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The Choice is Yours – Faith or the Law

“What harm is there in trying to follow the Ten Commandment to the best of your ability?  Isn’t that how you please God?”

Actually, it doesn’t please God and could be hindering your walk with Him.  This is one of those teachings of Scripture that seem to be opposite of our logical thinking.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”
Galatians 3:10-12

This verse is clear, God does not consider us righteous because we do the right works.  True righteousness is only obtained through faith in Christ.  By trying to live by the so-called rules of Christianity, you’re actually placing yourself back under the curse.

Here’s the problem.  Every human being on earth, apart from Christ, is under the curse.  That’s because all of humanity is trying to follow one code of conduct or another.

That’s what sets true Christianity apart from all other world religions.  Every religion on earth has a code of conduct that must be adhered to if you want to reach perfection, Paradise, Nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever the goal is that they strive for.  It takes discipline, will power, and a lot of hard work to follow through on these goals.

If you think that being a Christian means that you’re trying your best to follow the teachings of the Bible; then you’re no different from all the other religions.  In that case, you’ve totally missed the Good News of Christ.

What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the fact that our God declares that it’s totally impossible for us to ever please Him on our own.  Therefore, He took it upon Himself to provide the way for us to reach His presence.

By trusting in the finished work of Christ, we receive everything needed to please God.  We have obtained His grace and are under His blessing.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13

The curse that Jesus experienced on the cross wasn’t His.  He was perfect and lived a sinless life.  That was our curse that was put upon Him.  He carried the entire weight of all sinful mankind.

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 3:14

In my last post, I talked about the joy we have of receiving Abraham’s blessing.  Here Paul repeats himself.  The whole purpose of the cross was to bring that very blessing to the Gentiles.  All it requires is for us to accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: What can you expect as a part of this blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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It’s All About Relationship

RelateAn area that the modern church has glossed over is our relationship with the Lord. The Bible describes many levels, yet we seem to think that just because we sing or read about the highest levels, then that’s where we are. We need to relearn what God thinks when He uses these terms.

“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

It’s clear from these words of Christ that the Father’s greatest desire is for relationship. But He doesn’t just want the surface relationship that many are satisfied with. He wants us to come to His presence on His level – in the spirit.

I praise God that I can use my mind and my mouth to approach God. But God is a spirit and He wants us to come before Him at that level. I want to look at the way in which a relationship with God was revealed over time through the Scripture. Let’s start at the beginning.

And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground — trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:9

In this verse we see the garden that God had created. In the center were two very special trees. In them we see the choice that was before mankind. It was life versus the recognition of good and evil. This is where God placed the first man, Adam.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Genesis 2:16-17

The choice was his. Adam was allowed to eat of any tree he wanted. But he was specifically asked by God not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One tree would give life, the other would bring death. It was all about Adam’s trust in God’s Word.

It always comes down to this single choice. Life and death are both about relationship. It has always been this way from God’s perspective. We are the ones who redefine things for our convenience and self-justification.

Israel got the same choice many years later.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
Deuteronomy 30:15-16

Loving God is to relate to Him. Our life then flows from this relationship. It’s an undeniable fact. I must participate in His plan, and I must allow Him to participate in my life. The two go hand in hand. This is the relationship that Adam had with the Lord.

The choice he had was all about life and death. Life is a relationship with God. At the start of this story, Adam had a perfect relationship with God. God wants worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth. This is how Adam related to God.

Question: How does the choice between life and death work in our Christian walk?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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Defining Love

Snow HeartWe talk a lot about desiring to see God’s power working through us. But I think there’s something that we overlook sometimes. Without increasing our love-walk, we’ll never experience all that God has for us.

You can understand all the concepts of vision, calling, and the power of God, but love is the attitude that ties them all together. If you want to develop a Spirit of Excellence, then it can’t be attained without developing love. The Scripture makes it abundantly clear that apart from love, you’ve missed the way of excellence altogether.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
I Corinthians 13:1a-3

It’s clear that as far as God is concerned, it doesn’t matter what you do or how great you build your ministry apart from love. If love isn’t the main ingredient, you’re only spinning your wheels.

It doesn’t matter what the size of your congregation is or how many churches call you Bishop. God is looking for the evidence of love flowing through you. Faith and love are the two non-optional requirements for ministry in the Word of God.

But let’s start at the beginning. Do you really understand what love is? People have so many ideas. Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered. Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural? Of course, this happens when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends. I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

We must first understand that this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment. It’s purely based on decision and will. Over and over again in the Scriptures we’re commanded to love.

If it were based on emotions, it wouldn’t work any more effectively than commanding someone to laugh. You can only command something that’s an act of my will. True love cannot be based upon emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way. Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them. This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not. Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you are in their presence or not.

Question: How does this definition compare to what the world thinks about love?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
 

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True Biblical Faith

Icy RoadThis is the last of six reposts of my most read articles. It was originally posted in 2012. It was the start of a series on faith.

To view the original series click here.

Many people talk about faith. Few live it out to its full potential. It all comes down to how you perceive it. Is faith a single response to Scriptural teaching, or is it more than that?

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Hebrews 10:39

Whether we want to admit it or not, faith is an on-going process. In our society we like to “set it and forget it.” That’s not the case with Biblical faith.

Faith is a walk. It’s the path God leads us on from godlessness to perfection. We start out our lives with no knowledge of Christ or His Word. God takes us from where we are to as far as we’re willing to travel with Him.

What we find in this walk is that along the way there are always choices. These choices come at regular intervals – usually when we least expect them. These points are like forks in the road ahead.

It’s then up to us whether we accept or reject truth when we see it. Each new piece of knowledge comes with a choice. Do I trust God and His Word, or do I continue in the old direction I was headed?

It may sound like a “no-brainer” as to which path we take, but based upon my experience, it’s a little more complicated than that. We sometimes tend to stick with what we’re comfortable with, even though it’s wrong.

Choosing to trust God in a new way is a big step. There are those who come to a hard decision and simply stall out. There are others who start out trusting the Lord, but then when the going gets rough, they “shrink back.” Why do we find it so hard to totally surrender to God’s will?

This is the problem – faith is an uphill climb on an icy slope. When we come to a new choice and decide to stop, we begin to slide backwards, whether we intended to or not. In the above verse, the word destroyed means ruin or loss. Just standing still causes us to lose the ground we’ve already gained.

In our Christian walk, you have to put effort into it just to stand still. If you want the power of God’s salvation working in you, then you have to keep moving forward.

Where are you in your walk with Christ? What choices are you wrestling with? If you find yourself at a standstill – where did you stop, and why? Most Christians don’t deal with these questions because think that faith is a one-time event.

Make it your goal to make the tough choices and then keep moving forward in Christ Jesus.

Question: What’s the hardest decision that you’ve ever had to trust God for?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Boat that Faith Built

 

CostillajeI love reading Hebrews, chapter 11; the “Faith Chapter”. It brings out many aspects of our faith. Some are rarely mentioned in church. Here’s one that I particularly enjoy.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Hebrews 11:7

This is a long, complicated sentence. But if we boil down all the extra words, it simply says that “By faith Noah built an ark.” Our faith always brings us to some sort of decision. There’s always a “faith choice” to be made as our walk with the Lord matures.

Noah chose to build by faith. This word build literally means to prepare thoroughly. If you’re truly trusting God, then you should be building something.

But let’s put first things first. We know from Scripture that you can’t build anything without the proper foundation.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:11

I have turned my life over to the Lordship of Christ. I’m in His hands. He is my foundation. Without that groundwork, nothing I build will succeed. It has to be based upon the work of Christ in me.

But how many Christians are actually building? And what exactly is it that we’re supposed to build?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

Wow! That sounds like a daunting task. But remember, we’re building. It doesn’t come together in an instant. It’s worked on over time.

I’ve seen many impressive buildings in some of the cities that I’ve visited. Some of them took years of planning and construction to complete their structures. Don’t get upset that you aren’t perfect yet.

The Greek word add in the above Scripture means to choreograph over. I think that’s a pretty interesting way to put it. How do we build? By choreographing or lives in deeper and deeper patterns.

It’s like a dancer learning all the moves needed for their recital. Faith – goodness – knowledge – self-control – perseverance – godliness – brotherly kindness – love.

We have to transform our lifestyle into a more intricate choreography. This takes the wisdom and strength of God. That’s why we needed the proper foundation.

The work of this building process is beyond our limited capabilities. We need to yield to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit within us. That’s how we can begin building by faith, just as Noah did.

In my next post I’ll continue talking about this spiritual building process. If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of the articles.

Question: How far along in the building process are you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Faith

 

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Choose Understanding

DimThe Bible talks a lot about understanding.  Unfortunately we live in a society that runs from it, because with understanding, comes responsibility.  Once I understand something, I’m responsible to walk in it.

The Jewish people were much the same as our world when it came to the ministry of Christ.  Because they rejected understanding, they lost out on a blessing.

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.
Matthew 13:15

The fact is that understanding takes place in the heart.  The Greek word for understanding literally means to put together.  It’s in the heart that I begin to put together all the things that I’ve seen and experienced.

But that takes thought and meditation on your life.  Most people don’t want to do that.  They would rather just have a quick explanation about why things are the way they are.

“If I just had more money, I’d be happy.”

“If my parents had loved me more, my life would have turned out better.”

Understanding makes us responsible for our choices and responses.  That’s why it seems so hard to win the lost to Christ in our generation.

What happens if I try to plant the seed of the Gospel in a heart with no understanding?

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is the seed sown along the path.
Matthew 13:19

Without understanding, Satan can snatch the seed right out of your heart.  The one receiving the Gospel must put it together with their whole life experience without Christ.  That’s why in this society, with the Word of God everywhere, many are rejecting the Gospel.

Our generation is taught to not understand.

“If it feels good, do it.”

Understanding protects the Gospel seed.  This should help us to minister in this society.  For instance, if someone says they’re an atheist, don’t just tell them what the Bible says.  They don’t want to understand it, so it will have no effect.

Instead, tell them, “I’m going to pray that God will make Himself real to you.  When He does, I’ll be there to talk to you about it.”  Then as you go through your day, continue in prayer for them.  This gives the Holy Spirit a chance to work on them.

As the Spirit of God starts to bring light into their experience, they’ll come to a point of decision.  Then it’s up to them whether they want to walk in their new found understanding.  That’s always the first step to God – choosing understanding.

Of course it doesn’t stop when we accept Christ as our Lord.  We must continue in it our whole lives.  It’s the basis for all we do in the Lord.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Ephesians 5:17

Question: How did understanding play a key role in your salvation experience?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Ministry, Prayer, Word of God

 

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The First Step to Excellence #excellenceinministry

MountainI’ve been posting about the walk of excellence for a few days now.  Hopefully, as a child of God, you desire to walk in excellence before Him.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Where do you start on this road to excellence?  As is the case with many things in Christ, it’s going to start with a choice.

It’s sad to say, but many believers will not be willing to make that choice.  The cost is great.  This is that small gate that leads to the narrow road that Jesus said few would find.

The reason is not that it’s difficult to see or understand, but because it involves sacrifice.  I have to sacrifice my plans, dreams, and hopes to make room for His.

Basically, I have to learn to see myself as lying dead upon the altar of the Lord in order for His resurrection power to raise me to new levels in Him.  That’s why, generally speaking, the body of Christ in this generation is in its present state.

There is a transformation process that I need to undergo in order for His Word, His will, and His Way to become a part of my being.  I must allow the Living Word and the Holy Spirit to renew my heart and mind.  My thought processes and desires must be transformed into that which conforms to His plans.

It’s only when I’m willing to see it through to completion, in God’s way, that He will entrust me with His excellent plan for my life.  So many people have come to me as pastor down through the years asking me how to “find” God’s will for their lives.

The above verse doesn’t say that I need to struggle or search for God’s will.  It says that if I’m willing to lay my life down on His altar and begin the renewal process of my mind, then I will just know it.  When I see His will for my life, I will approve it.  I think you can agree that if something is good, pleasing and perfect – it can also be described as excellent.

It’s only after the decision of excellence is made that God will entrust you with His will.  Too often our attitude is that we want to know His will first so that we can decide whether we want to do it or not.  The Lord requires faith if we’re to please Him.  We must come to Him with the decision to see it through before He’ll give us the glimpse of the road ahead.  If you will not trust God with your future, then He will not trust you with His vision.

Question: Have you chosen the road of excellence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Spirit of Excellence

 

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