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A Call to Repentance

We’re continuing our look at John the Baptist in the Gospel of Mark.  He had a very important ministry.  He prepared Israel for the coming of the Messiah.

He’s also a good example of what our ministry should be like.

And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mark 1:4-5

John was a minister who didn’t feel the need to impress people.  He lived separately from society.  He didn’t let the day to day fads affect him.  He simply ministered the message he was given.

I’m glad that there are churches today that are attracting lots of people.  They have a modern atmosphere.  There’s smoke, lights, comfortable seating, and a professional sound.

That’s fine, as long as the message of Christ isn’t watered down.  When the methods become more important than the message, then we’re starting to compromise.  When the cash-flow required to maintain the look becomes the purpose; now the church is in trouble.

It seems to me that it was the message of John the Baptist that was attracting the crowds.  Their lives were being changed.  They came back from the Jordan River with a new outlook on life.

There’s also an aspect of John’s ministry that I think we miss because we’re on the other side of the cross.  We have to remember, while we read the Gospels, that the events described were taking place under the Old Covenant.

The people coming out to hear John’s message were “church people.”  If they were participating in the traditions of the Law of Moses, then they were saved and on their way to Heaven.  This was not the same baptism that we receive after salvation.

These people were already a part of the Old Testament congregation of believers because of the sacrificial system.  This baptism was a preparation for the continued work of Christ in the lives of His people.

Jesus didn’t just die on the cross to give me my initial salvation.  He took all my sins to the cross so that I could remain clean before God.  This baptism was looking forward to the ongoing work of grace in our lives.

That’s because we see the people confessing their particular sins, then being baptized for their removal.  It corresponds to the continued work of Christ’s cleansing in our lives.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

This verse isn’t telling me that I need to be rebaptized whenever I fall into sin.  I’ve already been baptized to identify with Christ.  Now, all that’s needed is for me to confess my failures to God and receive His forgiveness and cleansing power.

I explained all of that, to simply say that this ministry is fading away in our generation.  Where’s the call to repentance in our day?  It seems that when someone preaches against sin and calls for repentance, a cry goes up that they’re bringing condemnation.  This is not the way it should be.

Yes, we’re righteous in the sight of God if we’re in Christ.  However, there’s an ongoing work of cleaning that the Holy Spirit wants to work in us.  That process requires conviction, confession of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and purifying.  Please don’t ignore the whole work of salvation that Christ wants to accomplish in you.

Question: When was the last time you went before God in repentance?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on November 29, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Generation of Preparation

Like I said in my last post, Mark was the first view of the life of Christ given to the church.  As we begin our look at the Gospel of Mark, I’m struck by an obvious point.  The Holy Spirit didn’t think it important to start with the birth and childhood of Jesus.

Instead, He starts off with the calling of John the Baptist.  He was the prophet who was to go before the Lord and prepare Israel for their Messiah.  So Mark begins with a prophecy of Isaiah.

It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” –”a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
Mark 1:2-3

I’ve always seen us as the “John the Baptist Generation.”  I believe that we’re the ones who are preparing the final harvest of souls before the second coming of Christ.  That makes his calling and ours very similar.

First, I see that the Lord didn’t arrive the first time, without a messenger announcing His coming.  That should be the job of the church right now.  Preparing the world to meet their King and Judge.

We are the messengers of Christ.  It’s our job to let the world know what Jesus has done for them.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

This is our ministry in a nutshell.  Everything else is a side issue.  The saving work of Jesus Christ should be our main focus.

Another thing I see is that there’s preparation involved.  Mark uses two different words in these verses.  The word, prepare, in verse 2 means a thorough preparation of all the equipment needed for an assignment.  We need to be equipped for our role in these last days.

The word used in verse 3 is a bit different.  It means to get ready.  It speaks of the internal preparation that’s needed in advance of the Lord’s coming.

There’s no way around it; the church needs to be prepared for Christ’s return.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

It concerns me that so few people attend a Bible Study these days.  I’m glad for the attendance at worship services on the weekends, but that’s not where you’re equipped.  There needs to be something more in depth – where you can interact with the teacher.

Right along with this, I’ve found our generation to be the most Biblically illiterate in all of Christianity.  Simply put, many believers have no idea what the Bible even teaches.  I’ve heard people tell me what they think the Scripture says because they heard it on a TV show or in a movie.  We need the foundation of true Biblical teaching.

The final thing I see is that John was a voice crying in the wilderness.  He was away from all the trappings of society.  John was different.

Why do we feel the need to blend seamlessly into our culture?  If there’s no difference between our lifestyle and theirs – why do they even need a Savior?

There’s a fear that no one will listen to us if we’re too different.  I think that the opposite is true.  Only when there’s an observable difference will the world want what we have.

We belong to a different kingdom.  We’re to be in the world but not of it.  Let’s truly pick up the assignment of being messengers in this final generation.

Question: What’s your message to the world?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Gospel Beginnings

Over the last year or so, I’ve been systematically teaching through the New Testament in the order that it was revealed to the church.  Today, I’m starting the fourth of what I call the foundational books.  They are James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.

I believe they are the foundation on which the rest of the New Testament is written.  The Gospel of Mark is the foundation for all that we know about the life of Christ – the Messiah.

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 1:1

I think that it’s clear the way the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to open this Gospel account.  This is the beginning; literally the commencement, of the gospel of Christ.  This is where our knowledge of how Jesus lived gets its formation.

But who is this man, Mark, which paints this picture of Christ?  We don’t know much about him.  Most of what we believe comes from various church traditions.

I think that the best explanation is that he is John-Mark, from the book of Acts.  He was a relative of Barnabas and traveled with him for a while on a missionary journey with Paul.  He was young then and wasn’t prepared for this type of ministry.  He soon abandoned Paul and Barnabas.

Many believe that when he left the traveling life, he settled down as one of Peter’s helpers.  The Apostle mentions Mark in the greeting of his epistle.

She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
1 Peter 5:13-14

Since he traveled with Peter for so long, it’s believed that most of Mark’s gospel comes from the preaching of Peter.  He gives very brief stories and an immediate application of truth.  It sounds very much like how a “street preacher” would talk to a crowd.

That Mark grew and matured under Peter’s mentorship is without question.  He left the missionary life when he was younger, and actually caused a split between Paul and Barnabas.  However, later on, even Paul saw the change that had taken place in his life.

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
2 Timothy 4:11

As we read through this Gospel, my desire is that you get a clear foundation of who Christ is and how He lived.  God in the flesh.  Yet he humbled Himself to function as a man led by the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus Christ as the conquering Savior.  We also see Him as a humble Servant of God the Father.  It’s a contrast that we should be striving for in our ministries.

This is the beginning of the Gospel.  It’s the first glimpse that the Holy Spirit gives us into the life and ministry of Jesus.  Let it speak to you in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, I encourage you to do so.  In that way, you won’t miss any of the teachings in this series.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit brought you to where you are today?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Thanksgiving Leftovers

Today is the eve of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So I’ve been reading and meditating on giving thanks to God.  Then I came across a verse that really struck me.

When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.  It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 22:29-30

In the Old Testament, the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten in one day.  There was to be nothing leftover.  I thought that was funny.  That’s because, in our generation, Thanksgiving is known for having the most leftovers.

This spoke to me of how we should thank God.

We thank God for His daily provision.  Think about the Israelites in the desert.  God provided manna for them.  He told them to only gather enough for the day.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”  However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.  So Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:19-20

It’s amazing how much things stay the same.  God tells us to trust Him.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We want all of our provision – today.  God wants to provide step by step – so we must look to Him in faith.

Our walk with God is step by step.  We want to know the whole plan.  I need to thank God for what I know and trust Him for what I don’t know yet.  That’s a lesson of faith.

We may know where He’s bringing us to, but not the exact path.

When it comes to our blessings from God, we like to keep the leftovers.  Think about all of the things we’ve prayed for.  Then think about all the answers to those prayers.  My first thought is, “They belong to me!”

No – they belong to God.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

We want to keep everything God gives us for ourselves.  But that’s pretty selfish.

God’s grace to us is for others as well.  We want to keep it all for ourselves.  God wants to bless us AND make us a blessing.  We want to store it all up for our own usage.

That’s the difference between a river and a swamp.  The Israelites learned it when their extra manna got smelly and full of maggots.

Finally, our thankfulness prompts others to thank God.  God desires our thankfulness to overflow into the lives of others.  It’s like a river of blessing flowing into those around us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15

This is God’s will for us.  To overflow by the spirit.  We may still have leftovers this year.  But as we thank God remember not to hang on to the blessings that He wants you to move along.

Question: What are some blessings you can pass on to others?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Joyfully Thankful

In my last post, I finished my series on the book of Galatians.  Since we’re now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel like posting some things that would prepare our hearts.

At one point, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to have a knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

That’s a long sentence, but it has a great message for us.  We’re told that we should live a life worthy of the Lord.  Our lives should reflect His character since we’re called to live as His ambassadors.  But how is that to be accomplished?

It also says that we should please Him in every way.  This is the only place in Scripture that particular word is used.  It means to have the desire to please someone – to want to make them happy.

I realize that sometimes we make big mistakes and fall short of this goal.  It’s good to know that if the desire’s there, then the Lord is pleased with us.

However, it can’t just end with the desire to please Him.  This desire is not just an internal part of me; it has to be manifested in how I live.

According to Paul, it’s shown forth as I bear fruit, growing, and allowing His power to work in me.  And right along with this, I need to be joyfully giving thanks to the Lord.

Please understand that there are two ways we view life when faced with challenges that we can’t change.  The first is to tolerate them with grumbling and complaining.  The other is to come at them with the knowledge that God has full dominion over everything and everybody.

Looking at life’s problems in this last way allows us to rejoice that God’s power will work in us.  Then it will be evident to the world around us that God is still on the throne.

I love that phrase, “…joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Thanking God with joy is what we need in in the challenging situations that we face all the time.

But this kind of response will only happen as we spend time with Him.  Being in His presence allows us to be strengthened by His Spirit.  It gives us the knowledge and faith that Christ is in control.

The word translated giving thanks is a part of speech that indicates Paul is not just talking about Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all about a lifestyle of giving thanks to God continually.

Keep your thankfulness to God going throughout the year.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What are you thankful for this season?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Mercy – The Bottom Line

In our walk through Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, we now come to his closing remark.  It’s the summation of his entire teaching.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Galatians 6:14-18

When you walk in legalism, trying to please God by your good works, it’s the basis for boasting.  After all, I can always find someone that I’m better than, at least in my own mind.

The true walk in the spirit requires us to rely on the Lord.  That means I can only boast about what He’s done in my life.

According to the Apostle, this walk will supply you with peace and mercy.  I’ve already talked about peace in a previous post, so today I’ll deal with mercy.  It’s important for believers to understand this concept.

If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture.  Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters.

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 5:11

One thing that’s abundantly clear from Scripture, the walk of mercy will require perseverance.  Of all the people for James to use for an example, did he have to pick Job?  The simple truth is that Job drove his friends crazy.  The big question on everybody’s mind is; why was Job at a standstill?  According to his friends, it was because he must have been doing something wrong.

That kind of thinking was absolutely incorrect.  Job was being trained for a higher walk in God.  As I’ve said before, promises are for spiritual children.  In order to get them to obey, you must say things like, “Clean your room and you can have ice cream.”  Adults don’t live like this.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

Many times I’ve preached from this verse telling my congregation the importance of laying their lives down as living sacrifices.  But until I understood the concepts of Biblical mercy, it was always in a legalistic vein.  Notice the motivation that should propel us to offer our lives before God.

Is it in view of God’s law?  Maybe it’s in view of the promises?  NO!!!  It’s as we keep the Lord’s mercy in our sight that we have the drive necessary to lay our lives down on His altar.

That’s how powerful the walk of mercy can be.  In order to obtain it, it’s worth the greatest cost we can imagine.  The total surrender of our lives to God’s plan.

God simply asks you to make the offer, wholeheartedly.  Why do we make this life-altering decision?  It’s because we know that this is the Lord’s desire.

No strings attached; no hidden agendas.  “Lord I want to know You because only You are worthy of the investment of my life.”  We only obtain mercy through becoming a willing sacrifice.

If you desire to walk this walk, you must know that mercy makes this the only rule. “Boast only in the cross.” Do you want power? Do you want to live above the law and the promises? Then you must learn to walk the way of mercy.

You must pursue God simply to know Him. You must offer all you are to God, simply because He desires it. Then, when you see the manifestation of His power in your life, boast only in the cross. This is the secret to how Jesus lived and ministered in the world.

Question: What must you do to begin walking in God’s mercy?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit and the Cross

We’re continuing our study through the book of Galatians.  Now that we’re in the final chapter, Paul is beginning to wrap up his teaching.

In this letter, he deals with the false teachers who said that you needed to come under the law in order to be saved. There were people trying to convince the church that Christ forgives your sin, but the law makes you acceptable to God.

Paul had an answer for these people that we need to take to heart in this generation.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!  Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Galatians 6:11-12

If our focus is on the outward behaviors, then we’ll avoid the cross at all cost.  In spite of this, we still want God’s grace to work in our lives.  We want to see God’s blessing on our finances, health, jobs, and family.

At that point, our mind tells us that there must be something we can do to obtain God’s blessing.  So we put ourselves under all kinds of rules and regulations in order to earn the grace of God.

Here’s why that approach doesn’t work.  Under the law, you can live for yourself by invoking a string of technicalities.  It’s the same thing the Pharisees of Jesus’ day would do.  You simply tell yourself, “I’m okay.  I go to church, read the Bible, and live a good life.”

In reality, these people want to avoid the fear of the cross.  The word persecuted in the above verse comes from a root word that means to run away or retreat.  That tells me that these individuals are cowards who have decided not to embrace the cross.  Instead of running from it, we must live in its shadow.

Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:13-14

Instead of trying to avoid being worldly by our own willpower, we must embrace the cross.  Think about what Paul is saying here.  The world is nailed to a cross.  I’m nailed to another.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over to that other cross.  Neither can the world get to me.

That’s what we do to our flesh by invoking the power of the cross in our lives.  When we nail our flesh to the cross there’s a power that’s released to work God’s righteousness in us.  It’s not a struggle to keep pure, but reliance upon the Holy Spirit in us.

But we need to remember, we nail our flesh to the cross by the spiritual walk.  The more I pray in the spirit, the more my flesh is dealt with.

I can never crucify the flesh with its wants and desires by my will-power.  My flesh can’t change itself, no matter how good my intentions are.  It can only be accomplished by cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

This is the path to all that God has for you.  I’m talking about healings, increase, miracles and the provision of God.  It’s everything you need for life and godliness.

It will only come in its fullness as we embrace the pattern laid down by the Lord.  We must follow the path of the cross by a walk in the spirit.  Allow the Lord to work His pattern of salvation in us.  It’s the way to freedom in Him.

Question: What would the church look like if we all embraced the path of the cross?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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