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Friendship with Christ

As Paul closes his first letter to the Corinthian church, he makes a number of concluding remarks.  Most of them are private greetings.

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings.  Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.  All the brothers here send you greetings.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
If anyone does not love the Lord — a curse be on him.  Come, O Lord!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 16:19-24

As I read through these statements, there’s one that grabs my attention.  Is Paul really pronouncing a curse on someone?  What’s that all about?

It’s important that we understand what the apostle is saying here.  To start with, the love that he’s speaking about is not the normal word, agape, that’s usually translated as such.

Paul uses a word that speaks of the emotional feelings of affection that two friends have toward one another.  He’s talking about being a friend of Christ.

As believers, we should have a deeper level of love for Christ than just a choice to love Him.  There should be an emotional component as well.  Just thinking of all He’s done for us should cause us to desire to be with Jesus.

This goes right along with something that James said.

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

In this verse, James uses the same word that Paul used.  It’s an emotional desire for friendship.

We know that the Lord wants to be your friend.  But what He reveals about Himself is that you can’t be both His friend and the world’s friend.

Understand – you can have friends in the world.  But the Spirit of God doesn’t want you to be a friend of the world system.  We can’t be chasing after the same things that the world does.

What is Paul trying to tell us by cursing someone who befriends the world system?  Actually, he doesn’t use the normal word for a curse.

He uses the Greek word, anathema.  In that society, this word meant a religious ban.  Paul is talking about someone who claims to be a Christian, yet shows no emotional attachment to Christ.  In other words, if you know someone like that, then don’t hang around with them.

You don’t want to have an intimate friendship with someone who doesn’t have an affection for Christ.  A love for the world will rub off on you.  Your walk with the Lord will suffer for it.

We need to be wise in our choice of intimate relationships.  They’ll affect our devotion to Christ – either for good or bad.

Don’t just choose to love Christ.  Cultivate an emotional friendship with Him as well.

Question: What does friendship with Christ look like in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2019 in Fellowship, Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Memorial Day – For Those Who Protect Us

Since today is Memorial Day, I want to interrupt my blogging from Thessalonians to talk about the holiday. I believe that the USA is still the best nation on earth.

It was founded upon Christian principles. But are we truly a “Christian Nation” anymore? Does a Christian nation tell you not to pray in public? Does it warn you not to show Christian symbols in public?

The fact is that although many Christians live in this nation – the nation itself is no longer Christian. In the past, there were many blessings that we enjoyed because we followed the Lord’s principles.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Psalm 33:12

God will bless a nation that follows His ways. But there comes a time when the past no longer affects us.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 14:34

To the extent that America followed God’s ways – we were blessed and exalted. We saw the abundance of God, and then thanked Him for it. Our people had wisdom to create wealth, inventions, and new innovations that the world took notice of.

But there came a time when we started to leave God’s path. Because of this, we should heed the warning that God gave to Israel.

…for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Leviticus 18:27-28

Please understand what this verse means. When a people no longer choose to follow God’s plan for them, it’s not God cursing the nation. It’s the nation cursing itself. By going our own way, we’re inviting the enemies’ attack.

I believe that currently, America is a defiled land. Much of the trouble that we’re facing has been brought on by our own choices. God has not cursed us; but we have removed our nation from under His blessing.

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

That’s why this verse has been so important in America since the sixties. Believers need to be interceding for our country.

That brings me back to Memorial Day. This is the day when we remember those who have given their lives to defend this nation. That should stir us up to action.

More than ever we need to be thankful for our military as well as all of our first responders. Because of the increase of violence, we need to be interceding for their safety, wisdom, and ability.

I believe that a move of God is imminent, but we must remain spiritually vigilant. We need to be on the front lines in the spiritual battle for the heart of America. In that way we will be truly honoring the sacrifices that were made by so many.

May God richly continue to bless you this Memorial Day.

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Cain – Repentance Breaks the Curse

CrossesI’m posting about Cain’s experience. He murdered his own brother because he thought that it would allow him to worship God on his own terms. It didn’t work.

He found himself away from his calling, and hidden from God’s presence. He even feared that he would be killed for his actions. But God did something surprising.

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
Genesis 4:15

God gave Cain the world’s first tattoo. It read, “Kill him and answer to Me – signed – GOD.”

Why would God do such a thing? Throughout His Word the Lord has said that murder is punishable by death. The answer is in His mercy.

Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”
Genesis 4:25

This is a very strange statement for Eve to make. At this point she already had over 100 children. Why did she see the need to specifically replace Abel? The name Seth means to place in as a substitute.

Here’s where we see God’s mercy.

Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.
Genesis 4:26

What this verse tells us is that something happened when Seth was old enough to have children. The Bible literally says that calling on the name of the Lord was opened up. (The word men is not in the original Hebrew)

Why did God not allow Cain to be killed? The Lord wanted Cain to see the day when a new prophet would rise up. Seth could now offer the sin-offering for Cain’s forgiveness. I’d like to think that Cain took God’s offer of a second chance. I believe that we’ll see him in Heaven.

Remember – Cain’s curse was that he would be a restless wanderer.

Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.
Genesis 4:17

Do you hear that? Cain built a city. He’s not a wanderer anymore. It sounds like the curse was broken over his life. I believe it’s because he took God’s offer of forgiveness.

What can we learn from all of this – the way of Cain? I can’t worship God on my own terms. It’s an epidemic of our generation of believers.

Many people say that they’re pursuing God. The truth is that I can only pursue God the way God wants to be pursued. Anything else and I’m just a spiritual wanderer.

We must worship God the way He wants to be worshipped – in spirit and in truth. Anything else misses the mark.

Question: What curses has God broken from over your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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The Victory of the Cross

JesusThis is my final post in my series about the cross. I want to remind you of a verse we looked at when we first started.

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 Messiah had to go to the cross – it was a law hidden in the mind of God from eternity past. It was also a law that whoever hung on a cross was under a curse. So, Jesus had to take a curse with Him to the cross.

One of the greatest truths I can think of is this – He had no curse of His own, so Christ took our curse to the cross with Him that day. On top of all that, He took our transgressions with Him as well. What a glorious day that was! The devil had no clue what was about to be unleashed in that hour when Christ declared, “It is finished.”

We are now restored to right fellowship with God, because of the work done on the cross. I only need to accept it by faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t need to work for it or do anything to make up for my past. It has all been washed clean by the blood of the Perfect Sacrifice.

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

The Lord didn’t only provide forgiveness and restoration for His people, the Jews. He provided a way of salvation for the entire human race. Even though I was born a Gentile – apart from the promises of God – I can now enter into the covenant of Abraham. Now, because of the cross I can stand as a child of God, washed clean by His blood.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:13-15

Along with our transgressions, the Lord took the entire addendum to the covenant. The law of Moses, that had blocked the way to God for so long, was finally dealt with. Christ, Himself, fulfilled all the terms of that additional provision and left it hanging on the cross for all of Heaven and hell to see.

The Bible is clear that the power of sin is the law. That is the only foothold that the enemy can use against us. It was now done away with. There is now no basis for a charge of any kind against those who are in Christ. The entire kingdom of the enemy now stands powerless against those who know what was accomplished by Christ on the cross.

So many powerful events surrounded the crucifixion of Christ. The sun went dark as earthquakes rumbled throughout the earth. The veil that sealed off the Holy Place of the temple ripped completely in half. The ground opened up and many saints who had died were seen walking about during the next few days. We cannot even fathom the power that was released when Messiah was killed according to the plan of God.

We need a deeper revelation of the cross. Rather than a place of pain and weakness, it has become, to us, a monumental victory. If only we could understand and embrace the power that was released that day.

Question: How has the cross changed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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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

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

 

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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

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

 

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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

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

 

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