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Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

The Triumph of the Cross

For the last few posts, I’ve been talking about the crucifixion of Christ.  It always amazes me what He went through to purchase our salvation.  You may want to read Mark 15:25-39 before continuing with this post.

In this passage of Scripture, we see Jesus hanging on the cross.  The Messiah and true King of Israel, dying for the sins of mankind.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So!  You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” 
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves.  “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!  Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Mark 15:29-32

This scene holds an important truth.  The religious leaders are taunting and insulting the Lord.  They think that His desire is not to die.  After all, that would be the natural reaction of anyone being put to death.

The fact that Christ was enduring this with a greater goal in mind never figured into their thinking.  They were looking for Him to try and escape death.  The Lord saw His death as a means to an end.

This should speak to us.  When we know that God has called us to accomplish something, there will always be those who doubt and ridicule.  If we stand on God’s Word, however, these people can’t hinder our progress.

Scripture is clear that those who only think in the natural can never understand those who walk according to the Spirit.  The natural walk involves feelings and logic.  These don’t always work in bringing about God’s will.

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Mark 15:33-35

It’s clear that the religious leaders don’t even understand what He’s saying.  The Lord quotes a Messianic Psalm (Psalm 22:1) and they think He’s asking Elijah for help.  But in spite of the ridicule, unbelief, and pain, Christ endured it all to the final victory.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Mark 15:37-39

The power that was released because of Christ’s obedience is beyond comprehension.  You need to realize that the curtain in the Temple was not a mere piece of cloth.  It was made of leather panels stitched together.  It was tested by placing it between two teams of oxen.  If they couldn’t tear it, then it was ready for the Temple.

In the same way, the power of God is released in us when we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit.  There may be trials along the way.  There may even be people who ridicule and tell us we’re wrong to trust God.

Have faith in God’s Word and do what you’re called to do, then see the hand of God work mightily in your life!

Question: How have you been ridiculed for your faith in God’s Word?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Fight or Flight

We’ve been looking at Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His trial.  Now, He’s about to be arrested.  You may want to read Mark 14:42-51 before continuing with the rest of this article.

The Lord knew that His captors were approaching.  He woke up His disciples and went to meet the officials.  It’s interesting to see how the disciples reacted.

Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
Mark 14:47

We know from the other Gospels that this verse is referring to Peter.  A fisherman wielding a sword.  I’m surprised that he didn’t hurt himself!  The best he could do was to cut the ear off of an unarmed servant.

When the other disciples saw the futility of resisting, they all ran away.  One of them, when he was grabbed, left without any clothing.  It was the normal, human fight or flight reaction.

The Lord knew where He was headed.  He was looking forward to the victory He was going to accomplish on the cross.  So, instead, I want to talk about what was happening with the disciples.

What they did was the normal reaction that’s built into all of us.  When we see trouble coming, our entire being begins to prepare to either fight or run away.  God placed that in our DNA in order for us to protect ourselves in emergency situations.

The problem is that there’s a spiritual side that many of us fail to grasp.  In the spiritual battles that we face, there are times that we need to apply the lessons of “fight or flight”.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

I think Scripture is clear that the first choice is to stand your ground.  We need to prepare ourselves spiritually so that we don’t fall back into our old ways.  If you’re strong in the Lord and understand your place in Christ, then stand and fight that spiritual battle.

But what about those who aren’t in that position?  They’ve tried to fight the enemy and merely “cut off a servant’s ear”.  They haven’t put on their holy armor.

Many believers find themselves in spiritual struggles with no hope of victory.  They’ve resigned themselves to falling backward for the rest of their lives.  There is another choice.

Look at what Paul advised a young pastor who he was mentoring.

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22

Some of the worst problems we face are when the old man tries to reassert itself.  The sins that we thought were long gone are suddenly calling to us again.

This is especially true of addictive sins.  Drug, alcohol, and sexual addictions are a few areas that never seem to let up on their assaults.  What do you do if your spiritual strength is not enough to overcome?  Should you just give in?  Absolutely not!

There is a time to flee.  Get out of the situation that’s causing the temptation.  You must leave the environment that weakens your defenses.  There’s nothing shameful about a strategic retreat.  It gives you the ability to strengthen your position for the next battle.

Question: When have you needed to flee from an overpowering situation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Calling to Pray

As believers, we’re all called to pray.  However, the question often arises; are we all called to a warfare or intercessory type of ministry?

It’s clear from Scripture that we need to be a praying people.  We should be praying daily for ourselves and our family.  Also, we need to pray for others in the body of Christ.  Then, we should be praying for our friends, neighbors, community, and nation.

In order to fulfill this, Jesus gave His disciples a teaching on prayer.  As a part of this lesson, the Lord showed them an outline of what a prayer to God should include.  (Mark 6:9-13)  We call this the Lord’s Prayer.

We all should be praying – that’s beyond question.  But there’s a deeper level of prayer that needs to be addressed.  This is a powerful type of prayer that involves our whole being – body, soul, and spirit.  It could express itself in warfare, intercession, or a combination of both.

I believe that this is the kind of prayer that Jesus entered into, while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Look at how the Gospel of Mark describes it.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Mark 14:32

I think it’s interesting that this place of prayer Jesus chose was called Gethsemane.  That was an Aramaic word that meant olive-press.  It was going to be a place of great pressure for Christ.

What I want you to notice is that most of the disciples simply got the instruction to sit here.  Jesus told them that He was going to pray.  But He didn’t ask them to do anything in particular during that time.

There were, however, three disciples who got a different set of instructions.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Peter, James, and John – the three leaders of the group – were told to go with the Lord.  As they approached the place, Jesus began to be overwhelmed by the weight of what He was about to endure.  He expressed this to the three and told them to remain with Him and watch.

The Lord obviously wanted these particular disciples to watch and learn from what was happening in that garden of prayer.  They needed to learn the deeper issues of intense, Spirit-led prayer.

Most of the disciples would have had no understanding of what was going on in that garden.  It was these three that had a grasp of some of the things that take place in the spiritual realm.  After all, they were with Him when the Lord raised a dead girl back to life (Mark 5:37-43) and they witnessed His transfiguration (Mark 9:2).

We need to see that intense, intercessory prayer is not for everyone.  It’s only for those who have obtained to a mature level of spiritual understanding.  Even then, this kind of prayer is only learned by watching those who are already walking in it.

Are you called to this type of prayer?  The only way of knowing is for you to continue to pursue Christ.  Make it your goal to walk in everything that the Lord has for you.

Question: Why is intercessory prayer so important in the body of Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Are We Lion Tamers?

As we continue our walk through Mark’s Gospel, we now come to chapter 5.  It begins with Jesus encountering a demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs.  Because of the length of the passage, I can’t show it all here.  I suggest that you read Mark 5:1-17 before proceeding.

In this section of Scripture, we see a man tormented by the enemy.  Night and day he would be crying out in agony and cutting himself with rocks.  When people tried to bring him into custody, the demons would give him the strength to break any form of shackles.

The description that Mark gives is very interesting.  Look at what verse 4 tells us.

For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet.  No one was strong enough to subdue him.
Mark 5:4

The word, subdue, in this verse literally means to tame, like a wild animal.  Many people enjoy going to a zoo or a circus to see a wild animal show.  They watch as the lion tamers guide their huge cats around the ring.

I think this is how we get into trouble sometimes.  This man was under the control of the devil’s power.  Yet there were people trying to tame him.

They were just like many Christians today who are trying to tame the enemy’s kingdom.  They want it to work for them.  They think that they can receive all of the benefits of the world, with none of the hurts.  I wish that were true.

The Bible teaches that the enemy is not to be played with.

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

The goal of the enemy is to destroy your life.  But he can’t do it with a frontal assault because we’re protected by the power of God at work in us.

However, if he can get us to lay down our spiritual armor, then we’re open to his attack.  If it suits his purpose, the enemy can pretend to be tamed long enough for us to feel secure in playing with him.  Yet, we don’t realize that we’re walking right into his trap.

The principles of the kingdom of God and seeking to be a friend of the world don’t mix.  You have to choose one or the other.  Straddling the fence will bring your life to ruin.

The Lord understood how to handle the work of the devil.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8b

Our goal should be the same as that of Christ.  We should live to set the captives free.  All the while we must watch ourselves so that we’re not captivated by the world.

The power of God did more than just tame the demon-possessed man.  He was set free and his life was totally renewed by the power of God.  That’s the type of victory we should be seeking in our generation.

But it will require us to spend time in the Father’s presence just as Jesus did.

Question: What are some areas that you see the need for Christ to set people free?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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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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Caution – Evil Days Ahead

Are you protected enough to face each new day?  In my last post, I began looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  In this article, we’ll see that the answer to this question was the very reason that this book was written.

I want to see a revival in the church.  It’s obvious from what’s happening around us that we need it.  The real question is; do we want it?  And more than that; are we willing to do what it takes to lay hold of it?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
Galatians 1:3-5

I used to teach that inanimate things couldn’t be evil or good.  After spending some time studying this verse, I realized that I was wrong.  Things like days and money can be evil.  It’s actually talked about throughout the New Testament.

Maybe you might think that not all days are evil.  After all, there was intense persecution of the church back then.  That was Paul’s day he was talking about.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

One of the reasons that Christ went to the cross was to rescue us from this present evil age.  That’s the time we live in.   The age he’s talking about stretched from Paul’s day to the time when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom.  If the age is evil, then all the days of that age are evil.

The word, rescue, in the verse from Galatians, means to choose or select one person out of a group of people.  God is choosing us for Himself out of the world system.  But we need to understand the times.

We live in evil days.  Paul also talked about this in regard to the armor of God.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

We need to be constantly walking in the spiritual armor.  This is our protection from the evil age.  This is not an option or something that only needs to be done once in a while.

Jesus went to the cross to provide us with more than just a one-time salvation.  His work is ongoing in our lives.  He provided us with the armor we need to rescue us from this present evil age.  We don’t need to be affected by it.

When will the evil day come?  Every time you wake up in the morning.  That’s why God’s armor is so important.  The evil day is not on its way, it’s here.

As God’s people, we should be prepared for what’s ahead.  We’re the ones who should be walking in victory over the challenges that face the world around us.

We need to spend time in the presence of the Lord.  That’s where our strength is.  In Him and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I have everything I need to face the evil days ahead of me.

How else could I walk in victory?  If every day is evil, then in Christ every day is a victory through Him who gives me strength.

Question: How does this evil age manifest itself in our generation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Armed and Ready

I’ve been posting about the last days as described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. My last post was about how we need to live as we see the end in view. Paul continues to share about it.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

He tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

In this verse Paul is clearly referring to our spiritual armor. He even makes mention of the helmet of salvation. But instead of assigning righteousness as the breastplate, he says that faith and love are used in that role. Paul is telling us that it’s the combination of our faith and our love working together that completes our righteousness.

According to Scripture, without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without love your faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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