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Monthly Archives: January 2020

Attacking the Flesh in Water Baptism

I’m posting about our spiritual battle against the flesh – our old man.  In my last article, I talked about defending your mind against the attacks of the sin nature.  Now we want to go on the offensive.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

We can’t live our whole life playing defense against sin.  According to Paul, the first thing we should be taught is how to put off the old self. Take the war to him.  We need to start seeing some forward momentum.

Paul wrote a lot about this subject. It’s from his writings that we can learn how to overcome the flesh. It’s in Romans, chapter 6, that he begins dealing with the subject of sin. He tells us that it’s the grace of God that covers our sins.

Paul goes on to ask a question that may sound a little foolish, but it’s one we deal with all the time. Should we sin more in order to get more grace? Obviously not. But he uses the following argument.

By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Romans 6:2-3

Here is a truth – in Christ we’ve died to sin. In the waters of baptism, we’ve identified ourselves with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. So, we shouldn’t want to live according to our old life. But by the very question he asks, he implies that it’s possible to live in sin even though we died to it. How can we get the victory over this sin?

It all starts with our water baptism. This is where we identify with Christ. This is where we begin the process of removing the old man. Peter agrees with Paul’s assessment.

…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…
1 Peter 3:21

The word pledge in the above verse means asking, desire, or demand. When we allow ourselves to be baptized in water, we are placing a demand on God for a good conscience. Because we desire to live rightly before Him, we take this step. It’s how we start down the road to remove the old sin nature.

By faith, we see our old self dead and buried under that waters of baptism.  That’s got to be our attitude.  When we rise out of the water, by faith we assume that our old flesh stays under.

This is the first battle in a major campaign against the flesh.  It’s also a major victory.  By your act of obedience, you’ve placed a demand on God, and He completed the work.

Romans chapter 6 continues this thought. The first 10 verses describe our identification with Christ through water baptism. Then, in verse 11, Paul brings out the next step in the process.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:11

The words, in the same way, let us know that this is a new truth. You were baptized, and by faith identified with the death of Christ. In the same way that you trusted God for this, now go on to the next step of faith. I’ll talk about that step in my next post.

Questions: Were you baptized in water?  How was your faith released during your water baptism?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2020 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Spiritual Warfare

 

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The Battlefield of the Mind

In my last post, I started talking about the war that we wage against our own flesh – our sin nature.  We saw that the flesh wages war against our soul.

Your soul is your mind.  It’s who you are.  It’s your soul that decides your course of action.  So, if your flesh can gain victory over it, you’ll carry out the desires of that nature.

Scripture clearly teaches that this is where the first battle is fought.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:11

Before we ever commit a sin, we begin thinking about it.  That’s where we start losing ground.  It all rests upon our thought-life.

I know from experience that it’s nearly impossible to simply stop thinking about something.  Actually, the more you try to “not think about it”, the more you do.

Instead, I’ve found it more effective to start thinking about something different.  The Apostle Paul agrees.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Romans 8:5

Where you set your mind determines the direction that you head toward.  The word, set, in this verse means to be mentally disposed toward or to interest yourself in.

The direction of your life is determined by the direction of your thoughts.  While you probably won’t be able to stop thinking about something, you can replace it with other thoughts.  You can start thinking in a new direction.

There are so many things to think about.  We need to start disciplining our thought-life.  Stop obsessing over tonight’s basketball game.  Instead, think about what God’s done for you, a Scripture you’ve memorized, or what you expect the Lord to bring about in your life.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

The Bible is very positive.  It usually doesn’t tell you to stop doing something without giving you something to replace it with.  In this case, it’s applied to our thoughts.

There are enough good things to think about without opening our minds to the desires of our sin nature.  However, this requires discipline.  And disciplining ourselves is not usually something we enjoy doing.

The battle against the flesh starts in our minds.  This is the first area of conflict because it’s where the flesh strikes first.  If my old man can get my mind on his side, then that sets the course of my life.

We need to take control of our thought-life.  It may be difficult at first, but it is doable.

From there we can go on to the offensive strikes against the flesh.  I’ll be posting about them as we continue this series.

Question: What do you see as a difficulty in controlling your thought life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spiritual Battle #1 – The Flesh

The spiritual war that we find ourselves in has many fronts.  Over the next few posts, I want to talk about them.  The first, and probably the fiercest, is the battle against our own flesh.

The truth is that our flesh puts a ceiling on what we can do for God.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to do God’s will.  Your flesh is your greatest hindrance.

Too many Christians want to take on the devil before they even have a victory on their home turf.  I believe that the enemy gets blamed for some things that we bring on ourselves.  This is the first struggle that we need to face.

Look at how the Apostle Peter describes it.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11

This is actually a verse that’s rich in description.  We miss it in the English translation.  It literally reads, hold yourself away from the longings of the flesh which is on a military campaign against your soul.

This verse says a lot.  The first thing I see is that my flesh has a will, with desires and longings.  As a matter of fact all the parts of my being – body, soul, and spirit – have a will of their own.

“But I’m not a bad person.  I don’t have any evil intentions.”

Please understand that evil is not the big problem.  That’s not all there is to this struggle.

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:17

Your spirit wants to serve and please God.  It wants the Lord’s best for you.  Your spirit desires to see you do great things in the name of Christ.

Your flesh wants just the opposite.  It doesn’t necessarily want you to do evil.  It only wants you to keep from fulfilling God’s plan for your life.  Distraction is one of its chief weapons.

Another thing I learn from Peter’s letter is that my flesh is actually on a military campaign.  Why exactly do you go to war?  Simply put, to win a victory; to dominate and crush your enemy.  That’s the goal of our flesh in regard to our spirit.

But even more than that, a military campaign speaks of something bigger than just a simple “hit and run” exchange.  My flesh is in it for the long haul.  I have to realize that this war is not going away until I receive my resurrected body at the return of Christ.

Too often we get complacent because we see a momentary victory over the flesh.  We think we have everything under control so we get a little lazy.  We stop doing the things that brought us to this level.  We quickly find out that the flesh wasn’t gone, just waiting for a better opportunity to rise up.

How do we overcome in this struggle?  First, I can tell you from experience what doesn’t work.  I’ve tried will-power, New Year’s resolutions, guilt, and self-discipline to tame the flesh.  These are all wasted efforts.

If we’re going to truly walk in victory over our sinful, human nature, then we have to understand the strategy.  Scripture is clear about how this is accomplished.  If we’re going to walk in freedom, then we have to do it God’s way.

Beginning in my next post, I’ll outline the scriptural way to attack and overcome the flesh.  But don’t expect a one-time, do it and forget it solution.  This battle must be fought with consistency for your whole life.

Question: What methods have you tried to overcome the desires of your flesh?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spiritual Battles – The Price of Victory

In my last post, I talked about what it means to bring our petitions to God in prayer. It’s all about being moved in our spirits by the same passion that stirs the Lord.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

We must be passionate as we live in this spiritual battle zone. We need to be passionate about our duty. This is what we’re called – under orders – to carry out.

In Scripture, we’re told what’s important to our Commander. God’s people should be petitioning for workers in the field, healing, deliverance, protection, baptism in the spirit, and for God’s will to be accomplished.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.
2 Timothy 2:3-4

It’s clear from Scripture that there are two different mentalities. You could think like a soldier or as a civilian. Which are you?

In my last post, I used the illustration of a company of soldiers who were ordered to take a hill. They’re making a passionate call for reinforcements, air support, and medical evacuation of the wounded so that they could fulfill their orders.

At the same time, back home, there are people safe in their houses watching TV. They don’t know or care that this company of soldiers is pinned down. They don’t know or care about the objective to take that hill. They don’t know or care if these soldiers succeed or die trying.

Maybe the next day they’ll hear a news report about soldiers who were killed in the line of duty and say, “That’s too bad.”

The key mentality of battle is that each soldier knows the importance of the objective. They know just how precious every foot of ground is. They also know what the cost of advancement is.

There are people in the body of Christ right now, who go to church on Sunday. They sing, clap, and hear a message that uplifts them. Then they go off happily to their homes. Or maybe they go off to work or play. They don’t know or care that there’s a lost soul about to enter eternity that needs to hear the message of the cross NOW.

“God, send reinforcements.”

They don’t care that the enemy has trapped someone in a prison of drug addiction.

“God, send air support. Break the stronghold so we can set them free.”

That’s what this word, petition means. Knowing the objective and passionately begging for the support from on high. Not because we need to beg, but because we know the cost of failure. We know how precious a soul is to the Lord.

We know the price of victory. We have a warrior’s mentality.

Question: How do you fulfill the call to bring petitions to the Lord on behalf of others?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Spiritual Battle – Passionate Petitions

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that we face in our generation. In my last article, I talked about the need to be diligent and press in past our comfort zone.

The New Testament speaks a lot about prayer. That’s what we really need to be strong toward. That’s what the enemy would like to stop. That’s where our victory comes from.

In talking about Moses, the writer of Hebrews said…

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
Hebrews 11:27

This is an important verse for us to understand in our times. Moses SAW Him who is INVISIBLE. It sounds like an oxymoron. Of course, many things in the spirit don’t make sense in the natural.

The fact of the matter is that Moses pressed in. It wasn’t easy to get the children of Israel out of Egypt. He kept running into unseen hurdles along the way.

In Moses’ original encounter with God, he was basically told to “Just do this. Go to Egypt and bring My people out.” It sounded simple enough at the time.

In order to accomplish his calling, Moses had to keep going back to the presence of the Lord. He stayed strong because, through prayer, he saw the end.

That brings us back to our original verse in Ephesians.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

The phrase, keep on praying literally means through all diligence and petition in the Greek language. I had a problem with this – reconciling petition and life in the battle zone. I understood the need to be alert and diligent, but how did petitioning fit into all this.

It turns out that my lack of understanding had to do with being raised in the church. From what I learned, a petition was a list of needs presented to God.

“O God – bless my work, heal Joe, provide the money for this bill, etc.”

That’s what I thought it meant to bring my petitions before God. Because of that, I couldn’t understand it as a part of warfare.

The Greek word in that verse is deesis. It means begging. Literally, it’s what a beggar would do. Over time the church had turned it into a “holy” word. Actually, the root of this word is want, lack, need, desire, ask, or beg.

I began to pray and seek God’s wisdom as to what this means for us. I found that this word came from a root even further back. The root meant to bind, either by chains or duty. It spoke of someone who was duty-bound.

That’s when it clicked. When a military person receives orders, they are bound by their duty to perform it or die trying.

Here is a company of men who are told to take that hill. They’re pinned down by the enemy fire. But they have a duty to perform. What do they do?

Do they send off a list of things they need? NO! They get on their radio with a passionate call for air support. Their communication is specific, passionate, and urgent. As they make this call, they’re ready to move immediately when it arrives.

Now I know the Scriptural truth. A petition is more about our passion than the list of wants. This requires us to have the same heart as our Commander and Chief. It requires us to press in by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What are you passionate about in the Kingdom of God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Spiritual Battle – Pressing In

Do you know where you are in the history of the church?  This question isn’t about a place, but time.

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that’s going on around us.  It’s vital that we know the times we live in.

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11

We need to know where we are on God’s timetable. I don’t like saying it, but the truth is that past generations of believers could “sleep” through their Christian walk. Not us. We live in dangerous times.

The Apostle Paul continues talking about this.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:12-14

In this generation, we need to lay aside the things that are a part of the darkness. In their place, we must put on the armor of God.

We must live carefully and clothe ourselves with Christ. And as I focused on in my last post, we need to watch and pray. That’s how we keep alert spiritually.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

This verse literally says that we must keep watch with all persistency. That word persistency means to be strong toward, to be diligent. We must be diligent in the battle zone.

When we say that we need to be strong toward something, it speaks about a goal, a direction. We sometimes use the term “press in.”

In battle, there are places that are hard to get to. There are houses you can’t enter until you bind the strong man. It isn’t easy to press into the miraculous. If it was – everyone, every church would have it.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:42-43

Was it any easier back then, in the early church? Did those believers have all the time in the world to do all these things? I don’t think they were any different from us. It was as hard for them as it is for this generation.

If we want God’s best, it takes diligence. It will cause us to leave our comfort zone. But the spiritual rewards will be worth it.

Question: What do you find to be the most difficult about pressing into God’s presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Thinking Like a Soldier

Whether you know it or not, the world is a spiritual battle zone right now. Unless you have the right mentality, you could become a casualty of this war. That’s why it’s so important to know how the Bible says for us to live.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:17-18

As I’ve posted in the past, this verse is talking about the authority and power of God. The Lord wants to work this through us.

My question is; if we know we’re in the battle zone, then how should we live? The last sentence of this passage literally reads attend to this with all persistence and petition. The fact of the matter is that there’s a battle zone mentality.

The first thing we’re told is that it requires us to be alert. The Greek word there means to be sleepless. We must be awake and alert in the battle zone.

We’re told in this same chapter of Ephesians that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood. They don’t take a day off. Does that mean we don’t need to rest or take a vacation? No, but we have to stay spiritually vigilant no matter what’s happening in our lives.

“There’s not much going on in my life right now. I don’t need to pray today.”

That kind of thinking can destroy you in this battle. Look at how Jesus put it to His disciples.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Matthew 26:41

Watching – staying spiritually alert – and prayer goes together. According to Jesus, it’s so that you will not enter into a test, a time of proving.

In the battle zone, there are traps and ambushes. You must be alert. Like someone who’s walking in the middle of a minefield. At that point, you’re in the test.

Did you know that many of the tests and temptations of life can be avoided? I wonder sometimes how many of these battles are of our own making. Or maybe we’ve just walked blindly into them.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

This is how the enemy works. In the natural, it’s the oldest, weakest lion that does the roaring. The strong, young lions wait on the other side of the prey. When the prey hears the roar and runs away from it, they run right to the lions waiting for their dinner to arrive.

It’s the same with our spiritual enemy. He’s trying to get you to head into a trap. We have to keep spiritually alert at all times. That only happens as we watch and pray. It will help us to avoid many of the problems that are before us.

Stay alert!

Question: Can you think of a time that you were tested or tempted because you weren’t spiritually alert?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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