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Tag Archives: grace

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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Judgment and Mercy

In my last post I talked about the judgment of God that we all need to be prepared for. James completed his thought by talking about mercy.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13

But what is this mercy? I believe that our generation has no concept of what this word means.

When we use the word mercy it’s usually when we’ve done something wrong. We want to be shown leniency, so we say, “Please have mercy on me.” This is not the Biblical concept of mercy.

It’s interesting to note that two times were recorded in the Gospels where Jesus made the same statement to the Pharisees. In both cases they were condemning Him for what He was doing. He did things like eating with “sinners.” The Pharisees were thinking, “How can the power of God work in you if you do that?”

Jesus had a stern rebuke for them.

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
Matthew 12:7

This statement was directed at the Pharisees, But I have to admit that when I began studying about mercy I had no idea what He meant by it. I had always quoted the verse “to obey is better than sacrifice.” This view of the mercy of God was new to me.

If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture. Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters. For a detailed teaching on the mercy of God, click here.

This is why James talks about the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment. God would much rather reward your faithfulness than discipline you. It’s the same with sacrifice in the above verse. The Lord would rather reward your obedience than forgive your sin – even though His forgiveness is unlimited.

This knowledge of the mercy of God should color all we do in our relationships with other believers. If God wants to show us His favor, then we should have that same attitude toward fellow Christians.

James is clear on how we’re to do this. First of all, we’re to speak to each other in the understanding that the one we’re speaking to is under God’s favor. Why would I treat someone badly, that God loves and favors?

To do that would be to invite God’s discipline. It’s like that in any family. When someone is mean to their sibling, they’ll definitely get a time-out.

The second part has to do with our actions. Sometimes they speak more loudly than our words. How do we treat each other?

When we refuse to participate with fellow believers, it’s a sign that we don’t favor someone that God loves and wants to work with.

An understanding of God’s mercy is what should drive us forward. We need to let it work in us to live and act as Jesus did. Then we’ll see the results of God’s work in us and in those around us.

Question: How have you seen God’s mercy operate in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Last Days – Don’t Do These Things

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m taking a few posts to look at what our attitude should be like in the last days. Specifically, we’re dealing with the principles given to us by Jesus in Luke chapter 21.

First, I want to talk about three things that the Lord told us NOT to do.

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”
Luke 21:8

His first command to us is, don’t follow them. We are to ignore those who claim, “I am he.” We should already know that one. Jesus said that at His coming every eye would see Him. It will not be a private return. In spite of this warning, many have come claiming to be another incarnation of Christ.

The second statement that the Lord made was a little more subtle. He said not to follow those who come in His name claiming, “The time is near.”

Please understand, I believe that the coming of the Lord is near. The difference is that this is only a small part of my message. Christ is talking about those whose whole focus is on the soon coming of the Lord and the signs surrounding it.

Remember what I told you in my last post. In Scripture, the Second Coming is never the main focus – it’s always the reason for living correctly. You have to be very careful when you see a whole ministry based upon “the time is near.”

“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”
Luke 21:9

The next thing Jesus tells us is don’t be frightened. You’re going to hear various bad reports. The world may be full of problems, but one thing remains true through the ages; Christ is still on the throne.

No matter what’s happening around us, Christians should never fear the future. The Holy Spirit is always with us. He leads and guides us. More than that, we know that He gives us the grace to stand strong in spite of the current situations.

Many people are predicting catastrophe for the United States. We don’t know what the future holds for our country. But I know the answer – Jesus Christ is Lord.

“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.”
Luke 21:12-14

The Lord’s final general statement is; do not worry…how you will defend yourselves.

“What if it becomes illegal to be a Christian?”

It’s happened before and God brought His people through victoriously. In the Book of Acts Paul was headed to Jerusalem. Churches were telling him not to go because of prophecies that spoke of his arrest. He said he was not only willing to be arrested, but to die for Christ.

The key is that if you’re called to go through persecution or martyrdom, then you’ll receive the grace to stand firm. So – don’t worry about it now – the Lord will give you what you need when you need it.

Question: What is the result of following these commands the Lord gave us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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The Word of God and His Rest

SwordThis is the last post in the series about entering God’s rest. In my previous article, we saw that the writer of Hebrew’s final statement was about the Word of God.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

This section of Scripture has been talking about the Word of God throughout chapters three and four.

Based upon these Scriptures, there are three facts that we can conclude.

First, God has spoken to us a Word concerning our entering His rest. Next, we have heard that Word. Finally, we MUST, therefore enter His rest. The reason that we must enter His rest is because the Word of the Lord is living, active, sharp, penetrating, and judging.

The Word of God is both living and active. It doesn’t just lay dormant waiting for you to do something with it. It is, right now, in the process of working in you.

The literal Greek reads that it’s sharp enough to cut through with a single stroke. The Word doesn’t need to keep chopping and hacking. One cut is all it takes and it can pierce through all the layers of your life – body, soul, and spirit.

No matter how you receive it, God’s Word can change everything. If you receive it with your spirit, the Word can cut right through to your flesh. If you hear it with your ears, it can make its way to your spirit. Nothing is beyond its reach.

Another word that’s used about the Word of God in this passage is judging. This means that it’s decisive. It decides the deliberations of your heart. It looks at your moral understanding, intents, and thoughtfulness.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:13

The Greek word used for that thought means an exposed neck for the killing stroke. There’s absolutely no defense against this weapon. This is especially true when wielded by the One to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 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 4:14-15

The Lord God has called us to enter His rest by His powerful Word. And it’s that same Word that will judge our response to it. Thank God that we have a Great High Priest who has traversed the heavens. He has bridged the gap between us and God’s resting place. We can now hold fast to our profession of faith. This means that we can speak the same way that He speaks.

What will our response be? We’ve been called to enter the powerful place of the Lord’s rest. We’re now responsible for that knowledge. How will we answer? Will we make every effort to enter in? Or will we ignore it like the children of Israel? Remember, we have the Great High Priest to help us. He’s standing with you right now. Here’s the bottom line.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

We must make the decision to enter the place of rest with confidence. That’s what the throne of grace is all about. The word confidence means outspoken, with publicity. It should be common knowledge to all that you’re resting in Christ and are relying upon His power.

The throne of grace is where we have that perfect rest in God. It’s the intimate place of mercy which we talked about in chapter 4. It’s in that place that you find all the grace needed for life and godliness. The passage literally says that this grace will hold you tightly and right on time.

Remember, the key to resting in God is the knowledge that we don’t work to bring about an outcome. We rest in faith knowing that God has already accomplished it. I have the assurance that God will provide all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

I don’t work to provide for myself and my family. I merely need to respond correctly to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. The world has no concept of this rest.

Unfortunately, a lot of the church doesn’t either. My greatest need is to learn how to respond to God. It requires me to put forth the faith to lay hold of this. It should our greatest joy to know that we’re fellow participants in Christ. We can experience the manifestation of His rest and His power. Make every effort to enter into His rest today!

Question: What do you need to do to enter this resting place?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The New Testament Sabbath

churchesI’m posting about how to rest in the Lord and in His finished work. We can see the negative example of Israel from Scripture.

It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
Hebrews 4:6

These are sobering words. I notice that he writes that some, and not all will enter this rest. The verse says that those who didn’t, missed out because of disobedience. The actual Greek word there is apeitheia. This is where we get the English word apathy from.

This means that they did not enter in because of obstinate and rebellious disbelief. It’s made sadder by the fact that these very people had the Good News preached to them. This means that we have to be all the more careful to not miss this rest.

Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Hebrews 4:7

I believe that this is the key to the whole issue. If you hear His voice, don’t become hard hearted. Here we are 2000 years later and He’s still calling to His people. “Enter My rest.” If you hear this call, don’t get stubborn about it.

That’s why I think that it’s foolish to argue about what day of the week is the “day of rest.” The Scripture clearly calls it today – whatever day today is.

The Word of God plainly tells us that a cease from work is not the same as resting in God. For that matter, attending church is not the same as resting in God. I can’t say it any clearer than to tell you point blank that Israel observed the Sabbath but still DID NOT ENTER GOD’S REST.

In the Old Testament the Sabbath looks forward to what Jesus was going to accomplish for us. Any concept or truth from the Old Covenant must pass through the filter of the cross. Only then can you understand the true implications for the New Covenant believer.

The Sabbath is now applied to everyday under grace. The simple fact is that if you believe that Sunday (or Saturday) is the only day when you can have a church service, and that all believers need to worship together, you have a problem. If those two statements are true, then it’s not God’s will for firefighters, police, EMT’s, nurses, or others who have to work those days, to be saved.

We argue and fight about the most foolish things in the body of Christ. Israel obeyed the law of the Sabbath. Yet the Scripture clearly says that Israel never entered into God’s rest. Yet, we hold them up as the example for keeping the Sabbath.

The important thing we need to ask ourselves is not what day of the week we worship God, but are we entering into His rest? Will you enter into God’s rest TODAY?

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
Hebrews 4:8

The problem Israel faced is that Joshua only brought about a military victory. He was not able to bring the nation into true rest. That’s why God is so serious about our entering in.

More than anyone else, Christians should be entering the rest that God has provided for them. Not just on weekends, but 24/7. Anything less and you’re missing a big part of the blessing that was given us at the cross.

Question: How often are you intentional about entering God’s rest?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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