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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Are We There Yet?

Do you ever get impatient because things seem to take longer to accomplish than you expected?  I’ve found that to be especially true in my spiritual life.  Why is that?

In my last post, I finished my look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  Now we’ll move on to the rest of the book of Galatians.

In this letter, Paul says something that I think we never fully understand what he’s implying.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24

The Apostle Paul makes this statement or others like it, throughout his writings.  But do we understand what he’s telling us?

We read that our sinful nature (also called our old self or the flesh) has been crucified.  Because of that truth, some have said that their old nature is dead.  But that’s not entirely true.

The trouble is that being crucified is not the same as being killed.  Crucifixion is a long, slow, agonizingly painful process.  It’s not as simple as being shot in the head.

To say that our old self is crucified means that it’s still hanging on to life.  It still has hope that you’ll change your mind and take it down from the cross.

Another problem we find is that the flesh, even while it’s being crucified, never stops talking.  It continues to try and exert influence over your actions.  Dealing with the old nature is never a one-time decision.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5

The phrase put to death in this verse literally means to deaden.  This speaks about the process of making something dead rather than death itself.  Dealing with our flesh is an ongoing project.  It’s not something you can accomplish overnight.

I only wish that there was one prayer I could recite and be done with it.  The truth is that it’s an ongoing battle that will-power or good intentions alone will never win.  Then where does the victory over the flesh come from?

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
Romans 8:13

This verse also talks about the process of putting something to death.  You can never kill the misdeeds of the flesh, but you can deaden them by the spirit.

Victory over the sinful nature can only be won in the spirit.  That’s one of the reasons that prayer in the spirit is so important.  The more time spent in God’s presence, the deader the influence of the flesh.

It’s unfortunate that so many people teach the will-power method.  They tell you to just choose not to do what the flesh wants.  You can usually tell who these people are.  The older they get, the more permanent the frown is on their face!

I, personally, want to be free from my sinful nature – but I want to walk in the joy of the Lord at the same time.  The answer is the walk of the spirit.  That’s why Paul sums it all up with the following statement.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

Cultivate your spiritual walk.  That’s the only way to beat the sinful nature.

Question: What’s your experience with the walk of the spirit controlling the flesh?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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The Spirit-Fruit: Self-Control

In today’s post, I’m looking at the last of the Fruit of the Spirit.  They’re found in Galatians 5:22-23.

When we talk about self-control, we usually end up referring to a person’s will-power.  I’m happy to say that your will-power has nothing to do with this fruit.  The Holy Spirit wants to produce something in you that’s way beyond your ability.

The Greek word that’s translated as self-control, in speaking of the fruit, is a word that literally means an inner strength.  It’s not about your flesh trying to control itself from the outside.  True change only takes place when we strengthen the inner man.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25

The word for having the fruit of self-control is translated goes into strict training in this verse.  We all have an inner drive to accomplish something with our lives.  It doesn’t matter whether the purpose is good or not, all of us are driven people.

When we come to Christ, our goal should be to please Him and complete His assignment for our lives.  That may or may not be very high on our list of drives.  Spending time with the Holy Spirit allows Him to increase the drive to fulfill our destiny in Christ.

That’s why will-power has nothing to do with it.  An athlete’s drive to win the Olympics will override any desire to pig-out on chocolate.  The greater my desire for the finish line, the more self-control I can exercise.

As the Holy Spirit increases our desire to defeat the enemy, our inner strength to stay on course grows as well.  Yes, it’s victory in the spiritual battle that’s the ultimate prize for us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Ephesians 6:10

This verse has a lot to say to us.  It uses three different words for power.  First, be strong in the Lord means to let Him endue you with His power.

Then Paul says that this power will strengthen us (the fruit) with God’s ability.  Wow!  That’s a mouthful.  But the bottom line is that God doesn’t want us relying on our own will-power to serve Him.  By the power of the Spirit, He wants to bring our inner strength up to the level of His ability.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance…
Colossians 1:10-11a

This verse says it all.  The only way to live a life worthy of the Lord, please Him in every way, and bear fruit is to be strengthened with all power by the Lord’s might.

Stop trying to fight your battle against sin on your own.  Let the Holy Spirit work His power in you.  With the Lord’s ability, you can overcome any obstacle.

Spend time in the Spirit and let the Lord cultivate the fruit of self-control in you.  It’s well worth the spiritual investment.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s self-control operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Gentleness

In today’s post, I’ll be talking about the fruit of gentleness as found in Galatians 5:23.   Many people associate gentleness with weakness.  In actuality, just the opposite is true.  According to Scripture, it’s impossible to be gentle if you’re weak.  You must be walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think anyone would accuse Jesus of being weak.  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Yet this is what it says about Him as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey…

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
Matthew 21:4-5

The question is; was that the best the Lord could come up with to ride into Jerusalem?  If it was…if all He could come up with was a donkey, then He was pretty weak.  The fact is that Jesus had the power to break through the heavens, coming down from the clouds on a white stallion.

Even though the Lord has great power, He chose not to use it on that occasion.  This is the true spirit of gentleness.  Look at how it operated in the Apostle Paul’s life.

There were some people in the Corinthian church who were opposing Paul’s authority.  He gave them an interesting choice in his letter to them.

What do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 4:21

There would be no reason for Paul to threaten them with the “whip” of apostolic authority if he didn’t have any.  The truth is that the apostle had the authority needed to put them in their place.  Yet, his desire was to not have to use it.

So if we were to define gentleness according to its use in Scripture, I’d say that it’s placing my power, under God’s control.

This is the hardest thing to do sometimes.  That’s especially true when I know that I’m in the right.  I want to bring the full weight of my scriptural authority down on their heads.  Unfortunately, that’s usually not the best idea.  I need to be led by the Holy Spirit in my responses to people.

This is why I must spend time in the spirit.  I need to be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in all the situations I’m going through.  This is true for all church leaders.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:25-26

That’s because the goal is not to prove that I’m right or that you’re wrong.  The ultimate objective is a life that is turned around for God’s glory.  Many times, by our arrogance, we win the battle, yet lose the war for the hearts of people.

We may have proved our case, but they were never set free from the devil’s bondage.  True gentleness allows for the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.  So we need to listen and obey His voice, even when our tendency is to defend ourselves.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

This teaching is found throughout the Scriptures.  Gentleness brings restoration.  When you cultivate the spirit of gentleness, you’re participating in drawing someone back to Christ.  Spend time with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to produce this fruit in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s gentleness operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Faith

As we continue our look at the Fruit of the Spirit, the next that we’ll talk about is faith.  I know that in many translations of the Bible, they call it faithfulness.  But the actual Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 is faith.

Before we continue, there’s something that we need to understand.  There are two types of faith.  The first is a mental assent.  That’s where I hear a statement and decide to believe it.  That kind of faith is resident in my mind.

This mind-faith is not the fruit of faith talked about in Galatians.  That faith-fruit is produced in us by the Holy Spirit.  It’s cultivated by time spent in the presence of the Lord.  This is what I’m posting about today.

This kind of faith goes beyond my understanding.  That’s because it didn’t start with me.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

If Christ is the Author, then I can’t take can’t credit for it.  That’s especially true if this is perfect faith.  I only know half the story, so my mind can only believe what I see and understand.  I need a faith that doesn’t rest on what’s visible.  That’s the perfect faith given by the Spirit.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

This verse tells us exactly how we receive this faith.  Unfortunately, our modern “Christianese” church language veils the truth.  This verse is NOT talking about simply reading the Bible and getting faith from it.

According to the Greek text of this verse, faith comes through the hearing of rhema.  The word, rhema, is used in Scripture to describe the spoken word of God.  It’s a Word that we hear directly from the Holy Spirit.  (For a detailed teaching on this, click here.)

The only way to receive the fruit of faith is through the spirit.  I need to spend time with Him, listening to the voice of the Spirit speaking to my spirit.  That’s how this faith is transferred from Christ to me.

Unfortunately, many of the Bible translators don’t understand this either.  They have a hard time handing verses where this process is described.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

In this verse, the phrase because you believed what you heard; is literally because of the hearing of faith.  The fruit of faith is heard in the spirit.  It’s also the faith needed to see a manifestation of the miraculous.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit…
Jude 20, NKJV

The Apostle Jude understood this fact.  He knew that our most holy faith – the faith resident in our spirit – was only built up by prayer in the spirit.  That time spent in God’s presence is where perfect faith resides.  Through prayer in the spirit, we can make the transfer of faith from the Lord to us.

Don’t rely merely on your own, imperfect, human understanding.  Let the Spirit of Faith impart His fruit into your life.  It will change how you look at the world.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s faith operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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The Spirit-Fruit Goodness

Our Supply in GodI’m taking a few extra posts to look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  The next one to see is goodness.  As with the others, goodness is not merely about being good.

Just to remind you, all of these fruits are the result of cultivating our spiritual walk.  It’s time spent with the Holy Spirit that causes these to grow in us.

We can’t just go by society’s definition of the word.  What’s important is how God defines it and uses it in Scripture.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
Colossians 1:10

In this verse, Paul talks about bearing the fruit of goodness.  But what we find is that he prayed for something that needed to happen first.  What was required for the Colossian people to walk in goodness?

Paul tells us in the previous verse.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9

In order to walk in the fruit of goodness, you must lay hold of the knowledge of God’s will for you.  That will never come through your own human intelligence.  You must tap into the wisdom and understanding that only come through the Spirit.

In other words, if you’re not hearing from God, then there’s no way you can do good – at least by the Lord’s definition.  To God, doing good is doing His will.

Jesus described this very thing in one of His parables.  At one point He described the Word of God as the seed planted in many different types of soil.  The seed in good soil flourished and produced an abundant harvest.

Listen to how Jesus explained this parable to His disciples.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Luke 8:15

According to Christ, there are three distinct activities that are a part of a good heart – a life that consistently produces goodness.  The first is the most important, and that is to hear the Word of God.  If you’re not hearing the Word, then you can never go on to produce the fruit.

The second part is just as important.  Once heard, you must retain it.  That literally means that you hold fast to it, you lock it down into your heart.  This means that you meditate on it.  You rehearse it and think about it until it becomes second nature to you.

The third thing that has to happen is that you continue holding fast to that Word.  This requires perseverance.  Day after day; month after month; even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening in the natural.

Then, as we remain in the Word of God, that change begins to take place and we receive an abundant harvest.  The Greek phrase for producing a crop is that we become fruit-bearing.

I don’t know how anyone who reads these verses can say that to bear the Fruit of the Spirit you just need will-power.  That won’t get you anywhere.  The fruit can only be produced by the Holy Spirit working in you.

Do you want to produce what the Father describes as good works?  Then spend time in the presence of the Lord with a listening heart, then guard that word, and allow the Spirit to bring them forth in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s goodness operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Kindness

For the last few posts, I’ve been looking at the Fruit of the Spirit.  If you’ve been following me, then by now you’ve learned that the fruit are not something you can just decide to do on your own.  They need to be produced by the Holy Spirit operating within you.

The fruit of kindness is no different.  Contrary to what most people think, God’s view of kindness is not merely being nice to people.  God uses this word in a very specific way in the Scriptures.  He actually tells us that we can’t produce it on our own.

“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:12

In the above verse, the phrase, does good, is the same Greek word used for the fruit of kindness.  According to the Lord, no one is kind.

Why is that?  What is it about kindness that makes it so difficult to walk in?  The answer to that is found in the description of how God operates.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Luke 6:35

Kindness is not just a matter of doing nice things for people.  In God’s eyes, the definition of kindness is; doing good to those who absolutely don’t deserve it.  That’s a part of God’s character, but it’s foreign to our human nature.

It seems like the last thing we would do is to help someone who’s hateful or has wronged us in some way.  We want them to apologize or admit that they were wrong before we do anything like that.

I praise God that He didn’t treat me the way I deserved to be treated.  My place should be in the Lake of Fire.  Instead, the Father gave all my sin to Jesus Christ on the cross.  It wasn’t fair, but it was kind.

Knowing this part of God’s character is why we shouldn’t be judgmental.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Romans 2:4

This is why kindness is so powerful.  It leads us to repentance.  When we find out just how kind God was, it drew us to Him.  Now, He wants us to display that same character through our lives.  That shows others that the Spirit of Christ is in us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

This is another reason that it’s so hard to be kind.  It compels us to forgive people who don’t deserve to be forgiven.  Through kindness, we learn what it’s like to see through the Lord’s eyes.

It may be hard to produce, but if we let the Holy Spirit work in us, it will bring powerful results.  The world will definitely see something different in us.  They’ll be drawn to Christ.

“How could you possibly be nice to that person?”

“It’s only because of Christ in me.”

Spend time with the Holy Spirit.  Allow Him to work His fruit of kindness in your life.  It will change everything.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s patience operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2017 in Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Patience

The next stop in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit is patience.  As with the other fruit, I need to explain how God looks at this characteristic.  Contrary to what society thinks, it’s not merely the ability to stand in a long check-out line without complaining.

I think that part of the reason we have a mistaken view of patience is that the KJV translated the word as long-suffering.  We get the idea, from that word, that patience requires us to suffer for a long time.  I’ve got good news for you.  There’s no suffering involved in the original Greek word.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:12

The actual Greek word in Scripture is a compound word.  It means long passioned.  According to this verse, faith and patience go hand in hand.  There’s a reason for that.

When we hear from the Lord and His Word, faith is birthed in us.  We then start to pursue what we’re trusting God for.  Then something happens.  Day follows day, and week follows week.

As time goes on we sometimes lose sight of God’s promise.  That’s when we need patience – the long passioned work of the spirit.  I have to have the same passion about what I heard from God weeks, or even years after I initially heard it.

That’s what the fruit of patience is all about.  I like the way James described it in his book.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7

James uses the example of a farmer waiting for his crops to appear.  He’s not just waiting in line for his turn at life.

He prepared the ground and planted the seed.  He continued to work by weeding and fertilizing the field.  He did all that was required of him, and now he’s patiently waiting for God’s part to be accomplished.

That’s the key to understanding God’s view of patience.  The fruit of patience must always be based upon God’s Word.  There’s an outcome that I’m trusting God for.  So I want the Holy Spirit to cultivate a passion in me that won’t fade away over time.

This is the kind of patience that’s a part of God’s character.  We can see this through Paul’s testimony of how the Lord worked in his life – bringing him to a knowledge of Christ.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:16

The fruit of patience in us is a manifestation of God’s patience at work.  Christ didn’t just wait idly for Paul to become a Christian.  The Lord saw the outcome before it was ever manifested.

That’s the patience I want the Holy Spirit to grow in my life.  I want to see the outcome of my faith with the eyes of my spirit.  Then it will produce a passion that doesn’t fade away over time.

Spend time in the spirit.  Allow Him to work His patience in you.  Then you can be long-passioned toward your destiny in Christ.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s patience operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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