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Godly Imitation

They say that imitation is a form of flattery.  I’ve found that I learn things best when I can watch someone else do it first.  This is just as true in our Christian walk.

In his exhortations to the Corinthian church, Paul tells them their need to follow after his way of life.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:16

In serving Christ, it’s always beneficial to have a mature, godly example to follow.  In that way, we can see how this walk is lived out.

I praise the Lord for the Scripture.  It’s a blessing that His written Word is so accessible to us as believers.  But there’s so much in the Word that I have a hard time applying.

I need to see an example of how it operates in someone’s life on a continual basis.  I’m talking about someone through whom the love and power of Christ are operating consistently.

Of course, there are those that I look at and by their lives, they teach me what NOT to do.  However, this post isn’t about the negative examples in our lives, but the positive.

Paul saw that over time the Corinthian church had lost sight of the things that he had tried to get across to them.  In their struggle to do things their way, they had missed the clear path of the Gospel that Paul preached to them.  Now they were in need of correction.

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.  He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:17

This verse is very important for us to see and understand.  It should remind us of something that was written in the Gospels.  On different occasions in Jesus’ ministry, a voice was heard from Heaven saying, “This is the Son I love, listen to Him.”

Now we see the Apostle Paul saying the same thing about Timothy.  He adds that Timothy is faithful in the Lord.  That’s an important thing for us to understand.

We know that Christ only did those things that He saw of the Father.  Then, after the Lord’s ascension, the apostles did what they had seen in Jesus.  Now, they’re exhorting the church to follow in they’re footsteps.

Paul knew that Timothy was faithfully living out the Christian walk that Paul had preached to the church.  He was now sending his spiritual son to remind the Corinthians how that walk was to be lived out.

With Paul, he wasn’t just preaching theory on how to follow Christ.  He had experienced the walk of maturity.  He knew what it would take to be faithful to the Lord.

The Corinthian church had heard the message but treated it as a suggestion.  As a result, their church was wallowing in divisions and power struggles.  They weren’t able to fully proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  They needed to get back on track, spiritually speaking.

The only way for the church to course-correct was for each individual believer to submit to Christ’s lordship.  Then, as each person follows God’s plan, the church is back where it should be.

That’s why it’s so important for us to seek out and watch the lives of mature believers.  Even as a pastor, I need to watch the lives of those who are further along in Christ than I am.  In that way, we can see the growth that only comes through godly imitation.

Question: Who do you know that you can follow their example of a mature walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Adolescent Church

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church sounds like he’s writing to a group of adolescents.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the worse stage of growth whether you’re talking about the spiritual or the physical.  If there was one point in my life I wouldn’t want to go back to, it would be my pre-teen and teenage years.

The problem with life as an adolescent is that you’re coming into the height of your adult strength and intelligence.  Yet, you lack the experience and permission to do things on your own.  You see the freedom and resources that adults enjoy, yet you’re locked into a world where you have to wait for your turn to experience it.

In many ways, this is the place that most of the modern church finds itself in.  We understand what should be ours in Christ, but walking in it seems to elude us.  We need to learn how to overcome and make it successfully through this stage of our Christian development.

I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.  Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:14-16

In this passage, Paul urges his people to follow his example as a mature believer. That’s the toughest assignment for a growing Christian. It’s a very hard thing to move from a childish mindset to that of an adult.

There are behaviors that will work for children that adults will never get away with.  The problem in most of the church is that we want the irresponsibility of childhood with the freedom and resources of adulthood.  This will never happen.

There has to be a giving up of childish ways.  We have to move into our role as mature followers of the risen Lord.  Until this happens, we’ll never attain our true potential in Christ.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Galatians 4:19

This verse should wake us up.  Paul is writing to believers who are in the adolescent stage of their spiritual growth.  They’re saved and on their way to Heaven, but he tells them something that should get our attention.  His burning desire is that Christ would be formed in them.

This is the Greek word morphoo.  It’s where we get our English word morph.  We hear this word a lot in dealing with computer graphics.  When we see special effects in a movie, where one thing turns into something else, we say that it morphed.  That’s the spiritual change that we’re looking for.

I want to let the world see a change in me.  I want to “morph” into the same life that Christ lived.  This is the point where the change happens that brings me from being a child to living as an adult.

In life, it happens almost unnoticed.  Then one day you see what you’re doing and realize you’re not a child anymore.  As Christians, we need to go through this change on a spiritual level.  The church as a whole needs to walk in adulthood.  This is what Christ is looking for in us.

Question: What would a spiritually adult church look like?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2019 in Leadership, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Lukewarm Confession

How could a church that’s not lacking any spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:7) have so many problems?  That’s the question that rises up in me when I read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  As we go through this letter, the answer now becomes obvious.

Already you have all you want!  Already you have become rich!  You have become kings — and that without us!  How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!
1 Corinthians 4:8

I love Paul’s attitude, it’s a lot like mine sometimes.  He has humor with an edge of sarcasm.  There are times that this is needed to wake people up from their lethargy.

Paul exposes their faulty mindset.  They felt that they had all they wanted.  They felt that they were rich.  They felt that they no longer had any need of Paul’s apostolic ministry to their church.

For anyone who’s read the book of Revelation, this should sound very familiar.  There was a church to which Jesus Christ dictated a letter through John.  It was situated in the town of Laodicea.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Revelation 3:17

Here’s the problem.  They have a good confession, but they were self-deceived.  Please understand, I believe in and practice the memorization and confession of the Word of God.  It’s Scriptural and needed to bring maturity.

The problem arises when we deny the reality of our present situation.  For instance, if I’m sick, I can acknowledge my sickness BUT confess Christ as my Healer.  I can speak the Word that says I’m healed because of the wounds of Christ.

Usually, people only deny that they’re sick because they’re afraid to admit it.  But if you never acknowledged your sickness, how can Christ get the glory for your healing?

“We don’t need you, Paul.  We have all we need. We’re rich.  We’re ruling and reigning.”

The whole time, it was obvious to all outside observers that the church of Corinth was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  I’m glad that Jesus gave John the diagnosis in the opening of His letter.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Revelation 3:15-16

Most people don’t understand what being lukewarm refers to.  It’s a stubborn refusal to tap into the power of God’s kingdom.

It takes power to raise water from room temperature to boiling.  It also takes power to transform room temperature water into ice.  It requires no power to remain lukewarm.

There’s a subtle deception that many believers have fallen victim to.  That’s exalting their “good confession” over Christ Himself.  It’s not your confession that heals you – Christ is your Healer.

The reason we confess God’s Word is to change us.  I want to renew my mind so that it conforms to God’s Word.  Confession reprograms my internal computer.

When I start having faith in my confession, rather than in Christ, then I’m on the road to becoming lukewarm.  I need to see my need for Christ.  He is the Supplier for all that I need for life and godliness.

You don’t need to deny the situation you’re in.  But just the same, confess what God’s Word says about your situation and look for Christ to show up and bring about the change that’s needed.

Question: How does the confession of God’s Word renew your mind?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Faith, Healing, Power of God, Word of God

 

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Boasting

We’re continuing our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s dealing with the factions that are dividing their fellowship.  He now asks some questions that are particularly important.

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7

The first question he asks could be asked in our generation.  It literally says, who or what is it that makes you different and causes you to separate or withdraw from everyone else?  This is a question that should be asked of most denominational leaders.

Think about the thousands of Christian denominations around the world.  What is it that makes them so different from each other that they have to remain separate?

I like the study of church history.  I read stories of the great men and women of faith who have done mighty things for the Lord.  Many times, a following arose around their teachings.  Eventually, it formed a new group or denomination.

I wonder sometimes, what these ministers of the Gospel think about the direction those who followed them took.  Would they even recognize the organization that evolved into what we see on today’s church landscape?

“My denomination is better than yours.  We’re closer to God.”

Are you?  Is it the organization that brings you closer to God?  Or is it about a relationship?  Paul’s next questions bring that to light.  What do you have that you didn’t receive?  And if you received it, why do you boast as if it was you that did it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

We have received an absolutely, over-the-top salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was something that we could have never accomplished on our own.  That’s the bottom line of Christianity.

Human beings are the ones who have added the denominational distinctives.  These are the things that divide and separate us.  Most of these things are spiritual insights that a minister received and taught.  Then, an organization was built around it.

Actually, if you read the history of denominations, you’ll find that many groups separated over some of the most foolish things.  Many of these have nothing to do with God but are simply preferences in the style of worship or who they’re comfortable worshipping with.

Having said that, I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with being a part of an organization.  My church is a member of a denomination.  What I am saying is that it’s not the organization that brings you closer to God.

Your personal relationship with Christ is the most important thing.  This needs to be cultivated through your walk with the Holy Spirit.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Whatever your particular brand of Christianity is, let your walk with God be the most important part.

Question: What do we have in common as believers in Jesus Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Judging Ourselves?

What comes to mind when you hear the words judge and judgment?  When reading Scripture, these definitions may not be adequate to help us in our understanding.  We need to know what type of judgment is being referred to.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to a church that was beginning to question his apostolic authority.  They thought that their way was better than the Word Paul was bringing them on God’s behalf.  Many of them were resisting his teaching.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4

It’s very important that we understand what Paul is saying here.  Many have taken it out of context in order to choose their own path rather than God’s plan.  It all comes down to what’s meant by judging.

It turns out that in the Greek language there are many words that are all translated by judge or judgment in English.  That makes for some confusion when reading certain parts of the Bible.

The word, judged, in this section means to interrogate or investigate in order to make a determination.  It’s a critical viewing of all the evidence with the purpose of coming up with a verdict.  That makes this an important concept for believers to grasp.

Paul is saying that what they’re determining about his ministry is not important.  They can do their surface investigation and observe all that he says and does.  But that’s not the end of the story.  God, Himself has the final say as to Paul’s faithfulness.

There were some people in Corinth who didn’t like the fact that Paul was bringing correction to the church.  It was uncomfortable.

“Paul should be more loving.  Why does he always tell us what we’re doing wrong?  He can’t be doing God’s work with that kind of attitude.”

There were certain parts of Paul’s ministry that they didn’t like.  So they were majoring on other teachers that they liked better.  Paul is clear that this type of judging is wrong.

As a matter of fact, it’s just as wrong to judge ourselves by these standards.  You can’t simply look at surface circumstances and events to determine if you’re in God’s will.

Paul states that even though he can’t think of anything he’s done wrong, that’s not what justifies him.  He has already been declared innocent by the blood of Christ.  What he does has no effect on that.

But, when it comes to a final determination of his ministry, there’s only One qualified Judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

There will be a final judgment for believers.  This judgment will not be a Heaven or hell decision.  That was already decided when I bowed my knee to Christ.  The judgment for believers is all about their rewards…or lack thereof.

The Lord’s judgment won’t be based upon what it looked like on the surface.  He’ll take into account the thoughts and intents of the heart.  God knows our motivations and our faithfulness even if they weren’t apparent to all those who were watching us.

Be careful not to make a determination about yourself based upon your apparent failures.  Let God have the final say.  Keep staying faithful to the Lord’s call upon your life.

Question: How have your motives not always lined up with the outcomes of your actions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Faithful at the Oars

We need godly leadership in the body of Christ.  But what’s the greatest character trait that a leader needs?  As we continue our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we see one that I think is high on the list.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2

The Apostle Paul wrote this section of Scripture to encourage spiritual leaders to be faithful to their calling.  He’s talking to those who work in the ministry.

The word, regard, means, to account or to take inventory.  In essence, we’re told that when other people take inventory of our lives as leaders, it should be obvious to them that we’re servants of Christ.  It should be just as obvious that we’ve been entrusted with the secret things of God.

Unfortunately, what should be is not always what happens in reality.  There’s some uncertainty in Paul’s writing because he uses the phrase men ought to.  This means that he faced the same problem in his generation that we have today.  There are many leaders who don’t live up to their high calling in Christ.

The issue should be as clear to those around us as it was to the members of the Sanhedrin in the book of Acts.  It says that when meeting with the apostles they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  The apostles talked, ministered, and acted like Jesus.

That should be our testimony as well.  It’s sad that in many parts of the church, the ministry has fallen short from this ideal.

But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32

In the context of this verse, Paul is teaching on the subject of the Lord’s Supper.  He makes it clear, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that if we would only take the time to judge ourselves we would not come under judgment.

When will we learn this simple lesson?  We wait for condemnation to come on us from the outside before we’ll take a long, hard, and honest look at ourselves.  Then, when we’re criticized for our failure to follow in the footsteps of Christ, it seems to be easier to get defensive than to take stock of our own lives.

We should be constantly comparing ourselves to the ministry of the Lord.  Only in that way can we be assured that we’re adequately portraying the role of a leader.

In the verse, from I Corinthians 4 above, Paul uses the word servant.  It actually refers to an under-oarsman.  Like those responsible for propelling the ship forward, we have a shared ministry with Christ.

Leaders need to be supplying vision to the people.  The church should have a forward momentum because of our commitment as those who lead.  In most cases, if a rowboat isn’t moving, the problem lies with the oarsman.

It’s up to us, as leadership in the body of Christ, to set the speed and direction as ordered by the Lord.

Questions: What are your areas of ministry?  How do you submit those areas to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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All for Christ

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul is teaching the church about human wisdom versus that which is from God.  This is because they had developed factions based upon their favorite teachers.  Paul lets them know that this is a result of worldly thinking.

So then, no more boasting about men!  All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Paul brings us to the bottom line of the discussion.  If you’re truly operating in the wisdom of God, then you will not be boasting about which teacher you like the best.

That’s because we need a multitude of teachers in order to understand the full counsel of God.  It takes a wide variety of personalities, styles, and ministries in order to bring the church to where it should be.

I’d like to think that my teaching has a lot to offer the body of Christ.  However, if I’m the only one you’re listening to, then you have a very poor and imbalanced spiritual diet.

The apostle explains that everyone God places before you has a role to play in your life and development.  They are yours.  They’re a gift from God to help you grow.

It’s not up to us to decide who we want to sit under.  To reject someone that God has sent is to reject the work of the Holy Spirit in you.  I’ve received some great blessings from people who seemed, to me, to be the least qualified.

But Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to lay a foundation for some incredible spiritual truths.  It’s not just teachers that are ours, but other things as well.

We are told in this passage that the present world system is ours.  That’s an important concept to understand.  We’re members of a kingdom that has greater authority than the kingdom of this world.

As believers, we need to walk in this knowledge.  We shouldn’t be trying to live according to the world’s expectations.  Our life is on a higher level.  If we truly understood this, we wouldn’t spend our time trying to get society’s acceptance.

Another thing that’s ours is life and death.  This truth should make us constantly sensitive to God’s plan in us.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

The Holy Spirit wants us to produce fruit for the kingdom of God.  That involves both the speaking of life and death.  Yes, you heard me correctly; sometimes we need to speak death over things.  It’s clear from reading the book of Acts that the apostles understood and walked in this.

As an example, we had a large New Age school that operated in our town.  It was a hotbed of occultic activity.  During our prayer meetings, we would curse it (not the people, but the organization).

After a few years of this, it was closed.  I believe that this was a direct result of God’s people taking authority over the enemy’s kingdom.

We’re also told that the present and the future are ours.  Where we find ourselves now as well as where we’re headed is in our control.  It all has to do with our submission to the work of God’s Spirit within us.

I can’t complain about where I’m at.  It’s my own choices that brought me here.  It’s by my own choices that I can move on to new levels in Christ.

The most important point of this is that through us, it all belongs to God.  If we lay hold of these things, even though the enemy rules this present world, God is free to move by His Spirit.  As we allow the Lord to work through us, we can see changes in our sphere of influence.

We must be the catalyst of change that God’s called us to be.

Question: How is God calling you to affect your surroundings?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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