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Relating to Scripture

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s been sharing about his ministry.  Through his words, we can see his attitude.

Now he begins to talk about how he views the church.  We get some insight into why he writes these epistles.

I don’t think Paul knew that his writings were going to become Scripture.  He probably didn’t realize that people would be reading, studying and memorizing them 2000 years after he sent them off.

But God knew!  As the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle to write these words, He was looking forward to all who would believe and accept the Gospel of Christ.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.
2 Corinthians 1:12

I understand that in the context of Paul’s writing, he’s addressing his comments to the Corinthian church.  He’s reminding them of his way of ministering.

But in the greater agenda of the Holy Spirit, he’s also speaking to us.  Even though he wasn’t aware of it, Paul is explaining to us how he wants us to relate to what he’s writing.

There are two things that he received from God that he wants to shine through in what he writes.  The first is translated as holiness.  This is not the normal Greek word for holiness.  It actually means singleness; without any hidden agenda.

He also says that he writes with sincerity.  It’s a word that means clear and pure.  Paul wants to say what the Spirit is saying.

The only way he could do this was by the grace of God operating in his life.  The wisdom of the world would never give the Word that the Lord wanted to impart to the church.

Look at how Paul describes his writings.  We need to hear this as if it was written to us personally.

For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.  And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
2 Corinthians 1:13-14

This is the key to the Holy Spirit’s plan in giving us the Scripture.  He gave us a written Word that we could both read and understand.

The word, read, is very interesting.  It literally means to know again.  It assumes that what is written will be reread and reviewed over and over again.

That’s the foundation for our understanding of God’s Word to us.  As we continue to read it, we begin to understand it in the way that the Lord intended us to.  The Spirit of God can bring us into the full understanding of the Scripture.

Paul ends this passage by looking forward to the coming of Christ.  When the Lord returns, there will be a great reunion.  Paul says that he will boast about God’s work in the Corinthian church on that day.

Little did he know that not only will the Corinthians boast about him, but we will boast about his work in us.  Because of Paul’s faithfulness to the Spirit, we have a clear testimony to the grace of God.

Paul’s instructions have not only affected the people of his day but have touched and changed our lives as well.

Question: How has your life been changed by studying God’s Word?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spiritual Warfare – It’s Bigger than Me

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that we have to contend with as believers.  I’m using Christ as our example.  In my last post, I talked about the devil attacking who we are in Christ.  The next attack is more subtle.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Matthew 4:5-6

Remember that I said it’s not about mindlessly quoting the Bible.  That doesn’t bring about the victory.  In this verse, we see the reason for that.  The devil has the Bible memorized.  He can quote it better than we can sometimes.

What is this attack?  By using the Bible, Satan is trying to attack the church.  He wants to go through you to bring down other believers.

If you’re a warrior, then the enemy needs to bring you down so that he can attack the church. That’s what the verse meant that said that the battle entails persistency and petition around all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17-18)

Other Christians aren’t really watching the battle.  Many times they’re off in “praise land,” never realizing that they’re being protected.  There are those whose ministry is interceding for them – protecting them.

Why would the devil have told Christ to jump from the temple?  The angels would have protected Him and it would have fulfilled a prophecy from Malachi.

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Malachi 3:1

Had He jumped off the roof, Christ would have appeared suddenly in the Temple.  The people would have flocked to Him.  But what would they be following?  In a word – sensationalism.

God doesn’t want us following the spectacular.

“He’s on TV, he must be spiritual.”

This attack asks; am I going to build God’s kingdom?  Am I going to protect God’s people?  Or am I going to live for self?  This attack happens after a victory in another area.  I’ve overcome the temptation to sin, now I want the fame, recognition, and money that I deserve.

This attack is all about whether I want to advance myself or God’s kingdom.  Many choose to exalt themselves.  The body of Christ is not a place for self-advancement.  It’s got to be the Lord who exalts us.  Christ’s answer to this attack was simple.

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Matthew 4:7

This is making God the focus of our examination.  The fact is, God doesn’t have to prove He’s going to bless me before I serve Him.  I obey Him because He’s God.  He’s done so much for me already; the Lord has nothing He needs to prove to me.

It’s when we need something more than what Christ has already provided that we fall victim to this trap.  Instead of testing God, our goal should be simply to hear and obey Him.

Question: What are some of the things we chase after that are unneeded in our Christian walk?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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God’s Seed in You (Repost)

Our Supply in GodI’m taking a couple of weeks to be involved in some ministry events.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost some of my most read articles that I feel are important.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

In many of my posts, I talk about the relationship between the Word of God and the Scripture.  The Bible is the written Word of God.  But we also need to hear a Word from the Holy Spirit.  This is where the power of God intersects with our lives.

I want to write about how the Word of God relates to us.  The Bible teaches that we must correctly handle the Word of Truth.  In order to do that I must be studying the Scripture – the written record of God’s Word – so that I can handle the Word I receive from God today.

In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
Acts 19:20

The Bible uses many terms in relation to the Word of God.  It uses language such as spread, increased, grew, reached and multiplied.  In the above verse, we’re told how.  The verse says in this way.  If you read through this nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts you’ll get a taste for the effects of the Word.

We see the gifts of tongues and prophecy being manifested.  There was boldness in preaching.  Handkerchiefs and aprons that touched Paul were taken to the sick and they were healed.  Demonic spirits were confronted and expelled.  There was widespread repentance such that a group of new believers burned the equivalent of $5,000,000 worth of satanic sorcery books.

That’s the way the Word of God is described as growing.  Literally, the above verse says that the Word became a force to be reckoned with.  The Word of God is alive and it grows.  That’s the aspect that I discussed in a series of posts.  For that original series, click here.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:23

We’ve been saved by the living Word of God.  That Word is a seed that’s growing inside of us.  It will never decay or diminish.  It’s there forever.

Somewhere along the line, somebody spoke God’s Word to you.  It doesn’t matter whether they used the Bible or not – you heard a Word from God that changed your life.

It might have been a Bible verse, a word of prophecy, or a statement of divine truth.  Either way, it grew inside of you, and eventually, you received Jesus Christ and were saved.

That’s how the Word of God starts its work in you.  The fact that you’ve established Christ as your Lord and Savior is proof that the Word has taken residence in you.  Now what we do with that seed is up to us.

Question: What was the Word of God that brought salvation into your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2019 in Faith, The Gospel, Word of God

 

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Grey Areas – The Final Word

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He had to deal with a lot of issues.  One of them was how to respond to the grey areas of sin – those things that the Bible doesn’t specifically call out as right or wrong.

Paul talks about this subject in chapters 8-10.  In looking at these principles, we covered a lot of ground.  Since this is the concluding post on that subject, I want to review the principles that Paul talked about.

In chapter 8, we’re told that even though Christ has given us freedom in many areas, we’re not to use that freedom if it will have a negative effect on others.  We have to be sensitive to new believers or weak Christians around us.

Chapter 9, verses 1 through 18, tells us that we need to check our motives.  Why do I want to do this activity?  Is it because I want to imitate the world?  Am I rebelling against authority?  Or is my heart pure in this area?

That same section also deals with the issue of personal rights.  When you’re serving Christ, there are times that the Lord asks you to lay down your rights for the sake of others.  Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s God’s will for you.

Then, in chapter 9, verses 19 through 23, Paul tells us that the message of the Gospel is the priority.  We can’t lose sight of what’s truly important for the sake of self-gratification.  My life must bear witness to the truth.

After that, Paul deals with the principle of keeping free from distractions in verses 24 through 27.  Even if something is not sinful, it may still keep you from fulfilling God’s call upon your life.  We have to make sure that we don’t spend all of our time pursuing unfruitful distractions.

Then, in the first thirteen verses of chapter 10, the apostle talks about the things that we set our heart on.  Where you set your heart determines your destiny.  Are you after the things of the world or the advancement of God’s kingdom?

In chapter 10, verses 14 through 22, we’re told to flee from idolatry.  For us, this means the modern version of idolatry.  That’s anything that we put in a position where God should be.  Is there something to which we’re devoting our time, money, and strength, that rightly should be going to the Lord?

Finally, in verses 23-30, the principle of caring for others comes into play.  I can’t be doing something that wounds the conscience of a fellow believer.  I have to be careful not to shipwreck the faith of those around me.

These are the important things to think about when deciding if something is right for you to take part in.  Paul sums it up like this…

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.  For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33

The fact is that it’s not all about me.  There’s a bigger picture that I have to take into account.  We must live our lives in such a way that God gets the glory from all that we do.

Question: How does living for God’s glory make the Gospel message more attractive?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Bible – Not a Rulebook

As Paul continues to deal with the factions of the Corinthian church, he gets to the main point of his message.  It’s an important point that needs to be heard in our generation.

There are times when people use the Bible as a way to push their own agendas.  We need to be warned how to correctly receive and preach the Word of God.

Actually, it’s a warning from Scripture itself.  Believers are sometimes guilty of using the Bible in ways God never intended.  Hopefully, we can learn from the mistakes of others.

Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”  Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
1 Corinthians 4:6

At the beginning of this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul rebukes the people for the many factions that were splitting their fellowship.  He tells them not to go beyond what’s written.  Literally, that means not to over think the Scripture.  Their problem was that they were basing their divisions on the apostles themselves.

“I follow Peter.”  “I follow Paul.”  “I follow Apollos.”

What does that mean?  It’s clear that they were basing their lives upon certain doctrines that each apostle might have emphasized.  Today, most of us realize that different ministers have specialties in their preaching.

Some tend to emphasize faith, some grace, while others are strong in Godly financial issues.  There are also different personalities and teaching or preaching styles.  That’s the way it should be.  Diversity among the ministry gifts is a positive thing.

The Corinthian church was trying to make it an “either or” type of decision.  Instead of receiving the blessing from each teacher’s particular ministry, they followed one certain apostle exclusively.  In essence, they were saying, “I only follow Paul’s rules.”

The Christian walk is not a matter of whose rules I follow.  We’re not to over think what’s written.  God never intended for the church to turn the Bible into a rule book.

Yes, the Old Testament contains many rules.  However, our doctrine must always pass through the cross to filter out the things that don’t apply to us.

If we could please God by following a set of rules, then we wouldn’t need Christ to die for us. The fact is that rules are not enough, no matter how good they are.

Rules and regulations have no power to change the course of someone’s life.  It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can expect to see a difference.

Question: How does our trying to follow rules create more problems for us?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Anointed to Teach

In my last post, I started talking about the teacher’s anointing.  What’s the purpose of a teacher in the body of Christ?  I think the answer will surprise a lot of people.

There are many who think the reason we need teachers is so that we can learn what’s in the Bible.  Actually, it seems to me that this is what most teachers are trying to do.  They believe that it’s all about getting my knowledge of the Scripture into your brain.

I’m here to tell you that this is NOT what God is calling teachers to do in His kingdom.  Yes, we are to use the Scripture, but the purpose has to be according to God’s agenda.

For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life…
Proverbs 6:23

The calling of a teacher is to bring light.  Specifically, godly teaching shines a light on the way of life.  It shows how to get from where you are now, to where God wants you to be.

Scriptural teaching is never about knowledge and always about life.  You know that you’ve sat under an anointed teacher because you leave with an understanding of how to walk on a higher level with Christ.

As a matter of fact, if you look up the word “taught” in the New Testament, you’ll find out that it’s always about how to live.  They were taught how to walk as a new creature in Christ.  They were taught the walk of faith and how to love one another.

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Colossians 1:28

This is the goal.  It’s the perfecting of the saints.  A teacher’s anointing brings with it a passion for the building up of the body of Christ.

As I look around the church of this generation, I see very few who operate in the teacher’s anointing.  That doesn’t mean that there are few called and anointed teachers.  The problem is that if the only examples you’ve seen are those who simply pass on Bible knowledge, then that’s the course you’ll follow.  We need teachers who are willing to spend time listening to the Holy Spirit.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
1 Corinthians 2:13

I think that we should listen to the Apostle Paul.  After all, he did write most of the New Testament.  Where do you think he got his teaching from?

As for me, I know that I’m called as a teacher.  I also know that I’ll be judged more strictly.  I want to make sure that the message of my teaching is not simply Bible knowledge, but the true light of the Word of God for the hearers.

This should be the heart of every teacher of the Word.

Question: How do you recognize a teacher walking in his or her anointing?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Anointing, Ministry, The Church, Word of God

 

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How God Confirms His Word (Repost)

I’m taking a couple of weeks to do some hiking and praying off in the woods.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost my Top 10 most read articles.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

I firmly believe that the power of the early church was based upon their hearing from God.  God spoke to them, they obeyed, and God confirmed His Word.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Mark 16:20

Scripture says that the Lord confirms His Word with the signs – healings and miracles – that accompanied it.  What’s our problem?  Do we serve a different God?  Of course not.  Is He still on the throne?  That’s a dumb question.

We serve a God who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Then what’s the problem?  It should be clear to us.  We’re trying to get God to confirm the Bible verses that we’re preaching, when all along He wants to confirm the Word that He speaks to us.

He never told us to go out and read the Scripture to people for them to be saved – He tells us to proclaim His Word.  I submit to you that our society has heard enough Scripture – it’s everywhere.

They’re sick of hearing Scripture.  Many unbelievers can quote as much of the Bible as some Christians.  What the world is desperate for, is a Word from God.  That’s what’s going to change their lives.  They can argue with the Scripture, but the Word of God will cut straight to their heart.

In our exuberance over the enormous availability of Scripture, we’ve taken it too far.  It doesn’t seem to matter what anyone says.  As long as there’s a Scripture verse attached to it, we call it the Word of God.

It doesn’t take much listening to Christian radio or cable channels to see that many preachers are using Scripture to support their own teachings and philosophies.  Hear me well.  They may be preaching Scripture, but they’re NOT proclaiming the Word of God.

In these cases, God is under no obligation to confirm what they’re preaching.  God doesn’t have to confirm a quote from the Scripture; He only endorses His Word – what He wants to be said at that particular time and place.

Please don’t think, based upon what I said, that I have no respect for the Scripture.  I cannot live without it.  Daily, I read, memorize, study, and meditate on the Scripture.  I use it prayerfully.  I expect and seek God to speak to me through the pages of my Bible.

The difference is that now I’m also listening for God to use other means as well.  I want to hear God’s voice – however He wants to speak to me.  I believe that this was the basis for the power in the life of Christ and in the early church.  One of my goals in this blog is to share how this works in a practical way.

Question: How strong is your desire to hear a Word from God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Daily Thoughts

 

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Faith from the Word

In my last post, we saw how Jesus upset the religious leadership by clearing out the marketplace that was set up in the Temple.  It angers people when you mess with their cash-flow.

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.
Mark 11:18-19

Jesus and His disciples then went to Bethany for the night and returned to Jerusalem the next morning.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
Mark 11:20-21

Two posts ago (What’s Your Season?) I talked about Jesus cursing the fig tree.  Now we see the result of what Jesus did that day.  The disciples were amazed at how the tree had died so quickly.

It’s important for us to understand the explanation that Jesus gave to the disciples.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:22-24

This is one of those verses that are often misunderstood.  I’ve heard people reading into it.  They make it sound like Jesus is saying that God will give you whatever you want as long as you can believe you’re going to get it.  That’s not what Jesus is saying here.

His first and most important statement is – HAVE FAITH IN GOD!  The Lord always has to be the object of our faith.  My faith cannot be toward what a preacher says (and that’s coming from a preacher!), or what you read in a book.

Listen carefully, because I’m about to make you mad at me.  We are not even to make the Bible the object of our faith.  It’s the Word of God that points to God as the object of faith.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

When I hear God’s Word, it inspires me to trust God.  When the Scripture tells me that by the stripes of Jesus I’m healed…my faith is not in that Bible verse, it has to be toward Christ my Healer.  Too often our faith is misplaced.  It has to be toward God.

Another thing we misunderstand is that Jesus is talking about hearing from the Holy Spirit.  He didn’t curse the fig tree because He was in a bad mood that day.  The Holy Spirit instructed the Lord to do that for an object lesson for His disciples.

Jesus clearly said that this faith, or doubt, is in your heart.  He’s not talking about you simply deciding that you want a new car, so you start believing that you’ll receive it from God.  The Lord is talking about believing Him for a desire that God has placed in your heart.

True faith will always come from a Word from God and will have God, Himself as the object.  Then you’ll see the manifestation of your request.

Question: How is faith in your heart different than a “head-faith”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Prayer, Word of God

 

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Are You Wandering?

The last exhortation from the book of James is very important. He deals with an issue that’s prevalent in our generation. It’s about those who wander from the truth.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20

James is dealing with a number of issues in this passage. The first is the fact that a Christian can wander from the truth. The word, wander means to roam or rove around.

In the natural, wandering takes place when we get distracted by something. When I’ve gone hiking, there have been times when I’ve gotten distracted and missed a turn in the trail. A couple of times I had to do a fair amount of backtracking before I got to where I should have been.

That’s why this Greek word can also mean deception.   Deceit is when I knowingly try to distract you from the truth. The question is; how does this wandering manifest itself in a spiritual setting?

One day, Jesus explained this very concept to the Sadducees, who were trying to prove to the Lord that there would be no resurrection.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29

The word, error, in this verse is the same word wander that James used. Jesus was telling these priests that they had wandered from the truth because of two problems. They’re the same two things that cause modern believers to miss out on God’s best.

The first, was not knowing the Scriptures. This was an interesting thing to say to the Sadducees, since they had huge portions of Scripture memorized. They had to know all the books of Moses by heart just to qualify for the priesthood.

The problem was that they only knew about the Scripture. The word that Jesus used was a knowing by experience. These priests knew what the Bible said, they just didn’t want to apply it to their lives. Without the application of Scripture, we’re merely wandering around hoping to stumble upon God’s best for us.

The second thing that causes us to wander is not knowing the power of God. That’s probably the greatest hindrance in our generation. In many church circles we’re relying upon secular corporate models or clever programming to grow our churches.

In many cases, if the Holy Spirit showed up on Sunday morning, we wouldn’t know what to do with Him. In some churches He’d be escorted out the door, in others He’d be told to sit quietly in the corner. The last thing they want is to see the power of God active in their services.

I believe that the goal of God’s people is to see, and experience the power of God actively in their lives. In my opinion, that’s what the world needs to see. More than structures or programs, it’s the power of God that will bring them to repentance and salvation.

I want to see a new move of God in my generation. But for that to happen, we need to stop being distracted by the world around us. In other words, we need to stop wandering from the truth.

By focusing on experiencing the truth of Scripture and experiencing the presence of God we can once again see the Lord’s best manifest in us. As a result, there will be a great harvest of souls when they see the hand of God actively working in our lives.

Question: How much time do you spend actively applying Scripture to your life and seeking God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Good News for You

Good NewsI’ve been posting for a while about the importance of Scripture. This will be my last article in this series.

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Acts 8:35

The final installment about the place of Scripture in our lives is one of my favorite subjects. It should bring great joy into our Christian walk. That’s the fact that the Bible delivers to us the Good News.

This is the basis for the New Covenant – the fact that there’s good news. The rules of the Old Covenant were canceled by the blood of Christ. There’s now no testimony against me. I can now walk as a son of the living God. This is great news!

It’s good news for the world as well. No longer do you have to become a member of the nation of Israel to join God’s family. No longer do you have to observe the religious rituals performed again and again with no permanent change. Now you can come as you are to the cross of Christ and find forgiveness – once and for all.

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 shares even more good news. Every other religion on earth shows their adherents how to strive for perfection or acceptance from their god. That’s what separates all other world religions from Christianity.

The Bible starts from the assumption that nothing we do can make us acceptable to God. He took it upon Himself to provide the way to His presence. That’s the way of Christ. He’s the One responsible to perfect me, if I’ll just trust Him to do the work.

Because of what Christ did on the cross, I now have access to the Spirit of God in a way only dreamed of in the Old Testament. The power of God is now active in my life because of the resurrection of the Lord. I can have fellowship with Him. I can talk to Him and He talks to me. That’s the abundant life Jesus came to bring us.

The Scripture is my guidebook to this new life in Christ. It shows me how to walk by the spirit. That’s why I need to study it daily. I need the insight of the Holy Spirit as to how my walk with God is to develop.

Over the last ten posts, we’ve seen that the Bible shows us how to walk in the power of God. It also teaches us the things that hinder us. We learn what strengthens our walk as well as receiving encouragement in the hard times. Truly this is good news!

Question: What new insights have you gained through this series?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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