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Tough Love

As we continue to look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we can begin to see his heart for them.  His first letter was very bold and authoritative.  He dealt with many of the sins and failures of the church.

I’m sure that many who read that letter were convicted and sorrowful over their actions.  Paul understood this and now he addresses this issue.

I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.  Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
2 Corinthians 1:23-24

The first thing Paul does is to let the church know that he understands his place in this process of correction and renewal.  It’s something that modern church leaders need to follow after.

He essentially says that “I am not the lord over your faith.  Instead, I’m a fellow worker with you.”  That’s an important concept for all leaders to grasp.  There’s only one Lord in the church – Jesus Christ the Son of God.

It’s not up to me, as a church leader, to make people do what they’re supposed to do.  All I can do is instruct in the way of Christ.  Then, the choice is theirs whether they’ll follow or not.

I can’t make them stand firm in their faith.  Faith is personal.  Everyone needs to stand on their own as they trust in God and His ways.

So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you.  For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved?  I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice.  I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy.
2 Corinthians 2:1-3

Now Paul bares his heart to them.  He’s overflowing with love for them.  After all, it was Paul’s ministry that gave birth to this church (See Acts, chapter 18).  How could anyone ever think that he was out to hurt them?

Usually, Paul is lifted up when he’s with his spiritual children.  But as he was going through that area, he knew that they had just received his letter.  He also knew, by the Spirit, what the effect upon the church would be.

He assumed that there would be much sorrow and guilt.  He also knew that as it ran its course, this sorrow would produce the repentance necessary for the church to get back on track.

Paul was operating in wisdom.  He knew that if he showed up too early, he might short-circuit the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  So Paul made a painful choice to put off his visit until a later time.

For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
2 Corinthians 2:4

This final thought lets us know what Paul was going through as he wrote First Corinthians.  First, he says that he felt under great distress – literally pressure – to write his letter of correction.

Also, he had great anxiety.  This word means that he felt like everything was falling apart.  It was through his great love for the Corinthian people that he forced himself to write a strong word to them.

It took a tough love to help them to get back to their first love for Christ.

Question: How have you experienced someone’s tough love for you?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, Revival

 

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Helmet and Sword – A Lethal Combination

Over the past few posts, I’ve talked about the Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit.  I looked at them individually in order to understand what they are and how they operate.

But if you remember, when I first talked about them, I said that they were given to us as a set.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:17

After we lift up the Shield of Faith, the next step is to receive, accept, the helmet and sword.  As I’ve said, these are the two pieces of armor that God bestows on us once we’re sufficiently trained.

You may not like this teaching.  Most others preach that these are ours to use simply by faith.  However, I think that a quick look at the church today will prove that relatively few believers are victorious over the enemy and his kingdom.

Personally, I want to see results in my Christian walk.  To do that, I need to trust what Scripture says and not a good sounding preacher.

I need to first prepare myself for battle.  I take up the belt, breastplate, shoes, and shield.  I submit myself to the training of the Holy Spirit.  Only then am I in a position to receive the helmet and sword.

To review, the Helmet of Salvation is the authority of God working through me.  The Sword of the Spirit is the power of God.  This is a lethal combination against the enemy’s kingdom.

Authority is the permission you need to carry out your calling effectively.  Power is the ability to see it accomplished.  You can’t complete your assignment without both of these ingredients.

The concept of “issued armor” is not only a spiritual truth.  It works this way in the physical as well.  Think about what it takes to become a Police Officer.

First, they have to undergo classroom training.  They need to learn the law, tactics, and procedures.  Then they need weapons training.  After that, they need to practice their fieldwork.  If they pass all their training, they can graduate from the Police Academy.

However, even then, they can’t hit the streets and start arresting criminals or issuing tickets.  There’s one more important step.  They need to be accepted and hired by a police force.

Let’s say that a graduate from the academy is hired by the NYPD.  Only then are they issued their two most important pieces of equipment.  I’m talking about their badge and their gun.

The badge tells the city they work for, their rank, and the authority they have in the department.  The gun gives them the power to enforce the authority that’s been given to them.

The Scripture teaches that it’s the same way in the spirit.  We need to be issued a helmet and sword.  Unfortunately, because of a lack of teaching about this, there are many believers trying to battle the enemy hand-to-hand.  We were never called to do that.

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 get into trouble when we ignore verses like this.  Paul clearly taught that God has an approval process before He’ll entrust you with His Word of power.  It’s the Holy Spirit that does the testing.

This concept is found all through the New Testament.  We would do well to understand it and walk in it.  Only then will we see the power and authority of Christ affecting the world around us.  I believe that this is the next step on God’s agenda.  He wants to train His church to live and minister as Christ did.

Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about this approval process.

Question: How does the spiritual helmet and sword increase the effectiveness of our evangelism?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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God’s Armor – Using the Helmet of Salvation

In my last post, we saw that the Helmet of Salvation speaks of the authority we’re given in Christ.  If you remember, all of the armor is put on by my choice.  This piece is received once I’m trained in its use.

Think about when Jesus entered the Temple courts and overturned the tables of the money-changers.  At that point, the priests asked Him, “Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)

That’s because authority is like a chain.  Each link is connected.  Authority must be given and received.

So how does salvation enter into all of this?

Salvation means that we’re safe and defended.  When I say that I’m saved, I mean that I’m safe in Christ.  However, there are three distinct works that the word, salvation, refers to.

The first took place when I bowed my knee to Christ and prayed for Him to save me.  I was saved.  I was taken out of the world’s trash heap and placed in God’s house for His use.

Now, in God’s kingdom, I’m experiencing an ongoing cleaning process.  All that “stuff” from the world that stuck to me is being removed – sin, sickness, poverty, anxiety, depression, bitterness, etc.  I’m in the process of renewal.  I am being saved.

Then, someday Christ will return to take physical possession of the earth.  At that point, I’ll receive my new resurrected body.  I will be saved from decay and death.

The question is; which of these works does the helmet speak of?

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
1 Thessalonians 5:8

If you read this verse in the original, you’ll see that it’s not saying that we’re hoping for salvation.  Instead, it’s the hope, literally the expectation, that comes from our salvation.  So it speaks of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

If I submit to the process of salvation, I am being saved.  It’s this ongoing work that protects my authority in Christ.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Romans 1:16

This verse makes it clear that salvation requires power.  That’s important because, like I said in my last post, authority is the permission to use power.  Submitting to this cleaning process allows God’s power to flow through me.

Please understand what I’m saying.  You don’t have to be absolutely clean and perfect to walk in God’s power.  But you do have to be submitted to the process.

How then do I receive and put on this helmet?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Philippians 2:12-13

It’s obedience to God that works out this salvation in us.  The reason Paul tells us to use such respect – fear and trembling – is because it’s the God of the universe who’s working in us.  Simply put, obedience is the acceptance of His process at work within us.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation as I submit myself to God’s ongoing work in me.  That brings an expectation of the good things to come as a result of this.

Question: How well do you see yourself submitting to God’s process of renewal in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Spiritual Warfare – A Strong Start

As I said in my last post, I’m beginning a series on the spiritual battle that we find ourselves in.  There are a number of things that we misunderstand about it.  Hopefully, I can help to clear up some of these issues.

To start this subject, I want to take us through the history of spiritual warfare, as recorded in Scripture.  To do that, I’m going to look at some verses that people don’t normally associate with this topic.  I just ask you to stick with me; it will become clear as we go along.

The first place I want to take you is to the throne room scene in Heaven.  In the book of Revelation, we see Christ (the Lamb) taking up a scroll that’s sealed with seven seals.  That’s found in Revelation, chapter 5.

I believe that this scroll is the title deed to planet earth.  Christ is given it as a call for Him to return as King since He paid for it with His blood on the cross.

As with any deed, it should record the major events of the property in question.  It would contain the owners, liens, and rights of way that have been enforced during its history.  The deed to earth is no exception.

That being said, in Revelation, chapter 6, we see the Lord breaking these seals and opening the scroll.  What’s recorded on it is very important to our discussion.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals.  Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”  I looked, and there before me was a white horse!  Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
Revelation 6:1-2

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of conjecture about this verse.  Some say that it’s talking about Christ, the church, or the devil.  Unfortunately, if you read the description carefully, you’ll find that none of these will match perfectly.

There is one person, however, that fits all the requirements of this verse.  Look at the description.

He carries a bow.  In the ancient world, that was the “first-strike” capability of any army.  The archers could do a lot of damage before the enemy even got close.

He was also given a crown.  That’s talking about God-given authority.  Along with that, he had a destiny to conquer something.  And don’t forget that he rides a white horse – that stands for purity.

With all of these descriptions, I think that the single most important fact is that he’s the first person listed on the title deed to the earth.  As far as I can see, there’s only one person this could be.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Genesis 1:27-28

Here we see the start of it all.  Adam is created perfect, pure, and righteous.  He has authority to rule and is commissioned to subdue, or conquer, the entire earth.  He’s to bring everything on earth under the rulership of God, the Creator.

As the first created human, he’s also in a unique position.  Because of his authority under God, he can protect the earth from any invader.  He has been given “first-strike capability.”

In Adam, the human race was given a strong start.  Things looked very promising.  There’s no enemy that could defeat God’s anointed ruler.  At least that’s what it looked like in the beginning.

In my next post, we’ll see how that turns out.

Question: How are we like Adam, with the authority God has given us in Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Law or Tradition?

In my last post, I talked about the need for everyone to be under our God-given authority.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, this principle applies to all of us.

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
1 Corinthians 11:11

This is an important point.  We’re all interdependent upon each other.  It’s not a patriarchy.  Men are not only dependent upon men.  We all need each other.

We’re all different.  We have unique giftings, strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.  That’s why the church is more of an organism than an organization.

For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.  But everything comes from God.
1 Corinthians 11:12

There are no grounds upon which to state that men are more important than women in God’s kingdom.  We may have different roles in the family, but neither gender is a higher order of creation.

We have to realize that we all came from God.  He’s the Creator.  We are His property.  Humans do not belong to other humans – we are never to be seen as objects or property.

That means that in everything, we bow to the will of God.  That even includes the areas of our preferences.  I may prefer a certain style of music in church.  This doesn’t mean that everyone who has another style is wrong, they’re just used to a different culture.

I believe that the Holy Spirit was able to speak through Paul, even though he may not have personally understood what he was writing.

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?  For long hair is given to her as a covering.  If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice — nor do the churches of God.
1 Corinthians 11:13-16

Paul was inspired by God to preface this section with the exhortation to judge for yourself.  Then he put his preferences down in the form of questions.  He may have thought that the answers were obvious – and they were within the context of his culture.  What he didn’t realize was that the answers might be different in the various generations and cultures that would carry on the Gospel message.

The phrase, the very nature of things, means the observable way things work, whether it be in nature or society.  If you’re talking nature, there are animals that God gave longer hair to the male than the female – I’m thinking about lions for one.  So other cultures may answer this question differently.

Another point I see is that Paul clearly states that he had no other practice.  That’s a word that means tradition.  To the apostle’s knowledge, there was no other tradition in his society or any of the churches he experienced.

His society had a tradition of long hair and coverings for women.  Consequently, the churches in that culture followed suit.  I don’t believe that these questions that Paul asks constitute a spiritual law for all cultures, generations, and peoples.

The key is that everything comes from God.  He has ownership.  If I acknowledge Him and seek His will and pleasure, then the Lord will lead me down the right paths.

Question: How is the blessing of God based upon Christ’s work and not my appearance?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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An Uncovered Society

There are some segments of Christianity where covering a woman’s head is a big issue.  It all centers around a portion of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

You may want to check 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 before reading the rest of this post.  I’m only going to hit some points that I feel are important for us to understand.

Paul said that a man could pray or prophesy with his head uncovered.  A woman could pray or prophesy with her head covered.  Let me just note here that what the early church called “prophesy”, we would call preaching.  So a woman could publically pray or preach in the early church.

About the head covering…we know that it was, and still is, the Middle Eastern custom for women to have a covering.  It’s a sign that they’re either under their husband’s or their father’s authority.  It was also the custom of ancient Rome.

In that society, a woman with an uncovered and shaved head was a sign that they were a prostitute.  They were publically showing that they were under no one’s authority.

That was the only way of life that the apostle knew.  But the Holy Spirit, in writing the Scripture, went beyond Paul’s limited knowledge.  1 Corinthians 11:6b says that if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

The word “if” is in the original Greek verse.  Here’s my question – is it a disgrace in our society for a woman to cut or shave her hair?  A quick walk down any street will answer that.  The length of a woman’s hair has no relation to any sign of authority.

Our problem is that we don’t want to deal with the real issue that this section of Scripture is all about.  It’s so much easier to tell a woman to cover her head and think that’s the end of it.  We need to apply this truth – the need for everyone to be under some authority.  In our culture, we try to be fiercely independent of any authority.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2

This verse clearly tells us that everyone must submit to authorities.  God has established three authority structures – Family, government, and spiritual.  We have to find our place in each of them.

Under normal circumstances, Christians don’t have too much problem with government or spiritual authority.  It’s the family that we have the most issue with.

There’s a prevailing opinion that you’re under a parent’s authority only as long as you live in their house.  Once you move out, you’re on your own and no longer have to listen to them.  But is that what the Bible teaches?

If we want the blessing of God on our lives, then we need to find the place we fit into under the authorities God has given us.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman; you need to be under authority.

Authority flows from the top (God) down.  I believe that the reason we see so little spiritual authority in our society is that so many have unplugged themselves.

We all need to find and accept the authorities God has placed over us.

Question: Who are the authorities that God has called you to be under?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Men, Women, and Authority

As we continue to study Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we now come to another controversial section.  He begins to talk about men and women in regards to the principle of authority.

I think that so much of our debating and anger over this section comes from both a misunderstanding and a misrepresentation of what Paul is teaching.  We need to see this without any preconceived ideas of what’s being said.

Therefore, I’ll try to stick to the simple statements found in Scripture, rather than my personal perspective.  The key word is “try.”

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3

Let me get started by getting everyone mad at me!  This Scripture is a loaded minefield if you’re not willing to take it at face value.  It deals with the issues of authority and submission.

First of all, we’re talking about headship on an individual basis.  Notice that both the word man and woman are singular.  Paul is not saying that all men are the head over all women.

We make submission a very complicated subject.  I’m not going to talk about it much in this post.  I’ll simply give you some homework.  If you do a study of submission, you’ll find that the specific areas in which a woman is told to submit are to her own husband, or to her own father.

Having said that, this verse is saying that the head of a man is Christ.  The head of a woman is a man (either her husband or her father).

Women – Please don’t shut me off just yet!  Wait and see where I’m going with this.

All too often I’ve been flagged down by a husband, dragging his wife along.  He needed to ask me a “Bible question”.

“Pastor Nick, doesn’t the Bible say that the husband is the head of the wife?  Doesn’t she have to submit and do what the husband says?”

Immediately I see a problem in the relationship, and it’s not the wife.  It stems from a total misunderstanding of authority and headship.  Let’s see how Paul explains it.

In the above verse, he makes it clear that even within the Godhead there is headship and authority.  God the Son – Christ – is under the headship of God the Father.  Does that make Christ any less God?  Absolutely not!  He is fully God.

What then is the relationship when it comes to headship?

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Notice what Jesus said here.  He did not say that He does everything the Father tells him to do.  Instead, He tells us that He does what He sees His Father doing.

The head sets the direction for the body.  In my last post, we saw Paul instructing them to imitate him as he imitated Christ.  This is true in any headship – authority relationship.

In my experience, the relationship of a wife to her husband is usually the same as the husband to Christ.  Godly men who are serving Christ faithfully usually don’t complain about lack of authority in their families.  It’s not about trying to get others to obey me, but about me getting my relationship right with the Lord.

Question: How well do you follow the headship of Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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