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Monthly Archives: August 2019

Our Glorious Future

I’m continuing with Paul’s view of the resurrection in his first letter to the Corinthian church.  There were some in that church who looked at the resurrection as an optional belief.  In my last post, Paul showed that it was actually the foundation of our faith.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:20-22

This is the basis of our hope.  Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection.  Because He was raised to life, I know that I will also be raised up in Him.

As a part of the human race, we all inherited death from Adam.  But now, because of the obedience of Christ on the cross, we can inherit the life of Christ displayed when He rose from the dead.  Death couldn’t hold Him.

But, we have to wait for our turn.  That only happens when Christ returns to the earth at some point in the future.

But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:23-26

There’s an order to the resurrection.  Christ was the first to experience it.  He opened up the way for all of us.

When He returns, it will be our Resurrection Day.  All who belong to Christ will rise to meet Him in the air.  First, those who have died as believers will rise from the dead.  Then, those who are still alive at His coming will simply be transformed into their new resurrected bodies without going through the death process.

That’s not the end of the story.  When Christ returns, He’ll set everything straight.  Right now, the earth is under the temporary government of the enemy.  The devil and his kingdom have dominion, authority and power over mankind.  (Of course, in Christ we have the power to overrule that authority!)

When Jesus returns, He’ll end Satan’s reign of terror.  All of the authority structures of earth will be made right once again.  It will be what God had intended when He first created Adam.

However, even now Christ is reigning.  From the day the Lord rose from the dead He has become the Ruler of the earth.  He just didn’t exercise that authority yet.

The battle for planet earth is over.  Christ is already victorious.  In Him, we’re on the winning side.  That’s why we have nothing to fear.

Our job now is to free the captives from under the tyranny of the devil’s kingdom.  We’re a part of the victorious invading army.  Don’t let the enemy intimidate you.  He can only stop you if you believe his lies.

It’s time for God’s people to live like we own the place.  We do, in Christ.  It’s time for us to stop being distracted by the world’s activities, and set our hands to the task of preparing for the Lord’s return.

Live like it’s forever…because in Christ it is!

Question: How do you live in the now, with eternity in view?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Too Far for the Sake of Relevance

I’m continuing to look at First Corinthians, chapter 15.  Paul is talking about the concept of resurrection.  He started by reminding them of his Gospel message.  This is, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he then appeared to many credible witnesses.

Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:11

This is the foundation of faith that the Corinthian church was established upon.  Unfortunately, they were now trying to become more acceptable to the society around them.  Belief in someone rising from the dead was a little far out.

Greek society prided themselves on their intellect and knowledge.  It’s a lot like where I live, in the Boston area, where there’s a college or university everywhere you look.

Because they wanted to be “relevant”, they downplayed the resurrection.  Sometimes even telling people they could become a Christian without believing in it.  They were probably well-meaning and though that once they came in the door, someday they’d “see the light.”

What does Paul think about this?

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14

Paul is very clear.  There’s no salvation without the resurrection.  If God isn’t powerful enough to raise the dead, then what was the purpose of the cross?  What Christ did on the cross is meaningless without the resurrection.

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.  But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:15-17

Changing the truth of God’s Word in order to make it more palatable to society only removes the very heart of the message.  It’s no longer the Gospel.

Many in our generation need to understand this truth.  The Scripture says what it says.  It will offend some people.  We can’t change that.

This being said, we can change the way we handle it.  We can be more loving and less judgmental.  When Jesus ministered, He found a way to show God’s love without compromising truth.

We need to take stock of our message.  Does it line up with Scripture?  Once you leave the clear path of truth, the doctrines of faith begin to fall like dominoes.

Paul shows these Christians the end result of a belief in no resurrection.

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1 Corinthians 15:18-19

The bottom line is to never compromise the truth of the Word to win people to Christ.  You can change the method, but not the message.

Question: What was the message that you believed when you were saved?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2019 in Faith, Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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I Am what I Am

When you take inventory of your life, how do you see yourself?  Do you feel like you have nothing to offer God?  Do you feel unworthy of His calling?

The Apostle Paul had to deal with these feelings because of his past.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10

If Paul wasn’t far enough along to walk in this power, then there’s no chance for us.  Yet the important part of this issue is all summed up in the words but by the grace of God.

There are many in Scripture who’ve felt like this.  Another example is the Centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant.  He sent messengers to the Lord asking His help.

So Jesus went with them.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Luke 7:6-7

Paul used the Greek word, hikanos when he said he didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle.  When the centurion said he was not worthy, he used that same Greek word.  It literally means not far enough along.

There are many Christians who believe that they haven’t walked with the Lord long enough to see the manifestation of the power of God in their lives.  There’s a big fallacy with this kind of thinking.  The very notion that they’re not far enough along implies that there will be a time when they’re mature enough to merit this power.

I’m here to tell you that will never happen on this side of eternity.  In actuality, the centurion had it right.  “…but just say the word.”

Paul understood this concept.  He evangelized most of the Roman Empire.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote most of the New Testament.

The simple truth is that you’ll never be good enough.  It’s only by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that we may stand in His power and authority.

I’ll never be good enough or far enough along to deserve the title of son.  I’ll never be worthy of His power based upon my own merits.  But by the grace of God, I am what I am.

It’s this thinking that drives me to work for the Lord.  It’s the foundation for serving Him in the correct way.  When I start to think that I can make myself more worthy I miss the whole concept of His grace.

Many times this is what keeps us from experiencing the power of God in the church today.  If I think like a child – that if I just work harder to be worthy, then I’ve lost it at the start.  If I let sin go unrepentant and refuse intimacy with God then I short circuit the power.

It’s time for us to understand that it’s not my ability to be good that gets me anything.  It’s God’s grace working in me that allows me to manifest the power of God.

Question: What’s the role of good works in the life of the believer?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Gospel in a Nutshell

As we go through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul now begins speaking about a new subject.  It deals with the truth of the resurrection of Christ.

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Paul gives us a wonderful view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s not a matter of simply repeating a prayer and all of our troubles vanishing.  There’s more to it than that.

We have to understand that the Gospel Paul is talking about is more than just “believe in Jesus and you’ll be on your way to heaven.”  The sinner’s prayer is definitely our entrance into God’s salvation.  But the Gospel of Christ doesn’t end there.

According to Paul, these people heard what he preached, and then they responded.  Not only did they receive it, but they took their stand on it – they began to establish their lives on this Good News.

The key phrase in all of this is, by this Gospel you are saved.  Paul is talking to a group of established Christians.  This tells me that salvation is an ongoing process in their lives.

That’s because the Greek word for save is full of meaning.  It doesn’t just mean that we’re freed from our sin.  Scripturally, saved means to be delivered and safe from any harm or loss.  It includes healing, protection, provision, and a whole host of other things as well.

Then again, that’s why there’s an “if” in this passage.  The initial believing and confessing of Christ place us firmly into God’s kingdom.  But there’s more that the Lord wants for us.

Our salvation is the ongoing process of the grace of God renewing every aspect of our lives.  In order for this to happen, I have to hold firmly to the Word.  That means that I need to hold fast to it, memorize it, and retain it.

In short, I need to build myself up in the Word of God.  Otherwise, my faith will be too weak to allow God’s work to be manifest in my life.

I think that part of our problem in the modern church is our stubborn refusal to allow God to continue His work of change in our lives.  We’re happy that our sins were forgiven.  We look forward with joy to our home in Heaven.  But right now there are so many things that we want to do and experience in the world.  The thought of God disrupting those plans for His purpose doesn’t sit well with us.

We need to see change as the natural outgrowth of our walk with God.  His ongoing plan of salvation in us should never stagnate.  There’s always something new to look forward to.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ in a nutshell.  The Lord came to earth, died for us, was buried, and three days later He rose from the dead.  The resurrection was confirmed by hundreds of qualified witnesses.

Because of what Christ has done, our lives can be changed by the power of God.  Allow the Holy Spirit to continue the work.  Hold firmly to the Word of God that you’re receiving.

Question: How have you changed since bowing your knees to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Arrogance – The Ministry Killer

How open are you to the constructive criticism of those who are further along than you?  It’s amazing how defensive we get when we find out what we’re doing isn’t the best.  Scripture shows that this has always been a part of human nature.

Did the word of God originate with you?  Or are you the only people it has reached?  If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.  If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
1 Corinthians 14:36-38

Paul is concluding his exhortation concerning the gathering of the saints.  He has explained that the worship service is not a vehicle to show off how spiritual you are.  Instead, it should be a place of ministry and blessing for all who attend.

Having founded this church, Paul knew many of the personalities involved.  He also knew that some of them would resist his guidelines.  Because of this, he made some very strong remarks to get their attention.

God’s Word didn’t start with them.  As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul was the first person to bring it to them.  He established their church.  Furthermore, they are one of many churches that were started by Paul’s ministry.

He then mentions two groups of people – those who think that they’re a prophet or highly spiritual.  He lets them know that if they really are sensitive to things of God, they’ll acknowledge that his letter is a Word from God.

That’s interesting.  We can look back on these events.  We don’t give it a second thought.  Of course, First Corinthians is the Word of God; it’s a part of Scripture.

But to them, it was something new.  Many of them looked at it as if it were simply another letter from Paul – the traveling evangelist.

They should have known by his lifestyle and the fruit of his ministry that what he said held a lot of weight.  He had pressed into the Holy Spirit more than any of them.  So they should have received this command accordingly.

I watch a reality show where a famous chef, making millions of dollars with his Michelin Star restaurants, tries to help struggling restaurant owners.  I’m blown away by some of their reactions.

Here’s someone who knows the restaurant business.  He knows what it takes to be successful.  Yet the owners resist his advice, telling him that he doesn’t understand their business.

I’ve seen this happen over and over in the ministry.  Young Christians, or even ministers, hear the advice of those who have already been through many spiritual battles.  Yet they resist the advice that could save their ministry, marriage, or church.

I’ve heard this so many times.  “You don’t know what I’m facing.”  “I understand what you’re saying, but I know what I’m doing.”

The unfortunate results are that they eventually crash and burn.  Their arrogance insulated them from the truth that could have protected them.  Take stock of the advice you’ve received.  Don’t put yourself in this dangerous situation.

Paul concludes with this summary.

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
1 Corinthians 14:39-40

We should take this to heart.  Don’t resist the gifts of the Spirit.  Yet make sure that they’re only used to build up the body of Christ.

Question: What advice have you received that saved you from future problems?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Silent Women?

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  As he talks about prophecy and tongues in worship, he makes a statement that upsets and confuses a lot of people.

Women should remain silent in the churches.  They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.  If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35

We have to realize that the context of this passage is so that the greatest number of people get to hear, understand, and receive the Word of God.  It’s NOT a teaching about the role of women in the church.  It’s unfortunate that some people use this as a proof text to erect a spiritual glass ceiling in the ministry.

First of all, we need to understand what they meant by the church.  A church wasn’t a particular building where they had their meetings.  In this context, Paul is not even referring to the entire community of believers on earth.  (If that were the case, then a woman could never speak because they would always be in the church.)

In this chapter, the church is the gathering of believers in a worship service.  This method of worship was based upon the structure of the Jewish synagogue meetings.

This brings me to the next point – the freedom of women under the New Covenant.  Under the Old Covenant, women were not allowed to participate in synagogue worship.  Even today, in many synagogues there’s a women’s gallery that is separated from the main hall by a glass window.

In that gallery, women can do whatever they want.  They can knit, check their email, chat with the other women, etc.

Now, in Christ, women were brought into the main body of worshippers during the church service.  But, because they had never been a part of this before, they were unfamiliar with the protocol of the meeting.

In the synagogue, only the main speaker was allowed to say anything.  It was improper to interrupt what they were saying.  Even when Jesus and Paul spoke before synagogues, the gathering waited until they were finished before trying to drag them out and stone them!

Women, who were unused to this format, would interrupt by turning to their husband and saying, “What did he mean by that.  I don’t understand what he said.”  That was the disgraceful thing that was happening.

The passage explains that this exhortation is to be followed, as the law says.  There is nothing in the Old Testament about women being silent.  So the law Paul is referring to must be the social law.

Among the Greeks, Romans, and Jews, women were at the bottom of the social ladder.  At best, they were treated as pets; at worst, like slaves or personal property.  Very few women were treated as equals by men.

Now, in Christ, women are co-heirs of the blessings of God (1 Peter 3:7).  Women could prophesy (Acts 21:9).  After His resurrection, Jesus assigned a woman to go and direct a group of men to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:10).  Women are in no way second class citizens of God’s kingdom…at least in the eyes of the Lord.

The reason for the above verse was so that the people of that culture would be more open to the Gospel of Christ.  If they came to a meeting and saw the women breaking social protocol (interrupting the meeting), they would leave thinking that the church had no relevance.

In our society, women and men are on equal terms with God.  They can go as far in ministry as the Holy Spirit leads them.

Question: Why do some ministries have a “glass ceiling” mentality for women?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Supernatural Church

I’m continuing to talk about Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church concerning the public use of prayer in the spirit (tongues) and prophecy.  The apostle now gets into some technical guidelines for their worship service.

What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:26

This verse gives us some insight into the early church.  It seems that they were a lot like us.  There was music, preaching, and prayer.

The difference is that they looked for the supernatural move of the Holy Spirit in their services.  They wanted to hear a revelation from God either through prophecy or tongues and interpretation.

I don’t know why there are people today who feel that the supernatural has no place in a church service.  Paul says that all of these need to be done for the strengthening of the church.  Does the church not need strengthening anymore?  Of course, it does!

But on the other hand, Paul doesn’t want there to be so many unexplainable things happening that outsiders are scared off.  There needs to be spiritual decorum.

So, Paul continues with his advice.  He starts with the gift of tongues and interpretation.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
1 Corinthians 14:27-28

Please remember, this verse is referring to when there’s one main person praying in tongues.  Everyone else is focused on them.  In that case, there must be someone with the gift of interpretation.  If there’s no one to interpret, then no one should be leading out in their prayer language.

But there’s more to this passage.  It also tells me that I can pray in the spirit silently – within myself.  That’s a good thing to know.  There are times that I need to build myself up in the spirit when it’s not appropriate to pray out loud.  These could be times when I’m at school or at work.

Paul also talks about prophecy.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  As in all the congregations of the saints…
1 Corinthians 14:29-33

We need the revelation of God in our church gathering.  But the key is that it’s for our edification.  Therefore, the Lord wants everything done in a decent and orderly way.

There is never a time when anyone will be “out of control.”  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He never takes you over and makes you do things against your will.  You always have the choice to flow with Spirit or ignore Him.

I believe that God wants to show up in our worship services.  Our generation needs to be more open and receptive to the move of the Spirit.

That requires God’s people to spend more quality time in His presence.  The more time we spend with the Lord in private, the more prepared we are for His public appearance.

Question: What experiences, good or bad, have you had with the spiritual gifts in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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