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Don’t Tell Anyone?

In my last post, I talked about how Jesus would go off to pray in solitary places.  Then He would hear from the Holy Spirit as to what his assignment was for the near future.

We also saw that as a result of this time in prayer, a leper was miraculously healed from his condition.  The Lord gave him some interesting instructions when the leper was healed.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.  But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Mark 1:43-44

This aspect of Christ’s ministry always fascinates me.  Why didn’t He want those who were healed to go out and spread the news to everyone they met?  I think that there are some important truths that we need to understand about this.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable around believers who think it’s their mission to evangelize everyone who comes within earshot of them.  They try and force others to do the same.  They teach that all Christians should tell everyone they meet about Jesus.

You would think that the Lord would want everyone to know that this man was healed.  After all, leprosy was one of those diseases that Israel believed you only got if you lived a particularly sinful life.

To be healed of leprosy meant that you had repented and were forgiven of the sins that had caused it.  At least that’s what the normal Israelite of that day believed.  This would prove that the Messiah was sent to forgive sin.

You would think that everyone should hear this news.  Wouldn’t that bring the crowds to Jesus?  Isn’t that what’s needed to grow a ministry?  Apparently not according to how Christ thought about it.

The fact is, that we all have a certain group of people that we are called to reach.  Those who will listen to your testimony won’t necessarily listen to mine.  We all have a different field to work in.

This man originally had to go to the priests for his diagnosis.  The priests were the ones who pronounced him a leper in the first place.  They recorded his name and condition for future reference.

Now, when he shows up at the Temple a healed man, he’d have to explain the healing to them.  In the priests’ minds, to be healed of leprosy was to be forgiven of sin.  They, of all people, would understand the importance of this man’s testimony.

This is how people should be won to the Lord.  Each of us must go to those we’re called to reach.  That’s the best way to grow the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was the same for the Lord.

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1:45

For obvious reasons, the former leper didn’t follow Jesus’ instructions to the letter.  On his way to the priests, he told everyone about his healing.

Jesus didn’t need a huge advertising budget.  He didn’t need social media or a cable TV program.  He did what He was called to do and the ministry increased.

We need to learn this lesson.  I can’t do what you’re called to do.  Neither can I strong arm you into ministering the way that I do.  We’re called to be ourselves and live for Christ in our own circles.

Question: Who do you find it easiest to share the Gospel with?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Called to Become

The next encounter we have in Mark’s gospel is the calling of the four fishermen.  I’m referring to Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 1:16-20

In this narrative, we’re only given the outline of what happened.  It should be obvious from human nature and the accounts in the other gospels that this was not the first time these men had met Jesus.  No one will leave their family business because an unknown man walks by and asks them to follow Him.

On the contrary, there was already a relationship that had formed between these five men.  Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the area.  At one point, Peter even let Jesus use his boat as a pulpit.  They knew the Lord’s ministry.

We know from John’s gospel, that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  He had heard John’s testimony of Jesus being the Messiah.  He had met with Christ in private, and then Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Him.

This was not just a “cold call” on the part of the Lord.  It was the culmination of an ongoing relationship.  They knew who it was that was calling them.  They wanted what Christ was offering.

But what was the Lord promising them?  It’s a very interesting way to invite someone.  There are two important phrases that Jesus says to them.  The first is; I will make you.

He told them that if they’d fall in behind Him, He’d do a work in their lives.  I think that’s the key, even for us.  It’s our job to follow – that’s all.  Too often we get the idea that we need to work on changing ourselves.  Then we get frustrated with the results.

If I’m willing to spend time in the Lord’s presence, through the Holy Spirit, He’ll bring about the changes needed in my life.  That’s where the power is.  It’s clear from Scripture that only the spirit can control the flesh.

The second phrase is not apparent in this English translation.  It’s the phrase; to become.  The original Greek reads; I will make you to become fishers of men.  I believe this means it’s a process, not an instant change.

God has a calling on your life and mine.  He wants us to become something for His glory.  I wish that the transformation was instant, the day I bowed my knee to Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

There’s a growing process involved.  I follow behind Christ.  I spend time in the spirit.  Over time, the work of God’s grace becomes evident in my life.  Eventually, I become what I was created to be.

It was like that with these disciples.  They had their rough spots.  Sometimes it looked like they’d never get there.  But after the day of Pentecost, they turned their world upside-down for the glory of Christ.

Let this speak to you.  Follow behind Christ.  Be patient.  Don’t get frustrated that the changes in your life aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to.  Become a disciple of Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit in you.

Question: What are some changes that are already evident in your life since you started following Christ?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in 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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The Quiet Life

Is your life quiet and at rest? As believers, we should have an understanding of what it means to live in the peace of God. As I continue looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we’ll see how the apostle deals with this issue.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Paul taught his churches about the benefits of living a quiet life. But just what does that mean to us? Am I supposed to go through life never speaking up for myself? I don’t think that’s what Paul or the Lord intends for us.

Let me start by explaining that I’m the father of three young women. When they were children, the noise level of our house was usually not described as quiet. And, actually, the word quiet in the above passage doesn’t refer to the level of noise in your surroundings.

The meaning of this word is to be settled, secure, and at peace with where you are. This is an important attribute to cultivate in your Christian walk. As a matter of fact, it’s something we have to fight for in this generation. It actually goes counter to the world’s way of doing things.

I believe that in the next phrase, Paul describes exactly what he means by this quiet life. Let me give you my personal translation of the Greek words used in that sentence.

Using your own hands to perform repeatedly and habitually that which is yours to do.

This is the key to enjoying your life and work. It’s also something that the world has no concept of. First of all, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re called to be working on.

In our society we’ve become transfixed on what everybody else is doing. How much money are they making? What shows are they watching? What are they learning? What activities are they involved in?

Even on our jobs, we’re never satisfied where we’re at. We’re taught to always keep our resume up to date. Living like this keeps you in a constant state of unrest.

This is just the opposite of what Paul was teaching his people. We need to settle down into the life that we know we’re called to.

But that requires me to spend time in the Lord’s presence seeking His will for my life. Many of us are afraid to do that because we would lose control of our destiny. Personally, I prefer God’s destiny for my life over anything I could come up with on my own.

Paul concludes this by showing the benefits of a life well lived. The first is a respectable or well-formed life. It’s the kind of life that causes the unsaved to ask why you seem to be more fulfilled than they are. It’s a witness to the grace of God.

The other benefit is described as not being dependent on anybody. In the Greek, it reads lacking nothing. In the book of James, the first Scripture recorded, it talks about the trying of our faith bringing us to the place where we lack nothing (James 1:2-4). Here, Paul adds to our knowledge by showing that it’s knowing and working at God’s will that brings about no lack.

I can’t think of a better combination that I want active in my life. A witness to unbelievers and having no lack. That’s the joy of a life settled in God’s plan.

Question: How have you experienced resting in God’s will?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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True Success

How do you measure success or failure? Is it based upon your obvious victories and accomplishments? What about some things that aren’t so readily apparent?

Paul made some observations about this to the Thessalonian church.

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
1 Thessalonians 2:1

Paul makes this simple, clear statement of fact. But what was he talking about? Surely the great Apostle Paul didn’t have any major setbacks in his ministry.

Fortunately for us, the people recorded in the Bible had the same types of challenges that we face. That way we can see how they trusted God to bring them through victoriously. It turns out that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a major temptation for him to feel like a failure.

In order to see the whole story, you can read Acts 17:1-10. But I’ll review the basic story line here.

Paul was on one of his missionary trips. He had just left Philippi, where he was temporarily thrown in jail. He arrives at Thessalonica, and is allowed to teach in the synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row.

Of course, he preaches Jesus Christ as Messiah. He talks about the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection.

As a result, some of the Jews and a large number of Gentiles trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because the number of Christians was increasing, the Jews started to become jealous. They wanted to shut down Paul’s ministry.

So, what these hateful people did was to round up some unsavory characters from the marketplace. The Jews then paid them to start trouble and cause a riot. They tried to find Paul and his team, but weren’t able to locate them.

Instead, they grabbed some of the new believers, and dragged them off to the magistrates. They then began to accuse them of criminal activity. The city was in an uproar.

Fearing for Paul’s life, the believers made him leave the city immediately. Because of this, Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, were not able to fully establish this church in the usual way. They had to trust God for the church’s continued survival.

It wasn’t until months later that Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians. Not only did they survive, they were flourishing as followers of Christ.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:2

When it came to evangelizing the Thessalonians, Paul went from one trouble to the next. Yet in spite of it all, he could boldly declare that his visit was not a failure.

We need to learn that lesson. It would go a long way to giving us a better attitude.

Remember this – Just because things don’t go according to our plan, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The fact is that we rarely ever see everything that God is doing behind the scenes. He sees the end from the beginning, we only see the surface.

Paul only knew that it was God’s plan to bring the Gospel to this region. He did his part, and then he had to trust the Lord for the results.

Many were saved. The church was established on a firm foundation. And – miracle of miracles – the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish it without all of Paul’s expertise.

Do what God has called you to do. Then leave the results in His hands. That’s the basis of true success.

Question: What is something you originally thought was a failure; but God turned it into a success?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Your Calling – Unique to You

DifferentIn my last post I started talking about how Christ called Philip to be His disciple. Just like Andrew, who went and found his brother Peter, Philip immediately goes out and tells someone.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:45

When Andrew went to Peter, he proclaimed that they had found the Messiah. What does Philip announce? His message is a little different. He doesn’t mention the Messiah.

Philip was looking for a different sign from God. He was trusting God for the One Moses wrote about…

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.
Deuteronomy 18:15

Moses also recorded the prophecy about Christ that was given by Jacob to his son, Judah.

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
Genesis 49:10

This is who Philip was looking for. Jesus went personally to call Philip. Why didn’t the Lord send Andrew to Philip? Simply put; because that wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t have worked for Nathaniel either.

There are times when God lays someone on your heart to share Christ with them. The Holy Spirit does this because you’re uniquely qualified to reach them. I can’t do it; it’s got to be you.

There is another thing we know about Philip. He knew a lot about Jesus. Mary’s husband, Joseph had passed away by this point, yet Philip knew who Jesus’ adopted father was. He also knew where Jesus came from, even though Nazareth was on the other side of the lake.

Immediately upon becoming a disciple, Philip goes to his friend Nathaniel. Now we meet another unique individual. Who was he?

The name Nathaniel means, the Gift of God. Usually you get that name because your parents had trouble bearing children. When they were finally able to have a child, they see him as God’s gift to them.

That probably means that Nathaniel was an only child. We’ll find out later that he was chilling under a tree when Philip found him. That in itself tells us something.

Here it is in the middle of the day. Nathaniel should be out working somewhere. Instead, we find him relaxing in the shade of a tree. This might mean that his parents were spoiling him rotten.

In my next post we’ll see the encounter between this new follower of Christ, and his friend under the tree with a bad attitude.

Question: What kinds of people have you shared the Gospel of Christ with?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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One Jesus – Different Calls

Different AnointingI like reading about the disciples in the Bible. They’re recorded as real people. They’re not shown to us like some kind of spiritual superheroes, but people just like us. I want to take some time to talk about a couple of them and their first encounter with Jesus.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:43-45

In the past I’ve talked about how Andrew came to Christ. Then he went off and called his brother, Peter.

Today I want to introduce you to some new people. That’s because everyone is different.   Everybody’s story is different.

Why and how they come to Jesus is always unique to that person. So we have to realize that disciples of Christ are all different. Each of us is special in our own way. You cannot be me and I cannot be you.

It’s interesting to see that Jesus sought Philip out – Jesus went to Philip and literally said, “Walk my road.”

It turns out that Philip was from the same town as Andrew and Peter. They were from a place called Bethsaida, which means house of fish or fishing house. Think about what kind of a place would have a name like that? Who comes from there? We know that Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John were all fishermen.

Philip didn’t fit that mold. The name Philip means horse lover. Obviously Philip was his own person. He was different and he didn’t care. Yet, even though he was different, his response to Jesus was the same.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:45

“I have to tell someone.”

When it came to Andrew, he went to Peter to tell him what he had found. This is absolutely amazing because Scripture clearly says that in this case, Jesus found Philip. This tells me a truth that we all need to understand.

Christ calls everyone differently. He made us all different, and attracts us to Himself in different ways. The Lord told Peter, “I’ll make you a fisher of men.” How do you fish? Do you use the same technique or bait for everything?

No! Depending upon where you’re fishing, or what you’re trying to catch, there are many different kinds of bait, lures, and techniques.

We have to remember this in our walk with the Lord. Everyone responds differently to the Gospel message. That’s why we need to be led by the Spirit. In that way, each individual can see Christ as their PERSONAL Savior.

Question: What first attracted you to come to Jesus?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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