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Tag Archives: Gospel of Christ

Religion – An Easy Trap to Fall Into

Why do you serve God the way you do?  Because people are watching you; or because you’re trying to please God?  Religion wants you to look at what people think.  It can make you do some strange things under the pretense of serving God.

I’m glad that when the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, He didn’t whitewash the lives of the apostles.  We see them as they were – with all their faults and challenges.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he recounts a confrontation between the Apostle Peter and himself.  It all had to do with religious observances and trying to please men.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Galatians 2:11-13

According to ancient Jewish customs, it was not proper for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile or to eat with them.  But now that we’re in Christ, these outward appearances should hold no sway over who we fellowship with.

There were those in Jerusalem, however, who felt that these customs needed to be carried over into Christianity.  These were the Judaizers that I talked about in a previous post.

At this point in his life, Peter had already understood that he was free to fellowship with Gentiles.  The Lord revealed it to him and then sent him to a Gentile home to preach the Gospel of Christ.  (Acts chapter 10)

When he first arrived at Antioch, the site of the first largely Gentile church, Peter had no problem fellowshipping with the believers in their homes.  But when those of the Judaizers arrived, he wanted to stay on their good side and stopped eating with Gentiles.

What’s important to see is that even though Peter didn’t believe that it was necessary to separate himself from Gentiles, he was sucked into a religious observance.  Religion places customs above faith.  When that happens, we alienate people.

Paul understood that it needed to be stopped before any permanent damage was done to relationships.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
Galatians 2:14

The truth of the Gospel is that we’re all one in Christ Jesus.  Who’s house I enter, or who I eat with doesn’t make me any more or less holy.  The outside observances only serve to impress people (or push them away).

We need to be able to take a step back and question our own motives.  Why do we do what we’re doing?

Please understand that I realize there are many different styles of worship.  Some services are highly formal and ritualistic while others seem to have no structure at all.  It doesn’t matter what style you’re comfortable with, as long as you don’t invalidate those you’re not comfortable with.

Don’t let religion control who you fellowship with.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can do something to make God love you more.  In Christ, you’re already loved more than you could ever imagine.

Question: How have you seen religion alienate people?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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No Man-Made Gospel

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  It’s a letter of correction because they were beginning to fall into legalism.  He had to warn them that a gospel of legalism was no gospel at all.

He begins by telling them of his personal walk with God.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11-12

Paul tells us that he did not preach a man-made gospel.  It was received from Jesus Christ by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

This is important for us to understand.  It’s the first time that Paul shares about his conversion to Christianity.  The book of Acts had not been written yet when Paul wrote this letter.  So he’s explaining the most important parts of his transformation.

Paul was a Pharisee.  He had to be trained for that role.  He went to a Jewish seminary.  He had huge portions of the Scripture memorized.

Yet, with all that training, he needed the revelation of Jesus Christ in order to preach the Gospel.  That tells me that the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus – has to be learned by the Spirit.  Paul makes it clear by describing what happened directly after his salvation.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Galatians 1:13-17

I think that in our efforts to read through the Bible, we sometimes miss the little, important details.  The fact is that Paul preached a revealed Gospel rather than a taught Gospel.   But we say, “That was the Apostle Paul.  He was a special case.  He was writing most of the New Testament.”

In reality, Paul was human, just like us.  The difference was that he had already gone through the process of getting his theology from other people.  Now he wanted to operate by grace.

In telling us that he got his Gospel by revelation, he was not saying that Jesus Christ personally appeared to him in his room.  Jesus didn’t show up and audibly teach Paul the Gospel for three years.  That’s not the method the Lord uses under the New Covenant.

The key phrase in the above passage is when Paul says that God was pleased to reveal his Son in me.  The Lord was not revealed TO Paul, but IN Paul.  That’s what we need to grab hold of.

An understanding of the Scriptures concerning our salvation is a plus.  But in all honesty, our post-Christian generation couldn’t care less about what the Bible says.  It’s all about Christ revealed in us.

The true Gospel is not a list of memorized Bible verses.  It’s the story of how Jesus Christ broke into my world.  How He revealed Himself in my circumstances and changed my life.  The Gospel is not hearsay, but a valid testimony of what I’ve experienced.

That’s why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit.  Praise God for the New Testament Scripture that can teach us about God’s grace.  But we need the Spirit to make it relevant to those around us.

They don’t want to know about the Book you’re reading, they need to know about the Savior you met.

Question: How did Christ first reveal Himself in your situation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Which Gospel?

The Gospel is the Good News of what Christ has done for us.  Did you know that it makes a difference what good news you’re listening to?  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is very clear about this issue.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:6-7

Paul has an open motive in writing this letter.  It’s to keep the church on course in serving Christ.  That’s why the Holy Spirit gave this Scripture as one of the foundations of the New Testament.  It’s important for all believers, for all ages, to be anchored firmly in the true Gospel.

There are a few things that are apparent from this verse.  First of all, there are many gospels that people claim to be the Gospel of Christ.  The unfortunate thing is that these other gospels are not Good News at all.

I think that part of the problem is that we never updated the word, gospel.  It’s simply the Old English word for good news.  But because we’ve turned it into a religious word, we’ve lost the actual identity of what it means.

I’ve heard many people preach what they call the gospel.  But I have to tell you, it didn’t sound like good news to me.  They were basically telling me all the things I had to do (or not do) so that God wouldn’t be mad at me.

I think we’ve all heard the saying that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.  In the same way, if it doesn’t sound like good news to you, then it’s probably not the true Gospel.  At least that’s the way Paul understood it.

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
Colossians 1:6a

The Good News of Christ is not about what I need to do, but it’s all about what God has done for me by His grace.  That’s what this letter to the Galatians is written for.  That’s what I’ll be looking at in detail over the next few weeks.

There’s another truth that the Apostle brings out in the verse from Galatians.   When you walk in legalism, you transfer out of God’s grace.  That’s what the word, deserting, means.

This is probably one of the most important subjects that believers need to hear.  It’s the call for us to steer clear of legalism.  It can rob you of joy, power, and fulfillment in Christ.

Paul had some strong emotions concerning those who preached this perversion of the Gospel.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Galatians 1:8-9

I hope that you’ll be able to stick with me as we look at the book of Galatians together.  If you haven’t already done it, subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss a single installment.  I believe it’s that important.

Question: How would you define the word legalism in regards to being a Christian?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gospel – Face to Face with Jesus

cross 2I’ve been talking about how Philip brought Nathanael to Christ. Jesus called Philip and he immediately shared the good news with his friend. When he was told about Jesus, Nathanael had an interesting response.

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
John 1:46

Look at his answer; it’s dripping with attitude. Nathanael was a man who was skeptical and bored with life. That’s why we can’t look at people’s attitudes when we share the Gospel with them. We must always remember to look at them through the eyes of Christ.

We can see that Philip understood this by his response. The NIV translates it as “Come and see”. But that doesn’t give you the full impact of what Philip said.

He didn’t use the normal word for see. The word he used is an excited interjection.

“You gotta see this!!!”

The truth is that disciples of Christ are excited about Christ. When was the last time you were excited about the Lord or something He did for you? How do you regain that excitement day by day?

King David is a good example to us. One day David didn’t feel like saying anything.

My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
Psalm 39:3

If you want to fan the flame of excitement, then you must meditate on the good things of God. Good things, noble things, praiseworthy things. Why would anyone one want to come to Jesus if He’s not exciting to us?

It’s not about debating with people or convincing them to trust the Lord. The key is that your excitement about Christ should lead them into wanting what you’ve found.

So Nathanael, this skeptical, bored person, went to Jesus.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
John 1:47

When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, He used the same excited interjection that Philip used.

“Look at this!!!”

The Lord totally turned the tables on him. By saying that Nathanael was an Israelite with no trickery or deceit, the Lord caught him completely off guard.

The Lord knows what we need to see and hear in order to trust Him. Nathaniel was a skeptic, probably ready for a debate. Maybe had some questions to test Jesus with. Now he’s on the defensive.

That should be the case when a non-Christian comes into a group of excited believers who are being led by the Holy Spirit.

But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
1 Corinthians 14:24-25

It’s not about convincing arguments. It’s coming face to face with the power of God active in His people. I believe that this is the true nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Question: Do you know an example of an unbeliever coming face to face with the power of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Ministry, Power of God, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Salvation – The Whole Truth

Cross SunsetPraise God for our salvation in Christ Jesus! But have you ever stopped to think about exactly what happened when you were saved?

There are many believers who don’t really understand what happened to them when they bowed their knees to Christ. I want to take a few posts to look at our salvation in detail.

What is our salvation all about? To some it simply means that they decided to be good. To others it means that they’re going to try and follow the teachings of Jesus. That is NOT Christianity.

It all starts with an understanding of our condition without Christ.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 3:23

Our problem is sin. You probably already know that the word sin, in both the Greek and Hebrew, means to miss the mark. That means that we’re all deficient, inferior to, God’s glory. Even though we were created in the image of God, in Adam we’ve fallen from that high position.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you were born, or how good you are. In Adam, the whole human race is guilty of sin – missing the mark. But as bad as that is, it gets worse.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…
Romans 5:12

It turns out that sin brought a friend with him – death – separation from God. Who is under the penalty of death? EVERYONE! Death is the penalty for not living up to the glory of God.

You can look at it this way; every human being ever born was born onto the path that leads to death. There’s no reversing it, no exits, do not pass go, and it leads straight to hell. But, praise God, that’s not the end of the story.

Christ came to the earth as a man, God made flesh. He took on humanity, but lived a life totally without sin.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

Because it was He who created us, we came from Him, only He had the power to take our place. That’s the concept of substitution. He took our place on the cross in the penalty for our sin.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus Christ took our sin to the cross and paid the price for it. Then He sealed it by rising from the dead.

Now we come along, thousands of years later, on this path that leads to death. We can’t leave it or even turn around. We hear the Gospel of Christ. We decide to accept what Christ did for us by faith.

That’s when everything changed. In my next post I’ll talk about exactly what happened in the spirit on the day you trusted Christ.

Question: What were the events that led to your salvation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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An Invitation to the Wedding

DinnerI’ve been posting about the Bride of Christ. Not all believers will be a part of the Bride. Understanding this truth is foundational to receiving all that Christ has for us.

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelation 19:9

Listen carefully to the true words of God. There’s a blessing upon those who are invited to the wedding supper. Think about it. The Bride is not invited as a guest.

The Bride and the groom are the reason for the supper. My question is; who are these people that are not the Bride, yet are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb?

This thought should overshadow all others in our walk with the Lord. Am I a friend, or a part of the Bride? Am I overcoming, and producing the fruit of the Kingdom? Or am I content to watch others?

Please realize – this is the job of the wedding attendants – to watch, enjoy, and comment on what’s happening between the Bride and the Groom.

“Look at how they love one another.”

“They look great together.”

Or we could put it this way, “Look at how sold out to God they are.”

“Look at what they’re doing for the Kingdom. I couldn’t live like that. I’ve got too many other things to do.”

Are we watching the commitment of others and enjoying what they do for the Lord? That’s fine if it spurs us on to deepen our walk with Him. But if I decide that my goals and plans are more important, it shows that I just want to show up at the wedding.

So often we think that we don’t have to do anything for God. After all, we attend church most weekends. We give into the offering to support the work they’re doing. Actually, we’re merely giving a wedding gift to the Bride to help her get ready – more proof that we’re only attending.

I apologize if I sound harsh, but there’s a world full of people in desperate need to hear the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” It’s time for the sleeping church to rise to its feet and declare the Gospel of Christ. For too long we’ve believed the watered down message telling us that all believers get rewards, are a part of the Bride, and live in the New Jerusalem.

I want you to receive the full benefits of what Christ paid for you on the cross. That will only happen if God’s people take the Word of God seriously. We need to prepare ourselves the way the Spirit directs us and not through our own desires.

In spite of all this, being an attendant is not a bad thing. The Scripture above says that they’re blessed – supremely happy. They’ve made it, by the grace of the Lord, into His presence. They’re saved, joyful, and have received their resurrected bodies.

But the Scripture is clear that we’re to set our affections on things that are above. If your goals are high, you’ll have a higher walk. If your mind is on the earth, you won’t progress very far in the Kingdom of God.

Make it your goal to be a part of the Bride – to be an overcomer by the power of the Holy Spirit. Enter in to all God has for you.

Question: How focused are you on the God’s calling?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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The American Church – In Our Prison Cell

JailA vast majority of American Christians seem to be ineffective at bringing change to our society. Why is that? Our legacy is that of a people who “turned the world upside-down” with the Gospel of Christ.

As I was meditating on Acts chapter 16, I was struck by a mental picture. Paul and Silas were bringing the Good News of Jesus to the town of Philippi. In the course of their time there, they were arrested.

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Acts 16:23-24

As they were put into their cell, there’s no sign of a struggle. They quietly submitted to their imprisonment. This surprised me.

The next day, they enforced their rights as Roman citizens.

But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
Acts 16:37

Where was this boldness the day before? Maybe they were too exhausted from their beatings. Maybe they were waiting for things to calm down. Whatever the reason, they quietly allowed themselves to be placed in prison, and chained up.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:25

This is the picture I saw in my heart as I thought on this passage. I see the church, the jailer, and the prisoners. The jailer is totally unaware of anything out of the ordinary that’s going on.

The church – Paul and Silas – were in chains and in the dark. Yet they were having church, business as usual. They were praying, singing, and praising God.

All of the other prisoners were listening to them. That’s all. No one was being saved. No one convicted of their sin, or at least no visible evidence of it.

As I thought about it, I realized that this is the condition of much of the church these days. We’re going along as we always do. We have our services on Sundays. We sing, we pray, and we praise God. But where is our effectiveness in the world?

The Lord started speaking to me through this picture of the church. We need to wake up to our condition. Until we see and understand that we’re chained in the darkness, we’ll never break out into the freedom that has already been made available to us.

I want to take the next few posts to share what the Lord spoke to me concerning this issue. I want to explain how we got into this position as well as what’s needed for us to break free.

Remember, that it wasn’t until the chains fell off of the church – Paul and Silas – that the jailer fell on his face and cried out, “What must I do to be saved?”

Question: What do you see as the greatest factor in “locking up” the American church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Revival, The Church

 

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