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Ministry Qualities Part 4 – The Word of Truth

I’m continuing my look at the qualities Paul describes to the church at Corinth.

…in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…
2 Corinthians 6:7

As I was studying for this installment, this verse caught me totally off guard.  The phrase, in truthful speech, is not what Paul wrote.  He literally said, in the Word of truth.

That made a big difference to me.  That’s especially the case because we’re talking about the earmarks of true ministry.  One of the defining qualities of ministry is that it proclaims the Word of truth.

That phrase is found throughout the New Testament.  So I felt led to devote this whole article to it.  The question is; how do I know if someone or some group is declaring the Word of truth?

Here’s what to look for.  Keep in mind that even though you may not like the methods of some ministry, that doesn’t mean that they’re not walking in the truth.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…
Ephesians 1:13

This is an important point.  The Word of truth is synonymous with the Gospel of your salvation.  Simply put, the Word of truth gets people saved.

The Word of truth releases the Holy Spirit to convict the unsaved and draw them to Christ.  So the first thing to look for is the saving work of the Spirit.  Are people receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior through this ministry?

But there’s more to it than that.  Jesus prayed for His disciples as He was preparing them for His departure.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:17

Not only does the Word of truth bring salvation, but it sanctifies us as well.  As we continue to receive this Word, our lives are changed.  Most of us can look back to who we were when we were first saved and we don’t even recognize that person.

The Word of truth is anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It does continual work in us.  As we submit to the Lord’s presence, we find that change is an ongoing process.

We can ask, are lives being changed through this ministry?

In writing to the Colossian church, Paul comments about their faith and love…

…the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. 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 1:5-6

This is the power of the Word of truth.  It should be a part of every Christian ministry.

Question: How have you seen this demonstrated in a Gospel ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Character is Everything

In my last post, we looked at the purpose of God’s grace.  It brings about God’s will in us.  What is that will?  It’s to bring the message of His salvation and favor to the world.

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:2

This is God’s priority.  Bringing the message of salvation to the world we live in.

But what about us?  Is this our priority?  There are so many other things that we want to do and experience.  To some, God’s will is inconvenient.

Paul is getting to that.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.
2 Corinthians 6:3

This is something that every believer has to come to grips with.  How people view our ministry is based largely on how they view us personally.  Paul is literally saying that he doesn’t want to create an offence that would cause the ministry to be blamed.

That’s why we need to be constantly working on our character.  It’s the character of the minister that determines the perception of the ministry.

Unfortunately, there are those who think it’s just the opposite.  They feel that people should think highly of them because of what their ministry is accomplishing.

We have to understand that how we live is a reflection of Christ.  The world judges the Christian message based upon what they’ve seen in the believers they’ve met.  Sometimes they’re left with a negative opinion.

We need to accurately reflect the love of Christ no matter what we’re going through.  Paul now goes through a list of these qualities.  I think that it’s important for us to hear them.  So I’m going to take a couple of posts to explain what he’s saying to us.

And yes, some of them sound very inconvenient.

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
2 Corinthians 6:4

The key is, Paul wants everyone to know that he’s a servant of God.  He doesn’t serve his own needs or wants.  He doesn’t serve the world or even the churches.  He serves God.

That has to be the foundation of our attitude.  We live and act at the Lord’s good pleasure.  We’re in the service of the King of the universe.  We want His kingdom to be accurately represented.

We serve with that in mind.  We desire the character of Christ to shine through us.  That’s the only way to draw people to the cross.

Question: How does your character reflect your service to Christ?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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A Righteous Exchange

In my last post, I talked about how Christ reconciled us to God.  I explained that the Greek word deals with the concept of exchange.

We know that when God removes something, He always replaces it with something else. Jesus Christ bore my sin to the cross.  What’s the opposite of sin?

It’s clear from Scripture that the opposite of sin is righteousness. You can read all of Romans, chapters 5-6, and see how God replaced sin with His righteousness.

The fact is that I can’t be righteous on my own – it had to be a work of God’s power.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

This verse is the essence of our salvation.  He took my sin and now gives me His righteousness.  It’s beyond anything we could have hoped for as human beings.

What is our salvation all about?  There are many believers who don’t really understand what happened to them when they bowed their knees to Christ.

To some, it simply means that they decided to be good. To others, it means that they’re going to try and follow the teachings of Jesus. That is NOT Christianity.

It all starts with an understanding of our condition without Christ.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 3:23

Our problem is sin. You probably already know that the word sin, in both the Greek and Hebrew, means to miss the mark. That means that we’re all deficient, inferior to, God’s glory. Even though we were created in the image of God, in Adam we’ve fallen from that high position.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you were born, or how good you are. In Adam, the whole human race is guilty of sin – missing the mark. But as bad as that is, it gets worse.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…
Romans 5:12

It turns out that sin brought a friend with him – death – separation from God. Who is under the penalty of death? EVERYONE! Death is the penalty for not living up to the glory of God.

You can look at it this way; every human being ever born was born onto the path that leads to death. There’s no reversing it, no exits, and it leads straight to hell. But, praise God, that’s not the end of the story.

Christ came to the earth as a man, God made flesh. He took on humanity but lived a life totally without sin.

Because it was He who created us, only He had the power to take our place. That’s the concept of substitution. He took our place on the cross in the penalty for our sin.

Now we come along, thousands of years later, on this path that leads to death. We can’t leave it or even turn around. We hear the Gospel of Christ. We decide to accept what Christ did for us by faith.

That’s when everything changed. The Lord freely gives us His righteousness.  It’s the basis for a new life in Christ.

Question: What were the events that led to your salvation?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2020 in Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Word of Reconciliation

In my last post, I talked about the way we’re changed in Christ.  It’s not by willpower or trial and error, but the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

Now Paul talks about the nature of that change and our response to it.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

This passage is the basis for everything we do in Christ.  It’s all about reconciliation.  But that’s a big word.  What does it mean, exactly?

We’re told that God reconciled us to Himself in Christ.  That Greek word is actually used for money-changers. It’s like when you travel abroad; you turn in your US dollars and exchange them for the equivalent amount of Euros.

In the context of this passage, it means to change mutually. Because of what Jesus did, a change occurred in the relationship between God and the world.

Christ took the sin of the entire world – past, present, and future – and bore it to the cross.  The fact that He rose from the dead proves that God accepted His sacrifice.  Now the way is opened up for all of us to enter a new relationship with God through Christ.

We have to see that the change was mutual.  Because Christ took away our sin, the anger of God subsided.  That allows us to approach God for forgiveness and restoration.

It doesn’t end there.  Once we experience this great gift, we enter into the service of reconciliation.

There are a lot of things that take place when we bow our knee to Jesus Christ.  One of them is referred to in this passage.  It literally says that the Lord has laid down inside of us the Word of reconciliation.

What does that mean to us?

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

This part of the equation is just as important as the first part.  There are some who teach that because God reconciled Himself to the world, everyone is saved no matter what they do.  But that’s not the case.

Reconciliation is a mutual change.  God has already prepared His forgiveness for all who want it.  The problem is that forgiveness requires action from both parties.

Forgiveness must be both given and received for it to take effect.  I have to come before God and agree to His terms of reconciliation.

The difficulty is that I have to admit that I was at fault and there’s nothing I can do to rectify my condition.  I then have to accept the fact that only the work of Christ can reconcile me to God.  There are many who can’t live with that.

But for those of us who’ve experienced the grace, love, and forgiveness of God, there’s nothing better.  Praise God for His incredible gift!

Question: How has this reconciliation changed your life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2020 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Judgment and Fear

In my last post I talked about feeling at home in God’s presence.  We look forward to our permanent home with Him.  However, we know that when Christ returns there will be a performance review.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:10

I believe that, in this verse, Paul is describing the judgment of believers.  That’s why I called it a performance review.

It’s not a judgment that decides whether I go to Heaven or hell.  That choice was already settled when I received Christ’s offer of salvation through His shed blood.  Now the issue is how well I follow His leading.

The words that Paul uses in this verse are very important in order for us to understand all that he’s saying here.  It’s necessary for us to be prepared for that day.  We don’t want any surprises.

He starts by saying that all of us must appear before Christ.  There are no exceptions.  Every believer must come before the Lord.

The apostle then tells us the reason for this meeting.  The word, receive, literally means to carry away.  So the reason for this judgment is for us to carry away from it all that’s due to us based upon our service to Christ.

This determination is for our benefit.  This is where we receive our rewards, if any, for our faithfulness.  Paul says that it’s for the things done through our body.

The word he uses for done is also important.  It’s a Greek word that means to practice.  It doesn’t refer to a one-time event.  It’s about things that we did repeatedly or habitually.

What kind of things is he talking about?  Paul describes them as good and bad.  Good things don’t need any explanation.  He uses the normal word for good.

Bad things are important for us to understand.  Paul used a word that was not the common word for something bad or evil.  It actually means something easy, ordinary, worthless, or of no account.  It’s only sometimes used figuratively for evil.

In my walk with God, how do I choose to serve Him?  When I choose the easy or ordinary road, I’m losing my rewards.  When I decide to take part in worthless or no-account activities, I’ll have to answer for it before the Lord’s review.

This should be my focus in all that I do.

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.  What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.
2 Corinthians 5:11

This gives us the foundation for what the fear of the Lord actually involves.  It’s not about me being afraid of God.  I’m not worried that He’s going to “smite” me if I do something wrong.

The true fear of the Lord is living under the knowledge that my life will be reviewed in His presence someday.  My eternal rewards will be based on this.  Therefore, I live my life intentionally, knowing that I want to do my best for Christ.

Question: How well are you preparing for your future performance review?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Believing and Speaking

I’m continuing to go through our study in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He is talking about his ministry to the body of Christ.  In my last post, he declared that by carrying the death of Christ, he can minister life to others.

He continues that thought.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
2 Corinthians 4:13-14

This is a very important truth that needs to be addressed in our generation.  There are many who preach about the relationship between our faith and our words.

It seems like many Christians spend their lives living in the “ruts”.  Instead of traveling down the main road of the Word of God, they take these side trails that lead to trouble.  This is one of those truths.

On the one hand, there are many who take no thought as to what they say.  They feel no need to talk about the Lord or His blessings.  As a matter of fact, if you only listen to what they say, you’d never even know that they’re a Christian.

Then there are those who live in constant fear that a “bad confession” might come out of their mouth.  They’re afraid that one wrong sentence could destroy all that they’ve gained in years of serving God.

Neither of these two scenarios is any way to live for Christ.  The above verse is referring to the result of faith.

The word translated as therefore means through which or consequently.  In other words, the consequence of my faith is manifest in what I speak.  It’s the spirit of faith within me that spills out of my mouth.

That’s how the life of Christ is at work in us by the Holy Spirit.  He is producing faith in us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15

Because Paul spoke out what he believed, many were placing their faith in Christ.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

Remember, in this passage, Paul is not talking about the entire church. In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, Paul is talking about himself and his ministry team. Paul, who prayed in the spirit more than most believers of his day, was allowing himself to be renewed daily in the spirit.

This is why our daily time with the Lord is so important. We must take the time to read the Bible and pray in the spirit. Reading gets the written word into you. Prayer in the spirit activates that word and brings it to life within your heart.

That’s how you can be prepared to speak from the spirit of faith within you.

Question: How do you spend your daily time with the Lord?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Faith, Leadership, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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A Matter of Life and Death

We find that there are many paradoxes in our Christian walk.  As we continue through Second Corinthians, Paul talks about one of these that are a part of the ministry.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12

This is one of those parts of the ministry that no one wants to talk about.  But it’s a vital part of being effective for Christ.

You’ll never understand how the life of Christ is working in you until you first understand His death.  Paul knew and embraced this truth.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

The true path to a powerful ministry is learning to carry the death of Christ within you.  What do I mean by that?  Do we walk around with a sad look on our face like some kind of spiritual Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh)?

Absolutely not!  The death of Christ is an inward realization.  We carry the death of Christ so that His life can be revealed in us.  Carrying His death, yet revealing His life – that’s one of the great paradoxes of ministry.

As believers, we love to focus our attention on Jesus and His resurrection.  The power that was revealed on that day sealed our redemption.  That truth is beyond question.

What we fail to realize sometimes, is that the resurrection is the Good News for those who are without Christ.  The cross, on the other hand, is Good News for the church.  Paul explained this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

Without the resurrection, we couldn’t be saved.  But, without the cross, we couldn’t walk in the power of God.  We need both to be effective for Christ.

I once posted a series on the power of the cross.  To read it, click here.

Paul understood the value of carrying the death of Christ in his daily life.  It was the foundation for the power he walked in.  That’s what he’s referring to in the last line of the original passage we looked at above.

Please understand that he’s talking about himself and his ministry team.  It’s because they allow the death of Christ to do its work in them, that they can reveal the life of Christ to the church.  The Corinthian church is walking in the life of Christ because Paul and his team were obedient to the call to die to self.

We need a new revelation of the cross of Christ.  Then we’ll see the power that was manifest in the early church.

Question: What part does the cross of Christ play in your daily walk with God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Shining for Christ

In my last post, I talked about the light of the Gospel.  It shines through us if we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.  But we also saw that it’s possible for the devil to blind the spiritual eyes of unbelievers if they stubbornly refuse to hear the message.

We must always remember that the message is the most important part.  Methods may change, but the Gospel remains the same.

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:5-6

The message is Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  That’s where the power resides.  That’s where we find salvation, healing, provision, protection, and fulfillment.  There’s no other light that can pierce the darkness of this world.

Our light needs to radiate all around us.  Only in that way will people see their need for the Lord and come to the foot of the cross.  The light of the Gospel is all that matters.

But we always have to remember, it’s not our light but His. Peter talked about having the Word in you and allowing it to grow and produce fruit in your life. In speaking about this fruitfulness, he says the following…

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
2 Peter 1:9

Peter calls unfruitful Christians blind and nearsighted. He says that you’ve forgotten about your past being cleansed by the blood of Christ.

That’s because this person is blind to what God is doing. They’re also nearsighted; they can only see what’s right in front of them. They major on the temporary things of this world.

We need 20/20 vision in the spirit.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:12

It’s interesting to see the contrast here between deeds of darkness vs. armor of light. That’s because the armor is all about action.

Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith – all of these things must be visible. It’s up to us to make the light accessible to the world.

We’re the ones looking into the light. We should be walking in it, letting it change us.

…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…
Philippians 2:15-16

How do we shine like stars? As we hold out the Word. The Word is the light. We hold it out. Not everybody wants it, but some people are touched and changed by it. We need to live in such a way that the light is seen.

Question: How have people seen the light of Christ in your life lately?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spiritual Blinders

I’m continuing my series through the book of 2 Corinthians.  Paul is talking about his ministry.  It’s a ministry of power because the Holy Spirit is working through him.

It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that gets the attention of the world around us.  That’s how we become a “light in the darkness”.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4

We as believers should be reflecting the light of Christ to the dark world around us. The Bible says that those in darkness hate the light. What does that mean?  Sometimes if they see the light of Christ clearly in us, it may make them uncomfortable.

Those who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I’m an avid hiker. During some seasons, I’ll go out for a week at a time.

The first time I went on a solo hike, sleeping alone in the woods, it was a different experience. I set up my tent and when the sun went down I went to sleep. I had no clue that this would be one of the strangest nights of my life.

Around two o’clock in the morning, I woke up startled. It was as if I was in the center of a huge spotlight. The full moon was directly over me. I could see right through my thin, nylon tent as if it wasn’t even there.

I could see the trees, rocks, and everything around me as clear as day. I felt exposed and uncomfortable as I looked around. I’m very glad that there were no large animals near the tent!

This is the same effect as what happens in the spiritual realm when we reflect Christ. When you’re used to living in spiritual darkness, the light makes you uncomfortable. It exposes things that you’d rather not see. It shows you your true condition.

Satan makes full use of this effect.  He uses this discomfort with the light, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to get unbelievers to close their eyes to the truth.

Please take note of the fact that the enemy is called the god of this age. That means that there’s a time limit on his ability to act.

This verse tells us that unbelievers are given blinders if they want them. The Scripture says that if they persist in their unbelief, the enemy will give them blinders so that the light will not beam out to them.

This light is coming from the Good News of Christ – the Anointed One. The light is the glory of His presence within us.

Unbelievers are blinded to the light if they choose to believe the lies of the enemy. That’s why it’s now our job is to get them to take the blinders off. That’s a big assignment. It can only be accomplished in the power of the Spirit.

That’s why our ministry can’t be done in our own strength.  Time in the presence of the Lord is what will empower me to cut through the blinders of the enemy.  Only then will they see the glory of the Gospel of Christ.

Question: How have you experienced unbelievers becoming uncomfortable in the presence of the truth?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2020 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Plugged Into the Power

I’ve been posting from 2 Corinthians about how to walk in righteousness and the power of God.  It should be obvious by now that we must rest, remain, and abide in the presence of God.  That’s the place we receive His power.  Once we have the power we need, we’re able to live righteously.

When I’m saved, I’m made righteous by an impartation from God.  He does this so that I can receive His power by the Holy Spirit who now resides in me.

By drawing upon that power I can now live righteously before Him.  Without the power of the Spirit, I have no hope of ever pleasing the Lord with a walk of righteousness.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I can’t make myself walk in righteousness.  My flesh will never be able to fix itself.  My only hope is in the power of the Spirit.

I want to sum up the truths that we’ve learned with an illustration the Lord gave me.  Think about a living room with a TV and a lamp.  There’s also an extension cord with a power strip on it plugged into an electrical outlet.

The extension cord will represent our relationship with Christ.  If the plug is attached to the outlet, we’re remaining in Christ, if not then we’re on our own.

The TV is the miraculous – healings, provision, etc.  The lamp is our righteousness – living rightly before God.  Both of these items must be powered by our relationship with the Lord.  They are both plugged into the power strip.

We’ve noticed that if the lamp works, then the TV works as well.  A life that has the miraculous in operation is also becoming more and more like Jesus.

We’ve also noticed that if the TV isn’t working, then the lamp doesn’t work either.  The TV and the lamp always work together, so we assume that it’s the lamp that’s running the TV.

This is why so many Christians assume that it’s the walk of righteousness that brings the power for the miraculous.  The fact is that both are powered by the same plug – our relationship with Christ.

So, do we try to increase our intimacy with Christ?  No.  Instead, we try to artificially power the lamp through obeying a set of rules.  We preach that people need to live right to see the miraculous.  We tell them that it’s because we’re not living up to the rules that the church has no power.

By doing this, we actually get the lamp to appear to be lit.  What we don’t realize is that it’s not the power of the Spirit that’s working, but our own self-righteousness powered by the law.

Since the power chord of our relationship is not plugged into Christ, the manifestation of God’s power through healing and miracles does not exist.  That’s when all of our excuses start as to why there’s no healings, signs, or wonders in the church anymore.

In order for the power of God to flow into your life, you must be intimate in your relationship with Christ.  The flow of power does not depend upon how good you act.  It’s your intimacy with Christ that will bring about both the miraculous and the walk of righteousness that the Savior has called you to manifest.

Question: How intimate is your relationship with Christ?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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