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Category Archives: The Gospel

Freedom for All

The Apostle Paul is a great example to us of a life lived apart from legalism.  His letter to the Galatians is a testament to how God works in us under the New Covenant.

We’ll continue to look at Paul’s story as he relates it to the church.  Remember, Galatians was written long before the book of Acts.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.  Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.  I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they praised God because of me.
Galatians 1:18-24

Paul has a very interesting story.  He spent three years in solitude after his initial salvation experience.  He used that time to pray and learn to hear from the Holy Spirit.

He then compresses what happened next into a few short sentences.  We know from the book of Acts, that Paul went back to Tarsus, his home town; because there were many who didn’t trust that he had really come to Christ.

After being there a while, Barnabas came and convinced Paul to go to Antioch.  There was a Gentile church in that region that needed a strong teacher who was well versed in the Scripture.  So Paul made the journey and became a part of that work.

Years later, during a time of fasting and prayer, Paul and Barnabas felt the call of God to go around the Mediterranean Sea, preaching the Good News of Christ.  Because of their faithfulness, Gentile churches began springing up all over Asia Minor.  The Galatian churches were a part of his work.

Paul ran into problems in doing this.  There were some who felt that Christianity was still a part of Judaism.  They felt that for a Gentile to be saved, they needed to submit to the Law of Moses.  This included all of the food laws as well as circumcision.

Both Peter and Paul had separate revelations showing them that, under grace, the Law had been fulfilled.  Then the tension came to a head, and a meeting took place.

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  [This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 2:1-5

The Good News of the Gospel is that we’re not slaves.  We’ve been given freedom in Christ.  The revelation that Paul received is for all time.

It’s unfortunate that many have fallen back into the slavery mindset throughout the next generations.  I believe that it’s God’s desire to once again restore His freedom to us.

Please understand; I’m not talking about a freedom to live however we want.  Instead, it’s a freedom to serve God without being hindered by a man-made set of rules.

As we go through the book of Galatians over the next few weeks, Paul will explain in detail how to walk in this freedom.  Don’t miss a single installment.  It will help you to live on a whole new level in Christ.

Question: How does following a set of rules hinder your Christian walk?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017.

 
 

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No Man-Made Gospel

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  It’s a letter of correction because they were beginning to fall into legalism.  He had to warn them that a gospel of legalism was no gospel at all.

He begins by telling them of his personal walk with God.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11-12

Paul tells us that he did not preach a man-made gospel.  It was received from Jesus Christ by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

This is important for us to understand.  It’s the first time that Paul shares about his conversion to Christianity.  The book of Acts had not been written yet when Paul wrote this letter.  So he’s explaining the most important parts of his transformation.

Paul was a Pharisee.  He had to be trained for that role.  He went to a Jewish seminary.  He had huge portions of the Scripture memorized.

Yet, with all that training, he needed the revelation of Jesus Christ in order to preach the Gospel.  That tells me that the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus – has to be learned by the Spirit.  Paul makes it clear by describing what happened directly after his salvation.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Galatians 1:13-17

I think that in our efforts to read through the Bible, we sometimes miss the little, important details.  The fact is that Paul preached a revealed Gospel rather than a taught Gospel.   But we say, “That was the Apostle Paul.  He was a special case.  He was writing most of the New Testament.”

In reality, Paul was human, just like us.  The difference was that he had already gone through the process of getting his theology from other people.  Now he wanted to operate by grace.

In telling us that he got his Gospel by revelation, he was not saying that Jesus Christ personally appeared to him in his room.  Jesus didn’t show up and audibly teach Paul the Gospel for three years.  That’s not the method the Lord uses under the New Covenant.

The key phrase in the above passage is when Paul says that God was pleased to reveal his Son in me.  The Lord was not revealed TO Paul, but IN Paul.  That’s what we need to grab hold of.

An understanding of the Scriptures concerning our salvation is a plus.  But in all honesty, our post-Christian generation couldn’t care less about what the Bible says.  It’s all about Christ revealed in us.

The true Gospel is not a list of memorized Bible verses.  It’s the story of how Jesus Christ broke into my world.  How He revealed Himself in my circumstances and changed my life.  The Gospel is not hearsay, but a valid testimony of what I’ve experienced.

That’s why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit.  Praise God for the New Testament Scripture that can teach us about God’s grace.  But we need the Spirit to make it relevant to those around us.

They don’t want to know about the Book you’re reading, they need to know about the Savior you met.

Question: How did Christ first reveal Himself in your situation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Value-Added Gospel

If you ask the world what the church is all about, you may get some surprising answers. Many times I’ve heard the statement, “They only want your money.” Unfortunately, for so many people to have that attitude, it must be true in some cases.

As God’s people, we have to be very careful not to portray this type of greediness to those around us. We can’t play into the devil’s hand.

Of course, I do understand that the Gospel needs to be financed. I also see the huge amounts of money that pours into the entertainment and professional sports empires. I’ve heard some make the case that all these venues want is your money.

What makes the difference? Why do people spend incredible amounts on sports and entertainment, while at the same time they begrudge giving anything to the church?

The Apostle Paul had an interesting take on this issue.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

I would imagine that Paul had quite a ministry team. When he traveled, it was never by himself. Timothy, Silas, and Titus are just some of the men that traveled with him.

Think of the logistics involved. Going from city to city around the Mediterranean. He needed to constantly be thinking about food, transportation, lodging, and clothing expenses.

Yet, in spite of all that, he never came across as simply looking for their money. The reason is in the fact that he was willing to pour himself into the lives of the people he ministered to. People received something tangible from Paul’s ministry.

When I go away on vacation, I usually find a local place to worship on Sunday morning. I always approach the church, wondering what it would be like if I didn’t know about Christ. How would this church minister to me?

Most of the time, I’ve found wonderful churches that are doing a great work for Christ. But there are times that I walk into the church, and it’s as if I entered a 1970’s time bubble. People, who look like they don’t want to be there, are singing songs that don’t move anyone.

Then a soloist gets up and sounds like they haven’t ever practiced the song. Someone gives a speech that’s totally irrelevant to what anybody is facing right now. But when it’s time for the offering – the appeal is heartfelt – we’re told to give sacrificially.

Now please don’t get mad at me for this stereotype. We have to understand that this is how the world sees us. Remember, the average person is comparing us to the other places they go.

Earlier, I talked about sports and entertainment. Here’s the reason. The athletes that people pay millions to see give their all on the field. The actors we like literally pour themselves into their roles.

How can we give anything less for Christ? When we talk about how much Christ has done for us, and how much He means to us; our lives should show it.

Like Paul said, we don’t just give the Gospel message. We have to put ourselves into it. We have to lose ourselves in our ministry for Christ. Only then will people see the value in the Gospel.

Question: How have you shared yourself with the Gospel to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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God’s Approval System

I’ve been posting from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In it we’ve been looking at the true Gospel. According to Paul, it comes with a demonstration of God’s power. In my last post I talked about the other methods people must use when they don’t walk in God’s power.

The question is; why is there so little of the whole Gospel of Christ being presented in our generation? It turns out that Paul understood the answer.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

We’ve seen that Paul understood the true Gospel as including power, the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction. That might have been surprising to some. But I believe his words in this verse would totally shock many preachers if they understood their significance.

According to Paul, you need to be approved by God to preach this Gospel. Actually it’s deeper than that. He said that you need God’s approval even to be entrusted with this Gospel.

Is this what’s taught in Bible schools? I don’t think so; at least I’ve never heard it taught. In my experience preaching the Gospel is simply coming up with a Scripture for an opening text. Then we apply it to the need for the hearers to “get saved.”

Where’s the power? Where’s the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and the deep conviction? I believe that there’s too much unapproved Gospel being preached these days. That’s why many have written off Christianity as a dead horse that needs to be removed from society.

How do you become approved to be entrusted with the true Gospel? The answer to this is why there’s so little of it in our generation. It’s not about college degrees or denominational accreditation. No, it’s much deeper than that.

Paul makes it clear that this approval can only come from God. Furthermore, the test takes place in your heart. Where’s your heart set? Who are you trying to please?

Your anointing (God’s approval of your ministry) is resting on that answer. It’s not about how much you want it; instead, it’s wrapped up in the direction your heart is taking you.

What we have to realize is that in our own power we can never be well pleasing to God. It only comes from time spent in His presence. It’s what Jesus talked about in the parable of the sower.

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop — thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:20

As I said, the test is in your heart – where you hear and plant the Word. This requires time in the presence of the Lord. It means that we have a listening ear toward the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Then, when Gods sees the quality of the crop produced by the Word planted in our heart, He grants His approval. We will see the manifestation of the Word of God when we present the Gospel. Then the lives of the hearers are changed by that powerful Word from God.

Question: How would churches be different if we sought the approval of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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What is the Gospel – Really?

In my last post we began looking at the second Word that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. It was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Today we’ll look at an important “first”.

It’s always good to note the first time a word is used in the Scripture. It helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit means when He uses it elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes preachers call it the “law of first use.”

Do you have any idea the first place in the New Testament when the word Gospel is used? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not in the Gospels. That’s because the Gospels weren’t the first books written. The Gospel of Mark was probably the fourth book written; which is close, but not the first to use that word.

Actually, the word Gospel is first used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This was the first of Paul’s epistles. He was writing to a young church he started with only a brief stay in the city of Thessalonica. Here’s what he wrote them in the opening verses of his letter.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

That’s a very interesting comment to make. The first time the word Gospel is used in the Scripture, it means more than just words. It’s a complete presentation of the power of Christ. Paul is very clear in saying that it’s not just words, but also includes power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.

It’s unfortunate that in our day there are those who think the Gospel is simply a cleverly crafted message designed to convince a sinner to get saved. When we believe that, we’re only working with a small part of the Gospel. For it to be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ there must also be a demonstration of power.

If I’m going to demonstrate something, then I need to know what it is. In natural terms, power is the ability of something to produce change. If nothing changes, then there’s no power.

Paul tells us here that when the true Gospel came forth – things changed. It’s not like many of our meetings today where we say, “That was a powerful message.” By we simply meant that we were stirred emotionally or felt goose bumps.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context. This teaching runs throughout the New Testament. The Good News must be demonstrated. That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom, because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.

There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle. As a result, the Good News, in many cases, has merely become an intellectual debate. Sometimes, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

The Gospel has to be a Word from God, not just a convincing argument. When I speak what God is saying, then the Holy Spirit is free to confirm the message. People are convicted by the Word and their lives are forever changed.

We need to get back to being a people who spend time listening to their God. Then, once we’ve heard His voice, we need to step out and speak what He’s saying to us. This is the true essence of the Gospel. This is what will change our society for Christ.

Question: What would church look like where the true Gospel was preached?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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To Tell the Truth

We live in an age where we’re told that truth is relative. It’s not the same for everyone. When this is the norm, lies are a regular part of our society.

Think about the internet. Anyone can say whatever they want – about any subject they like. It can be true or untrue with seemingly no consequences.

“Of course it’s true; I read it on the internet.”

I’ve heard people say that; and maybe you have too. We laugh and roll our eyes, because we know that if it’s on the internet, you have to check it out from more than one source.

That makes for a very skeptical society. It makes me wonder how we, as believers, need to handle the truth. James had something to say about it almost 2000 years ago.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
James 5:12

It seems that every day we have to sift through lies and half-truths. It’s like the call I get regularly to inform me that my name was selected to receive a free vacation. Even though I know that I didn’t enter any drawing. The good news is that it would have only cost me $600 to claim my “free” vacation. Lucky me!

Even the media is falling into this type of hype. The accusations of “fake news” seem to be a regular occurrence. Personally, I like watching the weather reports. People laugh at me because I’ll keep one of the weather networks on in the background sometimes.

You would think that weather reporting is above this type of accusation. Not anymore. Throughout the evening, the teaser for the nightly news is, “Can we be expecting another big blizzard?” So I watch the news only to find out that the answer is, “No, the storm’s going out to sea.”

Why am I saying all of this? Am I just some old guy complaining about society? Absolutely not! It’s a warning to us that we can’t let these types of lies, half-truths, and hype be a part of our walk with God.

When we speak, it needs to be the truth. So much so, that we don’t feel the need to convince others to trust us. God’s people should have a reputation of speaking the truth.

Jesus said the same thing to His followers.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:33-37

The enemy has to go to great lengths to convince people to believe a lie. When we do the same with the truth, it makes people question whether they should believe us or not.

Don’t make the truth you’re speaking sound like a lie. Testify for Christ honestly, and with integrity. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do the convincing and convicting. I’ve found that this is the best way to present the truth.

Question: How have you seen people present the truth in a form that sounds untrue?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Patiently Complaining?

In my last post we saw what James taught about the Second Coming of the Lord. It will require us to be patient. At this point it’s taken about 2000 years for the fulfillment.

But there is still more to learn about patience.

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
James 5:9

James tells us to wait patiently without grumbling. Now, that word grumbling was a colloquial term that meant to sigh, to murmur or to say something inaudibly.

It’s just like when someone gets you mad and you speak under your breath.

“I don’t know about that person … I don’t want to do it his way … who does he think he is.”

Many of us act that way, but the Word says that we shouldn’t get caught up in that type of attitude. We shouldn’t be grumbling and complaining about one another.

Why not? “Because the Judge is at the door.” We enjoy the ability we have of always judging everybody else and then walking away.   We’ve always got something to say about somebody.

I know that in my own life it’s so much easier to give myself the benefit of the doubt. But when someone else does something I don’t like – they have no excuse. It may be human nature to see things in that way, but it’s not Christ-like.

Be careful, because the Lord sees everything, and He’s the One who’ll make the final, righteous judgment on the case.

Jesus, especially in these Last Days, wants us to walk in unity of spirit. And so He wants us to be careful not to be found grumbling and judging each other because we know that the real Judge is at the door. We’ve got to be found doing the work that He’s called us to do and not mistreating one another.

There’s one more aspect of patience that James deals with.

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:10-11

Especially in these last days, we need to be patient in the face of suffering. Please understand, that word suffering literally means suffering evil. It about the patience we need to be salt in our current evil society.

I have to understand that unsaved people are going to do evil. It’s all a part of their human nature passed down through their DNA. It’s not my place to judge them or tell them what they’re doing is wrong.

I must be praying for them. While God is at work, I need to be patient with them. Then, as I live openly for Christ, I expect the Holy Spirit to convict them and open their heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t take any character to gripe and complain about everything that people are doing wrong in our society. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit wait patiently for an opportunity to be a true witness for Christ.

The fact is that people don’t get saved because you tell them how bad and sinful they are. They seek salvation when they see how good and loving the Savior is. The key is that the only place they’re going to see Christ’s goodness is in us.

Question: When have you had to be patient in the face of evil?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Legalism, Return of Christ, The Gospel

 

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