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Category Archives: Prayer

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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Advice for the Journey

It’s so easy to give up when times are tough.  That’s the difference between surface Christians and overcomers.  Which kind are you?  Only you can make the choice to keep going forward.  This is what it takes to make it to your destiny in God.

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 6:9

There are times that I’ve felt like giving up.  Problems started closing in and it seemed like there was no way out.  But what I came to find out is that God never took His hand off of my life.  He was with me through the problems and brought me through them victoriously.  Here are some things I learned along the way.  I hope they’ll be a blessing to you.

Realize that God has a good plan for your life.  Whether we know it or not, God has us walking a good path.  He wants the best for us.  He knows what will fulfill us better than we do.  But we must continue to the end if we’re going to enter our destiny.

Know that everything worth having requires effort to obtain.  Sometimes the road we’re on seems rough and steep.  That shouldn’t stop us, however.  Struggles are a part of life.  If it were easy, everyone would be walking in the blessings of God.  It takes an attitude of perseverance to make it over the hills of life.

Keep your eyes on the finish line.  Don’t let your present hardship become the focus of your attention.  Keep your vision upon Christ and His plan for your life.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:2-3

That’s what can sustain you during the difficulties that you encounter.  If you can see the goal, then you know that it’s not over yet.  God will have the final word in your life.

Keep moving forward, no matter what happens.  I love to go out hiking.  But it doesn’t always turn out well.  There have been times that I’ve been injured on a hike.  It would have been very easy for me to let weariness and despair take over.  I felt very much like lying down on the ground and giving up.  I had to keep telling myself, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other – you’ll eventually come to the end.”

Understand that moving slowly is better than standing still.  This is probably the best advice I could give you.  No matter how slow you think you’re going, don’t give up.  You will make it!  Never look at your life in terms of a sprint to the finish.  You need to see yourself as being in it for the long haul.  The victorious finish of your race depends on it.

Maybe you’re going through a seemingly impossible situation right now.  Give it over to God in prayer, if you haven’t already done so.  It could be that you’ve taken the responsibility for the problem back to yourself.  Let go of it and allow God give you the strength you need to see it through.

Questions: Have you ever felt like giving up?  How have you found the strength to continue on?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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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: Faith

As we continue our look at the Fruit of the Spirit, the next that we’ll talk about is faith.  I know that in many translations of the Bible, they call it faithfulness.  But the actual Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 is faith.

Before we continue, there’s something that we need to understand.  There are two types of faith.  The first is a mental assent.  That’s where I hear a statement and decide to believe it.  That kind of faith is resident in my mind.

This mind-faith is not the fruit of faith talked about in Galatians.  That faith-fruit is produced in us by the Holy Spirit.  It’s cultivated by time spent in the presence of the Lord.  This is what I’m posting about today.

This kind of faith goes beyond my understanding.  That’s because it didn’t start with me.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

If Christ is the Author, then I can’t take can’t credit for it.  That’s especially true if this is perfect faith.  I only know half the story, so my mind can only believe what I see and understand.  I need a faith that doesn’t rest on what’s visible.  That’s the perfect faith given by the Spirit.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

This verse tells us exactly how we receive this faith.  Unfortunately, our modern “Christianese” church language veils the truth.  This verse is NOT talking about simply reading the Bible and getting faith from it.

According to the Greek text of this verse, faith comes through the hearing of rhema.  The word, rhema, is used in Scripture to describe the spoken word of God.  It’s a Word that we hear directly from the Holy Spirit.  (For a detailed teaching on this, click here.)

The only way to receive the fruit of faith is through the spirit.  I need to spend time with Him, listening to the voice of the Spirit speaking to my spirit.  That’s how this faith is transferred from Christ to me.

Unfortunately, many of the Bible translators don’t understand this either.  They have a hard time handing verses where this process is described.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

In this verse, the phrase because you believed what you heard; is literally because of the hearing of faith.  The fruit of faith is heard in the spirit.  It’s also the faith needed to see a manifestation of the miraculous.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit…
Jude 20, NKJV

The Apostle Jude understood this fact.  He knew that our most holy faith – the faith resident in our spirit – was only built up by prayer in the spirit.  That time spent in God’s presence is where perfect faith resides.  Through prayer in the spirit, we can make the transfer of faith from the Lord to us.

Don’t rely merely on your own, imperfect, human understanding.  Let the Spirit of Faith impart His fruit into your life.  It will change how you look at the world.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Spirit Fruit

In my last post, I talked about the warning signs telling you that your flesh needs more change from the spirit.  But did you know that there are signs to look for showing you that your spiritual walk is maturing?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately, many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit production is a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunlight).

This is something that many Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.  They will not even come by willpower or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT.

All the fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be produced from our strength.

As a matter of fact, if you understand what these different fruits are, then you’ll know that you can’t fake them.  You can’t be producing them on a habitual basis without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you.

I think that one of our problems is that we read this list of fruit and assign them the definitions given by our present society.  Actually, what God calls love is not what the world calls love.  It’s the same with all the rest.

If we look at how the Lord describes these characteristics, we’d see that they can only be done consistently by walking in the spirit.  This is one of the reasons why prayer in the spirit is so important.

Over the years I’ve seen this work.  In my own life and the lives of others, who regularly spend time in the spirit, this change takes place.

The key word is time.  It usually takes place gradually as we spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I wish that it would be instantaneous, like a New Year’s resolution.  But the fact is, I’d rather have it take place slowly and permanently instead of quickly and only a temporary change.

I think that it’s important to know what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us.  So I feel led, over the next nine posts, to go over each of the fruit separately.  In this way, we’ll know what to look for in evaluating our growth toward maturity.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Have You Seen the Red Flag?

There’s something interesting that happens when you’re watching football.  Have you ever noticed that everything stops when the announcer says, “There’s a flag on the field.”

That means that something happened that shouldn’t have.  Now we’re waiting to find out what happened…and what needs to be done about it.  Did you know that we have that same type of experience in our Christian walk?

Listen to how Paul explains it to the Galatian church.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

Paul has just told the Galatians that if they cultivate their walk in the spirit, then the flesh will not be an issue.  Now he goes on to tell them that the work of the flesh shines its light through the following list.

Some of these things we classify as really bad.  Things like sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, and orgies.  But the interesting thing is the list of sins that we barely even think about as sin.  Paul sandwiches them right in the middle of all the “big” ones.  In God’s eyes, they’re all the same.

First of all, I want to talk about what this list is NOT.  This isn’t a checklist for judging whether someone’s a Christian or not.  The phrase, those who live like this, literally means those who perform these things repeatedly or habitually.  He’s not talking about a one-time failure.

Also, he’s not saying that Christians who live like this are not saved.  There’s a difference between our salvation and our inheritance.  We do not inherit salvation.  Salvation is our supernatural birth into God’s family.

Our inheritance is our reward for being a contributing member of the family.  As a matter of fact, if you believe he’s talking about losing your salvation here, then according to this list, most churches in America are unsaved.

If you’re habitually involved in one or more of these activities, then there’s something you’re not doing that you could receive a reward for.  The things on this list can rob you of your inheritance in Christ.  Paul makes it clear that you can be saved and yet have absolutely no rewards (1 Corinthians 2:10-15).

We need to understand what this list is really all about.  Paul says that it’s the shining light of the flesh.  These things are warning signals to us.  It should be like a flag the referee throws down on the field of our life.

These were not given so that I could judge you.  I have this list so that I can assess my own walk with the Lord.

My goal is to cultivate my walk in the spirit.  These behaviors are a sign that some area of my life is off track.  In my relationship with God, I need more interaction with the Holy Spirit.

So the bottom line is that Paul isn’t telling the Galatians a list of activities to keep away from.  He’s giving them a group of signals that will point them back to Christ.  They show our need for a deeper walk in the spirit.

Don’t get caught up in guilt and condemnation.  If you see these things appear, there’s a simple solution.  Go immediately before God and admit your fault in humility and repentance.  Receive His forgiveness.  Then use this experience to propel you forward into a deeper fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Question: How have you seen your life change as your relationship with the Lord grows?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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