RSS

Category Archives: Fellowship

Navigating the Grey Areas

We’re approaching the conclusion of Paul’s teaching on the grey areas of sin.  These are activities that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.

The apostle now gives some advice on how to handle these things.  The specific issue he’s dealing with is the eating of food that had been previously brought as a sacrifice to a pagan temple.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1 Corinthians 10:25-26

God has placed His Holy Spirit within each of us as believers.  If the Bible is silent about it, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t activate our conscience, then don’t over-think it.  If it troubles your conscience, then keep away from it.

That’s for you as an individual.  There’s more advice once others are involved.

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
1 Corinthians 10:27

If an unbeliever invites you to an activity, and your conscience isn’t troubled, then you’re free to go.  The fact is that we need to be cultivating healthy relationships with the unchurched.  How else will they be affected by the Gospel of Christ?

That was easy, but what about a mixed crowd of both believers and unbelievers?

But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.  For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
1 Corinthians 10:28-30

This is where it begins to get complicated.  I now have to take my mind off myself and think of the good of others.  I can’t just run rough-shod over another person’s conscience and proclaim, “I’m free in Christ to do what I want.”

We have to be sensitive to the maturity level of those around us.  We don’t want to be the cause of an offense that hinders their walk with God.

“Well, they just need to grow up!”

Try telling that to a three-year-old.  Growth takes time and nurturing.  Take your eyes off yourself, and be a blessing rather than a hindrance.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33a

The bottom line is that it’s not about me, but God receiving the glory from my life.  I should be able to live with a little inconvenience in order for God’s kingdom to advance.  Our goal should be that the name of Christ is exalted.

Question: Why is sensitivity to the needs of others so important to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

All About Me

As we continue our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, he’s speaking about how idolatry relates to the grey areas of sin.  This is an important issue.  The apostle now lays down the principle of participation.

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17

The first part of participation that we need to understand is our fellowship with Christ. The words translated participation in this verse, are the same that are translated fellowship in other places in Scripture.  We have a fellowship in the body and blood of the Lord.

In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we’re showing a visible representation of our fellowship.  It’s because of our connection to Christ that we’re connected with each other.  We all have a share in His body and in His blood.

It’s this concept of participation that should guide some of our actions.  There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter what I do outside of the church.  What I do in my private time is my own business.  But is it?

Remember, it’s all about participation.  Am I participating with the world in things I shouldn’t be involved in?  That’s the issue Paul’s dealing with here.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21

Those are strong words.  In context, he’s talking about idolatry in a pagan temple.  But this could apply to us as well.  There are many things in society that could be seen as modern idolatry.  Gaming, the internet, the entertainment industry, sporting events, and a whole host of other things can steal our devotion.

Actually, anything that we participate in that causes us to reject time with Christ is idolatry.  No, I don’t think we should be worshipping 24/7.  But only serving God two hours a week on Sunday morning is a symptom of spiritual sickness.

Paul tells us the bottom line.

Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:22-24

Even things that are permissible, with no evil aspects, can be detrimental to your Christian walk.  The fact is, being a Christian is not all about me.  I’m a part of something bigger than myself.  The fellowship I share is on a spiritual level.  The things I do in the natural can have a spiritual effect.

This is key to understanding what’s right or wrong for me.  What I do as an individual affects the whole.   That’s life in a body.  When I stub my toe, my whole body is affected.   This is a lesson the current generation of believers needs to learn.

Question: How does a person’s private life affect the whole church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Keeping Your Distance

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, is dealing with the matter of how carnal Christians are to be treated.  In many cases, we find ourselves off the track of God’s will in our generation.  There are times we either totally ignore sin in the church, or we kick people out of our fellowship.

As we’ve seen through these last few posts, Paul was not endorsing either of these options.  Instead, he tells mature believers to take authority over the situation in the spirit.

Now Paul shows us the way a carnal believer should be treated on a personal level.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Once someone has been identified as a carnal believer who has no desire for repentance, the work of restoration begins.  There must be intercession in the spirit for this person.  But that alone is not enough.

It’s the love shown to them that will draw them closer to God.  That’s why an understanding of this passage is so vital to church leadership.

The word, associate, in the passage literally means an intimate friendship.  It speaks of a mixing together of two lives.  It’s not referring to a casual acquaintance.

Paul is not telling us to cut all ties with this person.  Instead, we’re to love them back to the cross.  We can treat them in a friendly way without being best friends with them.  The goal is for them to desire a closer walk with God without their lifestyle or attitudes rubbing off on us.

The subject of eating together also needs to be addressed.  In our fast-paced society, meeting someone to discuss business over lunch has no intimate associations at all.  When Paul wrote this, eating together was a long process that usually meant a close, intimate friendship.

The key is that we’re not to develop an intimate friendship with carnal believers.  This goes right along with what Christ taught concerning those in unrepentant sin.  Look at what Christ says to do after repeatedly trying to restore this person.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:17

I’ve seen people who use this verse to kick members out of their church.  Let’s understand what Jesus is saying here.

I think that I can sum it up in two simple questions.  How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  Did He shun and exclude them or did He spend time with them in order to bring restoration?  I think the answers are obvious.

The Pharisees judged people for their sins and had them expelled from the synagogue.  Jesus loved people and spent time with them to bring them nearer to God.  Would you rather your life imitate Christ or a Pharisee?

It’s time that the church started to deal with sin in a scriptural, Christ-like way.  Our goal should be healing and restoration for the body of Christ.

Question: How have you seen scriptural restoration exemplified?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Boasting

We’re continuing our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s dealing with the factions that are dividing their fellowship.  He now asks some questions that are particularly important.

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7

The first question he asks could be asked in our generation.  It literally says, who or what is it that makes you different and causes you to separate or withdraw from everyone else?  This is a question that should be asked of most denominational leaders.

Think about the thousands of Christian denominations around the world.  What is it that makes them so different from each other that they have to remain separate?

I like the study of church history.  I read stories of the great men and women of faith who have done mighty things for the Lord.  Many times, a following arose around their teachings.  Eventually, it formed a new group or denomination.

I wonder sometimes, what these ministers of the Gospel think about the direction those who followed them took.  Would they even recognize the organization that evolved into what we see on today’s church landscape?

“My denomination is better than yours.  We’re closer to God.”

Are you?  Is it the organization that brings you closer to God?  Or is it about a relationship?  Paul’s next questions bring that to light.  What do you have that you didn’t receive?  And if you received it, why do you boast as if it was you that did it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

We have received an absolutely, over-the-top salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was something that we could have never accomplished on our own.  That’s the bottom line of Christianity.

Human beings are the ones who have added the denominational distinctives.  These are the things that divide and separate us.  Most of these things are spiritual insights that a minister received and taught.  Then, an organization was built around it.

Actually, if you read the history of denominations, you’ll find that many groups separated over some of the most foolish things.  Many of these have nothing to do with God but are simply preferences in the style of worship or who they’re comfortable worshipping with.

Having said that, I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with being a part of an organization.  My church is a member of a denomination.  What I am saying is that it’s not the organization that brings you closer to God.

Your personal relationship with Christ is the most important thing.  This needs to be cultivated through your walk with the Holy Spirit.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Whatever your particular brand of Christianity is, let your walk with God be the most important part.

Question: What do we have in common as believers in Jesus Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Paul and Denominations

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s rebuking them for using church politics instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:4

This is the sign that they’re acting just like the world.  In our self-serving society, we find the person who best represents our opinion.  Then we back them with our agreement and resources.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work in the body of Christ.  Paul and Apollos may have different types of ministry, but both are preaching the Word of God.

“I follow Paul.”  “I follow Apollos.”

To me, that sounds like the start of denominations.  It’s something that Paul didn’t want to happen in the church.  Our goal should be that everyone follows the example of Christ.

As a matter of fact, Jesus had to deal with this issue when teaching His disciples.  I posted about it at the beginning of last year, but it bears repeating.

At one point He was teaching them about welcoming people into the kingdom.  That brought up a question.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

The disciples remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  From reading the Gospels, we know that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

The Lord is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter who you follow – Luther, Wesley, the Pope, or any other Christian leader.  The goal is that our ultimate standard is Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , ,