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All About Me

As we continue our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, he’s speaking about how idolatry relates to the grey areas of sin.  This is an important issue.  The apostle now lays down the principle of participation.

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17

The first part of participation that we need to understand is our fellowship with Christ. The words translated participation in this verse, are the same that are translated fellowship in other places in Scripture.  We have a fellowship in the body and blood of the Lord.

In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we’re showing a visible representation of our fellowship.  It’s because of our connection to Christ that we’re connected with each other.  We all have a share in His body and in His blood.

It’s this concept of participation that should guide some of our actions.  There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter what I do outside of the church.  What I do in my private time is my own business.  But is it?

Remember, it’s all about participation.  Am I participating with the world in things I shouldn’t be involved in?  That’s the issue Paul’s dealing with here.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21

Those are strong words.  In context, he’s talking about idolatry in a pagan temple.  But this could apply to us as well.  There are many things in society that could be seen as modern idolatry.  Gaming, the internet, the entertainment industry, sporting events, and a whole host of other things can steal our devotion.

Actually, anything that we participate in that causes us to reject time with Christ is idolatry.  No, I don’t think we should be worshipping 24/7.  But only serving God two hours a week on Sunday morning is a symptom of spiritual sickness.

Paul tells us the bottom line.

Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:22-24

Even things that are permissible, with no evil aspects, can be detrimental to your Christian walk.  The fact is, being a Christian is not all about me.  I’m a part of something bigger than myself.  The fellowship I share is on a spiritual level.  The things I do in the natural can have a spiritual effect.

This is key to understanding what’s right or wrong for me.  What I do as an individual affects the whole.   That’s life in a body.  When I stub my toe, my whole body is affected.   This is a lesson the current generation of believers needs to learn.

Question: How does a person’s private life affect the whole church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Discipline or Restoration

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  I have to warn you!  As we start chapter 5, Paul gets very practical about subjects many believers would rather not talk about.  These were real issues that the churches of his day were dealing with.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
1 Corinthians 5:1-2

This verse creates a lot of problems for church leadership.  How are we to apply it in our generation?

When it was written, there were no denominations.  There was only one church in the town of Corinth.  People didn’t pick and choose churches based upon personal preference.

Today, in our sexually permissive society, there are believers who are following the ways of the world.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is common.  In many cases, if a Christian was approached by an elder in Christ who lovingly explains the error of such a lifestyle, they would be offended.

“How dare you condemn me?  What I do is none of your business.  I’m going to find a church that will accept me the way I want to live.”

That thought scares a lot of Christian leaders.  They don’t want to lose any of their members.  But there is a response that brings about God’s will.

First, we need to understand that the word proud is the same word translated as arrogance in chapter 4.  The leaders in this church were confident in their own ways.  They were blind to anything else going on around them.

According to Paul, there should have been a spiritual response.  We get the wrong idea because of the English words used to translate this verse.  “Put out of your fellowship” is actually “lift away”.  So the keywords of our response are to mourn and lift away.

This type of mourning is a sorrow that inspires action.  The action is to lift away the one living a life that’s inappropriate for a Christian.  This word lift is used in a number of ways.  I believe in this instance it means lifting up to God.

The apostles were commanded by the Jewish rulers not to heal or preach in the name of Jesus.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign Lord” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
Acts 4:24

Too many leaders think that the response to sin in the life of believers is a knee jerk reaction to throw them out of the church.  Instead, it should be mourning and a desire to see God’s power at work to restore this person.

If I burn my finger by touching something hot, my reaction is to pull it away from danger.  I put it to my mouth or under cold water.  My response is not to cut it off because it touched something it shouldn’t have.  My goal is that it be healed and restored to its normal function.

When we lift the offending person to God, we pray for their restoration.  We also pray for wisdom in dealing with them.  It’s very likely that the Holy Spirit will send one of us to talk to them.

However, the goal of the talk is restoration, not discipline.  We’re not going to spank them, but to heal them.  Attitude is everything.  Of course, even done in love, not all help is accepted – especially in regards to sin.

I believe that the body of Christ needs to relearn how to handle sinful lifestyles.  Not ignoring, yet not condemning.  That combination requires leaders who spend quality time in the presence of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen problems like this handled in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Leaders and Followers

I’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.  As one of the first New Testament Scriptures written, it has a lot of foundational principles for us.  One of these has to do with church leadership.

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

The word translated respect in this verse means to know by seeing, watching and observing.  We are to focus upon those who we know are our leaders in the Lord.  In this way, we can observe the direction we’re to be heading.

This verse is important for us to hear.  It tells us some of the jobs that God expects His leaders to perform.

The verse tells us that our leaders are to admonish us.  That literally means that they’re to put things into our minds.  By observing them, we learn what we’re to be accomplishing for Christ.  We also learn what to be careful for.

Too often we don’t want to be led.  We want to make our own choices without anybody else’s input. Then we get in trouble because we miss out on the insight that only comes through experience.

But how exactly do we focus on each other so that we all keep in step with what God’s doing?  We see a great example of this in Scripture, when Paul was first saved and he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem.

James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
Galatians 2:9

This is an interesting verse.  When they met together, the Apostles understood how the Lord works.  They didn’t expect Paul to operate exactly the way they did.

It says that they recognized the grace that Paul had been given.  This is a spiritual perception that comes from time with the Holy Spirit.

Too often we take a “cookie-cutter” approach to ministry.  We find what God is calling us to do and we run with it.  But, because it works well for us, we make the assumption that everybody should be ministering the same way that we do.

That’s foolish.  We’re all different.  Not only that, but we’re all called to reach different people.  What you do in your ministry will never work to reach those I’m called to deal with.

It’s the Holy Spirit who organizes what we do.  That’s why it’s so important to let Him take the lead in showing us how to minister.

I must be able to watch what you’re doing for Christ and recognize the grace that’s operating through you.  Then, even seeing the differences, we can still march together in unity.

Unity and fellowship are all about knowing our place in the body of Christ.  It not only means that I recognize those marching next to me.  I need to see those who are marching in front of me, leading me. I also need to recognize the ones behind me, who are following my example.

Only then can we accomplish all that the Lord has for us to do.

Questions: Who are the leaders you are following?  Who are those that are following you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Walk of Unity and Fellowship

PowerlessI’ve been posting about fellowship and unity lately. It’s all about recognizing those who are serving Christ around me. Understanding their differences, and working with them for God’s glory.

The Apostle Paul describes it this way…

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:5-7

His prayer is that the same God who gives endurance and encouragement will now give them a spirit of unity. But that phrase, spirit of unity, is interesting in the original Greek. It’s literally asking God to give us a mind toward one another.

This goes right along with what we have been saying about unity thus far. I should be thinking about you. You’re on my mind so that I can understand your calling. In that way I can see how we fit together in the body of Christ.

Truly, we’re not called to be an organization, but an organism. We should be functioning seamlessly together because of the Holy Spirit within us. As we hear the voice of the Spirit and watch over each other, we are now equipped to fulfill the next part of this passage.

Only in unity can we glorify God with one heart and one mouth. Especially since the word translated heart is really the word passion. As I spend time in the Spirit, I pick up God’s passion.

It’s not about me convincing you what you need to be passionate about. If we could all be synced to God’s heartbeat, then we’ll operate in one passion. Time with the Spirit brings true unity.

The goal is to function together. It’s not up to you to change in order to please me. That’s not what Christ did. He paid the price for me to go to Him. Sometimes it will cost me something to overlook the faults and differences that you bring with you.

I must receive you just as Christ received me. Just as you are. I’m not the Holy Spirit. I have to leave room for God’s grace to work in you. None of us are perfect yet. The Lord receives us just the way we are and we need to do the same.

Unity is a choice. It’s unfortunate that when some people pray for the unity of the church, what they’re really praying is, “God, please making everyone else think like me.” That’s not true unity. It’s us choosing to work together as the Holy Spirit makes us begin to think like God.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 1:10

This is what we’re to strive for. To be perfectly united in mind and thought requires more than just good teaching. It means that I’m spending time in the presence of the Holy Spirit. As I allow the mind of Christ to take over my life, I’m setting the stage for the unity of the Spirit.

The more you and I begin to think like Christ, the more unity we will walk in. This is how the fellowship and unity of Christ can be manifest in His people. Make that your goal as we minister together for the Lord.

Question: What must I do to yield to the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Fellowship, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Fellowship – Recognizing God’s Grace

Different AnointingI’ve been talking about our fellowship and the unity of the Spirit. But how exactly do we fix upon each other so that we all keep in step with what God’s doing? We see a great example of this in Scripture, when Paul was first saved and he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem.

James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
Galatians 2:9

This is an interesting verse. When they met together, the Apostles understood how the Lord works. They didn’t expect Paul to operate exactly the way they did.

It says that they recognized the grace that Paul had been given. This is a spiritual perception that comes from time with the Holy Spirit.

Too often we take a “cookie-cutter” approach to ministry. We find what God is calling us to do and we run with it. But, because it works well for us, we make the assumption that everybody should be ministering the same way that we do.

That’s foolish. We’re all different. Not only that, but we’re all called to reach different people. What you do in your ministry will never work to reach those I’m called to deal with.

It’s the Holy Spirit who organizes what we do. That’s why it’s so important to let Him take the lead in showing us how to minister.

I must be able to watch what you’re doing for Christ and recognize the grace that’s operating through you. Then, even seeing the differences, we can still march together in unity.

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.
1 Thessalonians 5:12

The word translated respect in this verse means to know by seeing, watching and observing. We are to fix upon those who we know are our leaders in the Lord. In this way we can observe the direction we’re to be heading.

The verse tells us that our leaders are to admonish us. That literally means that they are to put things into our minds. By observing them, we learn what we’re to be accomplishing for Christ. We also learn what to be careful for.

Too often we don’t want to be led. We want to make our own choices without anybody else’s input. Then we get in trouble because we miss out on the insight that only comes through experience.

Unity and fellowship is all about knowing our place in the body of Christ. It not only means that I recognize those marching next to me. I need to see those who are marching in front of me, leading me. I also need to recognize the ones behind me, who are following my example.

Only then can we accomplish all that the Lord has for us to do.

Questions: Who are the leaders you are following? Who are those that are following you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Leadership, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Fellowship – In Step with the Spirit

Jet Plane to NowhereIn my last post I started to look at our fellowship and unity. We saw that to operate in these we must fix upon each other. We also saw that the revelation of God is the glue that holds us together.

We originally looked at a verse in Amos, chapter 3. Further down in that chapter we’re told how God operates.

Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7

This goes right along with the truth that revelation keeps us together. God’s desire is to always let His people know what’s coming on the earth. He wants us to be prepared to minister.

This is something many believers don’t understand and are not looking for. God wants to reveal His plans to us. But is that really the case? Look at these Scriptures…

The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
Psalms 25:14

This literally says that the Lord has a secret consultation with those who fear Him. So it’s not just for prophets, but for anyone who fears the Lord.

…for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence.
Proverbs 3:32

This is the portion of the righteous, to be in the Lord’s confidence. He wants to share with us exactly what He’s going to do. But is that a New Testament truth?

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

This verse is not talking about things prepared for us after we die, but things that will take place during our lives. Jesus Christ, Himself, spoke of this aspect of the Holy Spirit.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
John 16:13

This is how the Lord wants to deal with His church. He desires to keep us together and in unity by showing us what’s coming on the horizon.

But if this is our portion, then why do we seem to be groping around in the dark. Many times we’re either in one ditch or the other. Too far in front, or lagging way behind what the Spirit is doing. It often seems like the body of Christ is like a crowd of people simply walking down the street with no purpose or direction.

This ability to see what God’s doing only comes through time spent in quietness before Him. He will not speak to us if we’re not listening.

The only way to keep the unity of the spirit is to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. But keeping in step with Him requires us to fix upon the Spirit of God. It requires time in His presence.

If we want God to confide in us, we need to be found in that intimate place with Him. Then, as we keep in step with what Christ is doing, we’ll keep in step with each other.

Question: How often do you spend quiet time with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Fellowship and Unity

WalkWhat is fellowship? Is it merely sitting together in a church service, then going home? Or is it more than that?

I want to take a couple of posts to talk about fellowship and unity. Both what it is and why it’s so important.

The Old Testament prophet, Amos, had some insight into this subject.

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?
Amos 3:3

That’s an interesting question, and one that we should be asking ourselves regularly. What he’s really asking is if two can walk in unity, as one. How do you accomplish that?

In English it reads that they agreed to do so. The literal Hebrew says that they must fix upon each other. That’s just like soldiers marching together.

They need to fix upon each other so that their steps will be in sync with the soldiers around them. That’s the difference between soldiers marching together and a crowded sidewalk.

Sometimes I wonder about the body of Christ these days. Are we more like soldiers, marching in step? Or an unruly crowd, all headed in generally the same direction?

That’s why we need true fellowship. It’s through fellowship that we coordinate our lives together. Fellowship and unity go hand in hand. You can’t have unity without true fellowship.

Fellowship is knowing that I can’t serve Christ effectively without understanding your calling. That’s because none of us is called to serve Christ in a vacuum. We’re all interdependent upon each other (or at least we should be).

Our natural inclination is to only think about ourselves. We’re all individual pieces with nothing to hold us together. There needs to be some sort of spiritual “glue” to keep us from going in separate directions. Actually, God has provided just what we need.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 29:18

We must have a revelation – a clear Word – from God. This verse says that without it we cast off restraint. That literally means that our group loosens and falls apart. Hearing from the Holy Spirit is what keeps us marching together.

That’s why we must be in fellowship with each other. We hear from God to hold us together. We fix upon each other so that we can walk in sync together.

In my next post I want to go into detail about these issues. I want to talk about the revelation that’s needed and also, how to fix upon each other so that we can walk in unity.

Question: What would church look like if we were all ministering in unity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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