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Warnings from the Past

Many times I’ve been asked, as a Pastor, why the Old Testament is even important to us.  Many believers don’t ever read it.  They say it’s too bloody and violent.  Grace hadn’t been fully accomplished yet, so there are many instances where we see God’s wrath.  Why read that kind of stuff anyway?

In today’s post, I want to continue talking about the example of ancient Israel.  We must let the Bible take its rightful place in our daily lives.

We’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He used ancient Israel as an example of how not to serve God.  In telling the church about how God dealt with the Jews, he mentioned some of their rebellions as well as the judgments they received.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 Corinthians 10:11

This verse makes it clear that the things that happened under the Old Covenant, especially the negative things, are a warning to us.  The Greek word for warning in this verse means to place in our minds – in other words, the Lord is trying to grab our attention.

This is because we’re quickly approaching a time in history when all things will be fulfilled.  The goal line is before us.  We’re about to witness the final days of this entire age.

Because of that, we’re at a point in time that requires a different kind of walk from God’s people.  We can’t live the way they did in ages past – that will not work for us.

Israel saw and heard incredible things – yet they fell away.  We need to take this to heart.  Even though we’re under grace, the message of the Old Testament is still important to us.

No, we won’t come under judgment as Israel did.  But the fact remains, God still hates the same lazy attitudes that He hated back then.  He still loves the mindset that’s passionate for His will.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12

In this verse, the word, think, means to assume or to have a reputation of.  In other words, don’t believe your own press.  Just because people tell you that you’re standing strong doesn’t necessarily make it true.

We must take inventory of our walk with God and see if it lines up with the truth of God’s Word.  Only then will we be assured of the rewards that Christ has set aside for us.

The Jews thought that they would be rewarded simply on the basis of them being in Abraham’s family.  It didn’t work that way.  The Lord is looking for a combination of faith and faithfulness.  We need to serve God out of a heart of loving gratitude for all that He’s done for us.

Israel didn’t know the great lengths that the Father would go to in order to save us and bring us into His family.  They didn’t know about Christ dying on the cross.  We do.

How much more should we embrace all that God has for us – both the responsibilities and the glories?  The examples of Scripture warn us to be careful.

Even though we’ll not come under the judgment of the world, we may still lose some of our rewards if we live for ourselves.  Salvation is based on grace; rewards are based upon obedience.  Scripture is a warning to us that disobedience will always be dealt with.  If you want all the rewards the Lord has set aside for you, then heed the warnings of Scripture.

Question: How have the warnings of Scripture kept you out of trouble?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Return to Slavery

As we continue to follow Paul’s practical teaching through 1 Corinthians, he’s been talking about carnal Christians.  These are believers who love the Lord but are ruled by their feelings rather than the Word of God.  They’re saved people who act like the world.

In my last post, we saw that these carnal believers have no kingdom inheritance.  They’re missing out on many of the blessings that are ours in Christ.

As a matter of fact, there may have been some self-righteous Christians who got offended by my last post.  They would disagree with me when I say that carnal believers are saved.  My understanding of the grace of God will not allow me to so easily destine these people to hell.

I know that it’s very easy for worldly Christians to use the grace of God like a doormat.  They live like the world and “wipe their feet off” every so often to ease their conscience.  But the Bible does teach that this is a possible response to God’s grace.

However, living this way gets very little of the kingdom blessings.  There will also be no eternal rewards waiting for them.

Paul records their mindsets as we continue in his letter.

“Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12

They say that they’re free to do whatever they want.  That much is true.  But as Paul comments on it, he makes it clear that certain behaviors come with a price.  This worldly lifestyle will bring no kingdom benefits.  And it will also come to the point where these sins are controlling you.

In telling His disciples about the last days, Jesus warned them of falling into this trap.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
Luke 21:34

Here Jesus tells us of three weights that can hinder us from fulfilling our destiny.  They are called dissipation, drunkenness, and anxieties.  We will never reach our true potential in Christ if we try to live with these hindrances.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

We’re warned to throw off the things that hinder.  Probably the worst is dissipation.  We allow the best parts of our life to be dissipated.

The world has so many distractions these days.  Classes we could take, recreational opportunities, athletic events, and entertainment.  All of these things, in and of themselves, add to our enjoyment of life.  They’re good things.

Yes, they’re all permissible things, but they can become the masters of our lives. They dictate our schedules. They tell us what we can and can’t do for God.

We fill up our time with all these good things. Then, more often than not, God gets the leftovers.  Our leftover time, strength, and resources.

If left unchecked, the church can become a prisoner to our permissible things.  If we find ourselves in this condition, then we need to be set free by the power of God.

Question: What will it take to break free from a worldly lifestyle?

© Nick Zaccardi 2019

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2019 in Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Judgment in the Church

Today I have to look at a very tough verse.  Too often church leadership is accused of being judgmental.  As we continue to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we see the truth about this issue.  Hopefully, by the end of this post, we’ll see the wisdom of God’s exhortation.

Please remember that the goal of an encounter with a rebellious believer is their ultimate restoration.  Paul now gives his bottom line when dealing with carnal Christians.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13

There are so many issues that spring from this one verse.  The first being, that Christians have no reason to judge those who are outside of the church.

Non-Christians are NOT going to act in a Christian way.  To tell your unsaved co-worker that it’s “not right to get drunk” is counter-productive.  He doesn’t need to clean up his act.  He needs Jesus.

I’m going to stop there before I start preaching.  The emphasis of this verse is not about evangelism, but the condition of the church.

What we need to see is that it’s a part of the job description of church leadership to judge the lives of believers.  The reason should be clear.  It’s to protect the purity of God’s church.

Having been in leadership for a long time, I’ve seen a lot.  A drummer on the worship team trying to sleep around with different women of the church.  Someone who wanted to work with our youth whose name was on the local sexual offender’s list.  A person who wanted to counsel young married couples who was in the middle of an affair outside his marriage.

In all of these cases, the response of the offender was, “You have no right to judge me.”  Paul’s statement is clear.  I have no right to judge unbelievers, but as leadership, it’s my duty to judge those in the church.  Then, those who are disqualified must be removed from their place of service.

In my opinion, it’s one of the toughest parts of the ministry.  I wish it didn’t need to be done.  But God’s people need to be protected to worship God in peace and safety.

I’ve been talking about this subject for the last four posts.  If you review them, you’ll find that the last statement in this verse seems to go contrary to what I’ve taught.  Expel the wicked man is a very powerful phrase.

The problem is that the words expel and man, are not in the original.  They were used by the translators to make a point.  But is that point an accurate view of what the Holy Spirit is trying to convey to us?

Bible scholars agree that Paul is quoting the Old Testament law here.  This phrase is repeated a few times in the Law of Moses.  How was it translated there?

Under the Old Covenant, the offender was put to death.  Praise God for the Covenant of Grace.  But I want you to look at the bottom line of this verse.

The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.  You must purge the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 17:7

The last sentence is the one that Paul is directly quoting.  It’s not about removing the person, but the sin.  Paul is making the same case in his statement.

Why did the translators give us this quote in two very different ways?  I don’t know.  But under the new covenant, we’re to love the sinner and hate the sin.  There’s a greater chance for restoration if we continue to work with someone.

I believe that 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, is a mandate for the supernatural handling of sin in the church.  It needs to be done in the spirit for the good of all parties involved.

Question: How have you seen the power of the Holy Spirit change someone’s life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Faith + Love = Growth

I recently finished my series on the Gospel of Mark.  I had been systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.

I started with the four foundational books – James, First Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.  It’s interesting to note that the next thing on the Holy Spirit’s agenda was to inspire books that dealt with our personal walk with the Lord.

These books include Second Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, and Luke.  In this post, I want to start on Second Thessalonians.

This letter was written to a church in confusion.  They were a young congregation facing much persecution.  They were looking forward to the return of Christ.

The turmoil started when someone pretended they were Paul and wrote them a letter saying that Christ had already returned.  They were upset that they had missed it.

Paul had to write this epistle to bring them back to order with the truth.  The main theme of this book is how to live for Christ with His return in view.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

Even the way Paul starts the letter shows the apostle’s care for them.  He wants the grace and peace of the Lord to overshadow them.  He wants them to walk in assurance, knowing that they’re secure in Christ.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Even though this is a young church, Paul commends them because their faith is growing.  We know that the only way for faith to increase is by time spent with the Spirit – hearing God’s Word.  This was a church with a rich spiritual prayer life.

But they didn’t just keep it on the inside.  They lived it out.  Individually, each one of them showed a true love for all of the others in their body of believers.

Faith and love are the two non-optional commodities that the Lord looks for in His people.  They are the true measure of spiritual growth in the kingdom of God.  These people showed by their lives that they were growing in maturity.

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:4

Scripture makes it clear that the trying of our faith develops perseverance.  All three are mentioned in this verse.  This church is headed in the right direction.

Now they just need the truth to dispel their confusion about the return of Christ.  In my next post, we’ll start to see how the Apostle Paul deals with this subject.

Question: If faith and love are the measure of maturity, where are you in your spiritual development?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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Short-Circuiting God’s Work

Today, many Christians are trying to win God’s blessings by striving to make themselves more worthy. In New Testament times there were some who thought circumcision and submitting to the Law of Moses would help get you closer to God. Paul wrote about these people in his letter to the Galatians.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Galatians 5:1-2

Wow! Paul uses some powerful words in this passage. Christ will not benefit you at all if you strive to do the work in your ability. Nothing on the outside will avail you in trying to deserve the power of God.

As a matter of fact, it will have just the opposite effect. It will hinder your ability to flow in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul continues.

Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:3-4

We’re always looking for the quick fix. So, in order to get around the time needed to be intimate with God, we’d rather try different Old Testament acts, hoping that they’ll do the trick. People try tithing, food laws, vows, and other Old Covenant traditions thinking that somehow it will make them more worthy.

Unfortunately, by doing this one simple act, Christ, the Anointed One is rendered idle in your life. That’s what the literal Greek in this verse says. Paul states that you have gone off course from grace.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
Galatians 5:5

The only way to walk in the power and righteousness of God is to wait in the Spirit. It’s only by intimacy with the Lord that we’ll gain this precious gift. It’s not going to manifest through your work and ability. It will only come about as God declares you worthy as a mature son.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there’s something wrong with tithing, eating healthy, reading the Bible, confessing the promises or going to church. These are a necessary part of our growth in the Lord. They’re also a normal part of a mature Christian’s life. What I’m saying is that if your sole purpose in doing these things is to make points toward receiving God’s power, then you’re going to be disappointed.

What I desire is to see the church reach its maturity in Christ. Only then will we see the manifestation of the power of God in our services. As long as we have the mentality of spiritual childhood, we’ll never experience it. Having to recite and claim the promises are a part of childhood.

It’s what children do in the natural. It’s the “are we there yet?” attitude. If we decide to go fishing on Saturday and I tell you I’ll be by to pick you up at 5:00 AM, you don’t keep calling me to remind me. I show up at your house at 5 and you’re ready and waiting. That’s what adults do (or should do).

My children don’t have to keep reminding me that it’s my responsibility as a parent to feed them. They know where the refrigerator is and they know they’re free to get something whenever they want.

It’s the same with God. Jesus, as a mature Son, did not have to keep reciting the promises to the Father. He knew that they’d activate when needed. Maturity lives above the promises. If only we could grasp the freedom and power of spiritual maturity. It would propel us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

Question: How does waiting on the Lord in the Spirit bring growth and maturity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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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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Leaders and Followers

I’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.  As one of the first New Testament Scriptures written, it has a lot of foundational principles for us.  One of these has to do with church leadership.

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

The word translated respect in this verse means to know by seeing, watching and observing.  We are to focus upon those who we know are our leaders in the Lord.  In this way, we can observe the direction we’re to be heading.

This verse is important for us to hear.  It tells us some of the jobs that God expects His leaders to perform.

The verse tells us that our leaders are to admonish us.  That literally means that they’re 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.

But how exactly do we focus on 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.

Unity and fellowship are 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 2017

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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