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Rules and Power

In this post, I’m continuing to talk about Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s addressing the issue of trying to live for Christ by turning the Gospel into a set of rules.

In the church, we’ve come up with all kinds of excuses as to why we lack the power of God.  The one that I’ve been posting about is the notion that until we walk in righteousness, we’ll never experience the move of the Spirit.

This is exactly how the Pharisees viewed the world.  Unfortunately, many of us are walking in the same amount of power they walked in – NONE.

There was a group of former Pharisees who were trying to lead Christians to follow the Law of Moses “if they were truly saved”.  Paul was vehement in his opposition to this movement.  Let’s continue in Second Corinthians, chapter 3, and look at the revelation that he received concerning this teaching.

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.  It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
2 Corinthians 3:13-14

Here Paul is referring to when Moses came down from the mountain where God delivered the law to him.  The Bible says that Moses’ face shown so brightly with the glory of God that it looked like the sun.  People had to shield their eyes from it.

So that he could be among the people, Moses put a veil, or a cloth, over his face to shield them from the light.  But something else happened.  As Moses was with the people, the glory of God started to fade and grow dim.

At one point, even though the glory was dim enough for people to see without hurting their eyes, Moses left the veil on.  Paul said it was so the people would not see the glory of God fading.  In other words, Moses put on a veil so that the Israelites would not see his spiritual batteries draining.

Moses was a man who walked in great power.  He called down plagues upon Egypt.  He commanded the Red Sea to part.  He obtained water from the rock.  The list of miracles God performed through his hand goes on and on.  Yet, all of Moses’ power was derived through the law.

On more than one occasion he blew it.  He even missed out on entering the Promised Land because of one of his failings.  As great as his power was, it was only a battery pack compared to what the Holy Spirit offers us today.  What surprises me is that many of us try to use the same lesser power that Moses used.

We have a better covenant than Moses had.  In my next post, I’ll show how trying to live like Moses will actually rob us of spiritual strength.

Question: Why is it popular to think that we can adequately serve God in our own strength?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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From Promises to Legalism

What’s your view of the promises of God?  Do you expect them to be fulfilled in your life?  How are they accomplished in us?

I’ve found through the Scripture, that if you’re not careful, trying to “claim the promises” might trap you in legalism.  There are some who are bound by the idea that unless I perform certain actions, God won’t bless me.

That was my thinking at one point in my life.  I was bound by the attitude that I HAD TO tithe in order for God to bless my finances.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.”  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:19-20

One day, as I was in prayer, the Lord showed me that when I decided to tithe in order for God to rebuke the devourer (Malachi 3:10-11), I was appealing to the law for my financial blessing.

Through the gentle leading of the Spirit, I came to the realization that I had placed myself under the commandment.  I now understand that my trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises is a form of legalism.

What I had forgotten was this:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
James 2:10

By placing my hope in keeping the tithe law, I was missing the rest of the puzzle.  Here’s what I had neglected.  The passage in Malachi showed me the conditions to rebuke the devourer.  But there are 20 other verses that deal with things I can do that allows the devourer to get my stuff.

They talk about everything from hiring prostitutes to neglecting the needs of the church.  So in effect, when I tithed, God rebuked the devourer.  Then, if I neglected the church, I was calling the devourer back so he could continue his work.

I became more and more aware of the fact that trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises actually puts me under the law.  So I did a study of promises in the New Testament to see how they’re used under the New Covenant.

I was surprised at what the Scripture had to say.  Nowhere did I find it taught that we have to fulfill the requirements.  As a matter of fact, it was just the opposite.  The reason for this is the finished work of Christ on the cross.  He even told us that was why He came to the earth.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5:17

In this statement, Jesus tells us the whole foundation for walking in the blessings of the Word.  Part of His work was to fulfill everything written in the Old Covenant.

The word, fulfill means to cram full, to fill in the holes.  All of the open-ended requirements needed to “claim” the promises have been filled in by Christ.

This means that we are exempt from the requirements unless we voluntarily place ourselves under the law.  In that case, the kingdom of the enemy has the right to use its power against us on the same level.

God caused me to mature in how I view the promises.  I still tithe, because I know that it’s the spiritually mature thing to do.  God blesses my finances because, in Christ, I have already received this blessing.

Question: What promises have you turned into laws in your life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2020 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Warfare – It’s Bigger than Me

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that we have to contend with as believers.  I’m using Christ as our example.  In my last post, I talked about the devil attacking who we are in Christ.  The next attack is more subtle.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Matthew 4:5-6

Remember that I said it’s not about mindlessly quoting the Bible.  That doesn’t bring about the victory.  In this verse, we see the reason for that.  The devil has the Bible memorized.  He can quote it better than we can sometimes.

What is this attack?  By using the Bible, Satan is trying to attack the church.  He wants to go through you to bring down other believers.

If you’re a warrior, then the enemy needs to bring you down so that he can attack the church. That’s what the verse meant that said that the battle entails persistency and petition around all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17-18)

Other Christians aren’t really watching the battle.  Many times they’re off in “praise land,” never realizing that they’re being protected.  There are those whose ministry is interceding for them – protecting them.

Why would the devil have told Christ to jump from the temple?  The angels would have protected Him and it would have fulfilled a prophecy from Malachi.

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Malachi 3:1

Had He jumped off the roof, Christ would have appeared suddenly in the Temple.  The people would have flocked to Him.  But what would they be following?  In a word – sensationalism.

God doesn’t want us following the spectacular.

“He’s on TV, he must be spiritual.”

This attack asks; am I going to build God’s kingdom?  Am I going to protect God’s people?  Or am I going to live for self?  This attack happens after a victory in another area.  I’ve overcome the temptation to sin, now I want the fame, recognition, and money that I deserve.

This attack is all about whether I want to advance myself or God’s kingdom.  Many choose to exalt themselves.  The body of Christ is not a place for self-advancement.  It’s got to be the Lord who exalts us.  Christ’s answer to this attack was simple.

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Matthew 4:7

This is making God the focus of our examination.  The fact is, God doesn’t have to prove He’s going to bless me before I serve Him.  I obey Him because He’s God.  He’s done so much for me already; the Lord has nothing He needs to prove to me.

It’s when we need something more than what Christ has already provided that we fall victim to this trap.  Instead of testing God, our goal should be simply to hear and obey Him.

Question: What are some of the things we chase after that are unneeded in our Christian walk?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spiritual Warfare – Battle Tested

I’m taking a few posts to talk about the example Christ is to us as we fight this spiritual battle.  I believe that the church needs to develop a warrior mentality.  In the natural world, soldiers don’t live with civilians.  They live set apart, and they see themselves as set apart.

By looking at the example of Christ, we can see what this battle is all about.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1

In my last post, we saw that we’re to fight this spiritual battle with all persistency and petition around all the saints.  The fight is not in the center of the saints where the “praise party” is going on.  It’s on the edges – in the prayer closet – in the private places.

Notice that Jesus was not in the city or with His disciples when the devil attacked.  It was in the place of prayer and fasting.  That’s the true place of warfare.

So often I’ve heard worship leaders, in the midst of a great time of praise and worship, proclaim, “We’ve got the enemy on the run!”  Far from it.  During those times the church is in the mess hall, far from the battle.  Warfare occurs when we’re in private.

The Scripture is clear that Jesus was tempted by the devil.  It’s important to know what this means.  We think of tempting as Satan trying to get us to fail.  The actual Greek word means a test, proof, or examination.

The temptation is merely asking, “Are you the real thing?”  When you pick up the shield of faith, are you for real?  Are you just repeating something you heard, or does it come from your heart?

This is important for believers to understand. Whenever we grasp a new concept in Christ it must be added to our faith. It can’t simply be something we give lip service to.  We have to be willing to live it out.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:3-4

We need to see that the first attack is personal.  Who are you in Christ?  Are you going to cater to your flesh or to the spirit?

This is why you need your helmet and sword.  You have to walk in the authority of your position in Christ.  You must understand the power of the Word of God in you.  That’s the only thing that will counter this attack.

That’s why you need to know who you are in Christ.  What’s your calling in the kingdom of God?  The battle is all about who you’re going to trust for your needs.  Of course, that means we know the difference between wants and needs.

Jesus could have answered “Yes” to the devil’s challenge.  The question is; where did the Lord’s response come from?  Was it the Bible that said “no”?  Was Jesus merely quoting Scripture?

No, this came up from His Spirit.  It was the overflow of a heart that was full of God’s Word.  That’s where we get the strength for overcoming the enemy’s schemes.

The fact is the Word is more important than bread.  We have to come to grips with this.  What’s the Word more important than in your life?  It might not be a bad thing that you have to push aside in place of the Word of God to you.  It’s this response from our heart that proves we’re the “real thing” during the times of testing.

Question: How have you been tested lately?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Personal Struggle

In many instances in the Scripture, our personal spiritual walk is described as a battle.  Light vs. darkness; Heaven vs. hell; good vs. evil.  We need to know how to live with this truth.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:17-18

In this verse, Paul is talking about the authority and power of God.  He wants to work these through us.  There’s a battle raging on the earth right now.  Unfortunately, many don’t even care about it.  Do you?

The last sentence of this quote is very important.  It literally says, attending to this with all persistency and petition around all the saints.  The emphasis is that this is encompassing all the saints.

The battle is all around you whether you want it or not.  That’s why the apostle uses such strong language in his exhortation.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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 6:10-13

Think about the church today.  Picture the body of believers as an army standing before hell’s gates.  Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church.  The question is; are we that victorious church that the Lord was talking about?

We should be, and in some areas, there are local churches that have the enemy on the run.  But that’s not the case everywhere.  Are all the believers in their spiritual armor?  Are all believers even willing to fight this spiritual battle?  I don’t think so.

What about the enemy’s kingdom?  Are they ready?  Absolutely.  They understand what’s at stake and they’re in it for the long haul.  They won’t give in without a fight.

Right now the arrows of the enemy are flying all around us.  If you remember, I’ve said that arrows are the first strike weapon.  The truth is that you don’t have to be in the fight to be hit by an arrow.  That’s why believers are encouraged to take the spiritual armor seriously.

How do you take the stronghold from the enemy?  First, you put on the armor and pick up your shield.  Behind the gates are the prisoners that need to be set free.

Understand this, as you approach the gates the fight goes from general to personal.  It gets to the point where it’s one on one.

Paul is not talking to all believers in this letter, but to the faithful.  That’s who I’m talking to as well.  The believers who want to make a difference in the world around them.

For the next few posts, I want to talk about this personal spiritual battle that we face on a daily basis.  I’ll use Christ as our example of how to live an overcoming lifestyle.

Question: How is your life affected by the spiritual battle?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Wind of the Spirit

In my last article, I talked about spiritual warfare and the need for unity and agreement.  Today, I want to share some things that Jesus taught about the move of the Spirit.

At one point a teacher of the law named Nicodemus asked Jesus some questions.  Jesus spent some quality time with this young man.  I think however that this teacher left with more questions than he started with.  During the conversation, Jesus said the following to Nicodemus:

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:7-8

When you’re born of the Spirit, you can now live life on a new level.  It’s the level of the spiritual realm.

God describes it as the wind.  It blows wherever it pleases.  Just as in the case of the physical wind, we can see the effect, direction, and speed that it’s traveling.

This is the case even if we don’t know where it’s coming from or going to.  Maybe you’ve seen a weather map on TV.  Personally, the Weather Channel is one of my favorite places on Cable TV.  I’ve gotten many spiritual illustrations from its programs.

When you look at a weather map, sometimes it shows you the flow of the Jet Stream over the United States.  It could start flowing East over Washington state.  Then it dips down to Texas and takes a turn to flow directly up the East Coast.

This is how the flow of the wind operates.  You can’t tell where it’s been or where it’s going just because you know the direction where you’re standing.  In Washington, it flows east, in Colorado it flows south, and in Kentucky, it flows north, all at the same time.

The flow of the Holy Spirit is just as unpredictable; that’s why we must be sensitive.  The Spirit of God may be moving through prophecy in one church, healing in another, and weeping in a third.

I can’t say that because God is not moving in your church the way He moves in mine, that therefore you are out of His will.  It takes sensitivity to the Spirit to know just what He wants to do right here, right now.

It’s just like the wind.  It takes someone who’s born of the Spirit to understand the move of the Spirit.  That’s why it’s called the “flow” of the Spirit.  It’s my goal to get in on that flow which is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

But what does the flow of the Spirit have to do with spiritual warfare and unity in the body of Christ?  As you’ll see, it has everything to do with it.

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:20-21

Jesus is praying in this verse for the church to be one.  This is the same Greek word that’s translated as unity in the verses we looked at in my last post.  It literally means to be one.

This is not a word that means “I agree with you”.  According to the Lord, the way it works between the Father and Himself is that He is in the Father.  It’s Christ’s desire that we share this same degree of unity.  He wants us to be one in Him.

In my next post, we’ll see how this is accomplished.

Question: What would a church look like if it operated in true unity?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Our Victory is in Christ

Now that we’ve seen the war against the flesh and the world, we’ll move on to the final battle.  We’re in a war against the spiritual forces of the kingdom of Satan.

As I’ve already written about, the people around us are not the enemy.  They’re prisoners of war in the spiritual battle.  They’re being held captive by the world system under the control of the devil.

It’s up to us, God’s people, to set them free and bring them to the cross.  That’s where they can find true salvation for their souls.

In order for that to happen, there are some things that we need to understand.  We can’t go into this battle with only half the information.

The first thing that we have to realize is that Christ has already won the war.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15

Jesus Christ has once and for all won the victory over all the power of the enemy kingdom.  However, that doesn’t mean that the fighting has stopped.

Just like in WWII, when the Axis powers collapsed, the Allied forces had to mop up the remaining troops.  They had to enter the concentration camps and free the surviving prisoners.  That’s where we are in the spiritual war today.

The trouble is that even in defeat, the enemy is dangerous.  He wants as few people as possible to be set free by the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just how do we thwart the devil’s plans?  The Lord already took care of this.  Look at what Christ said to His followers.

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”
Luke 10:19

The same power over the enemy that the Lord walked in has been conferred upon us.  We have authority over the enemy’s kingdom.  Of course, the devil would like that to remain a carefully guarded secret.

As long as we look to the future for our victory, we’ll never see the enemy kingdom back down.  We must learn to walk in the authority of Christ that we’ve already been given.

We need to see a God’s-eye-view of the spiritual war.

“…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades [Hell] will not overcome it.”
Matthew 16:18b

We have to come to the realization that the gates of Hell don’t move.  They don’t attack the church.  These gates are fixed around what the enemy already possesses and he’s trying to keep hold of.

The gates of Hell are around our centers of education.  They surround our political systems.  They’re also around our entertainment industry.

What we need to see is that it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.  The gates of Hell – all the power of the enemy – cannot withstand an attack by God’s people walking in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Too often we try to infiltrate these areas of society using the rules of the world.  That’s why we only achieve limited success.  We need to learn to take this battle into the spiritual realm.

I’m going to take a few posts to talk about what God has given us in order to walk in the victory that Christ has already won for us.

Question: What are the spiritual battles that you’re facing right now?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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