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Imitation – The Road to Maturity

What do you think it takes to start maturing in Christ?  Would you need to go to Bible school for four years?

In dealing with the Corinthian church, Paul had some advice for them.  They were basically a church full of immature believers.  They had been Christians for years but had never grown up.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2

The phrase, follow my example is actually a Greek word that means to imitate me.  It’s the word from which we get the word mimic in English.  Paul was instructing these believers to imitate his lifestyle in the same way that he was imitating Christ.

The apostle had lived among them for months when he was starting their church.  They saw how he lived and worked.  Now they needed to walk before God in that same way.

In the above passage, Paul commends them for remembering his teaching and the things he told them to do.  That’s great.  But simply remembering what you’re taught is not enough.  At some point, you need to start putting it into practice.

The fact is that we can’t watch Jesus living His life.  We can only see the godly leaders that the Lord has placed before us right now.  Imitation is the first step down the road to maturity.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us the same thing.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:9

This verse gives us a little more detail about who we need to be imitating.  The problem is that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy of being imitated.

The real question is; do you see the fruit of Christ’s ministry at work in them?  They should be walking in love and the blessing of God must be evident in their ministry.

The real challenge is the walk of faith and patience.  Sometimes imitating Christ isn’t evident in someone’s life.  They seem to be doing the same thing every day.  You don’t realize the significance until you see the outcome of what they’ve done.

It’s those who have a track record of spiritual fruit that we need to imitate.  Anyone can be an overnight success that’s here today and gone tomorrow.

In order to have a sustained ministry of fruitfulness, it requires a different kind of walk.  There needs to be a consistent degree of faith in God.  But more than that – faith must be held with perseverance.

If you want your maturity to grow, then you need to seek out those who are walking in a mature lifestyle.  Then, follow their example and apply their principles to your life.

Question: Who do you know that you can imitate their walk of maturity?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 22, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Faith Experiments

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul is still laying down principles for handling the “grey areas” of sin.  These are the things in society that the Bible doesn’t specifically speak about as being right or wrong.

Paul makes an interesting observation.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In order to understand what Paul’s saying here, we need to grasp the concept of temptation.  I think that we misunderstand this sometimes.

The Greek word translated as tempt and temptation has a few different English words associated with it.  In other passages of Scripture, it’s translated as test and trial.  It literally means putting to proof by experiment.

This tells me that temptation is simply a faith experiment.  It’s a test designed to see if you really believe what you say that you believe.

James, chapter 1, tells us that it’s these faith experiments that develop godly character in us.  They’re things that we all go through.  God allows things to cross our path that will bring out and expose our faith in Him.

James also tells us that God doesn’t use evil to test us.  It’s the enemy that tries to get us to fall into sin by putting evil across our paths.

You probably don’t look forward to trials and temptations.  I don’t.  But they’re going to be a part of our lives until the Lord returns.

Paul’s statement above is a bright ray of hope.  It’s a promise we can cling to.  God will not allow me to go through anything that He and I can’t handle together.  The key is that I need to be looking for the exit door.

That’s the reason for his next statement.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:14

Idolatry is anything that you place above God in your life.  Whatever or whoever you’re willing to rearrange your life or your schedule for is the one you’re serving.  Make sure that it’s Christ.

That’s an important key for testing these grey areas.  It might not specifically be called sin in Scripture.  But if it’s keeping you from serving God wholeheartedly, then you need to flee from it.  Or at least put it in its proper place in subjection to Christ.

We need to take inventory of our lives.  Just because something isn’t evil doesn’t mean that it’s not hindering your walk with the Lord.

Paul tells us that God gives you the ability to put your life into order.  You’re able to overcome the trials and tests in your life.  Allow the work of the Holy Spirit to bring you to your destiny in Christ

Question: What areas of testing and temptation are you going through right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in Encouragement, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Gospel Power

Do we proclaim the same Gospel as the early church did?  Is there something missing from our experience that would make a big difference?  I believe that we’re lacking one of the greatest aspects of the Gospel.  We need to return to this truth if we’re going to impact our generation for Christ.

I’ve been posting a series about the message of the cross and its effect on our Christian walk.  I believe that it’s the foundation for walking in the power of the Spirit.

Never get the idea that the men and women of Scripture were somehow larger than life.  They had challenges and weaknesses just like you and me.

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.
1 Corinthians 2:3

The Apostle Paul even admits his insecurities in ministering to the city of Corinth.  The big question is; did that hinder God from working through him?

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

The wonderful truth is that God’s work in us goes beyond our abilities.  It doesn’t matter if I’m struggling on the inside.  If I’m willing to move forward in faith, I’ll see God’s hand in operation.

The fact is that the Good News must be demonstrated.  That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.  It’s always beyond our human ability to walk on that level if we rely upon our own strength, wisdom, and knowledge.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.  There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle.

They’ve never heard an anointed prophecy or someone speaking in the heavenly language.  There are Christians that have never witnessed someone delivered from demonic possession or oppression.

As a result, the Good News, in most cases, has merely become an intellectual debate.  On many occasions, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context.  This teaching runs throughout the New Testament.

I’ve heard people explain this verse by saying, “The hearers were convicted by the Holy Spirit.  That’s the power that Paul’s talking about.”  I simply can’t agree with that kind of thinking.  Paul said that the Gospel came to them with power AND the Holy Spirit, AND deep conviction.

Even the very word conviction that Paul used was a Greek word that means many assurances.  It was something that could be seen and experienced by the unbelievers receiving the Good News.

The church needs to do what it takes to once again walk in this life-changing power.  In short – we need revival.  We must admit that we’ve lost something along the way and allow the Lord to make the necessary adjustments.

Questions: Do you think the modern “American Gospel” has the same impact as the early church?  If not, what must we do to change?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, What's Missing?

 

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Weakness – Qualified for a Miracle

I’m posting from the first letter to the Corinthians.  We’ve been seeing that the message of the cross – Christ crucified – is a message of God’s power and wisdom for the church.  It’s something that needs to be a greater part of our spiritual walk.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
1 Corinthians 1:25

Is God ever foolish or weak?  Absolutely not!  But it does appear that way sometimes.  When Christ went to the cross, it did appear to be a weak and foolish move on His part.  Of course, that was only until the resurrection, when the full wisdom and power of God was revealed.

It’s the same with us.  Sometimes we feel like we have nothing to offer to God.  We don’t have the strength, resources, or wisdom to do the work we’ve been called to do.  But that’s okay, our limitations don’t affect God’s calling on us.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Paul is bringing this message to normal people, just like you and me.  We have our weaknesses and struggles.  But that puts us in a good place.  We’re now candidates for a move of God’s power in us.

If you’re feeling unqualified to serve the Lord, then I have a message for you…

“God wants you strong in spirit.”

“It’s time to hear a Word from heaven.”

Right now, the church needs an influx of spiritual warriors – and this is where it starts.  God is calling believers who feel like they don’t measure up.  Maybe you look at your past and think that you have too much baggage.

Why would God ever want someone like that in ministry?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure.  Pressure qualifies us for ministry.  When we can endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

Whatever you’re going through, God can and will bring restoration.  Then, He’ll use the experiences that you’ve had, both good and bad, to help others.

That’s the wisdom and power of God.  Jesus Christ went through the cross, the burial, and the resurrection.  Sometimes you may feel like your life is over.  All your plans are dead and buried.  All that means is that you’re in a position to see the resurrection power of God manifest in your life.

Then, you can use what you’ve gone through to bring others into that place of power.  You just have to walk by faith, trusting that God will complete His plan in you.  Remember that it’s not about what you have to offer to God, but what He’s already done for you.

Question: What are some challenges that God has already given you the victory over?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2018 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God

 

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Called to Glory

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  After talking to them about the second coming of Christ, he now starts to close with some words of encouragement.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

This is a very important message which our generation of the church needs to hear.  Even though the Thessalonian church was only recently established, they had grown quickly in their spirituality.

This fact is brought out in how the Apostle describes them.  Paul literally says that God took them for Himself from the firstfruits.  In Paul’s mind, this was a “firstfruits” church.

There was a point in Paul’s ministry when he received a dream from the Lord that sent him into the region of Macedonia.  Thessalonica was the first city in that region where he was able to preach in a synagogue.

Because of that, this church was always the firstfruits of Macedonia in Paul’s mind.  But there was something they needed to do in order to claim that status.  They had to believe the Word that was preached to them and then submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Their goal was not only to have their sins forgiven but to become what God wanted them to be.  This made them fully aware of the calling that was placed upon their lives.  It’s what we need to understand as well.

There’s more to being a Christian than just getting into Heaven.  We’re all called to a higher walk.  The Good News is that God wants us to share in the glory of Christ.

But please notice the important word in that passage.  It’s the word “might”.

This is not something you receive simply by praying the Sinner’s Prayer.  It’s what you have to move forward to obtain.  Yes, that’s the word translated by, share, in that Scripture.  It means to obtain and surround yourself with.

I believe that this glory is not reserved for the sweet by and by.  It’s something the Lord wants His church to walk in right now.  If the world would see the glory of Christ surrounding us, they would be drawn to His saving grace.

What does that say to us?  Paul is not trying to teach something new here.  We’re called through the Gospel that we might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to stand firm and hold on to the teachings we’ve been given.

Then, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us.  That means spending quality time in His presence.  Time spent in the Spirit will cause us to obtain and surround ourselves in the glory of Christ.

Let that be your spiritual goal.

Question: What’s the next step you need to take to press into your calling?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Faith + Love = Growth

I recently finished my series on the Gospel of Mark.  I had been systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.

I started with the four foundational books – James, First Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.  It’s interesting to note that the next thing on the Holy Spirit’s agenda was to inspire books that dealt with our personal walk with the Lord.

These books include Second Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, and Luke.  In this post, I want to start on Second Thessalonians.

This letter was written to a church in confusion.  They were a young congregation facing much persecution.  They were looking forward to the return of Christ.

The turmoil started when someone pretended they were Paul and wrote them a letter saying that Christ had already returned.  They were upset that they had missed it.

Paul had to write this epistle to bring them back to order with the truth.  The main theme of this book is how to live for Christ with His return in view.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

Even the way Paul starts the letter shows the apostle’s care for them.  He wants the grace and peace of the Lord to overshadow them.  He wants them to walk in assurance, knowing that they’re secure in Christ.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Even though this is a young church, Paul commends them because their faith is growing.  We know that the only way for faith to increase is by time spent with the Spirit – hearing God’s Word.  This was a church with a rich spiritual prayer life.

But they didn’t just keep it on the inside.  They lived it out.  Individually, each one of them showed a true love for all of the others in their body of believers.

Faith and love are the two non-optional commodities that the Lord looks for in His people.  They are the true measure of spiritual growth in the kingdom of God.  These people showed by their lives that they were growing in maturity.

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:4

Scripture makes it clear that the trying of our faith develops perseverance.  All three are mentioned in this verse.  This church is headed in the right direction.

Now they just need the truth to dispel their confusion about the return of Christ.  In my next post, we’ll start to see how the Apostle Paul deals with this subject.

Question: If faith and love are the measure of maturity, where are you in your spiritual development?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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Anointed to Teach

In my last post, I started talking about the teacher’s anointing.  What’s the purpose of a teacher in the body of Christ?  I think the answer will surprise a lot of people.

There are many who think the reason we need teachers is so that we can learn what’s in the Bible.  Actually, it seems to me that this is what most teachers are trying to do.  They believe that it’s all about getting my knowledge of the Scripture into your brain.

I’m here to tell you that this is NOT what God is calling teachers to do in His kingdom.  Yes, we are to use the Scripture, but the purpose has to be according to God’s agenda.

For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life…
Proverbs 6:23

The calling of a teacher is to bring light.  Specifically, godly teaching shines a light on the way of life.  It shows how to get from where you are now, to where God wants you to be.

Scriptural teaching is never about knowledge and always about life.  You know that you’ve sat under an anointed teacher because you leave with an understanding of how to walk on a higher level with Christ.

As a matter of fact, if you look up the word “taught” in the New Testament, you’ll find out that it’s always about how to live.  They were taught how to walk as a new creature in Christ.  They were taught the walk of faith and how to love one another.

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Colossians 1:28

This is the goal.  It’s the perfecting of the saints.  A teacher’s anointing brings with it a passion for the building up of the body of Christ.

As I look around the church of this generation, I see very few who operate in the teacher’s anointing.  That doesn’t mean that there are few called and anointed teachers.  The problem is that if the only examples you’ve seen are those who simply pass on Bible knowledge, then that’s the course you’ll follow.  We need teachers who are willing to spend time listening to the Holy Spirit.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
1 Corinthians 2:13

I think that we should listen to the Apostle Paul.  After all, he did write most of the New Testament.  Where do you think he got his teaching from?

As for me, I know that I’m called as a teacher.  I also know that I’ll be judged more strictly.  I want to make sure that the message of my teaching is not simply Bible knowledge, but the true light of the Word of God for the hearers.

This should be the heart of every teacher of the Word.

Question: How do you recognize a teacher walking in his or her anointing?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Anointing, Ministry, The Church, Word of God

 

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