RSS

Tag Archives: Christianity

The Choice is Yours – Faith or the Law

“What harm is there in trying to follow the Ten Commandment to the best of your ability?  Isn’t that how you please God?”

Actually, it doesn’t please God and could be hindering your walk with Him.  This is one of those teachings of Scripture that seem to be opposite of our logical thinking.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”
Galatians 3:10-12

This verse is clear, God does not consider us righteous because we do the right works.  True righteousness is only obtained through faith in Christ.  By trying to live by the so-called rules of Christianity, you’re actually placing yourself back under the curse.

Here’s the problem.  Every human being on earth, apart from Christ, is under the curse.  That’s because all of humanity is trying to follow one code of conduct or another.

That’s what sets true Christianity apart from all other world religions.  Every religion on earth has a code of conduct that must be adhered to if you want to reach perfection, Paradise, Nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever the goal is that they strive for.  It takes discipline, will power, and a lot of hard work to follow through on these goals.

If you think that being a Christian means that you’re trying your best to follow the teachings of the Bible; then you’re no different from all the other religions.  In that case, you’ve totally missed the Good News of Christ.

What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the fact that our God declares that it’s totally impossible for us to ever please Him on our own.  Therefore, He took it upon Himself to provide the way for us to reach His presence.

By trusting in the finished work of Christ, we receive everything needed to please God.  We have obtained His grace and are under His blessing.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13

The curse that Jesus experienced on the cross wasn’t His.  He was perfect and lived a sinless life.  That was our curse that was put upon Him.  He carried the entire weight of all sinful mankind.

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 3:14

In my last post, I talked about the joy we have of receiving Abraham’s blessing.  Here Paul repeats himself.  The whole purpose of the cross was to bring that very blessing to the Gentiles.  All it requires is for us to accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: What can you expect as a part of this blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Rules Don’t Work

Legalism causes many problems in the Body of Christ.  As I continue looking at the book of Galatians, Paul has finished with his examples and now begins his teaching in great detail.  He starts with the bottom line so that there’s no mistaking what he believes.

We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:15-16

Paul is making an important point here.  But it’s not one that everyone can identify with.  In order to explain it, I need to give you a bit of my personal testimony.

Simply put; I am a “Timothy”.  My grandparents, on both sides, were godly Christians, baptized in the Spirit.  My parents were brought up in the church – as a matter of fact, that’s where they met.

When I came along, I had no choice but to attend church whenever the doors were open.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful.

As wonderful as it was to be brought up in a Christian home with Biblical training, it did present me with a very unique set of challenges.  This is because I learned the “rules” of the Christian lifestyle before I learned about grace.

I started out thinking that simply by “being good” I could please God.  It wasn’t until I was able to grasp the deeper issues of life that I understood the truth of God’s righteousness.  This is what Paul is talking about.

People who are brought up with no Scriptural background – the Gentiles – have lived their whole life by trying to be the best they could.  They wanted to be a functioning part of society.

“Be kind to others and continue to better yourself.”

In my growth, I had a different training.  I learned what pleases God as well as the things He hates.  Let me tell you that I can give a hearty “Amen,” to what Paul is saying.  By my experience, I know that following the rules makes absolutely no points with God.

I was brought up in the church.  I spent my formative years sheltered from the worldly society.  I never fell into any great sin or even hung around with “bad people”.  Yet, in spite of all that, I needed a Savior as much as any drug-dealing, murdering, alcoholic.

All of my good works meant nothing in bringing me into God’s kingdom.  I had to repent, bow my knees to Christ, and ask Him to place His Spirit within me.  Unless and until I did that, I could never be right in the eyes of God.

If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.
Galatians 2:17-18

What Paul is saying here is that there’s no going back.  Now that I’m justified in Christ, trying to live by the Law is a dead-end.  I’m back to being a lawbreaker again because I can never live up to God’s standard on my own.  I started in grace and I must continue in God’s grace.

For the rest of this letter, Paul is going to explain to the Galatian church why this truth is so important and how to apply it to their lives.

Question: How have you experienced that following a set of rules doesn’t work?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Freedom or Slavery

I’ve been posting through the book of Galatians and talking about legalism vs. our freedom in Christ.  We’re looking at the Apostle Paul’s personal battle against legalism as he ministered to the Gentiles.

[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 2:4-5

Here, Paul gives the reasons for the struggle.  The words that he uses are very scary.  They should cause us to be wary of our motivations.

He’s specifically talking about a group known as the Judaizers.  They were people who felt that in order to be saved, you had to trust Jesus and follow the rules contained in the Law of Moses.  This was particularly hard for Gentiles to conform to.  In essence, these Judaizers wanted us to become Jews first, before we could become Christians.

What concerns me is the fact that Paul calls these people false brothers.  I think that puts legalistic people on dangerous ground.  Can you truly trust Christ to save you if you think that your works play a major role in God accepting you?

Paul says that their goal was to spy on or watch with malicious intent, the freedom Christ bought for us.  They want to see our freedom and then convince us that slavery is the better option.

“You have to obey the rules if you want to be a good Christian.  After all, you can’t just live however you want and please God.”

That statement does have a grain of truth in it.  But it will bring you into bondage that will keep you from growing in Christ.

The fact is, the Holy Spirit had a reason why He inspired both James and 1 Thessalonians before Galatians.  They stress the truth that a believer must spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  It’s in this way that our lives will constantly be transformed into the Lord’s image.

That has to be in place first, before you can truly walk in God’s freedom.  This is not a license to live by whatever your flesh wants to do.  It’s a freedom to walk according to the Spirit’s desire with no need for a set of rules to “keep us on the straight and narrow.”

When I look at the life of Jesus, I see the same thing.  He is the Messiah. Yet, He was always being accused of breaking the rules.

Paul understood this and wanted those under his spiritual care to be free from the bondage of religion.  The Christian walk is not about conforming yourself to a set of traditional, religious rules of performance.  It’s a personal relationship with Christ that’s constantly transforming us by God’s power.

The Apostle is writing to us from his personal experience.  The lifestyle of following rules and traditions is hard to break free from.  We see in Paul, the key to this release.

That’s why he says that he will never give in to them.  That phrase means to yield in submission.  Let me jump ahead for a moment so that you can see where Paul is bringing us to in this letter.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Between here and there, he gives a detailed look at how this freedom should work in us.  That’s where we’re going over the next few weeks of these posts.

Question: How do rules hinder your spiritual growth?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Declaration of Independence

I’m now going to begin posting from the third of the foundational books of the New Testament – Galatians.  It was written by Paul at the same time and place that he wrote 1 Thessalonians (Click here for review).

Just to remind you; James was written as a Christian primer for new believers and 1 Thessalonians was an encouragement to a new church.  Now, with Galatians, we’ll see how Paul handles a long-standing church that was beginning to fall into legalism.

Many call the book of Galatians our spiritual Declaration of Independence.  In it, Paul lays out the true relationship between the Law of Moses and God’s will for the church.  There are many believers who fail to recognize the total package that Christ purchased for us on the cross.

It’s the principles in this letter that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  We’re not just a sect of Judaism.  Christ is doing a whole new thing in the church.

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia…
Galatians 1:1-2

This opening line is the key to understanding Paul’s mission and authority.  Becoming an apostle was not his idea.  It wasn’t something he studied and trained for.  He had no MDiv.  He never stood before a denominational ordination committee.

Think about how far we’ve fallen from those days.  In many circles, becoming a pastor or preacher is simply a career choice based on personal preference.  You go to school, get a degree, and then get ordained.  Next, you candidate at a church for the position of pastor, they vote, and you’re elected.

Yes, I realize that a great number of ministers are there because of the clear call of God on their lives and I’m one of them.  But for too many, it’s just a choice they made to pursue a career that they liked the sound of.

Please understand that the ministry to the body of Christ is not something to enter into lightly.  It’s a spiritual battleground that can destroy you if you’re not prepared.  Each year, hundreds of pastors and leaders drop out of the ministry because of this fact.  I personally have had many minister friends who are now selling cars or insurance because they couldn’t handle the pressures or demands.

When we read Paul’s letters, we’re not just reading the suggestions of an intelligent teacher.  We’re hearing God’s heartbeat for the church.  This is something Paul learned by spending years at the feet of the Holy Spirit – listening and obeying what he heard.

The book of Galatians is saturated with the Word of freedom to the church.  Serving Christ was never meant to be about following a set of rules.  God never intended us to figure it out on our own.  The Holy Spirit is our Guide to lead us into His truth.

Hopefully, as we go through this study of Galatians you’ll find a spiritual freedom that you never knew existed.  It’s my prayer that it will cause you to rise to a new level of faith and power in Christ.

Question: What does spiritual freedom mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Counter Culture

Is the church called to run contrary to the world? If so, then where are we missing it? I want us to think about our walk as Christians in America. This topic actually isn’t that new. James wrote about it long ago.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:4

Those are some strong words he uses. He called them an adulterous people. What does cheating on your spouse have to do with the spiritual condition of a generation? The answer is found in the verse just preceding this one. It explains his choice of words. As he talked about asking for things in prayer, he wrote…

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

Here’s the problem that James is describing as adultery. They asked God for things so that they could then spend those things on their pleasures. It literally says that their motives in seeking God, was so that they could become consumers of pleasures.

That sounds a little too familiar.

“God, please help me to get a better job.”

Then, as our blessings increase, we get more things and push God further into the background. After all, now that I have more stuff, I have less time for “church”.

Here’s the problem from God’s perspective. It says in verse 4, above, that trying to make friends with the world is an act of hostility toward God. To make a friend, you need to try to please them or be like them in some way.

Remember, we’re not talking about the people, but the world system. You can make friends with people without buying into the system.

There’s a word we use for the world’s system of order. It’s the word culture. Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary defines culture as, the sum total of the attainments and activities of any…people, including their implements, handcrafts, agriculture, economics, music, arts, religious beliefs, tradition, language and story.

In other words, the American culture is our entire way of life. It’s how we live and what we expect. It’s what we strive for as well as what we accept as “normal”.

When I think about the mainstream of life in the United States, I get a picture of the system at work here. Then, when I see the lifestyle we’re called to as followers of Christ, I get a whole different picture. There are some areas where the two cultures are drastically different.

How do we live in both worlds? As believers, we must live in the world without operating according to its system. That makes us a part of a counter-culture.

Many of the ways of God run contrary to how the world does things. When we seek acceptance from society by trying to fit in with them, we run the risk of compromising our beliefs. We must always live as a part of God’s kingdom no matter where we are.

Question: What are some areas you see where the church is too friendly with the world system?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Good News for You

Good NewsI’ve been posting for a while about the importance of Scripture. This will be my last article in this series.

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Acts 8:35

The final installment about the place of Scripture in our lives is one of my favorite subjects. It should bring great joy into our Christian walk. That’s the fact that the Bible delivers to us the Good News.

This is the basis for the New Covenant – the fact that there’s good news. The rules of the Old Covenant were canceled by the blood of Christ. There’s now no testimony against me. I can now walk as a son of the living God. This is great news!

It’s good news for the world as well. No longer do you have to become a member of the nation of Israel to join God’s family. No longer do you have to observe the religious rituals performed again and again with no permanent change. Now you can come as you are to the cross of Christ and find forgiveness – once and for all.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Romans 1:16

This verse shares even more good news. Every other religion on earth shows their adherents how to strive for perfection or acceptance from their god. That’s what separates all other world religions from Christianity.

The Bible starts from the assumption that nothing we do can make us acceptable to God. He took it upon Himself to provide the way to His presence. That’s the way of Christ. He’s the One responsible to perfect me, if I’ll just trust Him to do the work.

Because of what Christ did on the cross, I now have access to the Spirit of God in a way only dreamed of in the Old Testament. The power of God is now active in my life because of the resurrection of the Lord. I can have fellowship with Him. I can talk to Him and He talks to me. That’s the abundant life Jesus came to bring us.

The Scripture is my guidebook to this new life in Christ. It shows me how to walk by the spirit. That’s why I need to study it daily. I need the insight of the Holy Spirit as to how my walk with God is to develop.

Over the last ten posts, we’ve seen that the Bible shows us how to walk in the power of God. It also teaches us the things that hinder us. We learn what strengthens our walk as well as receiving encouragement in the hard times. Truly this is good news!

Question: What new insights have you gained through this series?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A New Reality

ButterflyIn my last post I started talking about what happens when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It all started with a simple prayer and our trust in Him.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10

In that moment when you accepted the work of Christ, a supernatural, miraculous work took place in you. In my last post I said that all of us were born onto a path that led to death. There were no exits and no way for us to turn around.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

But when you received the life-changing work of Christ, something you had no access to was suddenly opened up to you. There’s a second path; one that leads directly to life.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
John 5:24

In the Spirit, the Lord picked you up from the path leading to death and He placed your feet firmly on the path leading to life. It’s just like a computer game that my children used to play years ago. It was called Rollercoaster Tycoon.

In that game they would build an amusement park with rides that the virtual gusts would be excited about. But as my children watched the people in the park, it became clear that there were sections of it that nobody went to. In order to remedy the situation, the game had a claw that would pick up a guest at one end of the park, and place them in another section.

That’s what happened to us in the spirit. God picked us up from the path of death and placed us on the path of life.

In Christ, you didn’t just “turn over a new leaf.” You’re not just trying harder. You’re in a whole new reality. You’re in a new place on a new path with a new direction. You’re not the same person you were only a moment ago. Everything has changed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Now we’ve been given a totally new way of life. That’s why the world should see something different in us. We’re no longer headed in the same direction as everybody else.

Question: How is living in God’s Kingdom different than living for the world?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,