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Category Archives: Legalism

God’s Mercy – The Bottom Line

In our walk through Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, we now come to his closing remark.  It’s the summation of his entire teaching.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Galatians 6:14-18

When you walk in legalism, trying to please God by your good works, it’s the basis for boasting.  After all, I can always find someone that I’m better than, at least in my own mind.

The true walk in the spirit requires us to rely on the Lord.  That means I can only boast about what He’s done in my life.

According to the Apostle, this walk will supply you with peace and mercy.  I’ve already talked about peace in a previous post, so today I’ll deal with mercy.  It’s important for believers to understand this concept.

If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture.  Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters.

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:11

One thing that’s abundantly clear from Scripture, the walk of mercy will require perseverance.  Of all the people for James to use for an example, did he have to pick Job?  The simple truth is that Job drove his friends crazy.  The big question on everybody’s mind is; why was Job at a standstill?  According to his friends, it was because he must have been doing something wrong.

That kind of thinking was absolutely incorrect.  Job was being trained for a higher walk in God.  As I’ve said before, promises are for spiritual children.  In order to get them to obey, you must say things like, “Clean your room and you can have ice cream.”  Adults don’t live like this.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

Many times I’ve preached from this verse telling my congregation the importance of laying their lives down as living sacrifices.  But until I understood the concepts of Biblical mercy, it was always in a legalistic vein.  Notice the motivation that should propel us to offer our lives before God.

Is it in view of God’s law?  Maybe it’s in view of the promises?  NO!!!  It’s as we keep the Lord’s mercy in our sight that we have the drive necessary to lay our lives down on His altar.

That’s how powerful the walk of mercy can be.  In order to obtain it, it’s worth the greatest cost we can imagine.  The total surrender of our lives to God’s plan.

God simply asks you to make the offer, wholeheartedly.  Why do we make this life-altering decision?  It’s because we know that this is the Lord’s desire.

No strings attached; no hidden agendas.  “Lord I want to know You because only You are worthy of the investment of my life.”  We only obtain mercy through becoming a willing sacrifice.

If you desire to walk this walk, you must know that mercy makes this the only rule. “Boast only in the cross.” Do you want power? Do you want to live above the law and the promises? Then you must learn to walk the way of mercy.

You must pursue God simply to know Him. You must offer all you are to God, simply because He desires it. Then, when you see the manifestation of His power in your life, boast only in the cross. This is the secret to how Jesus lived and ministered in the world.

Question: What must you do to begin walking in God’s mercy?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit and the Cross

We’re continuing our study through the book of Galatians.  Now that we’re in the final chapter, Paul is beginning to wrap up his teaching.

In this letter, he deals with the false teachers who said that you needed to come under the law in order to be saved. There were people trying to convince the church that Christ forgives your sin, but the law makes you acceptable to God.

Paul had an answer for these people that we need to take to heart in this generation.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!  Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Galatians 6:11-12

If our focus is on the outward behaviors, then we’ll avoid the cross at all cost.  In spite of this, we still want God’s grace to work in our lives.  We want to see God’s blessing on our finances, health, jobs, and family.

At that point, our mind tells us that there must be something we can do to obtain God’s blessing.  So we put ourselves under all kinds of rules and regulations in order to earn the grace of God.

Here’s why that approach doesn’t work.  Under the law, you can live for yourself by invoking a string of technicalities.  It’s the same thing the Pharisees of Jesus’ day would do.  You simply tell yourself, “I’m okay.  I go to church, read the Bible, and live a good life.”

In reality, these people want to avoid the fear of the cross.  The word persecuted in the above verse comes from a root word that means to run away or retreat.  That tells me that these individuals are cowards who have decided not to embrace the cross.  Instead of running from it, we must live in its shadow.

Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:13-14

Instead of trying to avoid being worldly by our own willpower, we must embrace the cross.  Think about what Paul is saying here.  The world is nailed to a cross.  I’m nailed to another.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over to that other cross.  Neither can the world get to me.

That’s what we do to our flesh by invoking the power of the cross in our lives.  When we nail our flesh to the cross there’s a power that’s released to work God’s righteousness in us.  It’s not a struggle to keep pure, but reliance upon the Holy Spirit in us.

But we need to remember, we nail our flesh to the cross by the spiritual walk.  The more I pray in the spirit, the more my flesh is dealt with.

I can never crucify the flesh with its wants and desires by my will-power.  My flesh can’t change itself, no matter how good my intentions are.  It can only be accomplished by cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

This is the path to all that God has for you.  I’m talking about healings, increase, miracles and the provision of God.  It’s everything you need for life and godliness.

It will only come in its fullness as we embrace the pattern laid down by the Lord.  We must follow the path of the cross by a walk in the spirit.  Allow the Lord to work His pattern of salvation in us.  It’s the way to freedom in Him.

Question: What would the church look like if we all embraced the path of the cross?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Planned Transformation

As we look at Paul’s teaching in Galatians, it’s obvious that living in righteousness can never be dictated from the outside.  It only flows from a life that cultivates the spiritual walk.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:7-8

From our studies in the book of Galatians, I believe that the road to receiving God’s power is through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I realize that this is a controversial teaching in the body of Christ.  There are many who don’t believe that it’s for all Christians.

Many say, “I don’t want it.”  They choose not to receive this gift of God.  The truth is that this gift is vitally important for the church to do its job.  That’s why the enemy would do anything to convince us that it’s not for the church today, or not for you personally.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Prayer in the Spirit is vitally important to our spiritual health.  I believe that this is how we receive the seed of God’s Word in us.  It’s also needed to conceive the seed God wants to place into our lives.

In the above verse, we see that your mind can’t conceive what God has planned for you.  That word is how the translators handled a two-word phrase in this passage.  They are words that mean placed upon and rise up.

Think about how seeds work in a field. The seeds are placed upon, or sprinkled, over the soil.  Then the water and sun work to activate them so that the new plant rises up from the dirt.  It happens the same way in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

Spending time in the Spirit allows God to plant His seed in us.  Things we could never even imagine that He has planned for us.  They enter into the good soil of our hearts.  Some of these seeds can only be activated by prayer in the Spirit.

We need to understand that there’s a sowing and reaping in the spirit.  Prayer in the Spirit is not just for the conception of the seed.  It must be continued so that the harvest may be brought forth in due time.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:8

That’s why I’m such a proponent of prayer in the Spirit.  I’ve seen what it’s done in my life and in others who practice it regularly.  There’s no substitution for this work of the Lord in us.  It’s the power of God actively working in us to bring about His plan for us.

As I pray in the spirit, I’m walking in God’s plan for the total transformation of my life.  I may not know where the road will lead, but God does.  If I want to walk in His power, then I need to incorporate His plan into my inner man.

I don’t know how anyone could fully serve God without it.  I couldn’t imagine my life without this gift.  Don’t neglect it.
Spend time praying in the Spirit and allow the seed of God to germinate and take root in your heart.  It will change everything.

Question: How has prayer in the Spirit transformed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Spiritual Restoration

Toward the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, he begins to talk about some important issues for dealing with people.  The first is working with people who aren’t perfect.  I think we forget, sometimes, that none of us walks in the clouds.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Paul talks about someone who’s had a side-slip.  Whether intentional or not, we sometimes see our past sinful life try to make an appearance.  That’s why God has us doing life together.

The Lord’s desire is always for restoration.  It’s not about guilt or condemnation.  When we experience a failure, there’s usually enough self-condemnation, so that we don’t need to add any more from the outside.

I believe that’s why the Holy Spirit wants restoration to be accomplished only by those who are spiritual.  Notice that He didn’t say that those versed in psychology, or those who’ve never sinned, should work with them.

The qualification is for those who are spiritual.  They spend time listening to the Holy Spirit.  It’s evident from their lives that they consistently produce the Fruit of the Spirit.  They’re the ones uniquely qualified to bring restoration.

But even spiritual people aren’t above being tempted.  Tempted to do what?  Paul goes on to talk about this temptation.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Galatians 6:2-5

In dealing with the weaknesses of others, there’s always a temptation to compare.  We end up comparing our strength with their weakness.  But that gives us an inflated view of ourselves.

It also makes it easier for us to begin judging others.  We start to criticize and condemn, instead of bringing the restoration of the Holy Spirit.

I think that an important part of this is understanding the difference between a burden and a load.  These are two very different words in the Greek.

The word burden simply means a weight – something heavy.  There are times where, because of what we’re going through, our life seems a little too tough to handle.  Spiritual people are a help during these times.  The law of Christ is their internal prompting by the Holy Spirit to bring encouragement during these times.

The word, load, on the other hand, speaks of an invoice or work-order.  That’s our God-given assignment.  No one can do that for us.  Mine is different than yours.  I can’t compare what I’ve been called to do with your calling.

There are people only you can reach and assignments only you can do the way the Lord wants them done.  So it’s not my job to take over because I think you’re inadequate.  If I truly am spiritual, then I’ll encourage and strengthen you so that you’re able to fulfill your unique destiny.

Comparison and condemnation have no place in the body of believers.  We’re here to fulfill the plan of Christ, not to please each other.

Spend time in the presence of the Lord and then be a blessing to those around you.

Question: What is a time that the Holy Spirit prompted you to be a help to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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What’s Driving You?

If you’ve been following my posts, then you know that we should be driven by the Holy Spirit.  Time in His presence should be strengthening us on the inside and propelling us forward.  That’s how we fulfill our destiny in Christ.

But as we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that there’s another driving force that could be detrimental to our spiritual walk.

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:26

The word translated as conceited in this verse means that someone is after vain or empty glory.  To understand this we must first understand what glory is.  We use that word a lot, especially about God.  In spite of that, most Christians don’t really know what it means.

Glory is the amount of weight that you assign to someone’s opinion.  To give God glory means that we place what He says higher than anyone else’s word.  That means that what God says about me is more important than the word of the doctors, reporters, financial advisors, or even the voice of my past.

But this verse is talking about empty glory.  That means that I place my opinion higher than anyone else’s.  The reason it’s empty is that it’s usually based on what I perceive as my high level of spiritual performance.

Empty glory is all about me.  It’s how great I’m doing and I want you to know about it.  I want you to acknowledge that I’m more spiritual than you.  This kind of thinking is empty because my walk with God has nothing to do with my abilities and everything to do with the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to Paul, there are two factors involved in this empty glory.  The first is that we provoke each other.  That literally means to call someone out or to challenge them.

I’ve seen this even in ministry circles.  When I was a new pastor it used to annoy me, but now I’m just amused by it.  With some ministers, the first thing they ask when they initially meet you is, “What seminary did you graduate from?”

Then, based upon your answer, they decide how much value they’ll place upon your beliefs.  It has nothing to do with the anointing of God on your life or ministry.  (For the record – I haven’t completed seminary yet.  I’ll let you assign a value to my opinions based on my posts.)

Of course, this happens with church people as well.

“How many chapters a day do you read?  I read through the whole Bible every year.”

“How many hours a day do you spend in prayer?  I get up at 4 AM every morning to seek God.”

We call people out so that we can brag about our great spiritual accomplishments.  Fortunately, the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives isn’t based upon how many chapters a day that we read, or what time we wake up.

The second part of empty glory is envy or jealousy.  This is also used so we can feel better about ourselves.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.
Philippians 1:15

There are those who witness for Christ out of rivalry.  It’s like they’re placing another notch on their spiritual gun when they lead someone to Christ.  Then they try to make you feel bad because you don’t witness to others the way they do.

Of course, even Paul had to concede that preaching Christ is a good thing, no matter the motive.  (Philippians 1:18)  But if it’s more about how great I am than it is about Christ, that’s what makes it vain and hollow.

Watch your attitudes and let the Holy Spirit be the driving force in your life and ministry.

Question: How can you be a better encouragement to others in the body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are We There Yet?

Do you ever get impatient because things seem to take longer to accomplish than you expected?  I’ve found that to be especially true in my spiritual life.  Why is that?

In my last post, I finished my look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  Now we’ll move on to the rest of the book of Galatians.

In this letter, Paul says something that I think we never fully understand what he’s implying.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24

The Apostle Paul makes this statement or others like it, throughout his writings.  But do we understand what he’s telling us?

We read that our sinful nature (also called our old self or the flesh) has been crucified.  Because of that truth, some have said that their old nature is dead.  But that’s not entirely true.

The trouble is that being crucified is not the same as being killed.  Crucifixion is a long, slow, agonizingly painful process.  It’s not as simple as being shot in the head.

To say that our old self is crucified means that it’s still hanging on to life.  It still has hope that you’ll change your mind and take it down from the cross.

Another problem we find is that the flesh, even while it’s being crucified, never stops talking.  It continues to try and exert influence over your actions.  Dealing with the old nature is never a one-time decision.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5

The phrase put to death in this verse literally means to deaden.  This speaks about the process of making something dead rather than death itself.  Dealing with our flesh is an ongoing project.  It’s not something you can accomplish overnight.

I only wish that there was one prayer I could recite and be done with it.  The truth is that it’s an ongoing battle that will-power or good intentions alone will never win.  Then where does the victory over the flesh come from?

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
Romans 8:13

This verse also talks about the process of putting something to death.  You can never kill the misdeeds of the flesh, but you can deaden them by the spirit.

Victory over the sinful nature can only be won in the spirit.  That’s one of the reasons that prayer in the spirit is so important.  The more time spent in God’s presence, the deader the influence of the flesh.

It’s unfortunate that so many people teach the will-power method.  They tell you to just choose not to do what the flesh wants.  You can usually tell who these people are.  The older they get, the more permanent the frown is on their face!

I, personally, want to be free from my sinful nature – but I want to walk in the joy of the Lord at the same time.  The answer is the walk of the spirit.  That’s why Paul sums it all up with the following statement.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

Cultivate your spiritual walk.  That’s the only way to beat the sinful nature.

Question: What’s your experience with the walk of the spirit controlling the flesh?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Self-Control

In today’s post, I’m looking at the last of the Fruit of the Spirit.  They’re found in Galatians 5:22-23.

When we talk about self-control, we usually end up referring to a person’s will-power.  I’m happy to say that your will-power has nothing to do with this fruit.  The Holy Spirit wants to produce something in you that’s way beyond your ability.

The Greek word that’s translated as self-control, in speaking of the fruit, is a word that literally means an inner strength.  It’s not about your flesh trying to control itself from the outside.  True change only takes place when we strengthen the inner man.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25

The word for having the fruit of self-control is translated goes into strict training in this verse.  We all have an inner drive to accomplish something with our lives.  It doesn’t matter whether the purpose is good or not, all of us are driven people.

When we come to Christ, our goal should be to please Him and complete His assignment for our lives.  That may or may not be very high on our list of drives.  Spending time with the Holy Spirit allows Him to increase the drive to fulfill our destiny in Christ.

That’s why will-power has nothing to do with it.  An athlete’s drive to win the Olympics will override any desire to pig-out on chocolate.  The greater my desire for the finish line, the more self-control I can exercise.

As the Holy Spirit increases our desire to defeat the enemy, our inner strength to stay on course grows as well.  Yes, it’s victory in the spiritual battle that’s the ultimate prize for us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Ephesians 6:10

This verse has a lot to say to us.  It uses three different words for power.  First, be strong in the Lord means to let Him endue you with His power.

Then Paul says that this power will strengthen us (the fruit) with God’s ability.  Wow!  That’s a mouthful.  But the bottom line is that God doesn’t want us relying on our own will-power to serve Him.  By the power of the Spirit, He wants to bring our inner strength up to the level of His ability.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance…
Colossians 1:10-11a

This verse says it all.  The only way to live a life worthy of the Lord, please Him in every way, and bear fruit is to be strengthened with all power by the Lord’s might.

Stop trying to fight your battle against sin on your own.  Let the Holy Spirit work His power in you.  With the Lord’s ability, you can overcome any obstacle.

Spend time in the Spirit and let the Lord cultivate the fruit of self-control in you.  It’s well worth the spiritual investment.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s self-control operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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