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Tag Archives: God’s grace

Rules Don’t Work

Legalism causes many problems in the Body of Christ.  As I continue looking at the book of Galatians, Paul has finished with his examples and now begins his teaching in great detail.  He starts with the bottom line so that there’s no mistaking what he believes.

We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:15-16

Paul is making an important point here.  But it’s not one that everyone can identify with.  In order to explain it, I need to give you a bit of my personal testimony.

Simply put; I am a “Timothy”.  My grandparents, on both sides, were godly Christians, baptized in the Spirit.  My parents were brought up in the church – as a matter of fact, that’s where they met.

When I came along, I had no choice but to attend church whenever the doors were open.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful.

As wonderful as it was to be brought up in a Christian home with Biblical training, it did present me with a very unique set of challenges.  This is because I learned the “rules” of the Christian lifestyle before I learned about grace.

I started out thinking that simply by “being good” I could please God.  It wasn’t until I was able to grasp the deeper issues of life that I understood the truth of God’s righteousness.  This is what Paul is talking about.

People who are brought up with no Scriptural background – the Gentiles – have lived their whole life by trying to be the best they could.  They wanted to be a functioning part of society.

“Be kind to others and continue to better yourself.”

In my growth, I had a different training.  I learned what pleases God as well as the things He hates.  Let me tell you that I can give a hearty “Amen,” to what Paul is saying.  By my experience, I know that following the rules makes absolutely no points with God.

I was brought up in the church.  I spent my formative years sheltered from the worldly society.  I never fell into any great sin or even hung around with “bad people”.  Yet, in spite of all that, I needed a Savior as much as any drug-dealing, murdering, alcoholic.

All of my good works meant nothing in bringing me into God’s kingdom.  I had to repent, bow my knees to Christ, and ask Him to place His Spirit within me.  Unless and until I did that, I could never be right in the eyes of God.

If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.
Galatians 2:17-18

What Paul is saying here is that there’s no going back.  Now that I’m justified in Christ, trying to live by the Law is a dead-end.  I’m back to being a lawbreaker again because I can never live up to God’s standard on my own.  I started in grace and I must continue in God’s grace.

For the rest of this letter, Paul is going to explain to the Galatian church why this truth is so important and how to apply it to their lives.

Question: How have you experienced that following a set of rules doesn’t work?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Indonesian Testimony – Part 2

img_1812In my last post I started to share about my recent trip to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. I want to continue with this testimony.

We started our project by staying in the largest city on the island – Medan. We were met and taken around by a local church planting pastor. He’s a native of the area and a part of the Batak tribe. He wants to see God’s hand at work in his area.

He shared with us that the Batak people are very volatile. They’re known for having bad tempers. His was to the extreme. As a young man he was so aggressive that his village asked him to leave.

Later in his life he was looking for answers. At some point he received a copy of the Bible. He decided that he wanted to understand it so he read it from cover to cover.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

As he was reading through the book of Romans, he became keenly aware of his need for Christ. Without any prompting from anyone other than the Holy Spirit, he prayed and surrendered his life to the Lord.

Because of his study of the Scripture, he knew that he needed to be baptized in water. He went to one church and they told them that they only sprinkled.

As he walked along, he saw a crowd of people by a lake. He saw that they were having a baptism service. He asked if he could join in and be baptized. After the pastor talked with him a while and saw that he was truly saved, they agreed to baptize him.

I recently heard a quote from David Platt. “There’s only one thing worse than being lost and that is being lost and having no one trying to find you.” This pastor is an amazing example of God’s grace.

In spite of the fact that Indonesia is a Moslem nation, there are many Christian churches. The problem we saw was that many of them are mainline denominational churches with no desire to win the lost. They’re content to simply minister to those of their own congregation, or trying to get believers to switch to their church. The kingdom doesn’t grow that way.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Luke 19:10

What we saw was that even some of the evangelical pastors of that area are becoming concerned with external issues. They want to be like the churches around them. They are discussing whether they should start preaching in robes, and what color they should be.

We made it our goal on this trip to only work with pastors who understood the mission. There are millions of lost souls that need to be reached. That will not happen if we cling to church as usual, or chase after being acceptable.

Pray for Indonesia. Pray for the churches of that nation to cultivate an outward focus on reaching the lost people around them. Pray for the churches who are reaching people; that they would be even more effective.

Question: How do you keep yourself “mission minded” to reach the lost?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in Ministry, Missions, The Church, The Gospel

 

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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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5 Warning Signs of Legalism (Repost)

WarningThis is the fifth of six reposts of my most read articles. It was from 2012.

Many Christians are bound by legalism. Are you one of them? The trouble is that legalism can be very deceptive. You can be caught up in it and never know it – unless you see the warning signs. I hope this will be both a challenge and a blessing to you.

Elevating works over position. Do you worry about what you can do to please God? The correct answer is – nothing!! It’s the blood of Christ that makes me acceptable to God. Nothing I do can make Him love me any more or any less. While works can affect my rewards and blessings, they’ll never change God’s love and acceptance of me if I’m in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 Seeing yourself more of a slave than a son. Yes, we do serve God and are expected to obey Him in all things. But the way we obey is as mature sons and daughters. As spiritual children we learn servanthood. It’s the training ground for our growth in Christ. The purpose of servanthood is so that we can walk in maturity. The Lord desires sons and daughters to represent Him to the world. (Galatians 4:1-7)

Relying more on your confession than God’s grace. I believe in the confession of Scripture. Rehearsing and memorizing it is an important part of the believer’s life. Just as important is the reason we do it. The purpose of confessing God’s Word is to increase our faith in Him. But ultimately, it’s not my confession, but the power of God that will bring about the changes that I need. (II Peter 1:3)

Giving more time to studying Scripture than to intimacy with Christ. Scripture study is very important – it’s one of my passions. I couldn’t live without it. But, spending quality time with the Lord is even more so. Jesus rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees for diligently studying the Scriptures, yet not going to the Messiah that they pointed to. It’s not enough just to know about Christ. I need to have an intimate, personal knowledge of Him that only comes from time spent in His presence. (John 5:39-40)

Being more confident in your comparison with others than abiding in Christ. Comparison is a deadly trap. The problem is that I can always find someone less committed than me. It gives me a false sense of security because I’m no worse than anyone else. On the other hand, I can spend my days feeling worthless, because I look at others who are farther along than me in the faith. I can’t base my self-evaluation on someone else’s life. My goal is not to be better than you, but to be like Christ. (II Corinthians 10:12)

Questions: Have you battled with legalism? How have you overcome it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2015 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Excellent Kingdom

CastleI’ve been talking about excellence for a few posts.  I want to finish up this topic by showing that everything God has for us in His kingdom is excellent.

The Greek word usually translated excellent in the New Testament is hyperballoHyperballo, literally means, to throw beyond.  The word picture being used is of an Olympic sport such as throwing the javelin.

Everyone else has thrown it to a certain, average point.  You, however, get up and throw it beyond all the others.  That’s a picture of the concept of excellence.  When you throw beyond the normal or what’s expected, then you’ve entered the realm of the excellent.

Here are some examples of how the word hyperballo is used of the Lord in the New Testament:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Ephesians 1:18-19a

The word that was translated incomparably great is hyperballo.  Many people have a measure of strength, but God desires to work His power in us.  This is a power that goes beyond the normal, the average or the expected.  His power working in us is excellent.

In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:7

Not only does He desire to show us His excellent power, but He also wants to work His excellent grace in us.  Most of us know that the grace of God is His unmerited favor.  The favor of the Lord goes beyond what’s deserved or expected.

And to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:19

He also wants to show us His love that throws beyond knowledge.  This love is greater than anything we have ever experienced before in our lives.  His love goes further than we could ever ask, think, or imagine.

If you have ever received teaching on the book of Hebrews, you have probably heard that the theme of the book is “Better.”  How much better the ministry of Christ is than any other!  It incorporates a better sacrifice, a better priesthood, and better promises.

Why would anyone settle for mediocrity?  Knowing who the Lord is should spur us on to excellence.  His excellent power, excellent grace, and excellent love are the treasures that He is ready to bestow upon us.  We only need to be willing to walk the high road of excellence.

Question: How have you experienced the excellence of God’s kingdom?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Encouragement, Spirit of Excellence

 

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