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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Repairing the Body of Christ

I’m continuing my series through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s writing it in order to give them practical advice on remaining faithful to Christ.

I think it’s beyond question that our God is faithful.  What He’s looking for, is faithful people.  The Lord wants to see believers who walk wholeheartedly with Him.  How is that possible, unless we walk faithfully with each other?

Because of this, we’re not called to live solitary lives.  In Christ, we’re part of a body.  We need each other.  Without the local church, we can never reach our greatest potential.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 1:10

Fulfilling this will require us to walk in agreement.  Agreement is a place of power in the Holy Spirit.  In the above verse, the word, agree means to speak the same thing.  The only way that will happen is if we’re all speaking the Word of God.

It takes time in the Word to bring about agreement.  It’s not about me convincing you that I’m right.  It’s when we both come into agreement that God’s way is right.

The Lord wants us to unite in mind and thought – with no divisions. The simple truth is that this will never happen if we all do our own things. There has to be a coming together for fellowship around the Word of God.  That’s what church is all about, or at least it should be.  The Word should be central to everything we say and do.

The result is that if we all agree with God’s word, then we’re in agreement with each other.  Along with that, we’ll all be speaking the same thing.

I want to emphasize that among God’s people there should be no divisions.  This means that there are no splits or gaps between us.

Instead, we must be perfectly united with one another.  The word Paul uses in this verse is very interesting.  It literally means to be repaired or mended together.  It describes us as going through a process that joins us together.

This is what we’re to strive for. To be perfectly united in mind and thought requires more than just good teaching.  It means that I’m spending time in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It also means that you’re spending time in the Spirit.

Being united in this way is a choice.  It’s unfortunate that when some people pray for the unity of the church, what they’re really praying is, “God, please make everyone else think like me.”  That’s not true unity.  It’s us choosing to work together as the Holy Spirit makes us begin to think like God.

As we allow the mind of Christ to take over our lives, we’re setting the stage for the unity of the Spirit.

The more you and I begin to think like Christ, the more unity we’ll walk in.  This is how the fellowship and unity of Christ can be manifest in His people.  Make that your goal as we minister together for the Lord.

Question: What are you doing in order to come into agreement with God’s Word?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Growing Up

Did you know that just because a person or a church walks in the gifts of the Spirit, it has no relationship to their maturity?  A baby Christian can pray for someone and see them healed.  Paul observed that in the Corinthian church as he sought to help them to grow up in Christ.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

The church in Corinth gave Paul a lot of headaches over the years, but he continued to thank God for them.  In spite of their immaturity, Paul saw the working of God’s grace in their fellowship.

For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Even though they had many problems, Paul was able to see the obvious working of the Holy Spirit in them.  He says that they had been made wealthy in every way – in Christ.  This was a wealth of spiritual gifts.

This was a result of Paul’s ministry to them.  He spent years teaching them the truths of the kingdom of God.  Because of this, they were spiritually wealthy in their Word and in their knowledge.  Spiritual gifts were operating in Corinth like nowhere else.

But is that a sign of maturity in a Christian walk?  Obviously not.  As we’ll see in future posts, the believers at Corinth were spiritual babies.

The problem is that they weren’t immature because of a lack of teaching.  Paul made sure of that.  They had chosen to live that way.

In the natural, there are people who don’t want to grow up.  I experienced this first hand.  I graduated from high school in 1975.  I went to the first few high school reunions until I realized that I had grown up, but many of my classmates were still trying to be teenagers.

That may be okay in the world, but it’s self-destructive in the body of Christ.  There are things that God needs mature men and women to accomplish.  But for that to happen, our eyes need to be focused on the eternal.

That’s why Paul is reminding them of their hope in Christ’s return.  At that time we’ll face our ultimate performance review.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9

These are the things that need to be constantly before us if we are to progress in our spiritual maturity.  We should all want to be blameless in our walk with God.  According to Paul, this will take the strength of the Lord working in us.

We have to constantly be looking at our relationship with Christ.  We are not alone in our walk.  What I say and do has an effect on the body of Christ around me.

God is faithful to uphold His part of the relationship.  But it’s up to me to understand and cultivate my connection to Him.  That’s why He’s placed the Holy Spirit within us.

I know that there are those who simply seek the gifts of the Spirit with no desire for growth.  My hope is that I can encourage all of us to lay hold of everything that the Lord desires for us.

Question: What’s the next step in your spiritual growth process?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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From Holy to Holy

In my last post, I finished my series on First Thessalonians.  The next Scripture that was inspired by the Holy Spirit was Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church.  The background for these is found in Acts 18-19.

The Apostle Paul ministered in Corinth for about two years, establishing the church.  After some further travels, he came to Ephesus, where he stayed for almost three years, working with that church.

During his stay at Ephesus, Paul began to hear rumors of disorder in the Corinthian church.  He then made a hurried visit, but matters only got worse.  He then started to receive numerous visits and letters from the leadership of the church in Corinth.

As a result, Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to write his first letter to the Corinthian church.  This is probably the most practical of all his letters.  It deals with many of the issues that believers face in their daily lives.

His opening statements are important in setting the tone for this letter.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3

This is probably one of the most important things that believers of any generation need to hear.  I think that sometimes we miss it in our present walk with God.  It’s Paul’s statement that we are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.

We don’t get it because of the words used in the translation.  Both the word, sanctified and the word, holy are the same Greek word, just different tenses.  Sanctified means to be made holy.

The next question that arises is; what does holy mean?  The definition of holy is to be pure, clean, and blameless in a religious sense.  It’s used in speaking about something that has been set apart and consecrated to God for His purposes.

In the Scripture, holiness has two important uses.  We need to know both.  The first is the position of holiness that we’re given in Christ.  Because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I’m holy in Christ; set apart by God for His use.

There’s also the walk of holiness.  That’s when I actually live like I’m set apart to God.  The Bible speaks of both kinds of holiness.

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
2 Timothy 2:20-21

When I submit to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit, He can work God’s holiness into my life.  Then those around me will recognize the fact that I’m set apart to the Lord.

We need both the position and the walk of holiness if we’re going to fulfill our callings in Christ.  That’s why Paul starts this letter on that foundation.  He’s going to be explaining this in detail to the Corinthian church.

It’s something that I believe we also need in our generation.  As I’ve said before, the first letter to the Corinthians is one of the most important messages to strengthen our walk with the Lord.

Question: How does the walk of holiness differ from the position of holiness?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Peaceful Church

This will be my final post from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  He leaves them with some parting admonishments.

And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
2 Thessalonians 3:13

This is especially important.  We must not get discouraged from doing the right things.  That’s because living right never ends.

We sometimes get discouraged because we find ourselves doing the same thing day after day.  That’s because it’s hard to see the cumulative effects of our lives.

It’s like watching a tree grow.  We think it looks the same every day.  Then someone visits who has not been there in years.  They exclaim, “Wow! That tree sure has grown tall.”

If we’re willing to continue doing what we know to do, then God will bring the harvest.  But we need to press in despite the weariness.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

On the other hand, there will be those who, over time, start to ignore the exhortations of Scripture.  We can’t allow our association with them to cause their attitudes to rub off on us.

Remember, they’re not our enemies.  They’re brothers and sisters in Christ.  We live an ordered life and hope it challenges them.  And, if we’re in a relationship with them where they will listen to our advice, we can point them back to the truth.

It’s all about restoration.  It’s not us trying to prove that we’re more spiritual or superior in holiness.  We want God’s best for them.  We want them to experience all of the blessings that Christ purchased for them.

That’s the spirit with which Paul closes his letter.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

This should be our overarching attitude.  It’s the desire for peace among believers.  We know that the world will never experience it apart from Christ.  But for the church, that should be the distinguishing mark of the Holy Spirit in us.

Notice that Paul didn’t say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with those who obey this letter.”  On the contrary; his goal is to see God’s grace at work in all who profess Christ.

That should be the attitude of all believers.

Question: How have you encouraged others to live by the Word of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2018 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Thanksgiving and God’s Will

Here in the USA, tomorrow is a holiday devoted to Thanksgiving – at least that was the original intent.  I’ve been meditating on Thanksgiving lately.

I think about the age we’re living in.  I look around at all that’s happening in the society I’m a part of.

Many people seem to have the attitude, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

The truth is that we’ve rewritten history.  If you believe what they teach in most public schools, it started solely from the Pilgrims’ thankfulness to Native Americans for helping them.

That was definitely a big part of the original celebration.  The problem is that we’ve all but erased God from the picture.

The pilgrims arrived at the new world in the winter.  That first year almost half of them died.  Every family lost someone.  Yet, in spite of their hardships, they gave thanks to God for His blessings.

I think about the times we’re living in right now.  The world around us is so uncertain.  People are worried about finances, healthcare, government, crime, terrorists, the weather, and a host of other fears that seem to be hanging over our heads.

Society is on the edge of their seat.  How can we be thankful in a time like this?

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

As believers, we have the answer in Scripture.  The principle is that He gives us the victory…

That is a comforting thought.  He won the victory and then gives it to us.  How does that work?

It’s all about thankfulness.

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Bible makes it very clear that giving thanks is God’s will.  It doesn’t matter what you’re going through.  You could be facing good or bad situations.  There might even be a cloud of uncertainty looming before you.  It’s always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Notice that He doesn’t say for all things.  He simply wants us to be thankful in all things.  What’s happening around us shouldn’t affect our thankful attitude towards our God.

Remember we’re not moved by the visible.  We must keep our eyes on the eternal.  The ups and downs of society around us are temporary conditions.  Everything is subject to change.

In any situation I find myself in, I can give thanks to God.  When I’m thankful, I know that I’m in the center of the will of God for me.

Be thankful and have a blest Thanksgiving!

Question: What are you thankful for right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Will Work for Food

In my last post, Paul gave the Thessalonian church the underlying principle of living an ordered life in Christ.  He also commanded them to avoid those who live in a way that’s outside of God’s order.

Now the apostle applies this truth to a specific case.

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example.  We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it.  On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

If you remember, at the beginning of this letter, Paul had to set some things back in order.  The church was confused because of prophecies telling them Christ had already returned.

Because of this false teaching, there must have been some who had stopped working at their jobs in order to “wait for the Lord’s appearing.”  These people then went around expecting other Christians to provide for them while they waited.

Paul made it clear that there was no job description that had you do nothing while others took care of your needs.  Please understand that I’m not talking about those who are unable to work, or have lost their jobs and are in the process of seeking a new one.

Because this was a young church, Paul modeled this lifestyle – making tents to provide a living for himself.  He makes it clear that this wasn’t necessary.  As an apostle, he had the right to ask the church for offerings in support of his ministry.  But instead, he felt it important to be an example of a Christian in the workforce.

Of course, there are those who are of the opinion that ministers, pastors, and missionaries don’t do any work.  They think that prayer and the study of God’s Word isn’t real work.  A simple look at the percentage of believers who come out to a prayer meeting or Bible Study will make it clear that we’re doing what few others want to do.

The fact is that we’re all called to work at something.  Usually, if you’re fulfilling your calling, you’ll enjoy most of what you’re doing.  That’s why Paul summarized with a final command.

We hear that some among you are idle.  They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12

We must all seek the Lord for the vocation He’s calling us to.  No matter what it is, whether religious or secular, it can all be done for the glory of Christ.

Question: What’s the work that the Lord has called you to do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2018 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Ordered Life

Do you know Christians who live a life that’s out of order?  What’s your response to that kind of living?  The Apostle Paul wrote about this issue and gives us some clear commands.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6

Here Paul gives us a command from Christ Himself.  It’s not an opinion or a suggestion.  It’s a guiding principle that Paul will apply to a specific situation later on.

Unfortunately, the translators use a more specific word than the one Paul used.  The word idle is not in the original Greek.  Paul uses a word that means out of order.  He’s talking about people who are not living in their God-assigned positions in the body of Christ.

I’m not talking about religious positions.  You can be a lawyer, plumber, or IT specialist and still fulfill your calling in Christ.  I’m talking about knowing where you fit into God’s kingdom and functioning in that role.

Paul also talked about those who don’t live according to the teachings passed on from the apostles.  They gave us a specific pattern of living that’s recorded in the Scriptures.  The goal of every believer should be to follow this lifestyle.

That being said, our generation of the church has some definite issues that need to be overcome in relation to this command.  The first is that we don’t like commands of any kind, especially in regards to our spiritual life.

If someone wants to give us their opinion, or suggest something to us, we’re usually okay with that.  We just don’t want to be told that we have to do something; or even worse, being told we can’t do something that we want to do.

Another problem I see is that a large percentage of the modern church has no idea what the pattern of living is that was handed down by the apostles.   They don’t know what a Christian lifestyle should look like.

Then, there’s that part about keeping away from or avoiding those whose life is out of order.  The fact is, out of order people like being around other out of order people.  It helps them to suppress any feelings of guilt about how they’re living.

It’s sad that we live in a time in history when many believers simply want to blend in with the world.  We say that we want to be “relevant”.  But in many cases, it’s because we want what the world offers.

Those of us who try to live according to the pattern handed down to us are the ones who are avoided.  In many instances, we’re labeled as “self-righteous” or “haters”.

It’s time for the church to pray for a restoration of the Scriptural patterns.  It’s time for the church to once again walk according to the lifestyle handed down to us from the apostles.

Make that a priority in your prayer time with the Lord.

Question: What are the main attributes of a Godly lifestyle?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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To Be Continued…

In my last post, we saw how Paul encouraged the Thessalonian church to remember the way the Gospel was passed down to them.  He now wants them to think about others in need of the truth of Christ.

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
2 Thessalonians 3:1

The apostle asks the church to pray for a couple of things.  The first is that the Word of Christ may advance quickly.  He not only wants it to run forward, but to be honored by those who hear it.

That should be our prayer as well.  It’s wonderful that I heard and honored the Word.  I’m saved because of it.  But for me, it shouldn’t end there.  Others need to hear that same life-changing Word.

Paul goes on with his request.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-5

These two prayers must go hand in hand.  The spreading of the Gospel message, and the protection of those who are bringing it.

Whenever the Word of Christ is preached, there are always two responses.  Some will have faith to believe it.  But there may also be those who oppose it – sometimes violently.

Of course, in our generation, there are those who have gone in a different direction.  There are some who have watered down the message so there will be little chance of persecution.

In Paul’s mind, the number one goal was the spreading and advancement of the Gospel.  Then he would trust God for his personal safety.

In our society it’s different.  Many have set their first goal as the advancement of their own comfort, entertainment, and wealth.  Then, if they have any free time, they can do something for Christ – as long as it doesn’t negatively affect their status in the world.

We need to change our thinking.  We must get back to the original message of the Gospel.  We don’t go out of our way to offend others, but the truth of God’s Word must be our priority.

Then, we’ll find out the truth of Paul’s prayer request.  We pray that the Word of Christ will spread and increase.  We pray that many will accept it.  And we pray that those who deliver it will have God’s divine protection.

Question: Do you see any differences between the way the Gospel spread in the early church and how it spreads in our present experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Transmitting the Truth

In my last post, we saw how the Thessalonian church pressed into a mature walk with Christ.  It’s something that we need to learn in our present generation.  Paul commends them for it and exhorts them to continue.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:15

Paul tells these believers to stand firm and unmovable in the truth that they’ve received.  The word translated, teachings, is a special word.  It means something that’s been transmitted or passed down from one to another.

The things that they were taught were not invented by Paul.  They were transmitted from God the Father to Christ, then Christ to His apostles, and finally from the apostles to the church.

The unfortunate thing is that, in many cases, we’ve either stopped teaching them or watered them down in our generation.  Personally, I want to see them restored in our lifetime.  That’s the goal behind this blog and my ministry.

Notice that this passage tells us that the church received this through both the spoken and written Word.  This will require us to spend time in the Lord’s presence.  As great as the Scripture is, we need both God’s written and spoken Word to fulfill our calling in Christ.

I like the encouragement that Paul gives at the close of this passage.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

We’re told that if we stand firm in the Lord’s grace, we have eternal encouragement.  That’s important.  It’s speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

The word, encouragement, is the same word Jesus used in calling the Holy Spirit the Comforter.  In our modern terminology, it means to be a coach.  If we remain in God’s presence, we have an eternal Life-Coach.

Here’s some more good news.  This Coach does not only deal with your physical life, but He can coach your heart as well.  I don’t know about you, but I need the internal coaching more than the outer.

Because of this, our words and our actions will be produced by an overflow of God’s grace working through us.  I believe this is what the world desperately needs to see in the church.

This is what will draw people to the cross of Christ.  It’s only when the Holy Spirit is active in us that the Gospel is energized to that extent.  We need to get back to the pattern that was originally transmitted to the church.

Question: What differences do you see between the early church and our modern church experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Called to Glory

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  After talking to them about the second coming of Christ, he now starts to close with some words of encouragement.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

This is a very important message which our generation of the church needs to hear.  Even though the Thessalonian church was only recently established, they had grown quickly in their spirituality.

This fact is brought out in how the Apostle describes them.  Paul literally says that God took them for Himself from the firstfruits.  In Paul’s mind, this was a “firstfruits” church.

There was a point in Paul’s ministry when he received a dream from the Lord that sent him into the region of Macedonia.  Thessalonica was the first city in that region where he was able to preach in a synagogue.

Because of that, this church was always the firstfruits of Macedonia in Paul’s mind.  But there was something they needed to do in order to claim that status.  They had to believe the Word that was preached to them and then submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Their goal was not only to have their sins forgiven but to become what God wanted them to be.  This made them fully aware of the calling that was placed upon their lives.  It’s what we need to understand as well.

There’s more to being a Christian than just getting into Heaven.  We’re all called to a higher walk.  The Good News is that God wants us to share in the glory of Christ.

But please notice the important word in that passage.  It’s the word “might”.

This is not something you receive simply by praying the Sinner’s Prayer.  It’s what you have to move forward to obtain.  Yes, that’s the word translated by, share, in that Scripture.  It means to obtain and surround yourself with.

I believe that this glory is not reserved for the sweet by and by.  It’s something the Lord wants His church to walk in right now.  If the world would see the glory of Christ surrounding us, they would be drawn to His saving grace.

What does that say to us?  Paul is not trying to teach something new here.  We’re called through the Gospel that we might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to stand firm and hold on to the teachings we’ve been given.

Then, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us.  That means spending quality time in His presence.  Time spent in the Spirit will cause us to obtain and surround ourselves in the glory of Christ.

Let that be your spiritual goal.

Question: What’s the next step you need to take to press into your calling?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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