RSS

Tag Archives: cross

Avoiding the Cross

 

 

Cross SunsetIn my last post I talked about the pattern of living that the Apostle Paul handed down to his churches.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

The unfortunate truth that Paul saw in his day, and is an epidemic in ours, is that many believers live as enemies of the cross. Please understand. They’re not really enemies – they would never think to put it into those terms.

They actually think they’re followers of Christ. But in reality, enemies try to avoid one another at all costs. That’s how many treat the cross.

You can see it in a church service. When the sermon starts heading in that direction, eyes start to glaze over.

“Yes, Pastor, we know we need to take up our cross. But I’d rather hear something that will get me a better job.”

Paul describes these people in the next verse.

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
Philippians 3:19

Actually, this verse isn’t as bad as it sounds. What’s translated as their destiny is destruction isn’t talking about spending eternity in hell. What it means is that the destination of the road they’re on is ruin and loss.

It’s talking about what happens in this life. So much of the church is wallowing in ruin and loss. We spend so much time trying to come up with teachings that merely put a Band-Aid on the problem.

He also describes the objects of their focus. It’s all about their stomach, their shame and earthly things. Christians are involved in so much these days – a lot of them are healthy pursuits. Restaurants, gym memberships, sports leagues, and hundreds of other things.

Many of us give great sounding reasons for what we do. We want to be well-rounded people. Our lives need to be in balance. We want the world to see that we’re regular people. Paul, however, sees it from a different perspective.

Through the eyes of Christ, the Apostle breaks through our excuses and zeroes in on what’s really going on. It’s all about us. Our god is our stomach. Our desire is to fulfill the lusts and desires of our flesh. We look at the world around us and get jealous of all that they experience. We want to partake of the same things.

We glory in our shame. This is a hallmark of our society. I’m ashamed that I don’t look like the actor on TV with those washboard abs. I have to start a program at the gym to try and work on it.

My heroes are the singers on American Idol, so I need to take voice lessons. I want to be like the athletes I watch at the stadium, so I join a basketball league. Now, I’m too busy to do very much for Christ.

It all boils down to the last statement Paul makes – their mind is on earthly things. It doesn’t matter how good you make it sound. The things that distract us from pursuing Christ will only pull us down to ruin and loss. It’s time for the church to wake up.

Question: How do we break free from the distractions of the world?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Revival, The Church

 

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

Why the Cross?

cross 2I’m posting about the power of the cross of Christ. In my last two posts I talked about the curse and transgressions. The cross speaks of both issues. According to Scripture, it’s because of a curse and a transgression that a person is killed on the cross.

But there is a mystery here that the enemy never understood until it was too late. What happens if you put someone on the cross that was not under a curse and never transgressed the law?

Jesus was taken before Pilate for trial by the Jewish leaders. Pilate examined Christ thoroughly and found Him not guilty of any crime. He found no basis for any death penalty. He then presented Christ before the people and publically pronounced Him not guilty.

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
John 19:6

The Jewish leaders refused to accept Pilate’s answer. He tried to explain that they had no basis for a charge. Jesus had done nothing worthy of the death penalty. It’s at that point that the Pharisees say something very interesting.

The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
John 19:7

Jesus is not under a curse. He had no transgression in Him. But they had a law! According to that law, Christ had to die. Why? What was this law that insisted that the Lord of Glory be put to death?

According to the Jewish leaders, “He made Himself the Son of God.” We must understand that to the ancient Jews the term Son of God was equivalent to saying God in the flesh. They understood what Christ was saying about Himself.

God took it upon Himself to clothe Himself in our weaknesses and live among us. He made Himself one of us. That truth is very clear throughout the Scripture.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8

“He made Himself…” “He humbled Himself…” This was all His work. He needed no one else’s assistance. The God of the universe took on flesh and lived among us.

It turned out that the Jewish leaders were marching right in step with God’s plan. There was a great mystery hidden in the mind of God. God had a law. According to that law, the true Son of God must be put to death on the cross.

The fact is that Jesus had tried to tell this to His disciples over and over again. They were just too unbelieving to grasp it. They kept thinking that when the Lord spoke about His death, He was being allegorical. The cross had been a part of God’s plan since before the universe was created.

The cross was not an accident or an unforeseen tragedy. It had been the Lord’s plan all along.

On the cross of Christ a work was done that we could never totally fathom. In my next post I will close this series with what I think is a great part of this mystery.

Question: Why are you thankful for the cross of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 17, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What’s a Transgression?

Question MarkI’m taking a few posts to talk about what happened on the cross. We usually emphasize the resurrection, but in the cross there was an incredible release of power. In my last post I talked about the curse of the cross.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

To say that we were sinners is a huge understatement. The word sin, itself, covers a lot of ground. It simply means to miss the mark. There are many types of sin that we fall into. But it says in this verse that the piercing that Christ received was specifically for our transgressions.

What are transgressions? A transgression is the sin of breaking covenant with God. Through the Bible the only ones who could be guilty of this was Israel. Again and again they transgressed the covenant. If we are going to understand the cross, then we must look at the covenant involved.

Abraham was the first person in history to cut a personal covenant with God, Himself. As a matter of fact, the word covenant is thrown around a lot in Christian circles and we’ve missed its importance.

Up until the time of Abraham, all of the covenants of God dealt with the entire human race. These included the covenants with Adam and Noah. But when God approached Abraham, the covenant became personal.

God’s words to Abraham were, in effect, “If you accept my covenant, then your family will become mine.” This placed the Hebrew people under the direct influence of God. He was now responsible to direct, protect, bless, and provide for them. It was an incredible event that took place when Abraham trusted God for all of this.

But what happened after that? Many teach that when Moses came along, another covenant was instituted. They say that the covenant of the law was now in effect. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to how Paul, an expert in the law, describes it.

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Galatians 3:19a

According to Paul, the law was added. This is an important truth for us to grasp. The Law of Moses was not a new covenant with the children of Israel. It was an addendum to the existing covenant that was made with their father, Abraham.

Why did they need this addition? Again, Paul is clear in his explanation. It was because of transgressions. Over and over again, Abraham’s descendants kept breaking the terms of the covenant.

Abraham’s relationship with God was based on love. He loved and obeyed God. He did everything God asked of him, not out of a sense of obligation, but of trust and friendship.

In the Law, God put in writing the things that Abraham did out of his love for God. So the Law was simply a way for God to remind the Israelites of the cost of being in covenant with God. It also showed them how impossible it was for them to live up to it.

Question: Why did Christ need to bear our transgressions?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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

The Curse of the Cross

Cross SunsetIn my last post I talked about our call as believers to crucify our old sinful nature. That means going to the cross. Why does the cross have such a repulsive connotation to so many Christians? It’s almost like we avoid talking about it.

The resurrection of Christ is exciting. We love to hear about the return of the Lord. But the cross…

I think that we really don’t understand the true impact of the cross of Christ. Listen to this verse and think about the events that took place.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Matthew 27:45-52

What exactly happened on the cross!!? What kind of power was released? It’s beyond human comprehension. That day forever divided history and caused ripples throughout time and space. We need the Holy Spirit to make real to us the depth and importance of this event.

The apostle Paul gives us some insight into what happened that day.

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

It’s important that we understand the significance of the cross. What happened there had its roots in the Old Testament. In the above passage, Paul quotes a verse from the book of Deuteronomy. It says, in effect, that anyone who is hung upon a tree is under God’s curse.

This is imperative for us to understand. The cross speaks of a curse. This is a foundational principle.

But there’s a problem here. Jesus Christ wasn’t under a curse.

He was the only begotten Son of God – born without sin. More than that, He lived a sinless life. There was never a point where He missed the mark and needed to repent of anything. Christ was totally perfect in all His ways.

The truth is that it wasn’t His curse. The curse belonged to us. Look at a verse just before the one quoted above.

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.”
Galatians 3:10

We were already under a curse because of our sin. This was the curse that needed to be dealt with. The cross was the place where it all came together.

I want to continue talking about what happen on the cross for a few posts. I think that it will help us to trust God to a greater degree.

Question: How does the work of Christ on the cross figure into your everyday life as a believer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Why We Ignore the Cross

cross 2In my last post I talked about the mystery of the power of the cross. It’s something that God expects His church to understand. It’s been revealed to us in His Word.

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24

This is a problem we face even in our society today. There’s a pressure on the church to cater our message to those we’re trying to win. Religious people want to hear one thing, while the educational community wants to hear something else. Many times we fall into the trap of trying to please our listeners with the message we think they want to hear.

Paul strips away all of these elements by boiling the message down to its vital component. He preaches the same essential message to all who will listen. That message is the Word of the cross – Christ crucified.

The reason is clear. There’s a supernatural call in that Word. It contains the power of God to draw men and women to the place of repentance.

We need to see this. When we water down or ignore the Word of the cross, we lose the bulk of the power needed to win the lost. Beyond that, those who do come to the Lord with little knowledge of the cross, have no desire to become radical disciples of Christ.

This is what the world desperately needs to see in the church. It’s also what the church needs in order to be transformed into the victorious kingdom that was set forth by Christ. We must hunger and thirst for the Word of the cross.

We’ve tried a whole host of other strategies only to be met with little or no results. Isn’t it time to proclaim Christ the way they did it when the world was “turned upside-down” by the Gospel? We need to renew our knowledge of what happened in and through the cross of Christ. This is a message that the Lord can’t wait to reveal to us if we’ll just stop and listen.

This is one of the things that we’re missing in our churches these days. In my last post I quoted I Corinthians 2:7. In it, Paul explained that this message was destined for our glory. That’s why it’s such a mystery. From the outside, the cross looks like a place of pain, suffering, and weakness. But in reality, it will bring glory to all who live by it.

It was the same for Christ. The demonic kingdom had no idea what would be unleashed on the cross. When the “Lord of Glory” was crucified, there was an explosion of power that rocked the universe. It’s clear that Satan would never have allowed this to happen if he had known what the results would be.

It’s time for God’s people to once again unleash this power in the world. We need to walk in the power of the cross. The message of the cross is vital for our last-days testimony.

Question: What would change if we incorporated the teaching of the cross in our message?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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

The Mystery of the Cross

Question MarkDo I want to be a disciple – a student – of Christ? Do I want to learn the path of life from His example? If not, then the cross is a word I push off to the corners of my Christian walk.

How do you turn all this around and get the victory? The Word of the cross is what makes the difference. There’s just one problem with this kind of thinking. We don’t like the cross. It makes us nervous. It sounds too much like sacrifice.

This isn’t the first time the church has had to deal with this issue. Paul wrote about it 2000 years ago.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2

This is a totally different approach to ministry than what we see today. Paul said that he didn’t arrive on the scene with great, persuasive words of wisdom. Instead, he preached a simple message – Christ crucified.

That was it. Not the risen Lord, not the King of Heaven, not Christ the Healer, or seated at the right hand of the Father. Only the crucified Savior, which he calls the testimony about God.

The Greek word for testimony in this verse literally means mystery. Scripturally, a mystery is something that wasn’t understood until God actually accomplished it.

That’s what Christ did on the cross. The Old Testament saints had no concept of how God would use the cross to provide our salvation.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8

It was a secret that God kept hidden away from before our age began. Even Satan, as intelligent as he is, couldn’t conceive of how God would save us. If he even had a hint of the power of the cross, Satan would never have crucified the Lord. The working of the cross was the greatest mystery of all time.

But wait! Does this mean that it’s a mystery to us? Of course not.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

This is a mystery that God wants to reveal to us. If we can grasp what happened on the cross, then it will have the power to totally transform our lives. This is the message for those who want to participate with the work of God’s ongoing salvation in their lives. It’s for those who desire to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is how we’ve gotten so far astray in this nation. We spend most of our time seeking God for things. We follow Him for healings, joy, and prosperity. Yet, we don’t realize that all of these things are available in the person of the crucified Savior. We need to seek a relationship with the One who has the power to completely save us from the effects of sin.

Question: Why does this generation seem to avoid teaching about Christ crucified?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Power of God, The Church

 

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

The Cross and Discipleship

ClassIn my last post I started talking about our view of the cross. Paul said that we need to preach the Good News without emptying the cross of its power. Jesus gave some pretty clear instructions to His disciples about it.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

The key assignment was to preach and make disciples. Disciples are those who have chosen to participate with God’s ongoing work of salvation in their lives. Then, they are to baptize those who believe this message.

The baptism is secondary to preaching and making disciples. What are we to preach? The Word of the cross. That’s what makes disciples.

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27

It’s clear that discipleship and the cross go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Unfortunately, we have a lack of disciples these days. Maybe it’s because we don’t preach the cross as we should.

I Corinthians 1:18 says that the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing – literally, those who are being destroyed. There are many believers who are being destroyed because of our de-emphasis of the cross.

They are downtrodden, overcome by the world, and bound up by all kinds of sin and addictions. Our lives, homes, and marriages seem to have the same sicknesses as the world without Christ. The world no longer looks to the church for answers, because we don’t look much different than they do.

We wonder why we can’t get the victory. These verses make it obvious that without the life changing power of the cross, we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s time to turn this around and bring the victory in this area. We need to get back to the Biblical foundation for our lives.

We need to restore the Word of the cross. But, for some reason, we resist this work. We seem to have come to the conclusion that the cross is only for the unsaved. Why does Paul tell us that it’s foolishness to those who are being destroyed? Because the cross is for those who want to move on to maturity.

Literally, this verse tells us that the word of the cross is a manifestation of God’s power in His people. But it’s not for all. It’s the power of God to those of us who are continuing in the ongoing work of salvation in our lives. This is why we shrink from it. We don’t like the sound of the cross. When we think of the cross we think of humility, weakness and pain. Could this really be the road to power?

Jesus’ command to carry the cross is not a call for unbelievers to come to Him. It’s a radical command to follow Christ by giving up all other desires. To pick up the cross means to lay everything else down. To follow Christ means to ignore all other paths. This is a message that gets lost in our generation’s search to experience the best that the world has to offer.

I’m not talking about whether you’re saved or not. You can be saved and on your way to Heaven, yet ignore the call to the cross. It all comes down to discipleship.

Question: How do you define being a disciple of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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