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Spirit Fruit

In my last post, I talked about the warning signs telling you that your flesh needs more change from the spirit.  But did you know that there are signs to look for showing you that your spiritual walk is maturing?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately, many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit production is a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunlight).

This is something that many Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.  They will not even come by willpower or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT.

All the fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be produced from our strength.

As a matter of fact, if you understand what these different fruits are, then you’ll know that you can’t fake them.  You can’t be producing them on a habitual basis without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you.

I think that one of our problems is that we read this list of fruit and assign them the definitions given by our present society.  Actually, what God calls love is not what the world calls love.  It’s the same with all the rest.

If we look at how the Lord describes these characteristics, we’d see that they can only be done consistently by walking in the spirit.  This is one of the reasons why prayer in the spirit is so important.

Over the years I’ve seen this work.  In my own life and the lives of others, who regularly spend time in the spirit, this change takes place.

The key word is time.  It usually takes place gradually as we spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I wish that it would be instantaneous, like a New Year’s resolution.  But the fact is, I’d rather have it take place slowly and permanently instead of quickly and only a temporary change.

I think that it’s important to know what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us.  So I feel led, over the next nine posts, to go over each of the fruit separately.  In this way, we’ll know what to look for in evaluating our growth toward maturity.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Three Symptoms of a Lack of Power

Compared to the early church, we live in a generation that barely sees the power of God at work. As a result, we need to use other methods to promote God’s kingdom. Do you know what these powerless methods look like?

I believe that if God’s people would spend time with the Holy Spirit, and then obey what they hear, we would see society changed. Instead, we rely on human plans to try and do God’s work. It’s sad, but I think that we’ve simply gotten used to ministry without power.

A few posts ago I talked about how Paul’s view of the Gospel was a demonstration of the power of God. Now he explains what it’s not…

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.
1 Thessalonians 2:3

Without operating in the power of the Spirit, leaders must find other ways of getting people to serve God. Paul lists three of them here. I think you’ll be surprised at what he says to us.

The first word he uses is error, which means wandering. This word literally means to stray because you’ve left the right way and are now simply roaming around.

It’s very easy to leave the right path if I never seek God’s will to begin with. Ministries with this problem are always trying something new, because they saw it work somewhere else. They wander from new program to new program, hoping for something that works.

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25

The goal should be to seek the Lord’s will for my life, then walk in it. That will keep me from wandering around, hoping to someday stumble upon God’s plan for me.

The next issue is that of impure motives. The reason behind the ministry is as important as the ministry itself. There are some ministries that seem like their only goal is to exalt themselves.

We live in a society where many of the advertising and political campaigns are based upon negativity. It’s not about what I’m trying to do, but what you’re doing wrong. Unfortunately we’ve carried this kind of thinking into the church.

I believe that I should be able to do what God has called me to do without having to put down any other ministry. The fact is that making someone else look bad, doesn’t make me look any better.

The final issue Paul talked about was trickery. It’s believed that this Greek word means to set up a decoy or bait in hunting. It’s unfortunate that there are ministries that view believers as prey.

To make things worse, the decoy or bait they use, is the Scripture. Please understand me; I’m not saying that all televangelists are bad. Most of them are trying to do God’s will. But there are some who, I believe, only study the Bible in order to find a Scripture verse that will convince you to take money out of your wallet and put it into theirs.

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 4:2

I truly believe that if I’m doing God’s will, then God will provide my needs. Yes, He will use people to give into my ministry. But I won’t need to make them feel guilty or use any other form of trickery or deceit.

We need to be looking at the fruit of the ministries that we want to support. We should only give into those works that are proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ.

Question: What do you think are the marks of a ministry of integrity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Discipleship – The Cost and the Glory #discipleship

Jet Plane to NowhereI’ve been posting about discipleship.  How far are you willing to go to follow Christ?  The Lord doesn’t make it sound very convenient.

In my last post we saw that Christ said it involved picking up your cross and following Him.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:26

Most people get tripped up by this verse because they don’t understand the usage of the word hate in the Scripture.  This word has no emotional attachment to it.  It’s just like the word agape, used to convey the idea of love.  Hate is a choice rather than an emotion.

This word hate means a choice to not participate with.  There are times when being a disciple of Christ means that you choose not to participate in every family event.  Maybe it’s a baby shower or a graduation party that’s held on a Sunday morning.

Christ is saying that if you choose to participate with your family over the Lord, then it shows that you’re not a disciple.  You might be a believer who loves God.  But you have yet to choose the high road of discipleship.

Following Christ can be very inconvenient at times.  However, if you want the same results as Christ, you must live as He does.

Jesus also makes the point that we must count the cost of discipleship.

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:33

If you find your Christian walk to be easy, then you’re not yet a disciple.  The closer you follow to Christ, the harder your choices will become.  But there is a bright side.  The longer you serve the Lord, the easier it will be to make those choices.

It’s all about cultivating an attitude – I am nothing else but a disciple.  It may sound like a tough road, but in the end it’s worth it.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
John 15:7-8

The way of discipleship leads to a fulfilled life.  There’s a manifestation of the power of God working through you.  When you live at this level it becomes obvious to all those around you.  Your life shows the fruit of the spirit.

It’s apparent that you couldn’t produce the blessings that you’re walking in.  God is at work in you.  That’s the ultimate goal.  Living as a disciple shows God’s glory.

It’s that glory that will draw others to Christ.  This is what the Christian walk is all about.

Question: How much is the glory of God worth to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Power of God, Revival

 

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The Abundant Life #abundantlife #wordofGod

ThanksgivingOver the past few posts we’ve looked at the parable of the seed planted in different soils.  The message Christ was focusing on should be clear.  In order to prepare my heart for a great harvest, I must come to the realization that the Word of God must be the single crop in my heart.

This is what Scripture means by being single-hearted.  When you have a single crop of the Word planted in your life, you’ve set yourself up for a plentiful harvest.

We have a spiritual epidemic across our nation.  There’s an abundance of the Word of God, with very little fruit being produced.  It’s time to weed out these distractions from the good, rich soil of our hearts.  What we need is the mindset of a farmer when it comes to the Word of God.

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Matthew 13:23

It’s clear from this verse that in order to see the harvest, I must understand the Word – see that it applies to my life.  I have to go beyond the person who lives too close to the road.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
Luke 8:15

This literally says that I must hold it down fast; keep it secure in my heart.  It has to take root deeply in my life.  I must go beyond those who have rocky soil.

Mark’s Gospel adds that we have to accept the Word. (Mark 4:20)  This means to associate with, delight in.  If you delight in a crop, you’re going to keep it free of weeds.  You don’t want anything choking it out.

The bottom line is that you must persevere.  In actuality it’s never easy to keep a farm or a garden.  It always requires tending.

I must come to the point where I acknowledge that the Word of God is everything to me.  It’s the same principle as in the physical world.

In the past I’ve had a garden.  The fresh tomatoes, peppers, and squash were a welcome sight throughout the summer and fall.  I could proudly say, “This eggplant came from my garden.”  Here’s the difference – I wasn’t a farmer.  I enjoyed the fresh vegetables grown in my garden, but I didn’t need them to survive.

A true farmer, on the other hand, lives by what he grows.  His livelihood is tied to the crops that he produces.  His new car is a result of the crops he harvested.  The renovations to his home are a result of the harvest.  Everything he has is tied up in his ability to produce a bountiful crop.

We must pick up this same mindset in regards to the Word of God.  We live by the Word.  Everything we need for life and godliness is all tied up in the Word. How I relate to the Word determines my destiny.

Hopefully, you can see by Christ’s teaching that it’s not just a matter of getting the seed into the ground.  You can be planting huge amounts of seed and never see a single piece of fruit if you’re not following the basic principles of spiritual farming.

It’s all about getting the right seed into the right ground, then persevering to make sure that the seed can grow and produce fruit unhindered.

Question: How do you cultivate a “farmer’s mindset”?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Word of God

 

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Scripture Without the Word of God

Dry2In my last post I talked about those who minister without the Word of God.  We are experiencing an epidemic of this in our American Christian experience.  Jude wrote about this problem almost 2000 years ago.

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm – shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted– twice dead.
Jude 1:12

This rebuke describes a growing segment of the church.  What an appropriate editorial on many of the “ministers” we see on Christian cable and radio.

Jude describes them as shepherds who feed only themselves.  They preach messages that excite people in order to keep their cash flow going strong.  They’re clouds and wind with no rain – autumn trees with no fruit.

If there’s no fruit, then there are no seed to plant.  But that doesn’t matter.  With no rain they couldn’t water them either.

It’s a sign of the times that we live in.  There’s an abundance of the Bible being preached in America these days.  How much of it is a Word from God?  How much of it speaks what God wants said to this generation for this time in history?  How much planting and watering is being accomplished?

For the amount of Scripture being sent through the airways and over the internet, there is very little fruit to harvest.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.  Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”
Amos 8:11-12

The prophet Amos predicted the days when there would be a famine of the Word of God.  What is a famine?  It’s usually a dry weather pattern.  As a result there’s no rain, no crops, and no new seed.  This must go on for years to qualify as a famine.

During the time of spiritual famine that Amos wrote about, Israel had many synagogues.  These were places where the Scripture was taught.  There were people teaching the Scripture all over Israel.  Scripture reading abounded – but not the Word of God.

It grieves me to look at the United States in light of this Scripture.  We are in that exact same place.  An abundance of the Bible is being preached and taught from every possible media outlet.  Yet for all of this, the church of Jesus Christ is, for the most part, marginalized.

We need to hunger and thirst for a revival of the Word of God in us.  Of course we need Scripture as our foundation – to keep us on track.  But we must seek God Himself so that we can receive the Living Word to burn within us.

Questions: What could America look like with an abundance of the Word of God going forth?  What could your life be like?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Revival, Word of God

 

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The Self-Watering Word of God

rainIn my last post I made a statement about the Word of God planted in us.  I first made the point that we’re powerless to make the seed grow. I then said that the only help we can give it, is in the watering process.

How do we water the seed of the Word of God?  That’s what this post is about.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11

Now that’s an interesting concept.  Not only is the Word seed, it’s also the water.  The first time you receive God’s Word concerning a certain matter, be it salvation or healing, it’s the seed being planted in your life.

After that, you can still hear the Word of God in those areas.  However, it’s now the water to bring the plant to maturity.  That is why it’s so important for me to receive God’s Word in all of its forms.  I need both the initial seed and the water for growth.

As a pastor, I’m accountable to God to bring His Word to those under my care.  I must regularly plant seed and water what’s been planted.  Both are done by a Word from God.

The Word is both the seed and the water.  But that’s not a reason for you to feel comfortable if you’re not a pastor.  You’re under the same marching orders.

You’re accountable to God for the Word God has sent you to plant in the lives of others around you.  It’s this truth that sheds light on a problem that we’re currently experiencing in the body of Christ.

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.
Proverbs 25:14

It’s very easy to claim gifts that you don’t possess.

“I am a teacher to the body of Christ.”

“I’m a prophet of God.”

It’s easy to lay claim to titles and positions.  The true test is whether or not people are being planted with the Word of God.  Is there fruit to the ministry?

What the world desperately needs right now is a Word from God.  The church promises so much, yet a lot of it is “clouds and wind without rain.”

It’s time for God’s people to press in to receive His Word.  When our society sees someone truly transformed by the Spirit of God, then they’ll hunger to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Question: Why are so many believers content to merely talk about the good things of God, yet not experience them?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Word of God

 

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Are You a Spiritual Explorer?

Grapes“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Luke 11:9-10

This is a verse that we like to quote a lot.  But, I want to know if it’s real to us.  Do we understand the importance of seeking?  And in all of our seeking, are we searching for what’s truly important?

I’m reminded of the children of Israel as they waited on the doorstep of the Promised Land.  They selected 12 “spies” who were instructed to search out the land and come back with a report.

So they went up and explored the land…When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes.  Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.  That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.  At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
Numbers 13:21-25

God had promised this land to Israel.  Now they were seeing it for the first time.  They roamed up and down the whole area.  Needless to say, they were very impressed with what they saw.  The fruit was unmatched anywhere else.  It was truly a blessed land that awaited them.

Their exploration of the land should be an example to us.  We need to search out both the Scripture and the Mind of God to know our inheritance in Christ.  It’s very important that we see what God has in store for us.  Without that knowledge, we can’t go before God in faith to believe for the things that we need.

It’s unfortunate that most Christians have no idea the magnitude of the blessings there are in serving the Lord.  They live their whole lives never knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for them.  I believe it’s time for the church to live the abundant life that we were called to.  This, more than anything else, will be an incredible witness to our generation.

That’s why the time you spend in the presence of the Lord is so important.  Take the time each day to read the Bible, pray, and pray in the Spirit.  That’s how you search out the things God has prepared for you.

As the Holy Spirit speaks to you, be quick to lay claim to the promise, blessing, grace, or strength that He offers.  Walk each day in the faith that only comes through a living relationship with the Life-Giver.

Question: How intensely do you explore your “promised land”?

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Faith, Prayer, Revival

 

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