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Category Archives: The Gospel

Navigating the Grey Areas

We’re approaching the conclusion of Paul’s teaching on the grey areas of sin.  These are activities that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.

The apostle now gives some advice on how to handle these things.  The specific issue he’s dealing with is the eating of food that had been previously brought as a sacrifice to a pagan temple.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1 Corinthians 10:25-26

God has placed His Holy Spirit within each of us as believers.  If the Bible is silent about it, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t activate our conscience, then don’t over-think it.  If it troubles your conscience, then keep away from it.

That’s for you as an individual.  There’s more advice once others are involved.

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
1 Corinthians 10:27

If an unbeliever invites you to an activity, and your conscience isn’t troubled, then you’re free to go.  The fact is that we need to be cultivating healthy relationships with the unchurched.  How else will they be affected by the Gospel of Christ?

That was easy, but what about a mixed crowd of both believers and unbelievers?

But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.  For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
1 Corinthians 10:28-30

This is where it begins to get complicated.  I now have to take my mind off myself and think of the good of others.  I can’t just run rough-shod over another person’s conscience and proclaim, “I’m free in Christ to do what I want.”

We have to be sensitive to the maturity level of those around us.  We don’t want to be the cause of an offense that hinders their walk with God.

“Well, they just need to grow up!”

Try telling that to a three-year-old.  Growth takes time and nurturing.  Take your eyes off yourself, and be a blessing rather than a hindrance.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33a

The bottom line is that it’s not about me, but God receiving the glory from my life.  I should be able to live with a little inconvenience in order for God’s kingdom to advance.  Our goal should be that the name of Christ is exalted.

Question: Why is sensitivity to the needs of others so important to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Out of the Comfort Zone

How far are you willing to go out of your comfort zone in order to share the Gospel?  The Apostle Paul made some tough choices so that he could win the lost.  What about us?

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
1 Corinthians 9:19-20

It all springs from having a servant’s attitude.  The Word of God is clear that we’re to walk in freedom.  But it’s how we handle that freedom that makes all the difference.

Paul chose to be a servant of the Gospel to everyone he meets.  In that way, he hopes to bring the message of salvation to those who are ready to accept it.  It’s a very hard road to walk.

Look at how the apostle describes it.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
1 Corinthians 9:20

He starts by talking about his relationship to the religious folk.  These are the people who believe that God will only bless you if you maintain strict adherence to a code of conduct.

Paul admits that these religious rules and regulations have no power to bring you closer to God.  But in order to open up communication with this group, he must honor their customs while he’s with them.

I’ve seen those who have destroyed their witness because they’ve ridiculed the beliefs of others.  You may not agree with them, but everyone should be treated respectfully.

There’s another group that Paul reached that we have problems with.

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1 Corinthians 9:21

I believe that the word Paul used to describe this group is closer to our word, outlaw.  He tells us that to the outlaws he became like an outlaw in order to win them to Christ.  All the while he knew that he mustn’t break God’s law in Christ.

This is a tough group to reach.  I’m thinking bikers, gang members, and street people.  We’re not going to reach them dressed like we’re going to church.

I had a friend that I would see once in a while when I took the subway into Boston.  His hair was matted and uncombed.  His beard was long and straggly.  His clothes looked like they had been slept in for weeks.  He looked homeless.  Of course, the reason was that he had a ministry to the homeless in Boston.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23

I think sometimes that we’re just too stubborn to try identifying with those around us.  We want everyone to see how spiritually strong we are.  I’m glad that Christ identified with us in our weakness.

If we truly want to be a participant in the work of the Gospel, then we need to get uncomfortable sometimes.  We need to forget who we are and see the need in those around us.  Only then will we see the power of God at work bringing people to Christ.

Question: How do you identify with those who are not like you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Ministry, Relationships, The Gospel

 

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Ministry Support

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re at the point where Paul is discussing his role as an apostle of Christ.  This is within the greater context of the principles surrounding the “grey areas” of sin.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.  Don’t we have the right to food and drink?  Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?  Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
1 Corinthians 9:3-6

He makes it clear that because of his ministry to the church, he should expect to be supported by those churches.  He shows this by comparing his ministry to others that they knew of.

This was the practice of the day.  Apostles and ministers were given some sort of income.  It could have been monetary, food, lodging, or other things that they needed.

Paul explains that this is only common sense.  If you work, you should be making your living from that work.

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes?  Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
1 Corinthians 9:7

I think that it’s interesting to hear the words that Paul uses.  Nobody serves, plants, or tends without expecting to make a living from it.  These are all a big part of church work.  Why do some people think it’s so wrong for ministers to make a living from their ministry?

Paul shows that the Bible itself proves his point.

Do I say this merely from a human point of view?  Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?  For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
1 Corinthians 9:8-10

Paul uses this Old Testament law to bring out a New Testament truth.   Ministers are worthy of being supported.  The apostle concludes this by using a very clear statement.

If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?  If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
1 Corinthians 9:11-12

We want our ministers and pastors to be there for us.  We want them to pray for us when we’re in trouble, visit us when we’re sick, and encourage us when they preach.  Yet in many churches, they want all this and more while the minister has to work extra jobs just to feed his or her family.

There are others we look to in this way.  We want the Fire, Police, and hospitals to be ready to serve us at a moment’s notice.  So we pay their salaries accordingly.  How much more should we support those who keep watch over our souls?

Question: How have you been helped by a minister who was there in your time of need?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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The Seat of Judgment

One of the future events that Christians don’t like to talk about is the Judgment Seat of Christ.  I’m referring to the final judgment that will send the enemy’s kingdom, as well as the unsaved, to an eternity in the lake of fire.

This is not something that believers need to worry about.  Our sins have been washed in the blood of Christ.  God has tossed them into the sea of forgetfulness – as far as the east is from the west.  I don’t have to fret over my future in God’s kingdom.

But does this mean that I don’t have to prepare for this judgment?  It turns out that there are a couple of aspects of this trial that most believers are unaware of.  The knowledge of these could spur you on to a deeper walk with the Lord.

Paul talks about them as he continues in his first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s upset with them for taking each other to court.

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?
1 Corinthians 6:1-2

This is a huge revelation to most Christians.  We’re going to be on the judge’s bench with Christ while the world is being judged.  This goes right along with Ephesians 2:6, that verse tells us God has seated us with Christ in heavenly places.

But wait; before you get too happy about it – think about the ramifications.  That means that you’ll judge your next door neighbor who never heard the Gospel from you.  You’ll also judge your co-workers that you didn’t want to offend by mentioning your walk with God.

For many believers, this judgment will be one of the most traumatic and sorrowful events of their lives.  There will be untold weeping.  How do I know this?  There’s another section of Scripture that people don’t put together.

The last paragraph of Revelation, chapter 20, describes the final judgment that Paul is referring to in this verse.  It’s immediately after this, in the first paragraph of Revelation, chapter 21, that God wipes all the tears away from our eyes.  I believe that if God didn’t comfort us, we would weep for all eternity over what we just experienced at the judgment.

I can’t even imagine the pain of having a family member or close acquaintance coming before me that day and asking, “Why didn’t you ever warn me about this place?”  It’s not something that any Christian would want to experience.

This will be a sorrowful time for all of us.  However, we should be doing everything in our power to warn those around us.  We should want to keep as many people as possible away from this judgment.

Don’t be taken by surprise at this trial.  Prepare now to judge as few people as possible.  Let everyone in your sphere of influence know about your life in Christ.

Question: How have you given testimony of the work of Christ in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2019 in Ministry, Missions, The Gospel

 

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Three Components of God’s Wisdom

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul is laying out the basis for walking in the power of God.  According to the apostle, it’s through the Word of the cross that this power is accessed.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Never forget that all the power we need for life and godliness is from one source.  It’s all because we’re in Christ.  It has nothing to do with how good I am, or how faithful I’ve been to God.  It’s His work, only, that’s given me this blessing.

We know from the rest of this chapter that the cross was the supreme revelation of the wisdom of God.  When I grasp what happened there, I can embrace and walk in the power of God.  Of course, we have to wait until chapter 2 to see what it takes to lay hold of this wisdom.

But for now, Paul gives us a description of what are the major components of this wisdom.  There are three specific parts to how God operates in us.

The first is His righteousness.  Simply put, righteousness is being seen as right or correct in God’s eyes.  Because of what Christ did on the cross, we can be seen as righteous no matter what our past is like.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Because I’m in Christ, God the Father sees the righteousness of Christ, rather than my personal failures.  That allows me into His presence, where my life can be changed, daily, into the walk of righteousness.

Next is holiness.  This is the description of anything that has been made clean and consecrated for God’s use.  In the Old Testament, everything used in the Temple had to be made holy.  Giving us a position of holiness was another work that Christ did on the cross.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith…
Colossians 1:22-23a

By trusting in what Christ did on the cross, I’m now seen as holy; set apart for God’s personal use.  This is an important truth because nothing impure or unholy can enter God’s presence.

On my own, I have no holiness to offer.  Because of this, I would have no right to come into God’s presence.  The problem is that I can only be made clean in His presence.

Now, because I’m seen as holy in Christ, I can come before God without any accusation.  In that way, I can be purified to live a life of holiness in Him.

The third part of God’s wisdom is redemption.  This is probably the greatest gift of all.  It’s what the enemy never saw coming.  Redemption means that on the cross, Christ made the complete payment to buy us out of slavery to Satan and the world.

Righteousness and holiness would have been little help to us if we were still under the authority and control of sin.  Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we are free to serve God as a part of His kingdom.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…
Ephesians 1:7

The wisdom of God is the most wonderful part of our life with God.  In the next few posts, we’ll see how Paul says that we can access it in our walk with the Lord.

Question: What blesses you the most about God’s wisdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Ignoring the Cross

As I continue my series through First Corinthians, we’re looking at the wisdom of God manifest in the cross.  It’s something that God expects His church to understand.  It’s been revealed to us in His Word.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21-24

This is a problem we face even in our society today.  There’s a pressure on the church to cater our message to those we’re trying to win.

Religious people want to hear one thing, while the educational community wants to hear something else.  Many times we fall into the trap of trying to please our listeners with the message we think they want to hear.

Paul strips away all of these elements by boiling the message down to its vital component.  He preaches the same essential message to all who will listen.  That message is the Word of the cross – Christ crucified.

The reason is clear.  There’s a supernatural call in that Word.  It contains the power of God to draw men and women to the place of repentance.

We need to see this.  When we water down or ignore the Word of the cross, we lose the bulk of the power needed to win the lost.  Beyond that, those who do come to the Lord with little knowledge of the cross, have no desire to become radical disciples of Christ.

This is what the world desperately needs to see in the church.  It’s also what the church needs in order to be transformed into the victorious kingdom that was set forth by Christ.  We must hunger and thirst for the Word of the cross.

We’ve tried a whole host of other strategies only to be met with little or no results.  Isn’t it time to proclaim Christ the way they did it when the world was “turned upside-down” by the Gospel?  We need to renew our knowledge of what happened in and through the cross of Christ.  This is a message that the Lord can’t wait to reveal to us if we’ll just stop and listen.

This is one of the things that we’re missing in our churches these days.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:7

Paul explains to us that this message was destined for our glory.  That’s why it’s such a mystery.  From the outside, the cross looks like a place of pain, suffering, and weakness.   But in reality, it will bring glory to all who live by it.

It was the same for Christ.  The demonic kingdom had no idea what would be unleashed on the cross.  When the “Lord of Glory” was crucified, there was an explosion of power that rocked the universe.  It’s clear that Satan would never have allowed this to happen if he had known what the results would be.

It’s time for God’s people to once again unleash this power in the world.  We need to walk in the power of the cross.  The message of the cross is vital for our last-days testimony.

Question: What would change if we incorporated the teaching of the cross into our message?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Who Are You Following?

As we continue in our study of First Corinthians, Paul has begun talking about agreement in the body of Christ.  We’ll now see why he brought up that subject.

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
1 Corinthians 1:11-12

When will we learn that among the followers of Christ, there’s only one true God?  There may be a multitude of teachers and methods of teaching, but we serve the same Lord.  2000 years later, and we still fall into the same trap.

Different denominations within Christianity still quarrel over the small details of the faith.  We all have a brand of teaching that we enjoy.

There’s nothing wrong with being different.  That is, as long as we believe in the fundamentals – Jesus Christ, God made flesh, the One who died, rose from the dead, and is Lord of all.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, but my teaching is not the only way to know Christ.

Paul had to deal with this in the Corinthian church.

Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
1 Corinthians 1:13-16

In these questions, Paul is asking about a fundamental truth.  Who is the focus of our faith?  Is it our teacher, or Christ Himself?  The answer should be obvious.

Paul now makes one of his most powerful statements.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Corinthians 1:17

The impact of this verse is all but lost on many in the church today.  In effect, Paul is saying, “God did not call me to simply convert people to Christianity.  I am not using my superior wisdom to get people to make a logical choice to follow the teachings of Christ.”

Paul was commissioned by God to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Hearts were to be convicted.  Lives were to be changed and made new.

The Gospel is not about convincing people that they need to begin following the teachings of Christ.  It’s giving them the choice to become a new person in Christ.  It’s a call to leave the kingdom of this world to become a citizen of the kingdom of God.

Human wisdom has no power to change a life.  But in the cross, we find the power of transformation.  Paul makes that abundantly clear.

It’s unfortunate that the cross is preached so rarely in our generation.  It’s actually the foundation of life on a higher level.  In the next few posts, we’ll see how Paul describes it.

Question: What is the place of agreement for all believers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2018 in Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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