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Category Archives: The Gospel

The Trial of Sickness

As we continue our look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we come to a point where the Apostle makes a personal comment.  He speaks about his first visit to that area.  He was the first to bring the message of Christ to these people.

I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.  As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.  Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.  What has happened to all your joy?  I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
Galatians 4:12-15 (NIV)

Paul brought the Gospel to this region.  When they heard it, they accepted it as from the Lord, Himself.  They turned to Christ wholeheartedly and were saved.  Paul has a fond memory of this time.

But there is a controversy surrounding this passage.  There are those who use it as a proof text to show that God doesn’t want to heal everyone.  They say that this verse shows that Paul suffered from an ongoing eye problem that was never healed.  And, therefore, healing isn’t for everybody.

I believe that Jesus Christ paid for our healing on the cross.  It’s freely available to all who believe.  For a more in-depth look at this subject, you can read my Healing 101 Series and my Healing 201 Series.

For now, I simply want to look at what Paul is actually saying in this passage.  Normally I like the NIV translation because of its simple language.  In this case, however, it hasn’t been very accurate with the original Greek.

I believe that the NKJV is closer to the original.

You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.  And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
Galatians 4:13-14 (NKJV)

In these verses, Paul refers to the sickness in two ways.  He first calls it an infirmity in his flesh.  The next thing he calls it is a trial in his flesh.  This is a very important statement in understanding sickness.

Remember this – trials are NEVER meant to be permanent.  Paul said that it was – past tense – in his flesh.  By referring to his sickness as a trial that happened in the past, he is also testifying that his healing has already manifested.  He has no permanent, ongoing eye problem.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

What is the end goal of a trial?  To bring you to the place where you’re not lacking anything.  Are you lacking health?  Consider it a trial bringing you to a place where you’re physically healed and whole.

Christ is the Healer.  Paul believed it.  James believed it.  I believe it.  Don’t let anyone, who doubts the Scripture, steal your joy.  Jesus paid the price for your healing.  Trust Him to bring it to pass.

Question: Do you have a testimony of God’s healing power?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on September 6, 2017 in Faith, Healing, The Gospel

 

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Which Road?

As believers, we should want to live a righteous life before God.  The question is; how do we get there?  I’ve been posting through Galatians and talking about legalism vs. faith.  Aren’t they simply two different roads that get you to the same place?

There are those who teach that they are.  They tell you that the way to a righteous life is hard work, tears, and a lot of self-control.  After all, it’s a hard road to keep yourself holy.

In reality, that’s not the teaching of Scripture.  Look at what Paul writes to the Galatian believers.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
Galatians 3:21

The word, opposed, in the above verse is a common word with many meanings depending on the context.  I believe that Paul is asking if the Law is opposite – or the other side of the coin – to the promises.

In other words, you can follow the Law or you can trust the promises, but you can’t do both.  They’re opposite paths.  So what Paul is asking is, are they different paths to the same goal of righteousness?

I believe that this interpretation is correct because of the way Paul answers his rhetorical question.  He clearly tells us that there is absolutely no way that righteousness can be obtained through following the Law.

As a matter of fact, Paul goes on to tell us that there is only one road that brings you to this destination.

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Galatians 3:22

Scripture is clear on this subject.  Every human being on earth is under the cloud of sin.  The only way out is through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.  There’s nothing else I can do to take me from sin to righteousness.

This means that apart from faith in Christ, the Law is needed simply to keep things in order.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 3:23-25

That’s why society needs laws.  Without the Holy Spirit at work in us, there’s nothing to maintain peace and order.  The more godless the society; the more laws that are needed.

This verse goes so far as to tell us that the law is like a prison.  It locks people up until they come to faith in Christ.  Think about how true this is.

If a car thief gets sent to prison, does that mean he’s no longer a thief?  No!  He just doesn’t have the opportunity to steal any cars.

In the same way, I might get mad at someone, and feel like beating them up.  But because I know that the law says it’s illegal, and I could go to jail if I act on it, I keep myself in check.  Does that make me any less of a criminal in God’s eyes?

So we have a society of people who are prisoners of the law.  They want to do things that the law says they shouldn’t.  So they act correctly, at least while others are watching.

The only answer to this dilemma is faith in Jesus Christ.  By submitting to Him, we allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.  This is the promise of God.  That His Spirit would be in control of us, leaving us free to serve God with all of our heart.

Question: Why do so many believers choose to serve the Law after accepting Christ’s salvation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Contracts and Covenants

Do you know the differences between contracts and covenants?  If you’re a Christian, then that distinction is very important.  Understanding it can be the difference between a blessed life and total frustration with your spiritual walk.

As we continue looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to talk about covenants.  That’s important because we’re in a covenant relationship with Christ.  The unfortunate thing is that we don’t usually talk about covenants in our culture.  We’re most familiar with contracts.

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life.  Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.
Galatians 3:15

Let’s start with contracts.  They’re based on mistrust and works.  We don’t really trust each other to do what we’ve agreed to, so the contract details out all or our responsibilities.  For instance, you fix my roof in a professional manner and I’ll pay you $5000.

Contracts also have an escape.  If you don’t fix the roof, I don’t have to pay you the money.  If you complete the work, then I can’t legally refuse to pay you.  The contract forces us to do the things we said we would do.

Covenants are a totally different thing.  They’re based upon faith and love.  In a covenant, two people pledge their lives to each other.  There must be a great faith in each other in order to do this.  Under covenant, I complete my part regardless of what you do.

Also, there’s no escape from a covenant.  They’re in effect forever.  They even affect the descendants of those who made the covenant.

The closest thing we have to covenant in our society is a marriage.  God has designed marriage to be a covenant, but in many cases, we’ve reduced it to merely a long-term contract.

In Paul’s example, he explains that a covenant can’t be annulled and another covenant can’t be added alongside it.  As I said, once entered into, it’s in effect forever.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
Galatians 3:16

A covenant is in effect throughout the generations.  In Abraham’s case, it was spoken to Christ through Abraham.  That’s because Jesus entered the earth through Abraham’s family line.

But here’s the important piece that we often miss.

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
Galatians 3:17

There are some who erroneously teach that the Law of Moses was a new covenant that God made with Israel.  They say that once the Law was given, salvation was only obtained through the sacrificial system.  This verse exposes the fallacy of that kind of teaching.

The good news is that the covenant of Abraham is still in effect.  Over the past few posts, I’ve been talking about how the Apostle Paul explained this truth.  As believers, we can walk in the blessings of the covenant.

Of course, there’s still the question about the Law of Moses.  What exactly is our relationship with the Ten Commandments and all the laws associated with them?  We’ll deal with that subject over the next few posts.

Question: Why is it important to know that we’re in covenant with God?      

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Choice is Yours – Faith or the Law

“What harm is there in trying to follow the Ten Commandment to the best of your ability?  Isn’t that how you please God?”

Actually, it doesn’t please God and could be hindering your walk with Him.  This is one of those teachings of Scripture that seem to be opposite of our logical thinking.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”
Galatians 3:10-12

This verse is clear, God does not consider us righteous because we do the right works.  True righteousness is only obtained through faith in Christ.  By trying to live by the so-called rules of Christianity, you’re actually placing yourself back under the curse.

Here’s the problem.  Every human being on earth, apart from Christ, is under the curse.  That’s because all of humanity is trying to follow one code of conduct or another.

That’s what sets true Christianity apart from all other world religions.  Every religion on earth has a code of conduct that must be adhered to if you want to reach perfection, Paradise, Nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever the goal is that they strive for.  It takes discipline, will power, and a lot of hard work to follow through on these goals.

If you think that being a Christian means that you’re trying your best to follow the teachings of the Bible; then you’re no different from all the other religions.  In that case, you’ve totally missed the Good News of Christ.

What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the fact that our God declares that it’s totally impossible for us to ever please Him on our own.  Therefore, He took it upon Himself to provide the way for us to reach His presence.

By trusting in the finished work of Christ, we receive everything needed to please God.  We have obtained His grace and are under His blessing.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13

The curse that Jesus experienced on the cross wasn’t His.  He was perfect and lived a sinless life.  That was our curse that was put upon Him.  He carried the entire weight of all sinful mankind.

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 3:14

In my last post, I talked about the joy we have of receiving Abraham’s blessing.  Here Paul repeats himself.  The whole purpose of the cross was to bring that very blessing to the Gentiles.  All it requires is for us to accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: What can you expect as a part of this blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Blessed with Abraham

Do you expect the same blessing that was on Abraham’s life?  You should.  In the book of Galatians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament, Paul explains it with great clarity.

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Galatians 3:6

He starts by explaining the basis of Abraham’s blessing.  It had nothing to do with Abraham’s good works, and everything to do with faith.  Abraham was declared righteous simply because he believed God.  That’s why God could bless his life abundantly – he was walking in God’s righteousness and not his own.

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7

This is one of the greatest promises of Scripture.  If I believe God – just like Abraham – I can receive his family blessing.  Please understand that on our side of the cross, trusting God means that we believe and act on the fact that salvation is only through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, once I’ve acted on this faith, I’ve been miraculously placed into Abraham’s family.

“Wait a minute, Nick, I’m not Jewish.  How could I possibly get in on the blessing of Abraham?”

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:8-9

This is the Good News.  Way back, in Abraham’s day, God announced to him that the Gentiles would be able to receive the same righteousness that was available to the Jews.  What at one time could only be given to Abraham’s bloodline was now open to all nations.

That’s something I’m particularly glad about.  My ancestors are from Italy, not Israel.  But because of Christ and His work on the cross, God treats me as a son of Abraham.

It’s hard for us to see just how powerful this promise is because of the translations.  If you look at what was promised to Abraham, in both the Old and New Testaments, it puts it in a whole new light.  The promise literally reads; all nations will be blessed in you.

When this was given to Abraham, the entire DNA that would make up Jesus’ earthly body was in Abraham.  Since it’s in Christ that we receive this blessing, God could tell Abraham that we would be blessed in him.

That’s an important truth.  When I bowed my knee to Christ, God didn’t give me a separate blessing that was not quite the same as Abraham’s.  Because I’m blessed in Abraham, it’s the exact same blessing that he received.

That thought is repeated in the next sentence of the verse above.  The Holy Spirit clearly reveals to us that those of the same faith are blessed with Abraham.  It’s not a different blessing.  It’s the same one that God bestowed upon the first man of faith.

Please don’t get the idea that all God wanted to do was to save you and get you on the road to heaven.  He has much more planned for you.  You need to live each day with the expectation that God is at work in you, the same way He worked with Abraham.

And just to give you a “heads up,” as we continue through the book of Galatians, Paul will present this truth in even greater detail.

Question: What is your expectation for God’s grace in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Religion – An Easy Trap to Fall Into

Why do you serve God the way you do?  Because people are watching you; or because you’re trying to please God?  Religion wants you to look at what people think.  It can make you do some strange things under the pretense of serving God.

I’m glad that when the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, He didn’t whitewash the lives of the apostles.  We see them as they were – with all their faults and challenges.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he recounts a confrontation between the Apostle Peter and himself.  It all had to do with religious observances and trying to please men.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Galatians 2:11-13

According to ancient Jewish customs, it was not proper for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile or to eat with them.  But now that we’re in Christ, these outward appearances should hold no sway over who we fellowship with.

There were those in Jerusalem, however, who felt that these customs needed to be carried over into Christianity.  These were the Judaizers that I talked about in a previous post.

At this point in his life, Peter had already understood that he was free to fellowship with Gentiles.  The Lord revealed it to him and then sent him to a Gentile home to preach the Gospel of Christ.  (Acts chapter 10)

When he first arrived at Antioch, the site of the first largely Gentile church, Peter had no problem fellowshipping with the believers in their homes.  But when those of the Judaizers arrived, he wanted to stay on their good side and stopped eating with Gentiles.

What’s important to see is that even though Peter didn’t believe that it was necessary to separate himself from Gentiles, he was sucked into a religious observance.  Religion places customs above faith.  When that happens, we alienate people.

Paul understood that it needed to be stopped before any permanent damage was done to relationships.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
Galatians 2:14

The truth of the Gospel is that we’re all one in Christ Jesus.  Who’s house I enter, or who I eat with doesn’t make me any more or less holy.  The outside observances only serve to impress people (or push them away).

We need to be able to take a step back and question our own motives.  Why do we do what we’re doing?

Please understand that I realize there are many different styles of worship.  Some services are highly formal and ritualistic while others seem to have no structure at all.  It doesn’t matter what style you’re comfortable with, as long as you don’t invalidate those you’re not comfortable with.

Don’t let religion control who you fellowship with.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can do something to make God love you more.  In Christ, you’re already loved more than you could ever imagine.

Question: How have you seen religion alienate people?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Different but Effective

I don’t know about you, but in some circles, I’ve found Christianity to be very judgmental.  No, not about sin, but about other Christians.  I’ve heard so many believers commenting about a ministry they saw on TV.

“I don’t know if they’re really saved.  I’d never preach like that.”

As we go through Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that the apostles understood the Gospel.  The message will always be Jesus Christ – crucified, buried, risen, and ascended.  The methods we use to bring out the message will always change.

Here’s what Paul found when he met with the apostles in Jerusalem.

As for those who seemed to be important — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance — those men added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.
Galatians 2:6-7

I think that it’s interesting to note what Paul had to overcome.  When he met with Peter, James, and John, he knew that formerly they were fishermen.  None of them had any Temple training like Paul did.  Yet he humbled himself and submitted his ministry to their scrutiny.

This is a sermon in itself.  There are times that God has us serving under people who aren’t as smart, trained, or experienced as us.  We have to watch our attitudes, stay humble, and be committed to our calling in Christ.

But what I really want to bring out is that in this meeting, the apostles understood that there was a Gentile method of preaching and a Jewish method of preaching.  They didn’t try to change one another.  They realized that there’s no cookie cutter for the ministry.

The methods may change depending on who you’re trying to reach with the Gospel.  I find that this alone causes a lot of strife in the body of Christ.

“I just visited a church where they let their people take coffee with them into the sanctuary.  I think that’s sacrilegious.”

“That pastor preaches in jeans and a t-shirt, how can he be a real minister?”

The simple fact is that my methods and personality will never speak to everyone.  If we want the world evangelized; different cultures, generations, and education levels; then we need to embrace the different ministries that are speaking to these people.

For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:8-10

The bottom line is that in all of these methods, the Holy Spirit is at work.  People are being saved.  Lives are being changed by the power of God.

Yes, there may be some churches that I wouldn’t feel comfortable attending.  But that simply means that their method doesn’t speak to who I am.  It in no way invalidates that ministry.  I’m glad that the work of the Gospel is not limited to my comfort zone.

Question: How often do you pray for ministries that are very different from yours?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Ministry, The Church, The Gospel

 

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