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Monthly Archives: February 2019

Spiritual Intervention

In my last post, I started looking at Paul’s response to rebellious sin in the life of a believer.  The goal of leadership should be that of restoration rather than punishment.  Now Paul takes it a step further.

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit.  And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.  When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:3-5

This is another of those passages that we sometimes misunderstand.  The reason is that we don’t see who is being addressed.  We make the assumption that this is referring to the entire church.  That’s not the case.

In my last two posts, the tone of Paul’s writing should make it clear that he’s speaking to the leadership of the church.  He’s not talking about issues that brand new believers should be dealing with.

Paul was a seasoned prayer warrior in the spirit.  You can rest assured that powerful intercessory prayer was going up for this church.  In the spirit, Paul was standing with them.

By the wisdom of God, Paul knew what needed to be done.  He had already decided the outcome.  He didn’t need to be physically present in their meeting.

The controversial issue is what Paul describes next.  The very language should give us insight into what’s happening here.  “Assembled in the name of the Lord…with you in spirit…the power of the Lord Jesus is present.”

He’s not talking about a regular church meeting.  This is a private meeting, only for those who are spiritually mature enough to handle an issue like this.  New believers aren’t graced for this type of challenge.

There’s also an assumption we can make about all of this.  That is, that the man in question had been confronted by the true nature of his sin on more than one occasion.  We can also assume that he rejected all spiritual counsel, and made a decision to continue on in the pathway which was blatantly against the known will of God.

As a result, the mature leaders should have decided to take action that would keep him from totally destroying his life.  That’s what Paul is talking about here.

We need to understand that this is not a meeting to remove the offending Christian from the church organization.  It’s not an excommunication.

This is a group of believers, who are strong in the Lord, setting out on a spiritual intervention.  The goal is to place this person in spiritual rehab in order to straighten out their walk with the Lord.  The attitude during this whole process should be that of love and concern for a fellow member of the body of Christ.

The term, hand over to Satan, literally means to surrender to Satan.  This means that they lose all their blessings and privileges as a child of God.

This person was adamantly refusing to live by God’s standards.  Now he was going to get a first-hand view of what the enemy’s kingdom is really like.  The hope is that this person’s level of discomfort will bring him to the point of repentance.

As a side note, it looks to me as if the Corinthian leaders obeyed Paul’s directive.  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 sounds like the man in question repented and was restored to full fellowship with the Lord.

In Christ, restoration is always the goal in dealing with sin.

Question: What’s that level of concern in the modern church over the issue of sin in the lives of believers?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Power of God, The Church

 

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Discipline or Restoration

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  I have to warn you!  As we start chapter 5, Paul gets very practical about subjects many believers would rather not talk about.  These were real issues that the churches of his day were dealing with.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
1 Corinthians 5:1-2

This verse creates a lot of problems for church leadership.  How are we to apply it in our generation?

When it was written, there were no denominations.  There was only one church in the town of Corinth.  People didn’t pick and choose churches based upon personal preference.

Today, in our sexually permissive society, there are believers who are following the ways of the world.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is common.  In many cases, if a Christian was approached by an elder in Christ who lovingly explains the error of such a lifestyle, they would be offended.

“How dare you condemn me?  What I do is none of your business.  I’m going to find a church that will accept me the way I want to live.”

That thought scares a lot of Christian leaders.  They don’t want to lose any of their members.  But there is a response that brings about God’s will.

First, we need to understand that the word proud is the same word translated as arrogance in chapter 4.  The leaders in this church were confident in their own ways.  They were blind to anything else going on around them.

According to Paul, there should have been a spiritual response.  We get the wrong idea because of the English words used to translate this verse.  “Put out of your fellowship” is actually “lift away”.  So the keywords of our response are to mourn and lift away.

This type of mourning is a sorrow that inspires action.  The action is to lift away the one living a life that’s inappropriate for a Christian.  This word lift is used in a number of ways.  I believe in this instance it means lifting up to God.

The apostles were commanded by the Jewish rulers not to heal or preach in the name of Jesus.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign Lord” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
Acts 4:24

Too many leaders think that the response to sin in the life of believers is a knee jerk reaction to throw them out of the church.  Instead, it should be mourning and a desire to see God’s power at work to restore this person.

If I burn my finger by touching something hot, my reaction is to pull it away from danger.  I put it to my mouth or under cold water.  My response is not to cut it off because it touched something it shouldn’t have.  My goal is that it be healed and restored to its normal function.

When we lift the offending person to God, we pray for their restoration.  We also pray for wisdom in dealing with them.  It’s very likely that the Holy Spirit will send one of us to talk to them.

However, the goal of the talk is restoration, not discipline.  We’re not going to spank them, but to heal them.  Attitude is everything.  Of course, even done in love, not all help is accepted – especially in regards to sin.

I believe that the body of Christ needs to relearn how to handle sinful lifestyles.  Not ignoring, yet not condemning.  That combination requires leaders who spend quality time in the presence of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen problems like this handled in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Replacing Power with Talk

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul shows his frustration with the church leaders who insist on doing things their own way.  They had an inflated view of themselves.

Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you.  But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.  What do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 4:18-21

Paul’s words to us are very clear.  When it comes to power in the kingdom of God, we better do more than just talk.  The problem is that much of what’s called power in the kingdom today is just that – talk.  The first step toward walking in the power of God is to understand what true power is all about.

Let’s start by looking at things from a natural perspective.  When we talk about power it’s usually in the context of electrical power.  We use phrases like power lines, power plant, and power outages.  We think of electricity as being a form of power.  This can help us to understand spiritual power.

Simply put, the definition of power is the same whether you’re talking about electricity coming into your house, or the power of God to heal the sick.  The International Edition of the Webster Comprehensive Dictionary defines it in the following way:

“Power is the ability to act.  It is the property of a thing that is manifested in effort or action, by virtue of which that thing produces change.”

Let me boil it down for you.  True power is the ability to produce change.  Change is the keyword.  It takes power to transform water at room temperature into hot water for a cup of tea.  It takes power to get a one-ton car to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour.  It takes power to transform a body from sickness to health.  It takes power to change a liar into a saint.  It takes power to replace guilt with innocence.

If we understand this correctly, then the verse above should bring new understanding.  It’s our assignment in the Kingdom of God to produce change.  It’s not about how well you can speak about it.  Change is the priority.  Is the church producing change?

You have to remember that this passage was written when Christians were the people who were “turning the world upside down”.  In light of this, how powerful is the kingdom of God today?  In order to answer that we must ask, how much change is being produced in the church today?

The unfortunate answer is – not much.  In many churches around the country, few are being healed, set free from sins, or seeing great growth in their spiritual lives.  It seems that we’ve become masters of talking as if there’s power in our lives.

We say things like, “That was a powerful message.”  Or, “We had a powerful service last night.”  I’ve also heard, “She has a powerful anointing to sing.”

But if no one leaves the service changed, then there was no power manifested in the service.  There are plenty of unsaved actors and singers that can evoke an incredible emotional response from their audience, but that’s not power.  People weeping during the service is no indication of any power.

We’ve learned to cover over our powerlessness by calling emotionalism power.  The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many people wept, how many chills ran down your spine, or how many people were slain in the spirit.  If no one was changed, then there was no power.

Do you want to walk in the true power of God?  Then you need to stop talking about it, and admit your lack – if that’s the case.  We need a true, Biblical knowledge of what it is and how to use it.  We need to seek God for a touch from His hand.  That’s where true change – true power – originates from.

Question: What does a church look like that’s walking in the power of God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Godly Imitation

They say that imitation is a form of flattery.  I’ve found that I learn things best when I can watch someone else do it first.  This is just as true in our Christian walk.

In his exhortations to the Corinthian church, Paul tells them their need to follow after his way of life.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:16

In serving Christ, it’s always beneficial to have a mature, godly example to follow.  In that way, we can see how this walk is lived out.

I praise the Lord for the Scripture.  It’s a blessing that His written Word is so accessible to us as believers.  But there’s so much in the Word that I have a hard time applying.

I need to see an example of how it operates in someone’s life on a continual basis.  I’m talking about someone through whom the love and power of Christ are operating consistently.

Of course, there are those that I look at and by their lives, they teach me what NOT to do.  However, this post isn’t about the negative examples in our lives, but the positive.

Paul saw that over time the Corinthian church had lost sight of the things that he had tried to get across to them.  In their struggle to do things their way, they had missed the clear path of the Gospel that Paul preached to them.  Now they were in need of correction.

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.  He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:17

This verse is very important for us to see and understand.  It should remind us of something that was written in the Gospels.  On different occasions in Jesus’ ministry, a voice was heard from Heaven saying, “This is the Son I love, listen to Him.”

Now we see the Apostle Paul saying the same thing about Timothy.  He adds that Timothy is faithful in the Lord.  That’s an important thing for us to understand.

We know that Christ only did those things that He saw of the Father.  Then, after the Lord’s ascension, the apostles did what they had seen in Jesus.  Now, they’re exhorting the church to follow in they’re footsteps.

Paul knew that Timothy was faithfully living out the Christian walk that Paul had preached to the church.  He was now sending his spiritual son to remind the Corinthians how that walk was to be lived out.

With Paul, he wasn’t just preaching theory on how to follow Christ.  He had experienced the walk of maturity.  He knew what it would take to be faithful to the Lord.

The Corinthian church had heard the message but treated it as a suggestion.  As a result, their church was wallowing in divisions and power struggles.  They weren’t able to fully proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  They needed to get back on track, spiritually speaking.

The only way for the church to course-correct was for each individual believer to submit to Christ’s lordship.  Then, as each person follows God’s plan, the church is back where it should be.

That’s why it’s so important for us to seek out and watch the lives of mature believers.  Even as a pastor, I need to watch the lives of those who are further along in Christ than I am.  In that way, we can see the growth that only comes through godly imitation.

Question: Who do you know that you can follow their example of a mature walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Adolescent Church

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church sounds like he’s writing to a group of adolescents.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the worse stage of growth whether you’re talking about the spiritual or the physical.  If there was one point in my life I wouldn’t want to go back to, it would be my pre-teen and teenage years.

The problem with life as an adolescent is that you’re coming into the height of your adult strength and intelligence.  Yet, you lack the experience and permission to do things on your own.  You see the freedom and resources that adults enjoy, yet you’re locked into a world where you have to wait for your turn to experience it.

In many ways, this is the place that most of the modern church finds itself in.  We understand what should be ours in Christ, but walking in it seems to elude us.  We need to learn how to overcome and make it successfully through this stage of our Christian development.

I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.  Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:14-16

In this passage, Paul urges his people to follow his example as a mature believer. That’s the toughest assignment for a growing Christian. It’s a very hard thing to move from a childish mindset to that of an adult.

There are behaviors that will work for children that adults will never get away with.  The problem in most of the church is that we want the irresponsibility of childhood with the freedom and resources of adulthood.  This will never happen.

There has to be a giving up of childish ways.  We have to move into our role as mature followers of the risen Lord.  Until this happens, we’ll never attain our true potential in Christ.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Galatians 4:19

This verse should wake us up.  Paul is writing to believers who are in the adolescent stage of their spiritual growth.  They’re saved and on their way to Heaven, but he tells them something that should get our attention.  His burning desire is that Christ would be formed in them.

This is the Greek word morphoo.  It’s where we get our English word morph.  We hear this word a lot in dealing with computer graphics.  When we see special effects in a movie, where one thing turns into something else, we say that it morphed.  That’s the spiritual change that we’re looking for.

I want to let the world see a change in me.  I want to “morph” into the same life that Christ lived.  This is the point where the change happens that brings me from being a child to living as an adult.

In life, it happens almost unnoticed.  Then one day you see what you’re doing and realize you’re not a child anymore.  As Christians, we need to go through this change on a spiritual level.  The church as a whole needs to walk in adulthood.  This is what Christ is looking for in us.

Question: What would a spiritually adult church look like?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2019 in Leadership, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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What’s Your View of Ministry

Sometimes you just need to get real with people.  I’ve found that in the ministry, that’s a hard thing to do.  Many people can’t handle the truth about it.

In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul bares his soul to them.  He hopes that it will cause them to open their hearts to the Word of God that he’s preaching.

He starts by comparing how they see themselves with their perceptions of him.

We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!
1 Corinthians 4:10

Paul is exposing their thoughts.

“Paul only shows up here to tell us what to do.”

“Paul and his team are morons for what they’re doing in Christ’s name.  We are sensitive and thoughtful in Christ.  They’re weak, but we’re powerful.  Our opinion carries a lot of weight, theirs is valueless.”

I wish that this was an isolated case; only the opinions of an ancient church that died out long ago.  However, I’ve found these attitudes in the church of today.  There are Christians who won’t listen to godly counsel.

“Pastor, you don’t understand real life.  I can’t live for Christ on your level.  You don’t understand the pressures I face.”

I have to laugh when I hear arguments like that.  I lived a Christian life as an Electrical Engineer for many years.  Even now in my part-time job and hobbies, I’m constantly interacting with non-Christians.  I’ve experienced the same pressures as everyone else.

Then, to top it off, the ministry itself has pressures that are not apparent to most believers.  Paul tries to get this across to the church.

To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands.  When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.  Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
1 Corinthians 4:11-13

Based on his other writings and the book of Acts, I don’t believe that Paul was talking about physical, material things here.  He was talking about the weight of the ministry.  The fact is, the more of God you encounter, the hungrier and thirstier for His Spirit you become.

The phrase in rags actually means naked.  That’s one of the worse pressures for a minister.  No one else feels more naked than a pastor.

Every aspect of his or her life is scrutinized under a magnifying glass.  Everything is inspected – their spouse, children, free-time activities, and how they dress.  Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professions not treated like that.

On top of that, no matter how badly we’re treated, we’re expected to portray the love of Christ to all people.  If we make one miss-step, we’re labeled as mean spirited.

No, I’m not griping about the ministry.  I wouldn’t choose any other calling.  The rewards far outweigh the challenges.  I’m simply pointing out the truth that Paul’s trying to get across to the church.

As believers, we need to understand the price that’s being paid for the Word that’s being preached to us.  Then we can receive that Word, knowing that it comes from a heart that seeks God’s best in those who are listening.

Question: What price has your pastor paid to bring God’s Word to you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Point of No Return

When it comes to Christian leadership, have you gone past the point of no return?  Have you gotten to the point where the call of God on your life is all that matters?  Paul talks about this in regards to himself.

I believe that the key point in our ministries should be faithfulness to God.  We must be faith-ful.  That means that someone can put his or her faith in us.

We always talk about having faith in the Lord.  Rightly so – there’s no other person in the universe more worthy than He is to receive our faith.  The problem is that we’re called to be just like Him.  We’re to be people who are faithful in the same way that He’s faithful.

I’ve found that faithfulness in the ministry is a rare commodity these days.  Please realize I’m not talking about faithful works, but faithfulness to the call that’s been placed before us.

It seems that many Christian leaders have bought into the myth that’s being fostered in corporate America.  They’re constantly updating their resume.  That way they’re able to jump ship at the first sign of trouble or whenever a “better opportunity” arises.

We, as leaders, have to come back to the realization that success in ministry is not climbing a ladder; it’s following the clear call and leading of Christ.

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.  We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
I Corinthians 4:9

More and more, I’m beginning to understand what Paul was writing about here.  He’s not griping about the problems he’s facing in the ministry.  On the contrary, he’s becoming aware of a fact that every minister must face.  He says that he feels like a man doomed to die in the arena.

He’s just like a professional fighter who knows that he’ll always fight until the day his life will end.  If you’re going to be an effective leader, you’ll have to come to grips with the fact that you’ve made it past the point of no return.  You need to know within yourself that there’s no going back.  This calling is for good – there’s no safety net – you’re going to “die in the arena” of ministry.

There are so many leaders today who have no concept of this.  I’ve heard statements like, “Well, if this falls through I can always sell life insurance.”  This kind of thinking has no place in the heart of a true minister.

At one point, I was going through a particularly stressful time in my ministry.  I was also teaching an hour a week in a school of ministry at a nearby church.  This church, which was much larger than the one I was pastoring, made me an offer to come on staff with them.  The pay and benefits would have been a lot better than where I was.

I related this to a young pastor friend of mine.  He assumed that surely I would send them my resume just to test the waters.  My reply to him was that since God hadn’t changed my calling to my present church, there was no water to test.

He then looked at me with an expression that I will never forget as he asked, “What do you mean by calling?”

This is just the surface symptom of a deep problem facing churches in America today – leaders who have absolutely no concept of calling.  Unless you have a clear understanding of the call of God upon your life, you’ll fall victim to the greatest cause of defeat in ministry today.

I firmly believe that you’re not only called to a position, but also to a location in the body of Christ.  Unless and until God changes your assignment, you would be a fool to move somewhere else.

Question: What’s the calling of God upon your life right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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