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Paul and Denominations

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s rebuking them for using church politics instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:4

This is the sign that they’re acting just like the world.  In our self-serving society, we find the person who best represents our opinion.  Then we back them with our agreement and resources.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work in the body of Christ.  Paul and Apollos may have different types of ministry, but both are preaching the Word of God.

“I follow Paul.”  “I follow Apollos.”

To me, that sounds like the start of denominations.  It’s something that Paul didn’t want to happen in the church.  Our goal should be that everyone follows the example of Christ.

As a matter of fact, Jesus had to deal with this issue when teaching His disciples.  I posted about it at the beginning of last year, but it bears repeating.

At one point He was teaching them about welcoming people into the kingdom.  That brought up a question.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

The disciples remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  From reading the Gospels, we know that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

The Lord is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter who you follow – Luther, Wesley, the Pope, or any other Christian leader.  The goal is that our ultimate standard is Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Christmas Eve Excitement

The countdown started well before Thanksgiving, and with each passing day, the excitement and preparations for its arrival have been accelerating.  Lights and decorations have been put up, stores are full, and music is filling the air.

A lot of people, especially children, are eagerly anticipating a very special event that will take place tonight.  Truly, it’s a very busy time of the year!

And it’s all in preparation for what?  Well, any child can tell you – “A visit from Santa Claus, of course!”

And remember, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! You better not pout, you better not cry – you better watch out, I’m telling you why – Santa Claus is coming to town!”

Maybe some, but not me.

The One I’m waiting for won’t be coming from the North Pole and riding in a sleigh.  Instead, He’s coming from Heaven, and arriving on the clouds of the sky!  Millions all over the world are waiting for His arrival.

He will also be bringing gifts with Him.  The good news is that His gifts are not based on how good I’ve been, but by His grace.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Take the time today to consider Jesus…to get excited about His coming.

I think that it’s fun to watch the excitement grow on the faces of our children as Christmas approaches.  With each passing day the grins grow, the adrenaline level rises, and the expectation almost bursts from every pore.

We should be even more excited!  Children are excited about the coming of a round man in a red suit with toys tucked under his arm.  You and I can be excited about the coming of Jesus Christ, dressed in all His radiance and riding the clouds of heaven.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Matthew 24:30-31

Every eye will see Him!  Not just a private return.  But when?  We know when the Christmas deadline is.  We like to be ready.

But with Christ, we only know that He’s coming, not when.  Actually – He told us that He’d arrive when we aren’t expecting Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited that Jesus is coming to town.  I don’t know the hour or the day.  I don’t know much, but there’s one thing I do know – He’s coming to town!

He’s coming back for those who’ve received Him as King and Lord of their life.  When He comes back there’ll be no mistaking Him.  He won’t be riding on a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer.  He’ll be riding the clouds of Heaven and His radiance will flood the universe.

Where’s your excitement level this Christmas?  Are you overburdened by your list of things “to do” which seems twice as long as your children’s “wish list?”

Are you excited about seeing what you’ll find under the tree on Christmas morning?  Are you excited to see family and friends that you haven’t been with for some time?

Or…are you excited because the Lord is coming to town?

Have a blessed Christmas holiday!

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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The Mystery – Christ Crucified

Do I want to be a disciple – an imitator – of Christ?  Do I want to learn the path of life from His example?  If not, then the cross is a word I push off to the corners of my Christian walk.

How do you turn all this around and get the victory?  The Word of the cross is what makes the difference.  There’s just one problem with this kind of thinking.  We don’t like the cross.  It makes us nervous.  It sounds too much like sacrifice.

This isn’t the first time the church has had to deal with this issue.  Paul wrote about it 2000 years ago.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2

This is a totally different approach to ministry than what we see today.  Paul said that he didn’t arrive on the scene with great, persuasive words of wisdom.  Instead, he preached a simple message – Christ crucified.

That was it.  Not the risen Lord, not the King of Heaven, not Christ the Healer, or seated at the right hand of the Father.  Only the crucified Savior, which he calls the testimony about God.

The Greek word for testimony in this verse literally means mystery.  Scripturally, a mystery is something that wasn’t understood until God actually accomplished it.

That’s what Christ did on the cross.  The Old Testament saints had no concept of how God would use the cross to provide our salvation.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8

It was a secret that God kept hidden away long before our age began.  Even Satan, as intelligent as he is, couldn’t conceive of how God would save us.  If he even had a hint of the power of the cross, the enemy would never have crucified the Lord.  The working of the cross was the greatest mystery of all time.

But wait! Does this mean that it’s a mystery to us?  Of course not.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

This is a mystery that God wants to reveal to us.  If we can grasp what happened on the cross, then it will have the power to totally transform our lives.  This is the message for those who want to participate with the work of God’s ongoing salvation in their lives.  It’s for those who desire to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is how we’ve gotten so far astray in our nation.  Many of us spend most of our time seeking God for things.  We follow Him for healings, joy, and prosperity.  Yet, we don’t realize that all of these things are available in the person of the crucified Savior.  We need to seek a relationship with the One who has the power to completely save us from the effects of sin.

As we continue this series in First Corinthians, we’ll see how to walk in this power.

Question: Why does this generation seem to avoid teaching about Christ crucified?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Ignoring the Cross

As I continue my series through First Corinthians, we’re looking at the wisdom of God manifest in the cross.  It’s something that God expects His church to understand.  It’s been revealed to us in His Word.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21-24

This is a problem we face even in our society today.  There’s a pressure on the church to cater our message to those we’re trying to win.

Religious people want to hear one thing, while the educational community wants to hear something else.  Many times we fall into the trap of trying to please our listeners with the message we think they want to hear.

Paul strips away all of these elements by boiling the message down to its vital component.  He preaches the same essential message to all who will listen.  That message is the Word of the cross – Christ crucified.

The reason is clear.  There’s a supernatural call in that Word.  It contains the power of God to draw men and women to the place of repentance.

We need to see this.  When we water down or ignore the Word of the cross, we lose the bulk of the power needed to win the lost.  Beyond that, those who do come to the Lord with little knowledge of the cross, have no desire to become radical disciples of Christ.

This is what the world desperately needs to see in the church.  It’s also what the church needs in order to be transformed into the victorious kingdom that was set forth by Christ.  We must hunger and thirst for the Word of the cross.

We’ve tried a whole host of other strategies only to be met with little or no results.  Isn’t it time to proclaim Christ the way they did it when the world was “turned upside-down” by the Gospel?  We need to renew our knowledge of what happened in and through the cross of Christ.  This is a message that the Lord can’t wait to reveal to us if we’ll just stop and listen.

This is one of the things that we’re missing in our churches these days.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:7

Paul explains to us that this message was destined for our glory.  That’s why it’s such a mystery.  From the outside, the cross looks like a place of pain, suffering, and weakness.   But in reality, it will bring glory to all who live by it.

It was the same for Christ.  The demonic kingdom had no idea what would be unleashed on the cross.  When the “Lord of Glory” was crucified, there was an explosion of power that rocked the universe.  It’s clear that Satan would never have allowed this to happen if he had known what the results would be.

It’s time for God’s people to once again unleash this power in the world.  We need to walk in the power of the cross.  The message of the cross is vital for our last-days testimony.

Question: What would change if we incorporated the teaching of the cross into our message?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Growing Up

Did you know that just because a person or a church walks in the gifts of the Spirit, it has no relationship to their maturity?  A baby Christian can pray for someone and see them healed.  Paul observed that in the Corinthian church as he sought to help them to grow up in Christ.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

The church in Corinth gave Paul a lot of headaches over the years, but he continued to thank God for them.  In spite of their immaturity, Paul saw the working of God’s grace in their fellowship.

For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Even though they had many problems, Paul was able to see the obvious working of the Holy Spirit in them.  He says that they had been made wealthy in every way – in Christ.  This was a wealth of spiritual gifts.

This was a result of Paul’s ministry to them.  He spent years teaching them the truths of the kingdom of God.  Because of this, they were spiritually wealthy in their Word and in their knowledge.  Spiritual gifts were operating in Corinth like nowhere else.

But is that a sign of maturity in a Christian walk?  Obviously not.  As we’ll see in future posts, the believers at Corinth were spiritual babies.

The problem is that they weren’t immature because of a lack of teaching.  Paul made sure of that.  They had chosen to live that way.

In the natural, there are people who don’t want to grow up.  I experienced this first hand.  I graduated from high school in 1975.  I went to the first few high school reunions until I realized that I had grown up, but many of my classmates were still trying to be teenagers.

That may be okay in the world, but it’s self-destructive in the body of Christ.  There are things that God needs mature men and women to accomplish.  But for that to happen, our eyes need to be focused on the eternal.

That’s why Paul is reminding them of their hope in Christ’s return.  At that time we’ll face our ultimate performance review.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9

These are the things that need to be constantly before us if we are to progress in our spiritual maturity.  We should all want to be blameless in our walk with God.  According to Paul, this will take the strength of the Lord working in us.

We have to constantly be looking at our relationship with Christ.  We are not alone in our walk.  What I say and do has an effect on the body of Christ around me.

God is faithful to uphold His part of the relationship.  But it’s up to me to understand and cultivate my connection to Him.  That’s why He’s placed the Holy Spirit within us.

I know that there are those who simply seek the gifts of the Spirit with no desire for growth.  My hope is that I can encourage all of us to lay hold of everything that the Lord desires for us.

Question: What’s the next step in your spiritual growth process?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Thanksgiving and God’s Will

Here in the USA, tomorrow is a holiday devoted to Thanksgiving – at least that was the original intent.  I’ve been meditating on Thanksgiving lately.

I think about the age we’re living in.  I look around at all that’s happening in the society I’m a part of.

Many people seem to have the attitude, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

The truth is that we’ve rewritten history.  If you believe what they teach in most public schools, it started solely from the Pilgrims’ thankfulness to Native Americans for helping them.

That was definitely a big part of the original celebration.  The problem is that we’ve all but erased God from the picture.

The pilgrims arrived at the new world in the winter.  That first year almost half of them died.  Every family lost someone.  Yet, in spite of their hardships, they gave thanks to God for His blessings.

I think about the times we’re living in right now.  The world around us is so uncertain.  People are worried about finances, healthcare, government, crime, terrorists, the weather, and a host of other fears that seem to be hanging over our heads.

Society is on the edge of their seat.  How can we be thankful in a time like this?

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

As believers, we have the answer in Scripture.  The principle is that He gives us the victory…

That is a comforting thought.  He won the victory and then gives it to us.  How does that work?

It’s all about thankfulness.

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Bible makes it very clear that giving thanks is God’s will.  It doesn’t matter what you’re going through.  You could be facing good or bad situations.  There might even be a cloud of uncertainty looming before you.  It’s always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Notice that He doesn’t say for all things.  He simply wants us to be thankful in all things.  What’s happening around us shouldn’t affect our thankful attitude towards our God.

Remember we’re not moved by the visible.  We must keep our eyes on the eternal.  The ups and downs of society around us are temporary conditions.  Everything is subject to change.

In any situation I find myself in, I can give thanks to God.  When I’m thankful, I know that I’m in the center of the will of God for me.

Be thankful and have a blest Thanksgiving!

Question: What are you thankful for right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Rise of Lawlessness

In our study of Second Thessalonians, we’ve been talking about the lawlessness of mankind being uncovered in the Last Days.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
II Thessalonians 2:5-7

It’s clear from this section that Paul’s merely reminding them of the things he taught when he was with them.  He apparently told them what was holding back the lawlessness.

It’s also clear that the secret power of lawlessness was already at work 2,000 years ago.  What Paul literally says is that the secret power of lawlessness was already energized.

I’m reminded of a parable of Jesus (Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43).  He said that the church and the world were going to grow up together.  These two kingdoms would grow in power and mature side by side throughout history.  The seeds that were planted by the enemy already had lawlessness working in them.

According to Paul, there’s something holding back the full force of this lawlessness.  Most of the modern translations add a lot of preconceived ideas to the text.  What Paul literally said in verse 7 is the restraining will continue until it is removed from the midst.

I believe he’s talking about the laws that govern us.  Back then; they had a system of government where if you disobeyed the law, you paid the penalty for your actions.  But more and more, around the world, it now seems that laws don’t mean anything.  The lawmakers tell us that it’s how you interpret that law that matters.

My wife, Cheryl, was called for jury duty a number of years ago.  She was selected to hear a drunk driving case.  It was clear from the testimony that the man was drunk, and he was driving.  He could have very easily killed somebody.  Thank God, he was caught before he did any damage to himself or others.

As they were discussing the case in the jury room, an interesting thing started to happen.  All of these jurors started seeing themselves on the stand.

“Well, I drink sometimes, and I’d hate to have a policeman take away my license because I got caught.”

“Maybe we should let this guy go because nothing happened and nobody was hurt.  After all, there was no accident and no damage.”

Those who know Cheryl understand that she has a very prophetic ministry.  If you can imagine how Elijah would’ve responded to all this, you’d be pretty close to what actually happened.

Cheryl’s response was that the question is not what we would do.  It’s not even about what we would want to happen if we were caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

The question is; was he drunk?   Was he driving?  If so, then he’s guilty, whether or not you do it as well.

They did find him guilty.  But please understand that if there wasn’t a Christian on the jury, then the outcome might have been very different.

Lawless man says, “I know what the law is, but I wouldn’t like that law if I were the one driving.”  What we will find is that this what it’s going to be like more and more in the last days.

Yes, there might be laws, but they’re going to be followed less and less.  Paul is saying that lawless man is going to be uncovered for what he really is.  In the last days, we’re going to see an increase in lawlessness the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

That’s why, more than ever, we need to trust the Lord for our safety, protection, and provision.

Question: How have you seen a rise in lawlessness over your lifetime?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Faith, Return of Christ

 

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