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One Witness Can Change a Community

We are continuing in our study of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is going from place to place sharing the Good News and the power of God.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.  There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
Mark 7:31-32

On the surface, this seems like something that happened wherever Jesus went.  People were always asking Him to heal their sick.  But if you’ve been following this blog, you know that this is a special case.

This is not the first time the Lord has been to the region of the Decapolis.  The first time was recorded in Mark chapter 5, verses 1-20.

It seems that the people of this region do a lot of begging.  They begged Jesus to heal this deaf man.  During their first encounter with Christ, it was a different story.

In chapter 5, the Lord and His disciples met a demon-possessed man in a graveyard.  He was taken over by a legion of demons.  Jesus cast the demons out and they entered a herd of pigs.  Immediately, the pigs ran into the lake and drowned themselves.

When the people of the area saw what happened, they begged Jesus to leave.  As He was going, the delivered man begged Jesus to take him with the disciples.  Instead, the Lord told the man to stay and tell what had happened to him.

Now, some time has passed.  On the basis of one man’s testimony, the spiritual climate of the area had changed.  Instead of asking Jesus to leave, they wanted Him to minister there.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears.  Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”).  At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Mark 7:33-35

The Lord graciously brought healing to this man.  It doesn’t talk about it in the passage, but I’m sure that the Good News of the Messiah was proclaimed throughout that whole region.

Then, as He’s leaving, the Lord gives different instructions.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement.  “He has done everything well,” they said.  “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:36-37

What a turnaround.  Instead of hostility to Christ, they are now amazed at who He is.  Now they all have the testimony that the Lord does all things well.

This all happened because one man did what the Lord called him to do.  He gave testimony to God’s work in his life.

Never get discouraged about the darkness around you.  Remember that one person’s testimony for Christ can change everything.

Heed the words that the Lord originally told this man in chapter 5.  “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Question: How has Christ shown His love to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Healing, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Attitudes of Pharisees

In my last post, we saw that Jesus proved, in a very powerful way, that He could remove sin in all of its forms.  As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, this ministry of Christ becomes clearer.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.  A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Mark 2:13-14

In this passage, we see the Lord calling a new disciple – Levi.  I believe that this was his given name.  Later on, he’s called Matthew.  That’s probably the name Jesus gave to him.  It means the gift of God.

Remember, Jesus did this with a few of His disciples.  The Lord called Simon, Peter.  James and John became the sons of thunder.

But there’s an interesting point to this.  Both the name Levi and Matthew were strongly Levitical names.  That probably means that Levi was from the tribe of Levi.  He should have been training for the priesthood.  Instead, he was collecting taxes for the Roman conquerors.

Jesus had been teaching in the area.  Undoubtedly, Levi listened to Him and it spoke to his heart.  There’s no other reason why he would leave his lucrative position immediately when the Lord called.

Levi threw a dinner party to introduce Jesus to his friends and co-workers.  The Pharisees who were watching weren’t too happy about it.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mark 2:15-16

You have to understand the thinking of that day.  Levi was seen as a Jew, taking money from his own people, and giving it to Caesar.  They viewed him much the same way as we would view a drug dealer today.

Not only that, but he has the same type of friends that a drug dealer would have.  Prostitutes, loan sharks, and the like.  All the people that the upstanding Pharisees would look down on as the dregs of their society.

Why would Jesus, a prophet who obviously operated in the power of God, ever associate with such rabble?

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

Jesus has just proven Himself to be a remover of sin.  If your ministry is to remove sin, then your place is in the middle of great sin.  Jesus knew that He was sent to save these people.  The Pharisees may have written them off, but Jesus saw them as loved by God.

I always find it offensive when I hear a Christian remark that someone deserves hell.

“When they die, they’re gonna get what they have coming.”

That must break the Lord’s heart.  He died for everyone.  Not just the people we like.

We need to watch our attitudes about those without Christ.  The fact is that we all deserve hell – but I don’t want anyone to go there.

Even the most perverted, murderous, evil person on earth should be given the chance to hear about the life-changing work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We should be representing Christ and His attitudes in our generation.

Question: Why is it so easy to pick up the same attitudes as the Pharisees?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Don’t Tell Anyone?

In my last post, I talked about how Jesus would go off to pray in solitary places.  Then He would hear from the Holy Spirit as to what his assignment was for the near future.

We also saw that as a result of this time in prayer, a leper was miraculously healed from his condition.  The Lord gave him some interesting instructions when the leper was healed.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.  But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Mark 1:43-44

This aspect of Christ’s ministry always fascinates me.  Why didn’t He want those who were healed to go out and spread the news to everyone they met?  I think that there are some important truths that we need to understand about this.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable around believers who think it’s their mission to evangelize everyone who comes within earshot of them.  They try and force others to do the same.  They teach that all Christians should tell everyone they meet about Jesus.

You would think that the Lord would want everyone to know that this man was healed.  After all, leprosy was one of those diseases that Israel believed you only got if you lived a particularly sinful life.

To be healed of leprosy meant that you had repented and were forgiven of the sins that had caused it.  At least that’s what the normal Israelite of that day believed.  This would prove that the Messiah was sent to forgive sin.

You would think that everyone should hear this news.  Wouldn’t that bring the crowds to Jesus?  Isn’t that what’s needed to grow a ministry?  Apparently not according to how Christ thought about it.

The fact is, that we all have a certain group of people that we are called to reach.  Those who will listen to your testimony won’t necessarily listen to mine.  We all have a different field to work in.

This man originally had to go to the priests for his diagnosis.  The priests were the ones who pronounced him a leper in the first place.  They recorded his name and condition for future reference.

Now, when he shows up at the Temple a healed man, he’d have to explain the healing to them.  In the priests’ minds, to be healed of leprosy was to be forgiven of sin.  They, of all people, would understand the importance of this man’s testimony.

This is how people should be won to the Lord.  Each of us must go to those we’re called to reach.  That’s the best way to grow the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was the same for the Lord.

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1:45

For obvious reasons, the former leper didn’t follow Jesus’ instructions to the letter.  On his way to the priests, he told everyone about his healing.

Jesus didn’t need a huge advertising budget.  He didn’t need social media or a cable TV program.  He did what He was called to do and the ministry increased.

We need to learn this lesson.  I can’t do what you’re called to do.  Neither can I strong arm you into ministering the way that I do.  We’re called to be ourselves and live for Christ in our own circles.

Question: Who do you find it easiest to share the Gospel with?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Gospel and Convenience

We live in an age of convenience.  A few taps on my smart-phone and a pizza shows up at my door with the exact toppings I wanted.  A few more taps and my order is waiting, ready and paid for, at the local coffee shop.

The question is; how does this translate over into my spiritual life?  There are many in our generation who are looking for a convenient faith.  They show up for church Sunday morning, fast food breakfast in hand.  They stay for the hour and a half service – in and out – the rest of the day to themselves.

The problem is that a life like that is devoid of power.  I can’t reconcile convenience with the life of Christ.

We say that we want to live and minister as Jesus did.  Do we really?  Do we actually want our life to look like His?

As we continue to look at Mark’s Gospel, we’ll see what it should be like.  A day in the life of the Lord.  It’s a Sabbath day.  He had just preached at the local synagogue.  In the middle of His ministry, a demon-possessed man disrupted the meeting.  (We looked at that in my last post)

After His ministry there, I’m sure He was tired.  At least I am after I preach.  Most people look forward to a nice restful day after the morning service.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Mark 1:29-31

When they back to the house, there was no dinner waiting.  Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and in bed.  The Lord’s ministry wasn’t over for the day.  He graciously prayed with her and her healing manifested.

After she got up, she served them.  No problem.  Dinner was only delayed a little.  We could handle that.  But it’s what happened next that we need to take to heart.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.  The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.  He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Mark 1:32-34

As soon as the sun started to set, people began to gather.  Please realize that this wasn’t a planned meeting.  What the Lord was actually looking forward to was a restful night at home with His disciples.

The next thing they knew, the entire town had shown up at their doorstep.  They weren’t there simply to get a look at the new prophet that had come to town.  They were there to be ministered to.

What was Jesus’ response?  Did He tell them to go home and He’d plan another meeting for tomorrow after a good night’s rest?  Absolutely not!  He flowed with the leading of the Holy Spirit and shared the power of God with those waiting.

My question for this generation is; do we want the inconvenience of a truly Spirit-led walk?  Are we prepared to give up some of our precious “me time”?  Are we willing to minister to the hurting people around us, no matter when we’re called into action?

This is what we’re destined for – a ministry like Jesus.  But in order to walk in it, we need to change some of our attitudes toward our time.  We have to realize that our schedules don’t belong to us; they belong to God the Father.  We must be willing to let Him set the agenda and the course of our lives.

Question: How do “spiritual interruptions” affect your attitudes?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gospel of Power

As we continue our look at the Gospel of Mark, I want to pick up on the theme that Jesus traveled throughout Israel proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News, of the kingdom of God.  The first place we’re specifically told about is a village called Capernaum.

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.  “Come out of him!”  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this?  A new teaching — and with authority!  He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Mark 1:21-28

The first thing I see is the amazement of the people.  There was something about how Jesus taught that was different from everyone else.

The other teachers they listened to were mostly scribes, who had no teaching authority of their own.  They would refer back to the writings of famous Rabbis of the past.  They would give long quotes adding no insight of their own.

That’s a far cry from hearing a teaching from the living Word of God.  The Lord didn’t need to fall back on what somebody else said.  He knew exactly what the desired result was when He inspired the Scripture.

Consequently, when they listened to Christ, their hearts were changed.  They understood that they were hearing from the mind of God Himself.

There was, however, an even greater demonstration of the authority in His words.  A man who was under demonic possession was delivered simply by the words that Jesus spoke.  No hype, no theatrics, just, “Be quiet and come out of him!”

It was visibly confirmed that the Gospel that Jesus preached was the true Word of God.  Please don’t get the idea that this was just something for the Lord to do.  This is what the Holy Spirit wants for all who preach and teach.  Listen to how Paul describes it.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 15:18-19

I don’t believe that the Gospel – the Good News of Christ – can be fully proclaimed without the confirmation of signs, miracles, and healings.  This is how the early church grew.  It’s what the world around us needs to see.

But that requires us to spend time with the Holy Spirit; hearing His voice.  Then, we may walk in the authority that only comes from being in the presence of God.  This is where the Father is leading us in this generation.

Question: Why does a demonstration of power increase the effectiveness of the Gospel?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Jesus and the Gospel

As we continue our look at the Gospel of Mark, we’ll now see how the ministry of Jesus relates to the Gospel message.  You probably already know that the word, Gospel, literally means the Good News.

But 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’d probably receive many answers.  There’s 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’s 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.  That’s why Jesus, Himself, is a great example.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:14-15

Jesus made two statements.  The kingdom of God is near was the Good News.  God was showing up on the scene to change their lives for the better.  Freedom, healing, and deliverance were about to be demonstrated to the people of Israel.

The Lord then told those listening to Him 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’ve started calling the response, the Gospel.  You can’t 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 on 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 your sphere of influence?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2017 in Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Gospel Beginnings

Over the last year or so, I’ve been systematically teaching through the New Testament in the order that it was revealed to the church.  Today, I’m starting the fourth of what I call the foundational books.  They are James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.

I believe they are the foundation on which the rest of the New Testament is written.  The Gospel of Mark is the foundation for all that we know about the life of Christ – the Messiah.

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 1:1

I think that it’s clear the way the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to open this Gospel account.  This is the beginning; literally the commencement, of the gospel of Christ.  This is where our knowledge of how Jesus lived gets its formation.

But who is this man, Mark, which paints this picture of Christ?  We don’t know much about him.  Most of what we believe comes from various church traditions.

I think that the best explanation is that he is John-Mark, from the book of Acts.  He was a relative of Barnabas and traveled with him for a while on a missionary journey with Paul.  He was young then and wasn’t prepared for this type of ministry.  He soon abandoned Paul and Barnabas.

Many believe that when he left the traveling life, he settled down as one of Peter’s helpers.  The Apostle mentions Mark in the greeting of his epistle.

She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
1 Peter 5:13-14

Since he traveled with Peter for so long, it’s believed that most of Mark’s gospel comes from the preaching of Peter.  He gives very brief stories and an immediate application of truth.  It sounds very much like how a “street preacher” would talk to a crowd.

That Mark grew and matured under Peter’s mentorship is without question.  He left the missionary life when he was younger, and actually caused a split between Paul and Barnabas.  However, later on, even Paul saw the change that had taken place in his life.

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
2 Timothy 4:11

As we read through this Gospel, my desire is that you get a clear foundation of who Christ is and how He lived.  God in the flesh.  Yet he humbled Himself to function as a man led by the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus Christ as the conquering Savior.  We also see Him as a humble Servant of God the Father.  It’s a contrast that we should be striving for in our ministries.

This is the beginning of the Gospel.  It’s the first glimpse that the Holy Spirit gives us into the life and ministry of Jesus.  Let it speak to you in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, I encourage you to do so.  In that way, you won’t miss any of the teachings in this series.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit brought you to where you are today?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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