didn’t already know this, the ministry of the Word is NOT a form of entertainment.

It’s so unfortunate that many churches build their services around the American entertainment model.  Please understand; I know that we have to present the message of Christ in a way that’s relevant to our society.  In that sense, there will always be a measure of professionalism.

We want the music, the flow of the service, and the time investment to be welcoming to those attending.  It’s the motivation that needs to be examined.  What’s the goal?

Am I choreographing the service so that at one point people will stand to their feet and cheer?  Am I out to bring tears to peoples’ eyes?

According to Paul, my ultimate goal is to serve Christ.  I firmly believe that if I do that well; then emotions will be stirred.  But instead of a passing excitement, their lives will be changed by the power of God.

Like the Apostle Paul, we need to have the attitude of a God pleaser.

Question: When have you had to choose between pleasing God or man?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Church

 

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Which Gospel?

The Gospel is the Good News of what Christ has done for us.  Did you know that it makes a difference what good news you’re listening to?  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is very clear about this issue.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:6-7

Paul has an open motive in writing this letter.  It’s to keep the church on course in serving Christ.  That’s why the Holy Spirit gave this Scripture as one of the foundations of the New Testament.  It’s important for all believers, for all ages, to be anchored firmly in the true Gospel.

There are a few things that are apparent from this verse.  First of all, there are many gospels that people claim to be the Gospel of Christ.  The unfortunate thing is that these other gospels are not Good News at all.

I think that part of the problem is that we never updated the word, gospel.  It’s simply the Old English word for good news.  But because we’ve turned it into a religious word, we’ve lost the actual identity of what it means.

I’ve heard many people preach what they call the gospel.  But I have to tell you, it didn’t sound like good news to me.  They were basically telling me all the things I had to do (or not do) so that God wouldn’t be mad at me.

I think we’ve all heard the saying that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.  In the same way, if it doesn’t sound like good news to you, then it’s probably not the true Gospel.  At least that’s the way Paul understood it.

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
Colossians 1:6a

The Good News of Christ is not about what I need to do, but it’s all about what God has done for me by His grace.  That’s what this letter to the Galatians is written for.  That’s what I’ll be looking at in detail over the next few weeks.

There’s another truth that the Apostle brings out in the verse from Galatians.   When you walk in legalism, you transfer out of God’s grace.  That’s what the word, deserting, means.

This is probably one of the most important subjects that believers need to hear.  It’s the call for us to steer clear of legalism.  It can rob you of joy, power, and fulfillment in Christ.

Paul had some strong emotions concerning those who preached this perversion of the Gospel.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Galatians 1:8-9

I hope that you’ll be able to stick with me as we look at the book of Galatians together.  If you haven’t already done it, subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss a single installment.  I believe it’s that important.

Question: How would you define the word legalism in regards to being a Christian?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Caution – Evil Days Ahead

Are you protected enough to face each new day?  In my last post, I began looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  In this article, we’ll see that the answer to this question was the very reason that this book was written.

I want to see a revival in the church.  It’s obvious from what’s happening around us that we need it.  The real question is; do we want it?  And more than that; are we willing to do what it takes to lay hold of it?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
Galatians 1:3-5

I used to teach that inanimate things couldn’t be evil or good.  After spending some time studying this verse, I realized that I was wrong.  Things like days and money can be evil.  It’s actually talked about throughout the New Testament.

Maybe you might think that not all days are evil.  After all, there was intense persecution of the church back then.  That was Paul’s day he was talking about.

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

One of the reasons that Christ went to the cross was to rescue us from this present evil age.  That’s the time we live in.   The age he’s talking about stretched from Paul’s day to the time when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom.  If the age is evil, then all the days of that age are evil.

The word, rescue, in the verse from Galatians, means to choose or select one person out of a group of people.  God is choosing us for Himself out of the world system.  But we need to understand the times.

We live in evil days.  Paul also talked about this in regard to the armor of God.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

We need to be constantly walking in the spiritual armor.  This is our protection from the evil age.  This is not an option or something that only needs to be done once in a while.

Jesus went to the cross to provide us with more than just a one-time salvation.  His work is ongoing in our lives.  He provided us with the armor we need to rescue us from this present evil age.  We don’t need to be affected by it.

When will the evil day come?  Every time you wake up in the morning.  That’s why God’s armor is so important.  The evil day is not on its way, it’s here.

As God’s people, we should be prepared for what’s ahead.  We’re the ones who should be walking in victory over the challenges that face the world around us.

We need to spend time in the presence of the Lord.  That’s where our strength is.  In Him and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I have everything I need to face the evil days ahead of me.

How else could I walk in victory?  If every day is evil, then in Christ every day is a victory through Him who gives me strength.

Question: How does this evil age manifest itself in our generation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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