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Contracts and Covenants

Do you know the differences between contracts and covenants?  If you’re a Christian, then that distinction is very important.  Understanding it can be the difference between a blessed life and total frustration with your spiritual walk.

As we continue looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to talk about covenants.  That’s important because we’re in a covenant relationship with Christ.  The unfortunate thing is that we don’t usually talk about covenants in our culture.  We’re most familiar with contracts.

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life.  Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.
Galatians 3:15

Let’s start with contracts.  They’re based on mistrust and works.  We don’t really trust each other to do what we’ve agreed to, so the contract details out all or our responsibilities.  For instance, you fix my roof in a professional manner and I’ll pay you $5000.

Contracts also have an escape.  If you don’t fix the roof, I don’t have to pay you the money.  If you complete the work, then I can’t legally refuse to pay you.  The contract forces us to do the things we said we would do.

Covenants are a totally different thing.  They’re based upon faith and love.  In a covenant, two people pledge their lives to each other.  There must be a great faith in each other in order to do this.  Under covenant, I complete my part regardless of what you do.

Also, there’s no escape from a covenant.  They’re in effect forever.  They even affect the descendants of those who made the covenant.

The closest thing we have to covenant in our society is a marriage.  God has designed marriage to be a covenant, but in many cases, we’ve reduced it to merely a long-term contract.

In Paul’s example, he explains that a covenant can’t be annulled and another covenant can’t be added alongside it.  As I said, once entered into, it’s in effect forever.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
Galatians 3:16

A covenant is in effect throughout the generations.  In Abraham’s case, it was spoken to Christ through Abraham.  That’s because Jesus entered the earth through Abraham’s family line.

But here’s the important piece that we often miss.

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
Galatians 3:17

There are some who erroneously teach that the Law of Moses was a new covenant that God made with Israel.  They say that once the Law was given, salvation was only obtained through the sacrificial system.  This verse exposes the fallacy of that kind of teaching.

The good news is that the covenant of Abraham is still in effect.  Over the past few posts, I’ve been talking about how the Apostle Paul explained this truth.  As believers, we can walk in the blessings of the covenant.

Of course, there’s still the question about the Law of Moses.  What exactly is our relationship with the Ten Commandments and all the laws associated with them?  We’ll deal with that subject over the next few posts.

Question: Why is it important to know that we’re in covenant with God?      

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Blessed with Abraham

Do you expect the same blessing that was on Abraham’s life?  You should.  In the book of Galatians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament, Paul explains it with great clarity.

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Galatians 3:6

He starts by explaining the basis of Abraham’s blessing.  It had nothing to do with Abraham’s good works, and everything to do with faith.  Abraham was declared righteous simply because he believed God.  That’s why God could bless his life abundantly – he was walking in God’s righteousness and not his own.

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7

This is one of the greatest promises of Scripture.  If I believe God – just like Abraham – I can receive his family blessing.  Please understand that on our side of the cross, trusting God means that we believe and act on the fact that salvation is only through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, once I’ve acted on this faith, I’ve been miraculously placed into Abraham’s family.

“Wait a minute, Nick, I’m not Jewish.  How could I possibly get in on the blessing of Abraham?”

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:8-9

This is the Good News.  Way back, in Abraham’s day, God announced to him that the Gentiles would be able to receive the same righteousness that was available to the Jews.  What at one time could only be given to Abraham’s bloodline was now open to all nations.

That’s something I’m particularly glad about.  My ancestors are from Italy, not Israel.  But because of Christ and His work on the cross, God treats me as a son of Abraham.

It’s hard for us to see just how powerful this promise is because of the translations.  If you look at what was promised to Abraham, in both the Old and New Testaments, it puts it in a whole new light.  The promise literally reads; all nations will be blessed in you.

When this was given to Abraham, the entire DNA that would make up Jesus’ earthly body was in Abraham.  Since it’s in Christ that we receive this blessing, God could tell Abraham that we would be blessed in him.

That’s an important truth.  When I bowed my knee to Christ, God didn’t give me a separate blessing that was not quite the same as Abraham’s.  Because I’m blessed in Abraham, it’s the exact same blessing that he received.

That thought is repeated in the next sentence of the verse above.  The Holy Spirit clearly reveals to us that those of the same faith are blessed with Abraham.  It’s not a different blessing.  It’s the same one that God bestowed upon the first man of faith.

Please don’t get the idea that all God wanted to do was to save you and get you on the road to heaven.  He has much more planned for you.  You need to live each day with the expectation that God is at work in you, the same way He worked with Abraham.

And just to give you a “heads up,” as we continue through the book of Galatians, Paul will present this truth in even greater detail.

Question: What is your expectation for God’s grace in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Do You Know the Two Kinds of Testing?

ClimberWe all go through challenging times in our lives. The Bible calls them trials or tests. None of us are exempt, so we need to be aware of how they function.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Notice that James is not saying that the trial is a blessing. Our blessing is the result of coming through the test victoriously. If you remember from the first post in this series; it’s our faith that’s tried. This trial then brings perseverance and results in our faith being approved as genuine.

But what exactly are these tests all about? James goes on to explain it to us.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15

First, we must understand the words being used. In the English Bible, the words temptation, test, and trial all mean different things to us. In the original Greek they’re all the same word. The translators used these different English words depending upon the context.

In this verse, James is only referring to one kind of testing – testing by evil. In this post I want to talk about the two kinds that are spoken of in Scripture.

The first I want to share about is testing by evil. This is usually called temptation by the translators. This is when we are given the opportunity to do something against God’s law or human law. It could also be troublesome, injurious, or destructive to us or others.

In thinking about testing, it’s important that we don’t get our theology from cartoons. There isn’t any little demon or angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ears!

James makes it clear that usually the devil is not even involved. I think that we give him too much credit. It’s actually our own flesh that brings on the temptations that we face. We are tempted when our sin nature wants something that’s not God’s best for us. The only way to overcome consistantly is by a lifestyle of fasting and prayer in the spirit. (For more detail on these, click fasting or prayer)

The second kind is testing by God. James only says that God doesn’t use evil to test us, but there is a test that He sets up for us. This happened a lot with Jesus and His disciples.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:5-6

In this kind of testing, the Lord brings opportunities before us. Their purpose is to show forth the faith that has been produced in us as a result of hearing His Word. He wants us and others to see the growth that’s taking place in us. The result should bring glory to Christ working in us.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

Knowing these two types of trials will help us to be victorious no matter what challenges we face. As we rely upon the Holy Spirit, we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Question: How has the testing process worked maturity in your Christian walk?

©Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Money and Humility

Fake MoneyThey say that the grass is always greener in the next yard. But is that the truth? What should our attitude be towards wealth?

If we want to do our best work for the Lord, then we need to deal with the issue of money. In our society you can’t function real well without it. So, we need to understand the Scriptural view. James had something to say about it.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
James 1:9-10

The first thing that we understand from this verse is that James is not saying that we all need to be poor. He doesn’t contrast poor vs. rich, which references how much money you have. Instead, he’s dealing with humble vs. rich, which tells me that he’s talking about our attitudes.

I believe that God wants to provide abundantly for His children. But what I’ve learned is that He works with us individually. What I mean is this; abundant provision in the United States will look differently than abundance in Indonesia. Yet, in both places, the Lord blesses His people in order for them to be a blessing to others.

The problem is not about how much money you have, it’s your attitude towards it that makes the difference. I’ve seen people who have no real money – everything they own is on credit. Yet they act arrogantly as if they own the world and are better than everyone else.

I’ve also seen people who don’t have a lot, but they’re constantly blessing others. As a result, God is always continuing to provide for them.

We need to learn the lesson of attitudes. It’s never about how much money you have. There needs to be a walk of humility.

But what is humility? Some think that it means you have to see yourself as a nobody. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

At one point Paul told Titus to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2). The fact is that true humility is always directed at others and never at us. It’s how I need to view those around me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Humility never puts itself down. Instead, it lifts others up. Okay, but what does that have to do with money?

If you think that your money makes you great and important, then you need an attitude adjustment. Money is a tool that we use to provide for our needs and to bless others. Having it doesn’t make you any better than you were without it.

James makes it clear in his next statement.

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
James 1:11

One way or another we’re going to learn that the external is not what life’s all about. Either you develop the spiritual strengths that bring a mature walk or you find out that the material things you’re relying on are never enough.

If you put your hope in a big bank account, then it will fail you. Your willingness to trust God and bless others is what will see you through the challenges of life.

Question: How have you experienced that trusting God is better than a big bank account?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Thankful?

ThanksgivingHow thankful are you for all that God has done? Luke 17:11-19 has some interesting insights to help us answer that question.

In that portion of Scripture, a group of ten lepers went to Jesus for healing. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they obeyed His command, they found they were healed along the way.

One former leper had a great response.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
Luke 17:15

The first thing he does is to come back to Jesus, yelling praises on the top of his lungs. He must have attracted a lot of attention, but he didn’t care. He wanted to praise God for what happened to him. That’s the first thing we see…

Thankful people live loud for the Lord. We must learn to have a lifestyle of praise. It’s time that God’s people come “out of the closet” with their thankfulness.

That’s because this is a normal response to the hand of God at work. It doesn’t mean that you have to yell all the time. But I am saying that God’s work should be abundantly evident in your life. But there was more…

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.
Luke 17:16

Next thing we see is this man throwing himself at Jesus’ feet. This is the position of worship.

Thankful people live a life of worship. Because we’re thankful – we worship. Worship acknowledges God for who He is. We’re simply grateful because He allows us to come before Him anytime we want, clothed in His righteousness.

But that verse also said that he thanked Jesus.

…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20

Are we to thank God for everything? The actual Greek says over everything. I need to thank God over everything I receive. (I don’t receive sickness, etc.)

Thankful people thank God over everything. We know the source of life and blessing. Of all people, we should be the ones who are constantly thanking God for the good things we see in our lives.

But there’s one more aspect of thankfulness that we need to look at. It comes from Jesus’ reaction to the healed man.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Luke 17:17-18

This question gives us insight into the heart of God. We all want to be loved and appreciated. Where do you think that comes from? I’ll tell you – we were created in the image of God.

Thankful people are sought out by God. Thank offerings were not required by the Law of Moses. God wanted the hearts of the people to prompt them to be thankful. When we’re thankful it opens the door for a richer walk with the Lord.

This Thanksgiving, in spite of all the other activities you may be involved in, take the time to be truly thankful before God.

Question: What are some of the biggest things you are grateful for?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2016 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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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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Blessed to be a Blessing

Come to JesusWhat does it mean to be a blessing? We use the word a lot, but do we really understand it? I want to take a couple of posts to talk about our ability to bless others.

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

Mature believers don’t just seek to be blessed, but to be a blessing. It’s a choice that has to be made. It’s by faith that we choose to be a blessing to others.

We use the word bless very loosely in the body of Christ.

“God blessed me with a parking space.”

We seem to think that anything good that happens is a blessing. That’s the modern church definition. But when you read the Bible, that thought will hide the truth about the blessing.

There are two opposites in Scripture, and we need to understand both of them. I’m talking about blessing and cursing.

Let’s start with blessing. What exactly does the word bless mean. In the Old Testament it’s the Hebrew word Barak. It means to kneel, which emphasizes the receiving aspect. In the New Testament, the Greek word Eulogeo is used. It means a well spoken word; and relates to the giving of a blessing.

One thing that we have to realize is that the blessing is always spoken. The actual word, bless, means to endue with power for success. That’s a tall order – to be a blessing to someone. How can I do that?

In Scripture we’re told to do everything in the Name of Jesus. It’s in His powerful name that we have what we need to bless others.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
Psalm 118:26

If you have the name of the Lord, then you’re already blessed. It’s an event that has taken place when you made Christ the Lord of your life.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3

The good news is that I’m not looking for God’s blessing. According this verse, He has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heaven in Christ.

We know Scripture tells us that we can do all things through Christ. We have to remember this. We’ll never get that done on our own. We are blessed in order that we might be a blessing to others.

Getting back to what I said above. Now that we know what a blessing is, we can understand it better. A good parking space is not a blessing – it’s actually the result of the blessing that’s upon our lives.

This is the basis for blessing others. I can only bless those around me if I know that I am truly blessed. It takes blessed people to bless people.

Question: How has the blessing of God been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2016 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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