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Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

Encouraged to Grow

As Paul nears the end of his first letter to the Corinthian church, he gives a series of exhortations.  I think that we would do well to live by them.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

These five simple statements are the foundation for a growing walk with the Lord.  If we would make it a point to see these activated in our lives, we’d be a lot better off.

Be on your guard.  This literally means to stay awake.  I think that too many Christians are spiritually asleep in this generation.  What do I mean by this?

When you’re asleep, you’re unaware of what’s happening around you.  Spiritual sleep is the same.  There are Christians who are totally unaware of the spiritual aspects of their life.

They think that everything revolves around what they see in the natural.  It’s all about satisfying their wants and desires.  They never ask, “What’s God’s will for my life?”

I need to seek what God has destined me for.  Then, with His strength, I can start heading in that direction.  I want my spiritual eyes to be open.

Stand firm in the faith.  This simply means that once you know what God’s Word says, you don’t waver or move from believing it.

Believing means taking action.  If I believe something is true, then I’ll act on it.  If I believe that a chair is strong enough to hold me, then I’ll sit on it.  If I believe that God’s my Provider, then I’ll move forward in what He’s called me to do.

Be men of courage.  This is the second step of faith.  If I believe that something’s true, then I won’t be afraid to let people know that I believe it.  I think that all too often, courage is the missing ingredient in many of our lives.

We are a part of a culture that tells us that it’s offensive to believe in Jesus Christ as a Savior.  So in order to accommodate them, we keep silent.  At the same time, every other belief is allowed to take center stage.

We need to be vocal about what we believe, while at the same time being sensitive to walk in love.

Be strong.  This actually means to be strengthened.  We shouldn’t be stagnant in our spiritual growth.  There are things we can be doing to build ourselves up.

Prayer in the spirit, meditation on the Word, and fasting are just a few ways to become stronger.  Just like in the physical, we can’t neglect our spiritual health.  If we do, then the consequences could be devastating.

Do everything in love.  This is the one that ties everything else together.  Our lives should reflect the love of Christ in all that we do.

This is the agape-love.  It’s the non-emotional desire to treat others as if you like them, no matter how you actually feel about them.  And also, whether you know them or not.

This love is a choice that we make to walk like Jesus did.  Our love is what will draw people to the cross.  That should be the goal of all that we do.

Question: How well is each of these characteristics visible in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Friendship with Christ

As Paul closes his first letter to the Corinthian church, he makes a number of concluding remarks.  Most of them are private greetings.

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings.  Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.  All the brothers here send you greetings.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
If anyone does not love the Lord — a curse be on him.  Come, O Lord!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 16:19-24

As I read through these statements, there’s one that grabs my attention.  Is Paul really pronouncing a curse on someone?  What’s that all about?

It’s important that we understand what the apostle is saying here.  To start with, the love that he’s speaking about is not the normal word, agape, that’s usually translated as such.

Paul uses a word that speaks of the emotional feelings of affection that two friends have toward one another.  He’s talking about being a friend of Christ.

As believers, we should have a deeper level of love for Christ than just a choice to love Him.  There should be an emotional component as well.  Just thinking of all He’s done for us should cause us to desire to be with Jesus.

This goes right along with something that James said.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:4

In this verse, James uses the same word that Paul used.  It’s an emotional desire for friendship.

We know that the Lord wants to be your friend.  But what He reveals about Himself is that you can’t be both His friend and the world’s friend.

Understand – you can have friends in the world.  But the Spirit of God doesn’t want you to be a friend of the world system.  We can’t be chasing after the same things that the world does.

What is Paul trying to tell us by cursing someone who befriends the world system?  Actually, he doesn’t use the normal word for a curse.

He uses the Greek word, anathema.  In that society, this word meant a religious ban.  Paul is talking about someone who claims to be a Christian, yet shows no emotional attachment to Christ.  In other words, if you know someone like that, then don’t hang around with them.

You don’t want to have an intimate friendship with someone who doesn’t have an affection for Christ.  A love for the world will rub off on you.  Your walk with the Lord will suffer for it.

We need to be wise in our choice of intimate relationships.  They’ll affect our devotion to Christ – either for good or bad.

Don’t just choose to love Christ.  Cultivate an emotional friendship with Him as well.

Question: What does friendship with Christ look like in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2019 in Fellowship, Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Developing an Addiction for Christ

In my last post, I talked about the 5 symptoms of being addicted to the ministry for Christ.  It was based upon the KJV translation of a verse in I Corinthians.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Today I want to talk about the steps that it takes to become addicted.  Again, I took them from a pamphlet that I got from the American medical community.

Curiosity causes you to check it out.  Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing for Christ will cause you to ask if you’re able to do something similar.  You step out in faith and see what happens.  After all, we’re encouraged in the Scripture to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Comparing your life with Christ to your life without Him.  How has the Lord changed you?  If you’re like most people, then you can look back on a life of death, sorrow, worry, and guilt.  Now, in Christ, your path should be marked with life, joy, faith, and freedom.

You develop a taste for it.  Most of the things that cause addictions start out tasting horrible.  It’s only after people get used to it that they get “hooked.”  It’s the same with the ministry.

Sometimes it’s hard working with people.  But as you get used to it, and especially the rewards of seeing changed lives, it gets better.  Pretty soon it becomes normal.  Experts tell us that it takes about a month for a habit to develop.

You start to become uncomfortable when it’s taken away (withdrawal).  Being a blessing to others causes you to become a giver.  When that happens, you have to draw on the sufficiency of Christ.  If something happens to stop the process, you feel like something’s missing.

As problems increase, your usage increases.  It’s easy to tell when someone is in the final stages of a “Christ addiction.”  When the normal believer faces a crisis – the loss of a job or a loved one – you don’t see them around for a while.  After all, they need time to sort things out.

Addicted people are different.  During times of crisis or turmoil, you find them seeking more fellowship, prayer, or worship.  Their goal is to use the strength of the Lord and His church to get them through the tough times.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?
Psalms 42:1-2

David understood the concept.  In my estimation, an addiction to Christ is the best thing you could ever experience.  It becomes your strength in weakness and your channel of blessing.  It will keep your walk with God from becoming stale or stagnant.

Cultivate this holy addiction!

Question: What’s your strategy for developing an addiction to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Are You Addicted to Ministry?

I normally don’t use the KJV in my posts, but this verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church gives me a lot to think about.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Stephanus and his family were a great help to Paul as he preached the Word of God.  He goes on to tell a little more about them.  He tells the church…

…to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.  Such men deserve recognition.
1 Corinthians 16:16-18

What was it about Stephanas and his family that caused Paul to describe them as addicted?

I looked up some facts, not from Christian sources, but from the American medical community.  How do they describe addiction?  You may think you’re “all in” for the Lord.  How does what these doctors say stack up to your experience?

You need an increased level to maintain the feeling.  Are you feeling tired and burned out by what you do for God?  Or are you hungering to go deeper with Him?  Addiction means that the amount you’re doing now doesn’t satisfy you the way it used to.  You want more, greater, and higher dosages in order to stay fulfilled.  I believe that’s the excitement of the ministry.

You are obsessed with the ministry.  What’s your thought life like?  When you’re not actively involved in your calling, are you still thinking about it?  Addiction means that it’s constantly in the back of your mind.  You continually think about ways to improve and increase what you’re doing for the Lord.

Even in recreation times, a thought, word, or something you see will trigger an image of what you could be doing to further the Kingdom.  Thinking about it is uncontrollable.

You are continually sneaking “quickies” throughout the day.  Addiction to the ministry is a lifestyle.  Do you find yourself sharing about Jesus at the mall, school or workplace?  Are you prone to spontaneously be a blessing to people around you, simply for the enjoyment of it?  Maybe you find yourself praying for people as soon as you hear about their need.  This is a sign of an addiction to Christ and His ministry.

You undergo a change in your appearance.  Does the knowledge that you represent Christ change how you present yourself to others?  Does the fact that you’re God’s ambassador to the world make a difference in how you live?  The more we become addicted, the more radical the change.  How much has your ministry affected you?

You are in “denial” – you continue deeper even though others may argue against it.  Some people may say that you’re doing too much for God.  After all, look at the lifestyle of most believers.  “God will let you get away with a lot less commitment.”  Arguments like these don’t even faze you.  You want to touch as many people as you can for the Gospel.

You may like to think that you’re addicted – after all, it sounds good.  But the truth is unless you’ve come to the place I’ve just described, it’s only wishful thinking.  Hey, don’t get mad at me – this is what the American medical community says about it.

If you find that you’re not addicted and you want to be – my next post will be about the 5 steps to becoming addicted!

Question: How has an addiction to the ministry affected your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Planning for the Future

In the closing chapter of First Corinthians, Paul talks about the future.  He lets the church know where he and his team are going.  This gives us some insight into how we should look forward.

After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you — for I will be going through Macedonia.  Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.  I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.  But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
1 Corinthians 16:5-9

One of the things that I notice right away is Paul’s reliance upon knowing God’s will for his life.  It’s something that we need to come to grips with, in our generation.

The apostle sought out God’s best every step of the way.  So when he looked ahead, he kept that in mind.  He knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go.  But he always qualified it by saying “if the Lord permits.”

All that means is that he didn’t yet know God’s perfect will concerning that trip yet.  He had faith that at some point it would become clear to him where he was to go.

It’s unfortunate that in our generation there are many believers who take no thought of what God wants them to do.  They make their plans based on their own wants and desires.  Then they bring these plans to God for His blessing.

We’ve fallen into the trap of planning out our lives without first seeking God’s will.  That’s the very definition of godlessness.  Yes, it is possible to be a godless Christian.

We need to learn to hear from God first and then set our plans according to His will.  In this way, we’ll know that our path is blessed even before we ask God to bless it.

Of course, there’s another side to the issue.  Just because it’s God’s will for us to do something doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easy.  God opened a door of ministry for him, but Paul acknowledged that there was going to be great opposition.

That seems to be the story of most successful ministries.  A great door opened for a powerful work.  While at the same time, there’s great opposition.  That’s why problems are never an indicator of whether or not you’re in God’s will.  You need to hear from Him before you start.

I also notice Paul providing for those under him in ministry.

If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.  No one, then, should refuse to accept him.  Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.
Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers.  He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.
1 Corinthians 16:10-12

The thing that I see is that there’s no sense of competition.  Paul never felt the need to prove he was better than anyone else.

Too often in ministry, leaders seem to think that they have to keep others down.  They don’t want to see their “protégés” reaching a higher level than them.  Leaders don’t want to lose their status.  Personally, I think that it would be an honor to have trained someone who is doing a great work for Christ.

We need to be seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit for every aspect of our ministry.  Only then will we see the results that will point to the power of God at work.

Question: How do you plan what you’ll be doing in the future?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2019 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Giving Ourselves to God

I’ve been posting about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Paul goes into great detail explaining the importance of His rising from the grave.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

In the context of this verse, Paul has just told us of the defeat of death and sin.  By rising from the dead, the Lord proved once and for all that they had no hold over Him.

Paul concludes this section by talking about our victory in Christ.  The resurrection is the foundation for our victory in this life.  We know that the victory is ours in Christ, no matter what the situation may look like right at the present moment.

So in this passage, Paul uses the word, therefore.  It’s because we know that Christ is victorious – past, present, and future – that we can give ourselves fully to God.  We already know the outcome, so we can give ourselves willingly.

The problem is that willingly and fully are two very different things.  I can willingly serve God with only part of my life, time, and resources.  The real victory comes when I willingly give all to Christ.

Jesus Christ is returning soon.  The clock is ticking.  God wants to do great things in our generation.  The question is; do I want to be a part of it, or simply watch what happens in the lives of others?

Please understand that this has nothing to do with your abilities.  It has everything to do with your willingness to fully commit your life to God.  The Macedonian churches are a great example of this in the Scripture.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
2 Corinthians 8:3-5

This is one of the most miraculous verses in the Bible.  How can you ever give beyond your ability?  I don’t know, but that’s Paul’s testimony of what they did.

I believe that the key to all this is found in verse 5.  Paul said that they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us.

Your first calling is not to a church or a ministry.  It’s to God Himself.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t commit yourself to a church.  What I am saying is that committing yourself to a church without first giving yourself to God is counter-productive.

It’s only when you first give yourself to God, that you can accomplish something beyond your ability.  That’s when people notice that it’s God working in you.  Only then will God get the glory from your life, and people will be attracted to the Gospel.

Question: How fully committed is your life to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Power-Up the Enemy

In my last post, I talked about the power of the resurrection in our lives.  This power affects every aspect of our walk with God.

Jesus told us that we had authority over all the power of the enemy.  This causes me to question our current church experience.  If what the Lord said is true, then why does the enemy seem to be winning?

To understand this you must realize that just like electricity, there are two forms of spiritual power.  Paul writes about one of these in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:56-57

That should be an eye-opener.  Most Christians have no idea that the power of sin is the law.  We seem to have missed this fact even though it’s plainly taught in the Scripture.  This means that without the law, sin would have no power.

The other source of spiritual power should be obvious to us.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

These were some of the last words of Jesus before He was taken up into Heaven.  We must realize that our power comes from God Himself through the Holy Spirit in us.  This means that the two sources of spiritual power are the Holy Spirit and sin.

That’s a very important fact to know if we’re to grow in our spiritual walk.  Our goal should be to only receive our power from the Holy Spirit.  We must be certain that we’re not powered by the same thing that powers the enemy’s kingdom.

As a matter of fact, Satan’s power is derived totally from sin.  So if there were no law, then the enemy would have no power.  Everything that Satan is able to do is powered by the law.

Whether you realize this or not, every accusation and attack that he makes are all based upon the law.  The problem we have is that just knowing this truth isn’t enough to defeat him.

Like AC and DC electricity, both forms are very powerful.  AC is the type of electricity that powers your house.  DC is the type that starts your car in the morning as well as supplying power for the lightning we see in a thunderstorm.  In the same way, the two forms of spiritual power can be very potent.

There are some important differences between the law and the Holy Spirit.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

Literally, this verse says God is powerful enough to do everything you need according to His grace.  In all things, at all times – this means that the power of the Holy Spirit is permanent, whereas the law is temporary.

If I base my walk on how well I follow the law, I’ll soon be in big trouble.  Everything is fine while I’m at church, especially if I just went to the altar and repented.  I go on my way feeling strong spiritually.

Then it happens, on my way to the car, I get into an argument.  It all goes downhill from there.  Now Satan has a basis for accusation again and I can feel my power dwindling.

On the other hand, I can base my spiritual walk on the Holy Spirit within me.  I know that He’s always there.  I can run to Him in all things, at all times, and I know that He’s able to meet my need no matter what.  We, as believers, need to understand this truth so that we’ll not fall into the trap of trying to use the enemy’s power to defeat sin in our lives.

Question: How do we sometimes try to use our sinful nature to defeat sin in our lives?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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