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Category Archives: The Gospel

The Cross in Our Generation

In my last post, we saw Jesus explaining to His disciples the need to give up their human, fleshly way of thinking.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

Remember, the Lord had just called Peter an accuser and told him to “get behind me.”  Now Jesus uses that exact same word and says “if anyone would get behind me…”  Getting behind Jesus, following Him, requires taking up your cross.

What does Jesus mean by this?  I’ve heard people use it in a lot of different ways.  Sometimes they’ll use this term in talking about an ongoing illness, or even their spouse.

“That’s just my cross that I have to bear.”

Is that what it’s all about?  I don’t think so.  Carrying a cross is a sign that you’re about to die.  Very soon you’re going to be laying down your life.

In the next few verses, Jesus makes it clear what He’s talking about.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Mark 8:35-37

The Lord is speaking about giving up the temporary in order to gain the eternal.  The word, life, that He uses here is the actual word for soul.  It’s the seat of who you are as a person; your personality, likes, dislikes, desires, and experiences.

We have to lay all of that down if we’re going to experience God’s destiny for our lives.  That’s the only place where we can experience true fulfillment.  It’s the kind of life where we can look back a million years from today and say that it was all worth it.

But there’s more to it than just that.  There’s a tougher part that needs to be laid down.

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:38

I believe that this speaks directly to where we are as God’s people at this point in history.  The word, generation, could also mean a people group.  So Jesus is talking about being ashamed of what He does or says in the midst of an adulterous people group.

Hear what He’s saying.  In order to be adulterous, you have to be in a covenant relationship.  The Lord isn’t talking about the unsaved here.  He’s talking about those who want to follow Him within a church that’s following after the world’s way of living.

There’s a huge segment of the church today that’s ashamed of what Christ does and says in the Scripture.

“Oh, no, we don’t talk about that subject in our church.  We don’t want to offend anybody.”

I thought that the Good News of Christ is that we are headed in the wrong direction – eternity separated from God because of our lifestyle.  But now because of what Christ did on the cross, we can be reconciled to God and CHANGED by the power of the Holy Spirit placed within us.

Father God, I pray that you give your people the boldness to proclaim Your message and to accomplish Your work.

Question: How have you experienced shame over the ministry or teachings described in Scripture?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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One Witness Can Change a Community

We are continuing in our study of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is going from place to place sharing the Good News and the power of God.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.  There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
Mark 7:31-32

On the surface, this seems like something that happened wherever Jesus went.  People were always asking Him to heal their sick.  But if you’ve been following this blog, you know that this is a special case.

This is not the first time the Lord has been to the region of the Decapolis.  The first time was recorded in Mark chapter 5, verses 1-20.

It seems that the people of this region do a lot of begging.  They begged Jesus to heal this deaf man.  During their first encounter with Christ, it was a different story.

In chapter 5, the Lord and His disciples met a demon-possessed man in a graveyard.  He was taken over by a legion of demons.  Jesus cast the demons out and they entered a herd of pigs.  Immediately, the pigs ran into the lake and drowned themselves.

When the people of the area saw what happened, they begged Jesus to leave.  As He was going, the delivered man begged Jesus to take him with the disciples.  Instead, the Lord told the man to stay and tell what had happened to him.

Now, some time has passed.  On the basis of one man’s testimony, the spiritual climate of the area had changed.  Instead of asking Jesus to leave, they wanted Him to minister there.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears.  Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”).  At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Mark 7:33-35

The Lord graciously brought healing to this man.  It doesn’t talk about it in the passage, but I’m sure that the Good News of the Messiah was proclaimed throughout that whole region.

Then, as He’s leaving, the Lord gives different instructions.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement.  “He has done everything well,” they said.  “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:36-37

What a turnaround.  Instead of hostility to Christ, they are now amazed at who He is.  Now they all have the testimony that the Lord does all things well.

This all happened because one man did what the Lord called him to do.  He gave testimony to God’s work in his life.

Never get discouraged about the darkness around you.  Remember that one person’s testimony for Christ can change everything.

Heed the words that the Lord originally told this man in chapter 5.  “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Question: How has Christ shown His love to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Healing, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Work Your Field

In my last post, I talked about the demon-possessed man that Jesus set free.  The demons left the man and went into some pigs, which drowned themselves.  When the people of the area saw what had happened, they were afraid.

Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
Mark 5:17

When the power of God starts to bring change; people begin to resist it.  That’s been the case throughout all of history.

But there was one person who was glad about the change.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.
Mark 5:18

This man had been released from his captivity.  He wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went.   God had a different plan for him.  This man was to stay in his home area.

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  And all the people were amazed.
Mark 5:19-20

Too often the Lord’s people think that the only way they can do a big work for God is to be a pastor or missionary.  Maybe they look down on their abilities because they never attended a Bible college.

That’s never been the prerequisite for doing great things for the Lord.  All it takes is a knowledge of what Christ has accomplished in you.  If you understand God’s love for you, then you’re qualified to tell others.

It’s amazing how God takes us where we are, and increases our influence by His power.  This man was simply told to go to his family and share what Jesus did for him.  He was to explain to them the love of God.

I’m sure that’s where this man started.  But the grace of God couldn’t be contained in his little house.  He felt the drive to bring the Good News even further.

The word used in Scripture to describe him telling the Decapolis is the word for a town crier.  He proclaimed Jesus in the public square at the top of his lungs!  He wanted everyone to know how the Lord had changed his life.

In all of this, God had a plan that was being accomplished.  The people of this area started out being afraid and skeptical of Jesus.  They didn’t want him around.

But as this man started sharing his story, the mood began to change.  The people realized that the Messiah had come on the scene.  Their attitudes turned around.

How do I know this?  Two chapters after this, in Mark 7, Jesus returns to this area.  Instead of asking Him to leave, they bring the sick to Christ for healing.  This man prepared his region to receive Jesus.

So don’t ever think that your efforts for Christ are wasted.  Even if you seem to be in a small area, God can do a great work through you.  Just remain in His will, doing what He’s called you to do.

Question: What is God’s current assignment upon your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Seeds on the Street

Our Supply in GodIn today’s post, I’m continuing to talk about the parable of the sower.  The disciples didn’t understand it when Jesus gave it to the crowds.  So when they were alone, they asked Him about it.

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable?  How then will you understand any parable?  The farmer sows the word.”
Mark 4:13-14

In His explanation of the parable, Jesus makes it clear that He’s talking about ministry.  Specifically; sowing the Word.  The Word He’s talking about here is the Greek word, logos.  Logos refers to the Word that is spoken in preaching or teaching.  For detailed posts about this truth, click here.

The Lord is giving an in-depth look at what happens when the Word is ministered.  There are various groups of people who hear the Word.  The effect is different in each group.

The first group Jesus deals with is what He calls those along the path.

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Mark 4:15

The question is; who are these people?  The path is a ribbon of hard-packed earth.  It has been trampled by generations of traffic.  It’s dry, hard, and unyielding.

These are people who have absolutely no interest in hearing from God.  They just happen to be in earshot of someone who’s speaking on God’s behalf.  The message isn’t directed at them, but they happen to hear it.

Why is this the case?  Simply put; there’s not a farmer on earth who would intentionally sow his seed on the road.  That should be the case in the spiritual realm as well.

That’s why understanding the different types of people in this parable should be important to ministers of the Gospel.  There should be some discernment that goes along with the ministry of the Word.

I know that there are those who feel they need to preach to everyone within earshot.  But that’s just the opposite of what Jesus taught.  The seed of the Word is precious.  It shouldn’t be wasted on unproductive ground.

Listen to how the Lord explained it.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
Matthew 7:6

That being said, what CAN we do about people in this condition?  I’m in no way saying that we should write them off as unreachable.

The fact is that a road can be turned into a fruitful field – but it requires a lot of work.  These people need to be prayed for.  But I’m not talking about a simple, “God, please open their eyes. Amen.”

In order to make them ready and able to receive a Word that could save them, they require someone to intercede for them.  This may include spiritual warfare to break up their hardened heart.  Turning a path into good soil requires time and effort.

The church needs willing intercessors who can take on this responsibility.  Are you one of them?

Questions: Who do you know that may be a person on the path?  How can you pray for them?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, The Gospel, Word of God

 

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Denying the Holy Spirit

In my last post, we saw that Jesus’ family was concerned that He was overworking Himself, while the Pharisees were accusing Him of being demon-possessed.  Being led by the Holy Spirit doesn’t always follow the logical path.  How did the Lord respond?

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.”
Mark 3:23-26

The first thing that Jesus does is to point out how utterly illogical the Pharisee’s accusation is.  What possible reason would Satan have to drive out his own kingdom?

This is especially true since it was Jesus who would be getting the credit for it.  Their argument made no sense; it just exposed how jealous they were of Christ’s ministry.

The Lord goes on to explain exactly what He was doing through these miracles.

In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.
Mark 3:27

The fact is that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work.  Israel had been downtrodden, conquered, and oppressed for so many years that most of the Jews had lost hope.  Through His miracles, the Lord was showing them that God still loved them.

Christ was single-handedly pushing back the darkness of the enemy.  He was taking back what rightfully belonged to the kingdom of God.  He was proof that the enemy can never stop the Spirit of God.

But the next statement the Lord makes has caused quite a bit of confusion.

“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”
Mark 3:28-30

One problem is that we lose sight of His first statement.  It is clearly spoken.  All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven.  By the way, the word blasphemy simply means a hurtful statement made against someone.

According to Jesus, there’s nothing that can’t be forgiven.  However, His second statement reveals some very dangerous ground.  The literal Greek reads that the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit does not hold forgiveness, but is ensnared in perpetual sin.

The first thing I see is that to speak hurtfully against the Holy Spirit, you must already know that it’s the Holy Spirit you’re speaking against.  The Pharisees were not just making a mistake about what was happening.

They knew that the Spirit of God was at work.  They knew that it was the Holy Spirit who was setting free those who were being oppressed by the devil.  They were trying to exalt themselves by discrediting Jesus by means of theology.

Jesus is telling them that the trap of this behavior is that you’re denying the only One through whom you can receive forgiveness.  It’s not that they couldn’t be forgiven, as much as it was that they didn’t want forgiveness.

By denying the Holy Spirit’s work, they’re speaking against the very One who could save them.  That’s a condition that can entrap you into an everlasting sin.

Question: How grateful are you for the Lord’s forgiveness?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Legalism, Ministry, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Religion – Keeping Up Appearances

I’ve come to the conclusion that God hates religion.  What do I mean by that?  To most people, when they think about the word religion, they mean a set of rules by which you live your spiritual life.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion.  God wants a personal relationship with His people through Jesus Christ.  We see a great example of this in the life of Christ as recorded by Mark.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Mark 2:23-24

In order to understand what’s happening in this verse, I first have to explain some Old Testament facts.  The Law of Moses provided for the needs of travelers as they were going from place to place.  It allowed them to pick grain from any nearby field and eat it as they walked along.

So Jesus and the disciples weren’t stealing anybody’s grain.  God’s Word made it clear that the edges of a field were for the travelers, widows, and orphans.  It was a part of God’s provision for those in need.

Then why did the Pharisees have such a problem with what they were doing?  It all revolved around their religious interpretation of the Law.  According to the Ten Commandments, no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day.  It was to be a day of rest and worship.

Here’s where religion becomes an evil tyrant.  The Law of Moses said to not work on the Sabbath, but it never defined what exactly constituted work.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law took it upon themselves to help God out.  Since the Lord obviously forgot to explain it, they went ahead and detailed out what exactly was forbidden on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees had lists of “illegal activities” for the Sabbath.  For instance: you could pick up a chair and move it across the room.  But you couldn’t drag it because that would make a line in the dirt (furrowing) which was work.

The fact that the disciples were picking grain – harvesting – was not allowed on the Sabbath.  That wasn’t God’s law, but man’s religious interpretation of it.

It’s interesting that the word they use, unlawful, is a word that means not right.  However, this word implies that what they were doing was not right by appearance.  It didn’t look right.  With religion, it’s all about appearance.  It’s how you look on the outside.

Jesus had an answer for them.

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:25-28

The Lord uses the example of David.  The Law said that the bread in the Holy Place belonged to the priest.  He could do what he wanted with it.  It just didn’t look right for David and his men to eat it.  But the priest was ministering to someone in need.

The underlying principle is that the Sabbath was created for us to enjoy.  It was to give us a time of rest and refreshment in the presence of God.  It wasn’t made so that we could have one more religious rule.

Our God is a God of relationship.  A good relationship can never be based on a list of do’s and don’ts.  Religion is a form of slavery.  A relationship with Jesus Christ brings freedom and abundant life.

Question: How have you experienced the tyranny of religion?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Christmas Promise

Today is Christmas, so I decided to post some thoughts about the day.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18

The verse tells us that this is how, or literally, this is the manner in which it happened.  There’s a pattern that the Lord uses in bringing about His will.  It’s important that we see it.

First, there was an unexpected pregnancy.  This is interesting.  The pregnancy wasn’t expected.  Yet the Messiah was foretold hundreds of years before.

Just like today. God promises things, and then we forget it…or write it off.  Israel was captured and conquered many times.  Would the fulfillment ever take place?

And yet, in the fullness of time…Mary was found to be with child.

There is a supernatural announcement.  Angels appeared to both Mary and Joseph on separate occasions.

God usually doesn’t do things in the dark.  He always announces His plans.  That’s why we need to be a people who not only pray – but listen.

When the birth was imminent, it was announced to shepherds and wise men.

Then it came to pass.  What God promises, will happen.  Even though we don’t always know the how or why.

Finally, when Christ was born, there was a reception of joy.  “Joy to the world…”  He who is born must be received and with that receiving comes great joy.

God wants to do the same in us right now.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Galatians 4:19

God’s work in us is a birthing process.  There’s a promise.  But then – an unexpected pregnancy.

I wonder sometimes; with all the prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament, did they think He would just appear out of thin air?

There are many great and precious promises God has for us.  We think the same thing sometimes…that they’ll just happen.  No, there’s a process.

It involves birth pangs.  There’s breathing, pushing, work, and sweat.  They come in waves, right up until the time they’re birthed in or through us.

When you think about Christ being born in a manger…think about the same process for His will being born in us.  Wait patiently for the fullness of time – then the rejoicing.

Have a very blessed Christmas as you celebrate what Christ has done!

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2017 in Encouragement, The Gospel

 

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