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Which Denomination is the Best?

In my last post, I talked about the path to leadership in the kingdom of God.  It requires a servant’s heart.  Today, Jesus will continue teaching along those lines with His disciples.

He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37

We need to understand what the Lord is talking about in this passage.  In the past, I’ve heard it misapplied all over the place.

Jesus is talking to His disciples.  These are the people He has set apart for the leadership of the church.  They were also specifically chosen to minister to Israel – God’s covenant people (Matthew 10:5-6).  So the Lord is talking about receiving a covenant child in His name.

As the disciples are listening to Him, they have an “Aha! moment”.  They realize that Jesus is not just talking about physical children.  They’re beginning to understand His teaching style.  They apply what He says to an incident that recently happened to them.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

They remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  We know from the last post that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

Jesus is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Cross in Our Generation

In my last post, we saw Jesus explaining to His disciples the need to give up their human, fleshly way of thinking.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

Remember, the Lord had just called Peter an accuser and told him to “get behind me.”  Now Jesus uses that exact same word and says “if anyone would get behind me…”  Getting behind Jesus, following Him, requires taking up your cross.

What does Jesus mean by this?  I’ve heard people use it in a lot of different ways.  Sometimes they’ll use this term in talking about an ongoing illness, or even their spouse.

“That’s just my cross that I have to bear.”

Is that what it’s all about?  I don’t think so.  Carrying a cross is a sign that you’re about to die.  Very soon you’re going to be laying down your life.

In the next few verses, Jesus makes it clear what He’s talking about.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Mark 8:35-37

The Lord is speaking about giving up the temporary in order to gain the eternal.  The word, life, that He uses here is the actual word for soul.  It’s the seat of who you are as a person; your personality, likes, dislikes, desires, and experiences.

We have to lay all of that down if we’re going to experience God’s destiny for our lives.  That’s the only place where we can experience true fulfillment.  It’s the kind of life where we can look back a million years from today and say that it was all worth it.

But there’s more to it than just that.  There’s a tougher part that needs to be laid down.

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:38

I believe that this speaks directly to where we are as God’s people at this point in history.  The word, generation, could also mean a people group.  So Jesus is talking about being ashamed of what He does or says in the midst of an adulterous people group.

Hear what He’s saying.  In order to be adulterous, you have to be in a covenant relationship.  The Lord isn’t talking about the unsaved here.  He’s talking about those who want to follow Him within a church that’s following after the world’s way of living.

There’s a huge segment of the church today that’s ashamed of what Christ does and says in the Scripture.

“Oh, no, we don’t talk about that subject in our church.  We don’t want to offend anybody.”

I thought that the Good News of Christ is that we are headed in the wrong direction – eternity separated from God because of our lifestyle.  But now because of what Christ did on the cross, we can be reconciled to God and CHANGED by the power of the Holy Spirit placed within us.

Father God, I pray that you give your people the boldness to proclaim Your message and to accomplish Your work.

Question: How have you experienced shame over the ministry or teachings described in Scripture?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Getting Behind Christ

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we see the Lord bringing His disciples to a deeper level of knowledge about Himself.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mark 8:31-32

Jesus began to explain to the disciples that the Messiah must undergo rejection by Israel.  Then, He needed to die on the cross, be buried and three days later, rise from the dead.

Peter was obviously upset by this.  He was so taken back by hearing about the Lord’s death that he totally missed the part about rising from the dead.  He began to rebuke Jesus for His “negative confession.”

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Get behind me, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Mark 8:33

No, Peter was not possessed by the devil at this time.  The Greek word, satan, means accuser.  Jesus was not calling Peter the devil, but describing his actions.  (Actually, the devil would have enjoyed seeing Jesus die.)

In his statement, Peter was accusing Jesus of being out of the will of God for his life.  Peter was placing himself on the same level as Christ, telling Him what He should be doing.

That’s why the Lord told him to get behind me.  In other words, you’re not my peer; get back in line following me where you belong.  He explained that Peter was not thinking like God thinks, but like men think.

Jesus took this as a teachable moment.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38

Christ makes it clear that in following Him, we have to give up our fleshly, human way of thinking.  Ministry in the kingdom of God is not based on what I think is best for God.  It’s about what He thinks is best.

Too often we’re guilty of giving God our opinion of what should be done.  Then, we run off with our plans and seek God’s blessing on it.  We then get frustrated wondering why it has no effect.

Instead, we need to seek the Holy Spirit to change the way we think.  We need our minds to be renewed.  Because if I can think the way God does, then I’m going to want His perfect will.

This is important.  I won’t need to seek His will; I’ll know it because I want what He wants.  Then it will be blessed – not because I prayed for God to bless it, but because it’s already anointed by God.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  But not spending all our time seeking things and answers to problems.  We must desire to know Him better – His thoughts, His will, and His heartbeat.

Question: What’s the difference between seeking God’s will and seeking God’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Called to Become

The next encounter we have in Mark’s gospel is the calling of the four fishermen.  I’m referring to Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 1:16-20

In this narrative, we’re only given the outline of what happened.  It should be obvious from human nature and the accounts in the other gospels that this was not the first time these men had met Jesus.  No one will leave their family business because an unknown man walks by and asks them to follow Him.

On the contrary, there was already a relationship that had formed between these five men.  Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the area.  At one point, Peter even let Jesus use his boat as a pulpit.  They knew the Lord’s ministry.

We know from John’s gospel, that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  He had heard John’s testimony of Jesus being the Messiah.  He had met with Christ in private, and then Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Him.

This was not just a “cold call” on the part of the Lord.  It was the culmination of an ongoing relationship.  They knew who it was that was calling them.  They wanted what Christ was offering.

But what was the Lord promising them?  It’s a very interesting way to invite someone.  There are two important phrases that Jesus says to them.  The first is; I will make you.

He told them that if they’d fall in behind Him, He’d do a work in their lives.  I think that’s the key, even for us.  It’s our job to follow – that’s all.  Too often we get the idea that we need to work on changing ourselves.  Then we get frustrated with the results.

If I’m willing to spend time in the Lord’s presence, through the Holy Spirit, He’ll bring about the changes needed in my life.  That’s where the power is.  It’s clear from Scripture that only the spirit can control the flesh.

The second phrase is not apparent in this English translation.  It’s the phrase; to become.  The original Greek reads; I will make you to become fishers of men.  I believe this means it’s a process, not an instant change.

God has a calling on your life and mine.  He wants us to become something for His glory.  I wish that the transformation was instant, the day I bowed my knee to Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

There’s a growing process involved.  I follow behind Christ.  I spend time in the spirit.  Over time, the work of God’s grace becomes evident in my life.  Eventually, I become what I was created to be.

It was like that with these disciples.  They had their rough spots.  Sometimes it looked like they’d never get there.  But after the day of Pentecost, they turned their world upside-down for the glory of Christ.

Let this speak to you.  Follow behind Christ.  Be patient.  Don’t get frustrated that the changes in your life aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to.  Become a disciple of Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit in you.

Question: What are some changes that are already evident in your life since you started following Christ?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Imitation and Leadership

I’ve been sharing about First Thessalonians. In my last post we saw how the Gospel is more than just words. It’s the power of God demonstrated to those around us.

Paul made a statement that I want to go back to. It was at the end of the verse we looked at last time.

You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:5b

This verse shows us an important part of our spiritual growth. It’s something that we don’t think about too often these days. That is; how do my actions affect you?

Immaturity will say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m going to do what I want anyway.” But as we grow in Christ we realize that what we do has an effect upon those who see us.

Please understand that I’m not saying to compromise the Gospel in order not to offend. What I am saying is that in all my decisions I need to take into account the needs and understanding of those around me.

Paul’s reasoning is made clear in the next verse.

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6

What we need to be aware of, is the principle of imitation. A mature believer understands that they’re going to be an example to those who are younger in the faith.

Example and imitation is a big part of our growth in the Lord. According to Paul, by imitating him, they were actually imitating Christ – to the extent that Paul was following the Lord.

We should all aspire to leadership in the body of Christ. The role of a leader is, by its very nature, an example to others. This is found throughout the Scripture.

When Paul was preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, he didn’t take up an offering for his expenses. He worked as a tent-maker to support himself. Listen to his reasoning.

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.
2 Thessalonians 3:9

The word follow in this verse is the same word, imitate that we’ve been talking about. Paul wanted his life to accurately portray what it meant to live for Christ. In that way, those who were looking to him as a leader would be able to see the mature lifestyle lived out.

I need to live with this thought in mind. My actions are either spurring someone on to greater growth in Christ; or giving them permission to walk in the flesh. You may not like it, but that’s what leadership is all about.

It should be our goal, as godly leaders, to have the same mindset as Paul.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Be that mature role-model that others can look to and follow.

Question: How have you seen your example positively affecting the lives of others?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Journey of Faith

TrailThe word picture that’s used the most in the Bible to describe our Christian life is probably walking. We even call our life in Christ the walk of faith.

I personally love walking and hiking. It seems that the more I pursue this in the natural, the more I learn about the spiritual walk.

The Bible uses Abraham as an example of one who walked by faith in God.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:8-10

Abraham was a man of faith. He lived in tents and shelters. He didn’t know what lay on the trail ahead, nor did he know where it was leading. But because he trusted God, he kept moving forward, and entered the land of promise.

Every time I hike, I illustrate the walk of faith – the dependence that if I continue to follow the path, step by step, I’ll come out to the end promised by the map. In my case, I don’t actually know the person who wrote the guidebook. I don’t even know the person who marked out the trail.

Yet in spite of this, I’m willing to strap a pack on my back, and follow a trail through the woods for days at a time. I willingly trust those who have done it before me and those who “wrote the books and maps.” I have faith that the trail I’m on will come out where they say it will.

You may ask, “What does that have to do with our spiritual walk?” It turns out that there are definite parallels between the two.

The fact is, sometimes the trail I’m on doesn’t feel right. There are times I’m hiking a southbound trail that, because of the twists and turns, actually heads north for a time. I know that I’m supposed to come out south of where I started. But when I look at my compass, it seems that I’m headed in the wrong direction.

What do I do? To put it simply – I trust the book and keep going. Eventually the trail makes a turn and heads south again. Amazingly, it comes out exactly where the map said that it would.

When I think about Abraham’s walk of faith, I see the same things happening. The Lord gave him a path to walk. There were times he had to go in a direction that didn’t seem right to his natural mind. But in spite of his present circumstances, he looked forward to the distant end of his journey because he trusted the One who wrote the “guidebook.”

It takes trust and obedience toward God to reap the promises of His Word. We need to trust Him even when life doesn’t look like it will turn out the way He says it will.

God knows the end from the beginning. He sees all the twists and turns ahead of you. The Holy Spirit can guide you on the best possible course to navigate your way through the tough parts of this life.

Spend some time in the Lord’s presence. Recommit yourself to following his path for your life. Let Him know your desire to trust His Word as the only true guide for your steps. Then you can rest assured that you’ll see His destiny for your life come to pass.

Question: What is a time when you thought that God was taking you in a “wrong” direction?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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