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The Value-Added Gospel

If you ask the world what the church is all about, you may get some surprising answers. Many times I’ve heard the statement, “They only want your money.” Unfortunately, for so many people to have that attitude, it must be true in some cases.

As God’s people, we have to be very careful not to portray this type of greediness to those around us. We can’t play into the devil’s hand.

Of course, I do understand that the Gospel needs to be financed. I also see the huge amounts of money that pours into the entertainment and professional sports empires. I’ve heard some make the case that all these venues want is your money.

What makes the difference? Why do people spend incredible amounts on sports and entertainment, while at the same time they begrudge giving anything to the church?

The Apostle Paul had an interesting take on this issue.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

I would imagine that Paul had quite a ministry team. When he traveled, it was never by himself. Timothy, Silas, and Titus are just some of the men that traveled with him.

Think of the logistics involved. Going from city to city around the Mediterranean. He needed to constantly be thinking about food, transportation, lodging, and clothing expenses.

Yet, in spite of all that, he never came across as simply looking for their money. The reason is in the fact that he was willing to pour himself into the lives of the people he ministered to. People received something tangible from Paul’s ministry.

When I go away on vacation, I usually find a local place to worship on Sunday morning. I always approach the church, wondering what it would be like if I didn’t know about Christ. How would this church minister to me?

Most of the time, I’ve found wonderful churches that are doing a great work for Christ. But there are times that I walk into the church, and it’s as if I entered a 1970’s time bubble. People, who look like they don’t want to be there, are singing songs that don’t move anyone.

Then a soloist gets up and sounds like they haven’t ever practiced the song. Someone gives a speech that’s totally irrelevant to what anybody is facing right now. But when it’s time for the offering – the appeal is heartfelt – we’re told to give sacrificially.

Now please don’t get mad at me for this stereotype. We have to understand that this is how the world sees us. Remember, the average person is comparing us to the other places they go.

Earlier, I talked about sports and entertainment. Here’s the reason. The athletes that people pay millions to see give their all on the field. The actors we like literally pour themselves into their roles.

How can we give anything less for Christ? When we talk about how much Christ has done for us, and how much He means to us; our lives should show it.

Like Paul said, we don’t just give the Gospel message. We have to put ourselves into it. We have to lose ourselves in our ministry for Christ. Only then will people see the value in the Gospel.

Question: How have you shared yourself with the Gospel to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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What is the Gospel – Really?

In my last post we began looking at the second Word that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. It was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Today we’ll look at an important “first”.

It’s always good to note the first time a word is used in the Scripture. It helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit means when He uses it elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes preachers call it the “law of first use.”

Do you have any idea the first place in the New Testament when the word Gospel is used? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not in the Gospels. That’s because the Gospels weren’t the first books written. The Gospel of Mark was probably the fourth book written; which is close, but not the first to use that word.

Actually, the word Gospel is first used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This was the first of Paul’s epistles. He was writing to a young church he started with only a brief stay in the city of Thessalonica. Here’s what he wrote them in the opening verses of his letter.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

That’s a very interesting comment to make. The first time the word Gospel is used in the Scripture, it means more than just words. It’s a complete presentation of the power of Christ. Paul is very clear in saying that it’s not just words, but also includes power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.

It’s unfortunate that in our day there are those who think the Gospel is simply a cleverly crafted message designed to convince a sinner to get saved. When we believe that, we’re only working with a small part of the Gospel. For it to be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ there must also be a demonstration of power.

If I’m going to demonstrate something, then I need to know what it is. In natural terms, power is the ability of something to produce change. If nothing changes, then there’s no power.

Paul tells us here that when the true Gospel came forth – things changed. It’s not like many of our meetings today where we say, “That was a powerful message.” By we simply meant that we were stirred emotionally or felt goose bumps.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context. This teaching runs throughout the New Testament. The Good News must be demonstrated. That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom, because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.

There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle. As a result, the Good News, in many cases, has merely become an intellectual debate. Sometimes, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

The Gospel has to be a Word from God, not just a convincing argument. When I speak what God is saying, then the Holy Spirit is free to confirm the message. People are convicted by the Word and their lives are forever changed.

We need to get back to being a people who spend time listening to their God. Then, once we’ve heard His voice, we need to step out and speak what He’s saying to us. This is the true essence of the Gospel. This is what will change our society for Christ.

Question: What would church look like where the true Gospel was preached?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Patiently Complaining?

In my last post we saw what James taught about the Second Coming of the Lord. It will require us to be patient. At this point it’s taken about 2000 years for the fulfillment.

But there is still more to learn about patience.

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
James 5:9

James tells us to wait patiently without grumbling. Now, that word grumbling was a colloquial term that meant to sigh, to murmur or to say something inaudibly.

It’s just like when someone gets you mad and you speak under your breath.

“I don’t know about that person … I don’t want to do it his way … who does he think he is.”

Many of us act that way, but the Word says that we shouldn’t get caught up in that type of attitude. We shouldn’t be grumbling and complaining about one another.

Why not? “Because the Judge is at the door.” We enjoy the ability we have of always judging everybody else and then walking away.   We’ve always got something to say about somebody.

I know that in my own life it’s so much easier to give myself the benefit of the doubt. But when someone else does something I don’t like – they have no excuse. It may be human nature to see things in that way, but it’s not Christ-like.

Be careful, because the Lord sees everything, and He’s the One who’ll make the final, righteous judgment on the case.

Jesus, especially in these Last Days, wants us to walk in unity of spirit. And so He wants us to be careful not to be found grumbling and judging each other because we know that the real Judge is at the door. We’ve got to be found doing the work that He’s called us to do and not mistreating one another.

There’s one more aspect of patience that James deals with.

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:10-11

Especially in these last days, we need to be patient in the face of suffering. Please understand, that word suffering literally means suffering evil. It about the patience we need to be salt in our current evil society.

I have to understand that unsaved people are going to do evil. It’s all a part of their human nature passed down through their DNA. It’s not my place to judge them or tell them what they’re doing is wrong.

I must be praying for them. While God is at work, I need to be patient with them. Then, as I live openly for Christ, I expect the Holy Spirit to convict them and open their heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t take any character to gripe and complain about everything that people are doing wrong in our society. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit wait patiently for an opportunity to be a true witness for Christ.

The fact is that people don’t get saved because you tell them how bad and sinful they are. They seek salvation when they see how good and loving the Savior is. The key is that the only place they’re going to see Christ’s goodness is in us.

Question: When have you had to be patient in the face of evil?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Legalism, Return of Christ, The Gospel

 

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Have You Heard the Good News?

SharingFor the last few posts I’ve been talking about the Good News of Jesus Christ.  What exactly is that Good News?  I think you’ll be surprised at how the modern church has turned the message around, making it empty of its power.

If I were to ask people “What is the Gospel?”, I would probably receive many answers.  There are a host of believers who are actively trying to “win the lost.”  They would most likely give me very Biblical answers.

What I want to know are the perceptions of those who hear the Gospel.  From talking with unbelievers who have been “witnessed to” I could boil it down to the following: “You’re an evil sinner going to hell, but if you repeat a special prayer you can go to Heaven.”

If that’s what they got out of an encounter with a Christian, then something’s wrong with our approach.  There is no way to demonstrate a statement like that.  That’s why so many unbelievers are bitter toward those who have tried and failed to convert them.

We need to return to a true understanding of what the Good News is all about.

Here is an example of Jesus’ ministry.

“The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

Jesus made two statements.  The kingdom of God is near was the Good News.  The Lord then told the people how to respond to this Good News.

Repent and believe is not the Good News, it’s the response that’s needed.  We must learn that the power is in the Good News, not in the response to the Good News.  In many cases, we have started calling the response, the Gospel.  You cannot go out preaching “repent and believe” and assume you’re bringing the Gospel to the world.

When it comes to the Good News, one size doesn’t fit all.  There are gang members and single moms, Wall St. executives and the homeless.  Is the Good News the same for all of them?

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the response to the Good News must be the same for all people.  But the message itself will be different depending upon who you’re talking to.  This is how God established it in His Word.

God, Himself, gave us four Gospels.  Matthew was written for the Jews and Mark for the Romans.  Luke was for the Greeks and John contained Good News for the Christian.

It’s a fact that religious people need to hear something different than the unchurched.  The Bible itself describes the Good News in many ways.  It’s called the Gospel of the Kingdom, of God, of Christ, of God’s grace, of your salvation, and the Gospel of peace.

Of course, no matter how the Gospel message is tailored to an audience, Jesus Christ is central.  Furthermore, it all must be demonstrated by the power of the Holy Spirit in order for the world to see the full picture.

Question: How can you bring the Good News to those in you sphere of influence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in The Church, The Gospel

 

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The Gospel is not About Numbers

NumbersWhy do we share the message of Christ?  Is it all about how many people we can get to pray the “sinner’s prayer”?  In my last post I talked about how we are to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As important as servanthood is, there’s still more to understand about the Good News.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18

As God’s people, we must come to the understanding that we are not sent to merely “get people saved”.  Our goal is to announce the Good News.  When someone accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that’s only the beginning of the salvation process.  As a pastor of over 20 years I am still “being saved” by the power of the Gospel.  Remember what Jesus said to His disciples.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Mark 16:15-16

We are to preach or announce the Good News first, then baptize later.  Our main job is to announce the Good News.  I believe this is the point where we’ve lost sight of what the Good News is all about.

It’s what Paul was talking about in the passage from I Corinthians 1:17-18, above.  Our goal shouldn’t be to “get people saved”.  We are commissioned to announce the Gospel.  According to Paul, it’s sometimes not with words.  It’s not even with wise words.  The reason for this is that words can sometimes neutralize the cross.

How can that be?  Paul continues to explain it to us.  He states that the message is foolishness to the unsaved even though it’s the power of God to us.  So many Christians think that the Gospel is merely announcing the message of the cross.  That’s why so few are turning to Christ these days.  We are trying to win them with what they perceive is foolishness.  There is another way – it’s the way Paul and the early church turned the world upside-down for Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1Thessalonians 1:4-5

The early church brought the Good News with not just words.  They brought the Gospel on the scene with the manifestation of the power of God.  This is what our generation desperately needs to see.

Question: What will it take to once again see God’s power manifest in His people?

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Power of God, The Church, The Gospel

 

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How to Serve the Gospel

Fine DiningI’ve been taking a few posts to talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Today I want to talk about an aspect we don’t hear about too often.

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.
Ephesians 3:6-7

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has far-reaching effects.  Paul tells us about the power of this Good News.  As it started to do its work in establishing him, the grace of God began to have an effect.  It called out to him – and he listened.  In the same way, it’s clear that the Good News calls us to that same place of servanthood.

This means that we are to become servants of the Good News and not servants of the law.  This is the servanthood that we are called to.  Sons of God are servants of the Good News.  We must live to serve the Good News.

What do I mean by this?  We must serve the good news just like a waiter serves your food.  Think about it.  In a rat infested dive of a restaurant, they throw your food at you.

In a restaurant where they have “cuisine,” however, they’re not really serving you, but the food.  Why do they have white tablecloths on the tables?  Why the silver utensils, crystal goblets, and fine china?  Do you think that the waiters wear tuxedos for you?  Absolutely not!!  All that finery is because they believe that THE FOOD is worthy.

Now think about church.  It’s not a place of reverence anymore.  Most congregations don’t even dress up these days.  Spiritually speaking, people are coming out to eat less and less at these “restaurants of the Word.”  This causes me to think that maybe the food isn’t as good as it once was.  It just might be that we’re not serving the Gospel like we used to.

As a local pastor, I’m the executive chef of my spiritual restaurant.  That makes me as much to blame as anyone for the quality of the spiritual food at my church.  Then there’s the leadership team – they are the souse-chef and maître de. Our church members are the waiters and waitresses.

Then there’s the fact that at a “high class” restaurant there are no prices on the menus.  If you go there, you expect to pay whatever the meal costs.  As the saying goes, “If you need to ask what the price is, then eat somewhere else.”  Could it be that many American churches today are “spiritual dives?”

The truth is that we need a deeper understanding of the Gospel.  I need to understand my role as a servant.  We need to learn to serve the Gospel as they did in the early church.

Question: What can we do to better serve the Good News of Jesus Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Power of God, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Do I Need the Gospel?

News GlassesWho is the Gospel for?  Is it only the unsaved that need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ?  I think that we’ve short changed ourselves by not continuing in the whole truth of the Gospel.

This is my second post in a series about the true, life-changing Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I want to look at what it is and its effect upon our lives.  In this post I want to explain how the Good News is also for believers.

For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
Hebrews 4:2

According to this passage of Scripture, without faith, the Gospel is of no value or of no benefit to those who hear it.  It starts there – you must believe the Gospel in order to enter into salvation.  What most Christians don’t realize is that the Good News doesn’t end there.  It’s not something that’s only for those in need of the saving power of God.

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him…
Romans 16:25-26

In the first line of this section of the Word the phrase is able is the Greek word dunamispower.  This literally says that He has the power to establish you.  How can the Lord accomplish this?  It’s through the Gospel that we are established.  Not only does the Good News save you, but it gives you a foundation.  It sets you firmly in place by the power of the Lord.

I think one of our fundamental mistakes is to think of the word salvation as a one-time thing.  It is actually an ongoing process.  According to Scripture, I received salvation when I accepted Christ as my Lord.  Now, for the rest of my life, I am being saved by His work in me.  One day, when He returns, I will receive my final salvation – my resurrected body.  The Gospel is a part of God’s continuing work in my life.

Of course, if you read the above verse carefully you’ll find that it’s not just the Good News.  It’s also the proclamation of Jesus the Anointed One and His anointing that brings about this stability in your life.  That’s why we can’t neglect the gathering together of the church.  We need what happens when we meet together for worship if we’re going to progress in that anointing.

This is Good News, But as great as our lives being established is, the Gospel doesn’t stop there.  In my next post I will talk about another aspect of the Gospel we don’t normally consider.

Question: What is a result of failing to see the Gospel as an ongoing work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Faith, The Gospel

 

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