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A Matter of Life and Death

We find that there are many paradoxes in our Christian walk.  As we continue through Second Corinthians, Paul talks about one of these that are a part of the ministry.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
2 Corinthians 4:10-12

This is one of those parts of the ministry that no one wants to talk about.  But it’s a vital part of being effective for Christ.

You’ll never understand how the life of Christ is working in you until you first understand His death.  Paul knew and embraced this truth.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

The true path to a powerful ministry is learning to carry the death of Christ within you.  What do I mean by that?  Do we walk around with a sad look on our face like some kind of spiritual Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh)?

Absolutely not!  The death of Christ is an inward realization.  We carry the death of Christ so that His life can be revealed in us.  Carrying His death, yet revealing His life – that’s one of the great paradoxes of ministry.

As believers, we love to focus our attention on Jesus and His resurrection.  The power that was revealed on that day sealed our redemption.  That truth is beyond question.

What we fail to realize sometimes, is that the resurrection is the Good News for those who are without Christ.  The cross, on the other hand, is Good News for the church.  Paul explained this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

Without the resurrection, we couldn’t be saved.  But, without the cross, we couldn’t walk in the power of God.  We need both to be effective for Christ.

I once posted a series on the power of the cross.  To read it, click here.

Paul understood the value of carrying the death of Christ in his daily life.  It was the foundation for the power he walked in.  That’s what he’s referring to in the last line of the original passage we looked at above.

Please understand that he’s talking about himself and his ministry team.  It’s because they allow the death of Christ to do its work in them, that they can reveal the life of Christ to the church.  The Corinthian church is walking in the life of Christ because Paul and his team were obedient to the call to die to self.

We need a new revelation of the cross of Christ.  Then we’ll see the power that was manifest in the early church.

Question: What part does the cross of Christ play in your daily walk with God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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A Ministry of Life and Death

In my last post, I talked about the victory we have in Christ, even through our humanity.  Paul now goes on to talk about what this victory looks like his in ministry.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16

The first thing that we need to understand is who Paul is talking about in this passage.  He’s referring to himself and his ministry team.  He tells us that their lives give off a spiritual fragrance.

Of course, this could also apply to any believer who’s walking in their calling.  Christians who are living for themselves don’t have this “aroma”.  That’s because the life of Christ is only evident in those who strive to live as Jesus did.

The apostle says that their lives create a spiritual atmosphere around them.  When people are near them, they pick up on the truths that are a part of Paul’s ministry.

Paul mentions two groups of people who his ministry affects.  He also tells us what the “fragrance” is that he’s giving off.

The two people groups have to do with the direction that they’re heading.  That’s how Paul describes them.  The first group is those who are heading toward salvation.  The second is those who are heading toward destruction.

The effect that the ministry has on these two groups may sound counter-intuitive at first.  But as we look closely at it, we’ll see what Paul means.

The first group is composed of people who are headed toward salvation.  Their desire is to see God’s completed work accomplished in their lives.  To those believers, Paul’s ministry is the aroma of death.

Why is that?  Simply put, it will take the death of self to see the resurrection power of Christ at work in you.  This all points back to something Paul wrote about in his first letter to this church.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

It’s the message of the cross, where our old self is crucified with Christ, that releases the power of God in our lives.  Those who are headed down the path to ruin and loss think that the message of the cross is foolishness.

However, Paul’s ministry also had an effect on those who were headed toward destruction.  That was the evangelistic side of his calling.  His goal was to bring light and life to those who are in darkness and sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

This is the other side of ministry.  There has to be the call to receive Christ’s offer of salvation.  It’s a call to life.

As I look at the apostle’s ministry, and how he sees these two goals, I have to agree with his final assessment.  “Who is equal to such a task?”

In our own strength and intelligence, we’ll never be able to accomplish this great work.  But, I praise God for the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  It’s His work in us that makes us competent ministers of the grace of God.

Question: How do you see the “aroma” of life and death at work in your ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2020 in Ministry, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Giving Ourselves to God

I’ve been posting about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Paul goes into great detail explaining the importance of His rising from the grave.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

In the context of this verse, Paul has just told us of the defeat of death and sin.  By rising from the dead, the Lord proved once and for all that they had no hold over Him.

Paul concludes this section by talking about our victory in Christ.  The resurrection is the foundation for our victory in this life.  We know that the victory is ours in Christ, no matter what the situation may look like right at the present moment.

So in this passage, Paul uses the word, therefore.  It’s because we know that Christ is victorious – past, present, and future – that we can give ourselves fully to God.  We already know the outcome, so we can give ourselves willingly.

The problem is that willingly and fully are two very different things.  I can willingly serve God with only part of my life, time, and resources.  The real victory comes when I willingly give all to Christ.

Jesus Christ is returning soon.  The clock is ticking.  God wants to do great things in our generation.  The question is; do I want to be a part of it, or simply watch what happens in the lives of others?

Please understand that this has nothing to do with your abilities.  It has everything to do with your willingness to fully commit your life to God.  The Macedonian churches are a great example of this in the Scripture.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
2 Corinthians 8:3-5

This is one of the most miraculous verses in the Bible.  How can you ever give beyond your ability?  I don’t know, but that’s Paul’s testimony of what they did.

I believe that the key to all this is found in verse 5.  Paul said that they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us.

Your first calling is not to a church or a ministry.  It’s to God Himself.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t commit yourself to a church.  What I am saying is that committing yourself to a church without first giving yourself to God is counter-productive.

It’s only when you first give yourself to God, that you can accomplish something beyond your ability.  That’s when people notice that it’s God working in you.  Only then will God get the glory from your life, and people will be attracted to the Gospel.

Question: How fully committed is your life to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Great Change – Earthly to Heavenly

In my last post, we saw the two different perspectives that we can have as believers.  You can live for the world with the dirt mentality.  You can live for Christ with an eternal focus.  That’s an important choice because the material things of this earth are not transferrable to the heavenly kingdom.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
1 Corinthians 15:50

As we exist right now, with our body made of dirt, we cannot inherit God’s kingdom.  That’s a problem.  But if you’re in Christ, there’s no need to worry about it.  God has the solution.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52

There’s coming a day when everything changes.  When the passage says that we will not all sleep, he’s talking about the sleep of death.  We’re not all going to die.

There are some of us who will be alive at the Second Coming of Christ.  At that moment, we will be changed.  Our soulish bodies will be immediately converted into new, spiritual bodies.

If you remember what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church, the dead are not left out.  As a matter of fact, those who die in Christ are the first to receive their new bodies.  Then, we get ours.

That’s good news.  I can’t enter into my eternal life in God’s kingdom with my present fleshly body.  So God arranged to have it changed into a heavenly body.  It’s something I could have never hoped for apart from the work of Christ on the cross.

I love Paul’s description of this change.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:53

The word perishable means that right now we are subject to decay.  The older we get, the more things don’t work the way they used to.

For instance, in high school, I was a powerlifter.  Now that I’m over 60, I can’t lift what I could back then.  It’s a part of the decay process.

But this verse tells us that there’s a day when we will be clothed with an inability to decay.  Even better than that, we’ll be given an inability to die.  That’s a day to look forward to!

It’s all because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross.  He won a great victory that day.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

The Lord Jesus Christ defeated death.  The Good News is that now, in Him, we reap the benefits of this victory.

As believers, we know that there’s nothing to fear in death.  Even more than that, we don’t need to fear the aging process.  In Christ, it’s 100% reversible.  When Christ returns I’ll be young again – forever!

Question: How do you keep the Return of Christ in focus?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2019 in Encouragement, Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Planting for the Resurrection

As a pastor, I’ve been asked many questions about death and the resurrection.  The Apostle Paul had to deal with these issues as well.

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come?”  How foolish!  What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
1 Corinthians 15:35-36

This is our great hope in a nutshell.  We’re not just looking for the end of life.  In Christ, there is death and rebirth.

Even knowing this, people have questions about how this all works.  What about believers whose bodies were burned at the stake?  Or those who died in shipwrecks and were eaten by fish.  Then there are those who choose to be cremated.

This section of Scripture deals with these issues.  The bottom line is that we don’t need to worry about what happens to our bodies after we die.

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.  All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.  There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.  The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
1 Corinthians 15:37-41

Paul starts by saying that every type of body is different.  We serve a very creative God.  He loves variety.  So the natural universe is a grand display of His power and artistry.

But one thing is clear…the body that’s placed in the ground is not the body that will rise at the resurrection.  That’s just like the fact that a tomato plant looks nothing like the tomato seed that was planted.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44a

This is the foundation for our expectation of the future.  When we attend a believer’s funeral, it’s not the body in the casket that will rise.  On Resurrection Day we will receive a brand new body.

It doesn’t matter if your dead body is burned, eaten by fish, or turned into powder by the passing of time.  The body that was “planted” does not contain the material of the new body that will rise at the coming of the Lord.

According to this verse, the old body is subject to decay, disgrace, and weakness.  Our new body will have none of those characteristics.  Instead, it will be a body that has immortality, glory, and power.  That’s something to look forward to.

The last part of this verse gives us a little more insight.  Right now, our body is natural, or literally, soulish.  That means that our flesh is under the authority of our mind.  Whatever we think about, our body performs.

After the resurrection, our body will be a spiritual body.  That means it’s under the control of our spirit.  It will function like Jesus did after His resurrection.  It will even be able to transport wherever it needs to be – even going through walls if needed.

As I said in the last post, this thought should give us the perseverance to live for Christ to our fullest potential.  We know that our future, in Him, will be glorious!

Question: How focused are you on eternal life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2019 in Return of Christ, Spiritual Walk

 

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Salvation – The Whole Truth

Cross SunsetPraise God for our salvation in Christ Jesus! But have you ever stopped to think about exactly what happened when you were saved?

There are many believers who don’t really understand what happened to them when they bowed their knees to Christ. I want to take a few posts to look at our salvation in detail.

What is our salvation all about? To some it simply means that they decided to be good. To others it means that they’re going to try and follow the teachings of Jesus. That is NOT Christianity.

It all starts with an understanding of our condition without Christ.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 3:23

Our problem is sin. You probably already know that the word sin, in both the Greek and Hebrew, means to miss the mark. That means that we’re all deficient, inferior to, God’s glory. Even though we were created in the image of God, in Adam we’ve fallen from that high position.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you were born, or how good you are. In Adam, the whole human race is guilty of sin – missing the mark. But as bad as that is, it gets worse.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…
Romans 5:12

It turns out that sin brought a friend with him – death – separation from God. Who is under the penalty of death? EVERYONE! Death is the penalty for not living up to the glory of God.

You can look at it this way; every human being ever born was born onto the path that leads to death. There’s no reversing it, no exits, do not pass go, and it leads straight to hell. But, praise God, that’s not the end of the story.

Christ came to the earth as a man, God made flesh. He took on humanity, but lived a life totally without sin.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

Because it was He who created us, we came from Him, only He had the power to take our place. That’s the concept of substitution. He took our place on the cross in the penalty for our sin.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus Christ took our sin to the cross and paid the price for it. Then He sealed it by rising from the dead.

Now we come along, thousands of years later, on this path that leads to death. We can’t leave it or even turn around. We hear the Gospel of Christ. We decide to accept what Christ did for us by faith.

That’s when everything changed. In my next post I’ll talk about exactly what happened in the spirit on the day you trusted Christ.

Question: What were the events that led to your salvation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Forgiveness – God’s Greatest Idea

heart CrossForgiven – I keep coming back to this word. Each time I do; I realize I know less and less about it. Forgiveness is tied to so many things in the Scripture. Debts, healing, relationships, redemption, blessings, etc.

I’m convinced that as believers, we need an understanding of the forgiveness of God. Not only that, but we also need to understand how He calls us to forgive others – and ourselves.

Even defining forgiveness is a hard thing to do. It seems that this generation has lost the understanding. Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary has 4 definitions. What I found is that the first two, and last, line up with the Scripture. The third is how we define it in practice. I want to take a few posts to talk about the concept of forgiveness.

The third definition says, “To cease to blame or feel resentment against.” I think that this is the way our modern society looks at it. It’s kind of like a get out of jail free card. When someone reminds us of the past, we say, “I thought you forgave me for that?”

Remember, as Christians we’re not a part of this world system. We shouldn’t act or think the way the world does. Our understanding of things should be higher than the way society thinks.

Forgiveness is one of those areas. Of all people, Christians should understand forgiveness more than anyone else. The big question is; what exactly is forgiveness?

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Luke 5:20-21

Let’s be fair with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. If you study the Old Testament, you make a very important discovery. The word forgive is only used by God. That can only lead to one conclusion.

Forgiveness is God’s idea.

So if that’s true, then the only definition that matters is God’s definition.

Please understand, the command to forgive is a New Covenant truth. But nowhere in the Old Testament is there a command for people to forgive each other. Why? Because forgiveness is more than just feeling better about someone.

That brings me to the first definition that I found in Webster’s Dictionary.

“To cease to demand the penalty for, to pardon.”

The simple fact is that we all sin. We all miss the mark of who God wants us to be. With that comes a penalty.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

The penalty for sin is death. How can a human being have the ability to forgive? It would be absolutely impossible. That’s because forgiveness of sin requires a penalty to be paid.

That’s why the only time we see forgiveness in the Old Testament is in relation to the sacrifices.

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22

Forgiveness only comes when the penalty is removed. That’s the only time God can “cease to demand the penalty for” what we’ve done wrong.

It’s a spiritual truth that forgiveness is only purchased by blood. There had to be a substitute to pay the penalty. Under the Old Covenant it was an animal.

Praise God for what Jesus Christ did on the cross. I can now walk confidently in the forgiveness of God. Christ could forgive us, because He was took the penalty of all our sins on Himself.

Question: How does God’s forgiveness change your outlook on life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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