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Freedom for All

The Apostle Paul is a great example to us of a life lived apart from legalism.  His letter to the Galatians is a testament to how God works in us under the New Covenant.

We’ll continue to look at Paul’s story as he relates it to the church.  Remember, Galatians was written long before the book of Acts.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.  Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.  I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they praised God because of me.
Galatians 1:18-24

Paul has a very interesting story.  He spent three years in solitude after his initial salvation experience.  He used that time to pray and learn to hear from the Holy Spirit.

He then compresses what happened next into a few short sentences.  We know from the book of Acts, that Paul went back to Tarsus, his home town; because there were many who didn’t trust that he had really come to Christ.

After being there a while, Barnabas came and convinced Paul to go to Antioch.  There was a Gentile church in that region that needed a strong teacher who was well versed in the Scripture.  So Paul made the journey and became a part of that work.

Years later, during a time of fasting and prayer, Paul and Barnabas felt the call of God to go around the Mediterranean Sea, preaching the Good News of Christ.  Because of their faithfulness, Gentile churches began springing up all over Asia Minor.  The Galatian churches were a part of his work.

Paul ran into problems in doing this.  There were some who felt that Christianity was still a part of Judaism.  They felt that for a Gentile to be saved, they needed to submit to the Law of Moses.  This included all of the food laws as well as circumcision.

Both Peter and Paul had separate revelations showing them that, under grace, the Law had been fulfilled.  Then the tension came to a head, and a meeting took place.

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  [This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 2:1-5

The Good News of the Gospel is that we’re not slaves.  We’ve been given freedom in Christ.  The revelation that Paul received is for all time.

It’s unfortunate that many have fallen back into the slavery mindset throughout the next generations.  I believe that it’s God’s desire to once again restore His freedom to us.

Please understand; I’m not talking about a freedom to live however we want.  Instead, it’s a freedom to serve God without being hindered by a man-made set of rules.

As we go through the book of Galatians over the next few weeks, Paul will explain in detail how to walk in this freedom.  Don’t miss a single installment.  It will help you to live on a whole new level in Christ.

Question: How does following a set of rules hinder your Christian walk?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017.

 
 

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God Pleaser or Man Pleaser?

Who are you trying to please by your ministry?  That’s a question we all need to answer.  It determines your destiny in Christ.

I’m continuing my look at the book of Galatians.  It’s Paul’s letter combatting legalism.  He starts off by talking about his own walk with the Lord.  What was the Apostle’s motive toward the ministry?

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

This verse deals with some key motivational attitudes.  What is it that you’re actively trying to accomplish in your ministry?  If your fulfillment isn’t coming from Christ, then there may be some course correction that’s needed.

The first important word in this verse is approval.  The phrase, trying to win the approval of men, means to convince men.

Are you trying to convince people that they need to serve God?  If you are, that’s the first sign of a man pleaser.  It’s not our job to convince people.

We’re called to hear from the Holy Spirit, then to speak the Word that we’ve heard.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to use the Word to convict and convince those listening.  This is something Paul was keenly aware of.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

The next important word is trying.  It means to desire and seek after.

Where are you seeking your validation from?  That may require some soul searching to truly answer the question.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re looking to man.

You preach the Word.  Many lives are touched and blessed by the message.  One person comes up to you after the service and tells you they didn’t agree with you.  Suddenly you feel like a failure and want to quit the ministry.  That’s a sign that you’re seeking in the wrong direction.

It’s nice when our ministry has a positive effect on those who receive it.  But that’s not always a requirement of the assignment we’ve been given.  I’m glad that Christ didn’t rely upon the response of the Pharisees to continue His plan to save us.

The final phrase I want to look at is to please men.  That literally means to get an emotional response from people.

Are you trying to stir people’s emotions?  Emotionalism and hype are the mainstays of the entertainment industry.  In case you didn’t already know this, the ministry of the Word is NOT a form of entertainment.

It’s so unfortunate that many churches build their services around the American entertainment model.  Please understand; I know that we have to present the message of Christ in a way that’s relevant to our society.  In that sense, there will always be a measure of professionalism.

We want the music, the flow of the service, and the time investment to be welcoming to those attending.  It’s the motivation that needs to be examined.  What’s the goal?

Am I choreographing the service so that at one point people will stand to their feet and cheer?  Am I out to bring tears to peoples’ eyes?

According to Paul, my ultimate goal is to serve Christ.  I firmly believe that if I do that well; then emotions will be stirred.  But instead of a passing excitement, their lives will be changed by the power of God.

Like the Apostle Paul, we need to have the attitude of a God pleaser.

Question: When have you had to choose between pleasing God or man?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Church

 

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Which Gospel?

The Gospel is the Good News of what Christ has done for us.  Did you know that it makes a difference what good news you’re listening to?  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is very clear about this issue.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:6-7

Paul has an open motive in writing this letter.  It’s to keep the church on course in serving Christ.  That’s why the Holy Spirit gave this Scripture as one of the foundations of the New Testament.  It’s important for all believers, for all ages, to be anchored firmly in the true Gospel.

There are a few things that are apparent from this verse.  First of all, there are many gospels that people claim to be the Gospel of Christ.  The unfortunate thing is that these other gospels are not Good News at all.

I think that part of the problem is that we never updated the word, gospel.  It’s simply the Old English word for good news.  But because we’ve turned it into a religious word, we’ve lost the actual identity of what it means.

I’ve heard many people preach what they call the gospel.  But I have to tell you, it didn’t sound like good news to me.  They were basically telling me all the things I had to do (or not do) so that God wouldn’t be mad at me.

I think we’ve all heard the saying that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.  In the same way, if it doesn’t sound like good news to you, then it’s probably not the true Gospel.  At least that’s the way Paul understood it.

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
Colossians 1:6a

The Good News of Christ is not about what I need to do, but it’s all about what God has done for me by His grace.  That’s what this letter to the Galatians is written for.  That’s what I’ll be looking at in detail over the next few weeks.

There’s another truth that the Apostle brings out in the verse from Galatians.   When you walk in legalism, you transfer out of God’s grace.  That’s what the word, deserting, means.

This is probably one of the most important subjects that believers need to hear.  It’s the call for us to steer clear of legalism.  It can rob you of joy, power, and fulfillment in Christ.

Paul had some strong emotions concerning those who preached this perversion of the Gospel.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Galatians 1:8-9

I hope that you’ll be able to stick with me as we look at the book of Galatians together.  If you haven’t already done it, subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss a single installment.  I believe it’s that important.

Question: How would you define the word legalism in regards to being a Christian?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Caution – Evil Days Ahead

Are you protected enough to face each new day?  In my last post, I began looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  In this article, we’ll see that the answer to this question was the very reason that this book was written.

I want to see a revival in the church.  It’s obvious from what’s happening around us that we need it.  The real question is; do we want it?  And more than that; are we willing to do what it takes to lay hold of it?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
Galatians 1:3-5

I used to teach that inanimate things couldn’t be evil or good.  After spending some time studying this verse, I realized that I was wrong.  Things like days and money can be evil.  It’s actually talked about throughout the New Testament.

Maybe you might think that not all days are evil.  After all, there was intense persecution of the church back then.  That was Paul’s day he was talking about.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

One of the reasons that Christ went to the cross was to rescue us from this present evil age.  That’s the time we live in.   The age he’s talking about stretched from Paul’s day to the time when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom.  If the age is evil, then all the days of that age are evil.

The word, rescue, in the verse from Galatians, means to choose or select one person out of a group of people.  God is choosing us for Himself out of the world system.  But we need to understand the times.

We live in evil days.  Paul also talked about this in regard to the armor of God.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

We need to be constantly walking in the spiritual armor.  This is our protection from the evil age.  This is not an option or something that only needs to be done once in a while.

Jesus went to the cross to provide us with more than just a one-time salvation.  His work is ongoing in our lives.  He provided us with the armor we need to rescue us from this present evil age.  We don’t need to be affected by it.

When will the evil day come?  Every time you wake up in the morning.  That’s why God’s armor is so important.  The evil day is not on its way, it’s here.

As God’s people, we should be prepared for what’s ahead.  We’re the ones who should be walking in victory over the challenges that face the world around us.

We need to spend time in the presence of the Lord.  That’s where our strength is.  In Him and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I have everything I need to face the evil days ahead of me.

How else could I walk in victory?  If every day is evil, then in Christ every day is a victory through Him who gives me strength.

Question: How does this evil age manifest itself in our generation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Are We Listening?

This is my last post which will look at the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In his conclusion, the apostle encourages them in their spiritual walk.  He gives a few exhortations that are just as applicable today.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

These verses literally say don’t quench, put out, the Spirit and don’t act like prophecy doesn’t exist.  I believe that this sentence gets at the heart of one of the biggest problems in the church today.  A large segment of the modern church totally ignores the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

When we bow our knee to Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  But that’s not just for show.  He lives in us in order to lead and guide us into the Lord’s plan for our lives.

The Biblical term for ignoring the Holy Spirit’s work is godlessness.  To be godless doesn’t mean that you’re an atheist, or even unsaved.  Godlessness is living as if there’s no God, or as if God’s plan doesn’t really matter to you.

It’s so unfortunate that many believers try to figure out on their own how they want to live.  They come up with the plan of what they’ll do for God and what they’ll do for themselves.  They act as if God doesn’t speak to His people anymore.

Personally, I don’t know how anyone could live for Christ without spending time in His presence.  That’s where we truly learn to live life to the fullest.

Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Brothers, pray for us.  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.  I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-28

When you’re walking with the Holy Spirit, you can test, or literally approve, everything that comes your way.  Some things are for you to get involved in – the good, and others are not for you – the evil.

We get into trouble because of our skewed concept of good and evil.  We think that just because something isn’t intrinsically evil, then it’s okay for us to get involved in it.  I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s wrong with…?”

The point isn’t whether something is right or wrong.  It’s all about whether or not it’s a part of God’s plan for your life.  That’s why time in the Lord’s presence, listening to His Spirit is so important.  There may be something that looks good, that God doesn’t want me to waste my time on.

On the other hand, just because something is not for me, doesn’t mean that it’s not in God’s plan for your life.  I can’t make you walk within the boundaries that God has set for my life.

Now please realize that in all this discussion I’m not talking about those things that the Bible calls sin.  Sin is sin, and it’s never God’s will for us to fall into it.

I’m talking about the normal day to day decisions of life.  God wants to be involved in all of our planning.  That includes our time, money, career, family and educational choices.  When we ignore God’s voice in these matters, we’re quenching the Spirit and treating prophecy with contempt.

The important thing to see is that Paul wanted this read to everyone, not just the leadership.  We all need to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and following His leading.

Question: What’s the last instruction you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Armed and Ready

I’ve been posting about the last days as described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. My last post was about how we need to live as we see the end in view. Paul continues to share about it.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

He tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

In this verse Paul is clearly referring to our spiritual armor. He even makes mention of the helmet of salvation. But instead of assigning righteousness as the breastplate, he says that faith and love are used in that role. Paul is telling us that it’s the combination of our faith and our love working together that completes our righteousness.

According to Scripture, without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without love your faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Living as Light

I’ve been posting about Paul’s view of the Second Coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians. We understand that the Resurrection Day is the great hope of the church. At this point in history, we can see it approaching very quickly. But our understanding of Christ’s return is not just about the future.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-7

The word night speaks of a segment of time – but we’re eternal. Because we live in the eternal realm, we are of the day.

Darkness speaks of a place – but we’re seated with Christ in heavenly places; that’s the kingdom of light. So the night and the darkness is not our time and place.

Paul also tells us the attitude we need in the last days. He says that we’re to be alert and self-controlled. The literal meaning of these words are awake and sober. We can’t be in a spiritual stupor and be victorious as we approach the end of the age.

We need to be what we’re called to be. It’s not our destiny to blend in and become part of the whole. It’s our calling to show that there’s a different way to live.

John the Baptist is an example to us of how to minister to the world while living in the Kingdom of God.

I believe that because of our end-time ministry, we are the “John the Baptist Generation”. There were some interesting prophecies recorded in Scripture about John that I believe can be applied to us.

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79

Our generation must be a light in the darkness. There has never been a darker time in the modern world. Unless you’re living with your head in the sand, this is an undeniable truth.

We need to understand what being the light entails. It’s obvious that light gets the attention in the dark. There’s no getting around that. We’re not called to just blend into the background.

This is because a light stands in direct opposition to the darkness. There cannot be any two kingdoms that are more opposite than the Kingdom of God and the world.

We are not a part of this society. We live here, work here, and have to interact with those around us. We need to be loving, productive, and contributing to the welfare of our community. But the fact is we don’t BELONG here.

It’s time for us to live up to this calling. The world is desperate to hear the message that’s been entrusted to us. We need to stop chasing their dreams and live for Christ with an urgency that reflects the times we live in.

This generation of the church needs to grow up so that we can function as we must at this time in history. Be equipped with the spiritual weaponry. Be listening and hearing a Word from God. Then continue to walk in that word.

Finally, if we do these things we will be the light that will draw people to Christ. We are the John the Baptist Generation.

Questions: How much light is the church producing right now? How can that light be increased?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Ministry, Return of Christ, Revival

 

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