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The Reason for Perseverance

Sometimes it seems difficult to serve Christ.  That’s especially true in the parts of the world where Christians are persecuted.  Why do we persevere through the trials?

We’re continuing to look at First Corinthians. Paul is teaching about the truth of the resurrection.  He’s writing to some believers who think that the concept of resurrection is only a suggested teaching.

Paul rebukes them and explained that belief in our future resurrection is non-optional.  Without the resurrection, there’s no salvation.

He now talks about how it relates to us.

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
1 Corinthians 15:29

This probably refers to a local tradition they had in the early church.  If someone was saved in prison and was martyred before they could be baptized, someone would be baptized for them.  In this way, they could publically proclaim that this person was saved before they died.

But how does looking forward to the resurrection affect us?

And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?  I die every day — I mean that, brothers — just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.  If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained?  If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
1 Corinthians 15:30-32

Paul walked a very difficult road in his service to Christ.  It involved persecution again and again.  It was his view of the resurrection that kept him going.

That’s why he asks the important question.  Why go through this type of suffering if there’s no resurrection?

No resurrection means that there’s no eternal life.  That would mean this life is the only thing we’d experience.  If that was the case, there would be no reason to endure hardship for the Lord.  Without eternal life to look forward to, our goal should be to go for everything the world has to offer.

The fact is that eternal life is real.  We will rise again when Christ returns to the earth.  This present world is not all that there is.  We can give all for Jesus, knowing that our future glory is something to look forward to.

The apostle gives those who don’t believe in the resurrection a final rebuke.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God — I say this to your shame.
1 Corinthians 15:33-34

It all comes down to who you’re trying to impress.  If you spend all of your free time with unbelievers and you want to please them, then your character will suffer.  Their attitudes will start to affect you.

The ones that Paul was writing to actually got to the point where they felt that the Resurrection Day was unimportant.  Their walk with the Lord suffered because they were living for the world.  We can’t allow that to happen to us.

You need to take stock of your friendships.  What effect are they having on you?  Are you in fellowship with other believers, or do you mostly want friendship with the world?

Keep your focus on the eternal.  That’s what will give you the foundation for perseverance in Christ.

Question: How important is the future resurrection to you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on September 18, 2019 in Ministry, Return of Christ, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Too Far for the Sake of Relevance

I’m continuing to look at First Corinthians, chapter 15.  Paul is talking about the concept of resurrection.  He started by reminding them of his Gospel message.  This is, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he then appeared to many credible witnesses.

Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
1 Corinthians 15:11

This is the foundation of faith that the Corinthian church was established upon.  Unfortunately, they were now trying to become more acceptable to the society around them.  Belief in someone rising from the dead was a little far out.

Greek society prided themselves on their intellect and knowledge.  It’s a lot like where I live, in the Boston area, where there’s a college or university everywhere you look.

Because they wanted to be “relevant”, they downplayed the resurrection.  Sometimes even telling people they could become a Christian without believing in it.  They were probably well-meaning and though that once they came in the door, someday they’d “see the light.”

What does Paul think about this?

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14

Paul is very clear.  There’s no salvation without the resurrection.  If God isn’t powerful enough to raise the dead, then what was the purpose of the cross?  What Christ did on the cross is meaningless without the resurrection.

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.  But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:15-17

Changing the truth of God’s Word in order to make it more palatable to society only removes the very heart of the message.  It’s no longer the Gospel.

Many in our generation need to understand this truth.  The Scripture says what it says.  It will offend some people.  We can’t change that.

This being said, we can change the way we handle it.  We can be more loving and less judgmental.  When Jesus ministered, He found a way to show God’s love without compromising truth.

We need to take stock of our message.  Does it line up with Scripture?  Once you leave the clear path of truth, the doctrines of faith begin to fall like dominoes.

Paul shows these Christians the end result of a belief in no resurrection.

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1 Corinthians 15:18-19

The bottom line is to never compromise the truth of the Word to win people to Christ.  You can change the method, but not the message.

Question: What was the message that you believed when you were saved?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2019 in Faith, Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Manifesting the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

In my last post, I talked about the differences in the way God works in each of us.  One of those was the manifestation – the appearance – of the Holy Spirit.  He works differently in each of us, personally.

Today I want to begin explaining the different ways that the Spirit of God shows Himself in us.

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10

That’s quite a list.  I want to take some time to explain what each of these is.  Unfortunately, there are many who don’t believe that the Holy Spirit still functions in all of these.  As far as I can see, none of the manifestations come with an expiration date.

The first thing we need to know is that these are not either/or.  If the Holy Spirit chooses, He can work them all in the same person.  Christ actually walked in all of these except tongues and interpretation.  It’s up to the Spirit to decide what’s needed at the time.

We also need to see that these are supernatural manifestations.  They point to the clear fact that God is working through you.  They’re not something that you have the power to do on your own.

The Message of Wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability to use the knowledge that you have to solve a problem.  This is supernatural wisdom that God imparts to you when needed.  So you could say that it’s a supernatural problem-solving ability.

This should be a common manifestation in the lives of God’s people.  I know that in my life there were many times that God showed up like this in my job as an Electrical Engineer.  My fellow workers knew my testimony, and they knew that because of this, I could come up with answers when no one else could.

Never think that it’s some flaky thing that makes you look and act weird.  On the contrary, the gift should highlight the power of God and draw people to Christ.

The Message of Knowledge.  This one is like the message of wisdom, but it’s a supernatural impartation of God’s knowledge.  Knowledge is simply facts.  When God uses this, you know things that you wouldn’t have known by any natural means.

It could be facts about people, places or things.  When you know something that you have no way of knowing, it points to a source beyond yourself.

Many times I’ve heard believers say, “It was like a voice on the inside said…”  Then they either say that they wished they’d listened to it, or they’re glad they did listen.

We need to spend more time in the Lord’s presence so that we can be sensitive to His voice.  I believe that God wants to speak more often than we’re in a position to hear.

Faith.  Too often we don’t understand this one.  It’s not talking about the normal faith in God that we have toward His Word.  This is a supernatural faith that God imparts to us when we need it.

This is especially true of believers who are facing persecution or a severe trial.  When there’s absolutely no way out, a supernatural, incomprehensible faith rises up on the inside of you.  You have no explanation as to why you have peace and trust during the situation in which you find yourself.

This causes the people around you to question what makes you so different.  The answer should draw them to Christ.

In my next post, I’ll continue my look at these important works of the Holy Spirit in us.

Questions: Has the Holy Spirit worked these in you?  How and when have you experienced them?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Unworthy?

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s Supper to the Corinthian church.  As we’ve already seen, this celebration in the church is more than just a mindless tradition.  It’s not just an act we do to fill the time.

There’s a power that’s released in us as we proclaim what Christ has accomplished through His death.  Through the participation in the Communion table, we embrace what Christ obtained for us on the cross.

That’s why we have to watch our attitudes as we receive the elements.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
1 Corinthians 11:27-28

I’ve seen these verses used to beat up God’s people.  It’s important that we understand what Paul’s saying here.

The word, unworthy, means to be unfit.  In the context of this chapter of the Bible, we see a group of people who viewed the meal as an opportunity to exalt themselves.  That’s being unfit.  The Lord’s Supper is not about me, it’s about Christ.

We are to come to the table humbly, with the understanding that I have nothing to offer God.  He has everything I need.  If that’s not my attitude, then I’m “guilty of the body and blood…”  But what does that mean?

It means guilty in the sense that something wrong was done and now I’m obligated to make it right.  In other words, if I steal something from you, I’m now indebted to you.  If I claim that Christ is the Source of my life and He’s not, then God will work to bring me there.

Part of coming to the Lord’s Table with the right attitude is to examine myself.  That literally means to test and approve myself.

Unfortunately, there are some churches do the testing for you.  They let you know whether they think you’re worthy or not to receive the Communion elements.  That’s not God’s will.  He wants us all to examine ourselves.

What do I have to do?  Do I check under all the rugs?  Search for any little hidden sin that I might not have repented over?  I don’t believe that’s what’s being talked about here.

There’s only one place in Scripture that uses that same word to tell us what to examine.  It’s found in a letter that Paul wrote to this same church.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you– unless, of course, you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5

We must examine and approve our faith.  Are we truly trusting God with our lives?  Are we in the faith?

In order to receive the communion elements in a way that’s worthy, we need to be looking to Christ in faith.  We see Him as the one who has already purchased all we need for life and godliness.

It’s not about me striving to be good enough.  It’s about me yielding my life to Him and letting the Holy Spirit bring me to where I need to be.

Question: What have you received from Christ that you couldn’t obtain on your own?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Focusing on Christ

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  The Corinthian church needed to check their attitudes.  What about us?  How do we apply these truths?

In the early church, they had a weekly common meal that they called the Agape (Love) Feast.  The whole church would come to one place and eat together.  At the end of the meal, they would receive the Communion elements of bread and wine.

They did this because the Lord’s Supper was originally a part of the Jewish Passover meal.  When Jesus celebrated it with His disciples, it came at the end of the Passover dinner.  So in the early days of the church, Communion was celebrated in the context of a dinner.

In Corinth, this devolved into a form of divisiveness.  Look at Paul’s words to them.

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.  One remains hungry, another gets drunk.  Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you for this?  Certainly not!
1 Corinthians 11:20-22

Apparently, what had started out as a common meal, had turned into an “every man for himself” event.  The rich would bring a lavish spread.  The poor would come with a loaf of bread or nothing at all.  But unlike our potluck dinners, where everything is shared, each family only ate what they brought.

This angered Paul.  Instead of bringing the body of Christ together, it became a way for the rich to show off.  What they were eating became the showpiece of the dinner.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Paul makes the purpose of the Lord’s Supper very clear.  It’s not about me and my exquisite taste in food.  It all revolves around remembering Christ and what He accomplished for us.

The Lord is the central figure.  We remember that His body went to the cross, bearing all of our shame, sickness, and pain.  We remember His blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sin.  In these simple acts of eating and drinking, we show what Christ has done for us and look forward to His return.

Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw everyone to Himself.  The Lord’s Supper should have brought the church together.  Instead, it focused on the rift between rich and poor.

In our culture, many churches only celebrate it once a month at the end of a service…if at all.  A lot of Christians receive it as a mere tradition of the church.  It’s more than that.

It should be an important time when we focus our attention on Christ and what He’s done for us.  We should attach our faith to it as we receive the elements.  We should see ourselves as receiving the full benefits of what Christ paid for on the cross.

When you celebrate Communion, let it draw you closer to the Lord and His work in you.

Question: How do you remember Christ in Communion?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2019 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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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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