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Monthly Archives: April 2019

Out of the Comfort Zone

How far are you willing to go out of your comfort zone in order to share the Gospel?  The Apostle Paul made some tough choices so that he could win the lost.  What about us?

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
1 Corinthians 9:19-20

It all springs from having a servant’s attitude.  The Word of God is clear that we’re to walk in freedom.  But it’s how we handle that freedom that makes all the difference.

Paul chose to be a servant of the Gospel to everyone he meets.  In that way, he hopes to bring the message of salvation to those who are ready to accept it.  It’s a very hard road to walk.

Look at how the apostle describes it.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
1 Corinthians 9:20

He starts by talking about his relationship to the religious folk.  These are the people who believe that God will only bless you if you maintain strict adherence to a code of conduct.

Paul admits that these religious rules and regulations have no power to bring you closer to God.  But in order to open up communication with this group, he must honor their customs while he’s with them.

I’ve seen those who have destroyed their witness because they’ve ridiculed the beliefs of others.  You may not agree with them, but everyone should be treated respectfully.

There’s another group that Paul reached that we have problems with.

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1 Corinthians 9:21

I believe that the word Paul used to describe this group is closer to our word, outlaw.  He tells us that to the outlaws he became like an outlaw in order to win them to Christ.  All the while he knew that he mustn’t break God’s law in Christ.

This is a tough group to reach.  I’m thinking bikers, gang members, and street people.  We’re not going to reach them dressed like we’re going to church.

I had a friend that I would see once in a while when I took the subway into Boston.  His hair was matted and uncombed.  His beard was long and straggly.  His clothes looked like they had been slept in for weeks.  He looked homeless.  Of course, the reason was that he had a ministry to the homeless in Boston.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23

I think sometimes that we’re just too stubborn to try identifying with those around us.  We want everyone to see how spiritually strong we are.  I’m glad that Christ identified with us in our weakness.

If we truly want to be a participant in the work of the Gospel, then we need to get uncomfortable sometimes.  We need to forget who we are and see the need in those around us.  Only then will we see the power of God at work bringing people to Christ.

Question: How do you identify with those who are not like you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Ministry, Relationships, The Gospel

 

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I Have the Right…

In First Corinthians, Paul explains to the church that as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he has the right to ask them for support.  Those who work in the ministry should receive their living from that ministry.

Having laid that foundation, he now makes a very astounding statement.

But I have not used any of these rights.  And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me.  I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.
1 Corinthians 9:15

Paul makes it clear that he absolutely had the right to ask them for support.  But, by his own choosing, he did not ask them for it.  He also wants them to understand that he’s not telling them this to manipulate them into sending him something.

There were some important reasons for this decision.  Paul knew the controversy that his ministry stirred up in the church at Corinth.  It was a church of many factions.  They argued over whether Paul was an apostle or not.

Because of this, he decided not to ask them for support.  He didn’t want to be the cause of strife in the body of Christ.

Of course, that didn’t let the Corinthian church off the hook.  They were called by God to support Paul, even if he didn’t ask for it.  So there were blessings and rewards that they’ll never receive because of their disobedience.

Paul was able to do this because of the position he was in.  Firstly, we know from Acts, chapter 18, that Paul had a trade that he could fall back on.  He was a tentmaker.  Besides that, we know from 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, that Paul was supported by other churches while he ministered in Corinth.

He was able to minister freely in Corinth because God was supplying his need from elsewhere.

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
1 Corinthians 9:16-18

This is the attitude of a true minister of the Gospel.  It’s unfortunate that many in the church use it to hold back support to those who need it.

A true minister is called to preach.  They’ll do it for Christ’s sake.  They’ll do it no matter how hard a church makes it for them to survive.

As a pastor and traveling minister, I understand this.  When God places a message in my spirit, I can’t help but preach it.  I serve Christ, not the church.

There have been times that I knew God wanted me to preach in a certain church.  I obeyed.  Then, whether by oversight or decision, I received no offering from them.  Am I going to be bitter or complain about it?  Absolutely not!  God pays my salary.  Whoever He uses to support me is up to him, not me.

On the other side of the coin, I don’t want to be found guilty of not supporting the Lord’s servants.  If I’m a member of a church, then I want that pastor or minister to be abundantly supplied.  I want their ministry to be a joy, not a constant struggle to survive.

This is an issue that many churches need to come to grips with.  They think that it’s their responsibility to keep their pastor in poverty.  It may not be until the Judgment Seat of Christ that the church board finds out what their greed and desire for control has cost them.

We need to support those in ministry as the Lord leads us to.

Question: Why is it better if the minister is not struggling to provide an income?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

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Ministry Support

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re at the point where Paul is discussing his role as an apostle of Christ.  This is within the greater context of the principles surrounding the “grey areas” of sin.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.  Don’t we have the right to food and drink?  Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?  Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
1 Corinthians 9:3-6

He makes it clear that because of his ministry to the church, he should expect to be supported by those churches.  He shows this by comparing his ministry to others that they knew of.

This was the practice of the day.  Apostles and ministers were given some sort of income.  It could have been monetary, food, lodging, or other things that they needed.

Paul explains that this is only common sense.  If you work, you should be making your living from that work.

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes?  Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
1 Corinthians 9:7

I think that it’s interesting to hear the words that Paul uses.  Nobody serves, plants, or tends without expecting to make a living from it.  These are all a big part of church work.  Why do some people think it’s so wrong for ministers to make a living from their ministry?

Paul shows that the Bible itself proves his point.

Do I say this merely from a human point of view?  Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?  For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
1 Corinthians 9:8-10

Paul uses this Old Testament law to bring out a New Testament truth.   Ministers are worthy of being supported.  The apostle concludes this by using a very clear statement.

If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?  If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
1 Corinthians 9:11-12

We want our ministers and pastors to be there for us.  We want them to pray for us when we’re in trouble, visit us when we’re sick, and encourage us when they preach.  Yet in many churches, they want all this and more while the minister has to work extra jobs just to feed his or her family.

There are others we look to in this way.  We want the Fire, Police, and hospitals to be ready to serve us at a moment’s notice.  So we pay their salaries accordingly.  How much more should we support those who keep watch over our souls?

Question: How have you been helped by a minister who was there in your time of need?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Truth in Titles

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the “grey areas”.  Those activities that the Bible doesn’t talk about, but we debate whether or not they’re sinful.  Specifically, he’s talking about buying and eating meat that has been offered in a pagan sacrifice.

So far, he’s given us two principles.  The pagan temples have no power, so the meat itself is not sinful.  On the other hand, there are those who are weak and may feel guilty about it.  They must be protected.

Now Paul begins talking about a third principle.

Am I not free?  Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?  Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you!  For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:1-2

To begin this thought, Paul talks about his ministry.  He is free in Christ.  He has had an encounter with the risen Lord.  He works tirelessly for God, and the Corinthian church is a result of that ministry.

It is, however, important that we hear and understand what he says about this ministry.  Paul is very clear that he’s an apostle of Christ.  The important key is that being an apostle is a ministry and not merely a title.

I believe that there are too many people today with the title of “Apostle”.  Paul shows us that it’s the work you’re doing that confirms your apostleship.  If you’re not doing the ministry of an apostle, then you’re not an apostle.

There’s another, deeper issue that we need to see.  Paul didn’t go out and have business cards printed with the title, apostle.  He didn’t introduce himself as “Apostle Paul”.

You have to realize that you’re only an apostle to those who have been affected under your ministry.  Paul understood that he was not an apostle to everyone.  It wasn’t a title of honor, but a description of his ministry to certain churches.

We live in a generation where so many people are title conscious.  If you don’t have a title, then you have no credibility.

“Where did you go to school?  What’s your title?  Who conferred it on you?”

Do you understand that in the body of Christ none of these things make any difference?  Don’t tell me what you want to be called; show me what you’re doing for Christ.  That’s the bottom line.

As a pastor, I’ve submitted to the apostles that the Lord’s brought into my life.  They had an effect on me and my ministry.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their ministry.

The funny thing is that only one of them ever publically referred to himself as an apostle.  The one who did only used it in meetings where those under his ministry were present.

Instead of trying to impress people with our titles, we should be striving to advance the kingdom of God.  It’s the work that distinguishes you as an apostle or any other ministry gift.  It’s by their fruit that you recognize them.

Always keep this in mind as God advances you in your calling.  Let the results of your ministry be the proof of your credentials.  In that way, God receives the glory and not men.

Question: What happens when someone claims a ministry gift that isn’t proved by their walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Protecting the Weak

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s teaching about navigating the “grey areas” in regards to sin.  These are the activities that the Bible doesn’t speak about, but Christians seem to all have differing opinions on whether they’re sin or not.

The issue in the Corinthians church was whether they could eat meat that had been sacrificed at a Pagan temple.  The Apostle started at the bottom line – pagan idols are nothing; our submission to the authority of Christ is everything.  Now he goes on to the other issues involved.

But not everyone knows this.  Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.
1 Corinthians 8:7

Paul now brings it around to our conscience.  That’s the internal code inside of us that differentiates right and wrong.  He makes it clear that this code of conduct is subjective.  It’s mostly based upon our life experiences.

Something might not be a sin in the eyes of God.  But, based upon my life experience, I may personally consider it wrong and not to be participated in.  If I then do this activity, even though I technically haven’t sinned, I break my internal code and soil my conscience.

Paul reiterates that he’s talking about things that aren’t labeled as sin in the Bible.

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
1 Corinthians 8:8

The food itself can’t be evil or good.  It’s all about our perception of it.

“That’s great!  It’s not against my conscience to do this.  I’m free to do whatever I want.”

Wait a minute.  Your conscience is not the only one to consider.  What about the consciences of your fellow believers?

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:9-12

Here’s the new principle that Paul is trying to get across to us.  You may know that something is not a sin.  You’re at peace doing it.  But what about a brother in Christ who’s not as strong?

They may feel pressure to follow your example.  But they’re not at peace about it.  They have an internal struggle.  It wounds their conscience.  They’ve now taken the first step in a downward spiral that could possibly ruin their walk with the Lord.

Paul makes it clear.  Eating the food wasn’t a sin.  Hurting a fellow believer that Christ died to save is a sin.  Like I said, there’s more to this than simply asking if something is a sin or not.

You might not think that it’s fair.  After all, why should someone else’s conscience dictate what I can or can’t do?  Paul clears that up.

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
1 Corinthians 8:13

That’s life as part of a body.  The church is not an organization of individual people; we are an organism of interconnected members.  What I do affects you and what you do affects me.

Our goal should be to please Christ and bless others.

Question: How do my actions affect those around me?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Grey Areas

How do you handle issues that the Bible doesn’t speak about?  Usually, these activities create controversy in the church.  Many believers argue about things like gambling, tattoos, drinking alcohol, or buying lottery tickets.

In Paul’s day, the issue was about buying meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  It was the best meat in the marketplace.  But there were many who said that it was a sin to eat it.

In chapters 8 through 10 of his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle gives some guiding principles.

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
1 Corinthians 8:4-6

I find this to be an amazing passage of Scripture.  Here you have a former Pharisee looking at the issue and not immediately saying, “It’s a sin, don’t do it.”

Instead, Paul takes a step back and looks at it in logical terms.  What’s an idol?  It’s nothing at all.  A statue made of metal or wood.  It has no power or ability to do anything.

I think that our problem in dealing with these “hot button” activities is that we get emotionally invested in our conclusions.  We have a definite opinion about whether something is sin or not.  Usually, that’s the case even though the Bible is silent about it.

There are many activities that God clearly defines as sin.  There are lists in the Bible that tell us what God hates and instructs us not to participate.  There’s no question – these things are not God’s will for us.

The problem comes about in these grey areas.  Many of these activities existed since the times of the Patriarchs.  Yet the Lord chose not to speak about them.  If that’s the case, then why do we get so worked up about them?

We need to take a lesson from Paul.  Step back, get rid of the emotional attachments, and look at it from a purely Biblical perspective.  He starts at the bottom line.  Idols are nothing, God is everything.

In all areas of life, we have to look at our relationship with God as the overriding factor.  Everything that I do should revolve around Christ.  We seem to forget that sometimes.

With Paul, that’s the starting point.  We begin with a desire to please Christ.  It’s not about proving that I’m right.

So often, when it comes to these grey areas, it’s a matter of checking our motives.  In many cases, I’ve been approached by Christian teens asking if a certain activity was a sin.  They were trying to get me to override their parents.

“Pastor Nick says that it’s not a sin, so why won’t you let me do it?”

In those cases, I bring it around to the true issue.  It’s always a sin to disrespect your parents.  As long as you’re under their authority, you need to abide by their decisions, even if you think that they’re wrong.

Usually, it’s not as simple as asking if something is a sin.  There are many things in life that are not a sin, but they are also not God’s will for me to take part in.  I have to consider that as well.

Our walk with God is the top priority.  We should be trying, with all of our heart, to please the Lord in all that we do.  That’s the start of a pure walk with God.

Question: What are some special limits that God has placed upon your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2019 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Knowledge vs. Love

In my last post, I concluded the section of First Corinthians that dealt with romantic relationships.  Now the Apostle Paul is starting a new subject.

The Corinthian church had sent him a letter asking whether or not they could eat meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  You may think that this doesn’t apply to us, but I assure you, it does.  You’ll find out why as we go through chapter 8 of Paul’s letter.

In his society, the people of his day would look for any advantage they could get.  They would seek the blessing of an idol so they would bring an animal for sacrifice to the pagan temple.  Usually, they would bring their very best for this purpose.

The pagan priests who ran the temples would then take this meat from the sacrificed animals and sell it in the market to raise money for their support.  Because of its source, it was usually the best meat available.  So the question of whether a Christian could purchase this meat was a valid one.

How would this apply to us?  The problem of Paul’s day was that there was no Old Testament Scripture that directly talked about this issue.  So there were some believers who said it was a sin while others thought it was perfectly fine.

There are issues that we deal with in the church today that are like that.  Things that the Bible doesn’t mention, yet we have opinions about.  We ask are they sin or not.  I’m talking about things like dancing, drinking alcohol, going to a casino, getting a tattoo, or playing the lottery.

We need to hear Paul’s answer if we’re to walk correctly before God.  He starts by laying down some important principles.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  But the man who loves God is known by God.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3

It all starts with our knowledge and love.  In all cases love trumps knowledge.  That’s because with knowledge comes pride.  We think that we’re somehow better than others because we possess more knowledge than them.

That’s not the case.  Knowledge is like air.  You can blow up a balloon, but there’s no substance to it.  In our society, people will spend years of their lives accumulating knowledge in universities.  They think that somehow they’re more valuable because of it.  In reality, the more love you possess, the better a person you become.

This is especially true when you think that you know something completely.  Paul is trying to get across to us that you can never know everything about a particular subject – especially when it deals with your walk with God.

Paul says that the man who loves God is known by God.  That phrase literally says that the one who loves God is known under God.  That tells me that the more you love God, the more you submit yourself under His control.

The more you love the Lord, the more people begin to see your submission to Him.  Then, your love for others will begin to increase.  The more you love, the more valuable you are to God and His kingdom.  It has no relationship to how much knowledge you possess.

Make it your goal to live a life of love, then you’ll be able to use your knowledge for the benefit of others.

Question: How have you seen the effect of knowledge bringing pride with it?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in Fellowship, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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