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The Gospel of Power

As we continue our look at the Gospel of Mark, I want to pick up on the theme that Jesus traveled throughout Israel proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News, of the kingdom of God.  The first place we’re specifically told about is a village called Capernaum.

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.  “Come out of him!”  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this?  A new teaching — and with authority!  He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Mark 1:21-28

The first thing I see is the amazement of the people.  There was something about how Jesus taught that was different from everyone else.

The other teachers they listened to were mostly scribes, who had no teaching authority of their own.  They would refer back to the writings of famous Rabbis of the past.  They would give long quotes adding no insight of their own.

That’s a far cry from hearing a teaching from the living Word of God.  The Lord didn’t need to fall back on what somebody else said.  He knew exactly what the desired result was when He inspired the Scripture.

Consequently, when they listened to Christ, their hearts were changed.  They understood that they were hearing from the mind of God Himself.

There was, however, an even greater demonstration of the authority in His words.  A man who was under demonic possession was delivered simply by the words that Jesus spoke.  No hype, no theatrics, just, “Be quiet and come out of him!”

It was visibly confirmed that the Gospel that Jesus preached was the true Word of God.  Please don’t get the idea that this was just something for the Lord to do.  This is what the Holy Spirit wants for all who preach and teach.  Listen to how Paul describes it.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 15:18-19

I don’t believe that the Gospel – the Good News of Christ – can be fully proclaimed without the confirmation of signs, miracles, and healings.  This is how the early church grew.  It’s what the world around us needs to see.

But that requires us to spend time with the Holy Spirit; hearing His voice.  Then, we may walk in the authority that only comes from being in the presence of God.  This is where the Father is leading us in this generation.

Question: Why does a demonstration of power increase the effectiveness of the Gospel?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Gentleness

In today’s post, I’ll be talking about the fruit of gentleness as found in Galatians 5:23.   Many people associate gentleness with weakness.  In actuality, just the opposite is true.  According to Scripture, it’s impossible to be gentle if you’re weak.  You must be walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think anyone would accuse Jesus of being weak.  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Yet this is what it says about Him as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey…

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
Matthew 21:4-5

The question is; was that the best the Lord could come up with to ride into Jerusalem?  If it was…if all He could come up with was a donkey, then He was pretty weak.  The fact is that Jesus had the power to break through the heavens, coming down from the clouds on a white stallion.

Even though the Lord has great power, He chose not to use it on that occasion.  This is the true spirit of gentleness.  Look at how it operated in the Apostle Paul’s life.

There were some people in the Corinthian church who were opposing Paul’s authority.  He gave them an interesting choice in his letter to them.

What do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 4:21

There would be no reason for Paul to threaten them with the “whip” of apostolic authority if he didn’t have any.  The truth is that the apostle had the authority needed to put them in their place.  Yet, his desire was to not have to use it.

So if we were to define gentleness according to its use in Scripture, I’d say that it’s placing my power, under God’s control.

This is the hardest thing to do sometimes.  That’s especially true when I know that I’m in the right.  I want to bring the full weight of my scriptural authority down on their heads.  Unfortunately, that’s usually not the best idea.  I need to be led by the Holy Spirit in my responses to people.

This is why I must spend time in the spirit.  I need to be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in all the situations I’m going through.  This is true for all church leaders.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:25-26

That’s because the goal is not to prove that I’m right or that you’re wrong.  The ultimate objective is a life that is turned around for God’s glory.  Many times, by our arrogance, we win the battle, yet lose the war for the hearts of people.

We may have proved our case, but they were never set free from the devil’s bondage.  True gentleness allows for the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.  So we need to listen and obey His voice, even when our tendency is to defend ourselves.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

This teaching is found throughout the Scriptures.  Gentleness brings restoration.  When you cultivate the spirit of gentleness, you’re participating in drawing someone back to Christ.  Spend time with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to produce this fruit in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s gentleness operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Our Declaration of Independence

I’m now going to begin posting from the third of the foundational books of the New Testament – Galatians.  It was written by Paul at the same time and place that he wrote 1 Thessalonians (Click here for review).

Just to remind you; James was written as a Christian primer for new believers and 1 Thessalonians was an encouragement to a new church.  Now, with Galatians, we’ll see how Paul handles a long-standing church that was beginning to fall into legalism.

Many call the book of Galatians our spiritual Declaration of Independence.  In it, Paul lays out the true relationship between the Law of Moses and God’s will for the church.  There are many believers who fail to recognize the total package that Christ purchased for us on the cross.

It’s the principles in this letter that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  We’re not just a sect of Judaism.  Christ is doing a whole new thing in the church.

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia…
Galatians 1:1-2

This opening line is the key to understanding Paul’s mission and authority.  Becoming an apostle was not his idea.  It wasn’t something he studied and trained for.  He had no MDiv.  He never stood before a denominational ordination committee.

Think about how far we’ve fallen from those days.  In many circles, becoming a pastor or preacher is simply a career choice based on personal preference.  You go to school, get a degree, and then get ordained.  Next, you candidate at a church for the position of pastor, they vote, and you’re elected.

Yes, I realize that a great number of ministers are there because of the clear call of God on their lives and I’m one of them.  But for too many, it’s just a choice they made to pursue a career that they liked the sound of.

Please understand that the ministry to the body of Christ is not something to enter into lightly.  It’s a spiritual battleground that can destroy you if you’re not prepared.  Each year, hundreds of pastors and leaders drop out of the ministry because of this fact.  I personally have had many minister friends who are now selling cars or insurance because they couldn’t handle the pressures or demands.

When we read Paul’s letters, we’re not just reading the suggestions of an intelligent teacher.  We’re hearing God’s heartbeat for the church.  This is something Paul learned by spending years at the feet of the Holy Spirit – listening and obeying what he heard.

The book of Galatians is saturated with the Word of freedom to the church.  Serving Christ was never meant to be about following a set of rules.  God never intended us to figure it out on our own.  The Holy Spirit is our Guide to lead us into His truth.

Hopefully, as we go through this study of Galatians you’ll find a spiritual freedom that you never knew existed.  It’s my prayer that it will cause you to rise to a new level of faith and power in Christ.

Question: What does spiritual freedom mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Whose Authority?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Now we’re going to get into a new area as we start chapter 4.

Just to remind you, I’m going through the New Testament in the order it was revealed to the church by the Holy Spirit. The first four books, James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark, are the foundation stones of our walk with Christ.

Because of this, there are a lot of “firsts” in these writings. In this post I’m going to deal with an important first principle. It’s one that’s almost lost in our modern church experience. I believe that God wants to restore it in this generation.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Before I get started into the main subject, I want you to see that God’s desire is always for our growth. Whatever we’ve learned and implemented in the past, it must always increase more and more each year. We want the life of Christ to become increasingly brighter all the time.

The principle that we need to understand is that of authority and submission. These are two subjects that most people don’t want to deal with in the church. That’s usually because it’s not done in a Scriptural way.

In these verses, we see the first time that a church leader talks about his authority in Christ. It’s the foundation for the relationship between leaders and followers in the body of Christ.

When Paul says that we instructed you, it literally means you received instructions from us. I believe that there’s a big difference in those two phrases.   Paul didn’t just talk to them, they actually took what he said seriously; and applied it to their lives.

He taught them how to live in such a way that it pleases God. To please God means that you evoke a positive emotional response from the Lord. Some of our modern teaching gives us the wrong ideas.

The fact is that God loves us and wants us as His children at all times. However, not everything we do brings a good emotion to the Lord. When I operate outside of His will, He’s not smiling happily saying, “That’s My boy!” There are plenty of Scriptures that implore us not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us.

On the other hand, our present church culture usually doesn’t want to be instructed on how to live for God. It’s okay to suggest to us some things, but don’t tell me what I need to do. I’ll decide for myself what I will and won’t do in my life.

By this time, you might think that I’m simply talking about being obedient to church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This lack of submitting to instruction has a lot to do with our present leadership.

I call your attention to the second verse above. The word instructions is actually the word commands; like in the military. They’re not optional.

Here’s the important point that I don’t want you to miss. The word authority is not in the original Greek verse. Paul actually says; you know what commands we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Please understand that Paul is not saying that Jesus gave me the authority to tell you what to do. Unfortunately, that’s how many leaders incorrectly interpret it. Then the leaders try to force people to do their will.

On the contrary, Paul was saying that he spent quality time in the presence of the Lord. He then heard from Christ certain commands that he was to pass on to the church. And that’s where, I believe, we’ve missed it.

We need leaders who are willing to do what it takes to hear a Word from God. People don’t need to hear my opinion on how to live for Christ. They need to hear from Christ, Himself. That’s where God is bringing His church to in our generation.

Question: How have you seen the effect of leaders operating in their own authority?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Passing Down the Blessing

FallenI’m posting about our call to be a blessing to those around us. I started by looking at this verse in Hebrews…

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
Hebrews 11:20

This is an interesting verse because in actuality Esau was Isaac’s favorite. He was the one that Isaac wanted to give the family blessing to. But in the final analysis, it was Jacob who went further with God and His plan.

When you talk to someone; do you know their heart? That’s why we want to be a blessing to everyone around us. We have no way of knowing what it could mean in their lives.

There is, however, another aspect of blessing that we sometimes miss. It’s a very important concept for us to understand.

And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.
Hebrews 7:7

The phrase without doubt means that this truth is absolute under all conditions. We need to realize that a true blessing can only travel down-line. It could pass from a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, or a pastor to a church. That means that a true blessing is only a part of a relationship where there is submission and obedience.

It’s very important that we understand that the blessing is passed through lines of authority. Even though we may say in church-speak , “he blesses me,” we really only means that he makes me happy.

A true blessing, the endowment with power for success, must come from an authority. And that brings us to the other side of the coin – cursing. By curse, I’m not talking about using foul language. Cursing is the opposite of blessing; it’s the endowment of power for destruction in a situation.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
James 3:9-10

What’s true for the blessing is also true for the curse. It can only travel down-line through lines of authority. That’s why I’m not worried about what people say to me…or about me.

Some people get all upset and anxious over the careless words of others. Someone might say something like, “You look like you’re coming down with something.”

I’ve heard people get very upset and respond, “Don’t speak death over me!”

The fact is that I don’t have to worry. Only my authority can curse me, and I’m confident that they won’t.

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
Proverbs 26:2

I don’t have anything to fear from the curse. I’ve been set free in Christ. Anybody can say what they want to me or about me – my life is under God’s protection.

Enough about the curse. The point is that as far as we’re concerned we should be speaking blessing and life into the people God has placed us over.

This includes the unbelievers around us. You do realize that in Christ, we’re in a higher place than they are. If we spoke more blessings into them, they would probably be more open to the Gospel of Christ.

As believers, we should be a people who are known for the blessings that come from being around us.

Question: What was the last blessing that you spoke into the life of someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Eating From the Tree of Life

Fruit TreeI’ve been posting about our relationship with the Lord. I’ve looked at how Adam portrayed that relationship before the fall. Because he listened to God and obeyed, he walked in the authority of the Spirit.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 2:23-24

When Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib and brought to him, he immediately spoke under the authority of God. Why will a man leave his father and mother? Why will a husband and wife become one flesh?

It’s because Adam said, under the authority of God, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” This intimate relationship between husband and wife was given birth through Adam’s word under divine inspiration.

We need to get back to the authority that springs from the tree of life. But what does that mean? I’m not talking about the wood or the leaves. Eating from the tree of life is all about the fruit.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.
Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of this tree produces righteousness. It’s all a part of the righteous lifestyle. It’s when we’re worshipping, hearing and obeying God – just like Adam did in his perfect state.

A good example of this, in Christ, is contained in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. This was a church full of mature believers. It was one of Paul’s favorite places to minister. They supported him in his work when no one else did.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Paul’s prayer for them was that they abound in love. Love is relationship. He wanted the depth of their relationship with the Lord to grow in a big way. Then, he wanted them to discern what is best. That’s not the difference between good and evil, but God’s direction and plan for their lives.

That in itself is great, but what I consider the best part of what the Apostle wanted for them is that they be filled to overflowing with the fruit of righteousness. Where could they obtain this fruit? It only comes through Christ.

Because of our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, we now have access to the tree of life. Do we really understand the power of that statement? We can have unbroken fellowship with the God of the universe – Creator of Heaven and earth! He will allow His power to work through us. What greater gift could we ever ask for?

Paul went on to say…

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:8

This is what the abundant life is all about. Knowing Christ Jesus. That’s our access to the tree of life. That’s the source of all we need for life and godliness. We have a beautiful relationship with God.

Question: Why is it so important to cultivate our relationship with Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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Relationship – The Foundation of Authority

BeamI’m posting about how our relationship with God has been revealed throughout Scripture. We started with this verse from John.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24

If you read the first three chapters of Genesis, you’ll find that Adam never needed to speak to God out loud – it was all by the spirit. It was a perfect relationship on God’s level. It’s what we were created for. It wasn’t until sin entered the picture that this union with God was ruined.

…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

God caused His breath – or literally the Spirit of life – to enter into Adam’s being. This was what made him come alive to God. Adam became a soul that could enter into a relationship with the Creator of the universe.

God spoke to Adam by His Spirit. Adam worshipped God by his spirit. Adam then obeyed God’s Word. Everything was the way it was designed to work. No words needed to be spoken out loud – it was all in the spirit.

That’s why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil brought death. If you’re hearing from God in your spirit, and obeying what you hear, then there’s no need to recognize good and evil. Your life is simply about hearing and obeying.

I believe that this is the type of relationship that God wants to restore in us. This is the life giving flow of the Spirit. Unfortunately, we live on this side of the fall, and all of our experience before Christ is apart from the Spirit.

It was in the garden that Adam would meet with God, probably under the shade of the tree of life. It was his sanctuary. The tree of life is all about relationship. It was the visible symbol of Adam’s relationship with God.

It amazes me how hard we try to obtain a walk of power and authority. All the while we never stop to realize that these can only flow from a relationship with God. The place of relationship is the place of authority.

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
Genesis 2:19

Now that’s authority. God and man working together for a destined outcome. Whatever Adam called the creature – that was its name. This was because Adam functioned perfectly in the spirit. He said what he heard from God. God’s authority was flowing through him to the world around him. This carried over into all aspects of his life in the garden.

This is the kind of relationship we need to cultivate with the Lord. Only then can we walk in the authority of the Spirit.

Question: Why does walking in authority require hearing from God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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