RSS

Tag Archives: growth

Godly Imitation

They say that imitation is a form of flattery.  I’ve found that I learn things best when I can watch someone else do it first.  This is just as true in our Christian walk.

In his exhortations to the Corinthian church, Paul tells them their need to follow after his way of life.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:16

In serving Christ, it’s always beneficial to have a mature, godly example to follow.  In that way, we can see how this walk is lived out.

I praise the Lord for the Scripture.  It’s a blessing that His written Word is so accessible to us as believers.  But there’s so much in the Word that I have a hard time applying.

I need to see an example of how it operates in someone’s life on a continual basis.  I’m talking about someone through whom the love and power of Christ are operating consistently.

Of course, there are those that I look at and by their lives, they teach me what NOT to do.  However, this post isn’t about the negative examples in our lives, but the positive.

Paul saw that over time the Corinthian church had lost sight of the things that he had tried to get across to them.  In their struggle to do things their way, they had missed the clear path of the Gospel that Paul preached to them.  Now they were in need of correction.

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.  He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:17

This verse is very important for us to see and understand.  It should remind us of something that was written in the Gospels.  On different occasions in Jesus’ ministry, a voice was heard from Heaven saying, “This is the Son I love, listen to Him.”

Now we see the Apostle Paul saying the same thing about Timothy.  He adds that Timothy is faithful in the Lord.  That’s an important thing for us to understand.

We know that Christ only did those things that He saw of the Father.  Then, after the Lord’s ascension, the apostles did what they had seen in Jesus.  Now, they’re exhorting the church to follow in they’re footsteps.

Paul knew that Timothy was faithfully living out the Christian walk that Paul had preached to the church.  He was now sending his spiritual son to remind the Corinthians how that walk was to be lived out.

With Paul, he wasn’t just preaching theory on how to follow Christ.  He had experienced the walk of maturity.  He knew what it would take to be faithful to the Lord.

The Corinthian church had heard the message but treated it as a suggestion.  As a result, their church was wallowing in divisions and power struggles.  They weren’t able to fully proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  They needed to get back on track, spiritually speaking.

The only way for the church to course-correct was for each individual believer to submit to Christ’s lordship.  Then, as each person follows God’s plan, the church is back where it should be.

That’s why it’s so important for us to seek out and watch the lives of mature believers.  Even as a pastor, I need to watch the lives of those who are further along in Christ than I am.  In that way, we can see the growth that only comes through godly imitation.

Question: Who do you know that you can follow their example of a mature walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Christ – The Foundation

In my last post, I talked about the way that the Lord rewards us for fulfilling our callings.  They’re based on what Christ has planned for us.  Paul then explains how his ministry relates to the church.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9

Paul understands that as a part of the 5-fold ministry, he can’t complete his calling by himself.  It will require supernatural assistance.  He sees himself as a co-worker with God.

But what’s the work which he and God are busy at?  He talks about two parts of church ministry.  The church is God’s field – that’s the production of fruit for the kingdom.  But the church is also God’s building.  I believe that’s talking about the growth of its structure.

We must have both if we’re going to be the witness the Lord wants us to be.  We must have both spiritual and numerical increase.

However, there’s one thing that Paul is very clear about.  It’s the basis of every function of the church.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11

We’ve turned our lives over to the Lordship of Christ.  We’re in His hands.  He’s our foundation.  Without that groundwork, nothing we build will succeed.  It has to be based upon the work of Christ in us.

But how many Christians are actually building?  And what exactly is it that we’re supposed to build?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

Wow!  That sounds like a daunting task.  But remember, we’re building.  It doesn’t come together in an instant.  It’s worked on over time.

I’ve seen many impressive buildings in some of the cities that I’ve visited.  Some of them took years of planning and construction to complete their structures.  Don’t get upset that you aren’t perfect yet.

The Greek word, add, in the above Scripture means to choreograph over.  I think that’s a pretty interesting way to put it.  How do we build?  By choreographing or lives in deeper and deeper patterns.

It’s like a dancer learning all the moves needed for their recital.  Faith – goodness – knowledge – self-control – perseverance – godliness – brotherly kindness – love.

We have to transform our lifestyle into a more intricate choreography.  This takes the wisdom and the strength of God, especially when it involves many people working together.  That’s why we need the proper foundation.

The work of this building process is beyond our limited capabilities.  We need to yield to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit within us.  That’s how we can begin building by faith.

In my next post, I’ll continue by talking about the final test of this spiritual building process.  If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of the articles.

Question: How far along in the building process are you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Peaceful Church

This will be my final post from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  He leaves them with some parting admonishments.

And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
2 Thessalonians 3:13

This is especially important.  We must not get discouraged from doing the right things.  That’s because living right never ends.

We sometimes get discouraged because we find ourselves doing the same thing day after day.  That’s because it’s hard to see the cumulative effects of our lives.

It’s like watching a tree grow.  We think it looks the same every day.  Then someone visits who has not been there in years.  They exclaim, “Wow! That tree sure has grown tall.”

If we’re willing to continue doing what we know to do, then God will bring the harvest.  But we need to press in despite the weariness.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

On the other hand, there will be those who, over time, start to ignore the exhortations of Scripture.  We can’t allow our association with them to cause their attitudes to rub off on us.

Remember, they’re not our enemies.  They’re brothers and sisters in Christ.  We live an ordered life and hope it challenges them.  And, if we’re in a relationship with them where they will listen to our advice, we can point them back to the truth.

It’s all about restoration.  It’s not us trying to prove that we’re more spiritual or superior in holiness.  We want God’s best for them.  We want them to experience all of the blessings that Christ purchased for them.

That’s the spirit with which Paul closes his letter.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

This should be our overarching attitude.  It’s the desire for peace among believers.  We know that the world will never experience it apart from Christ.  But for the church, that should be the distinguishing mark of the Holy Spirit in us.

Notice that Paul didn’t say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with those who obey this letter.”  On the contrary; his goal is to see God’s grace at work in all who profess Christ.

That should be the attitude of all believers.

Question: How have you encouraged others to live by the Word of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 23, 2018 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Unbelief is Transferable

Are you careful about whom you spend a lot of time with?  Who are your close friends?  Are they enhancing or hindering your spiritual walk?  Jesus makes it clear that those around you affect your ability to receive from God.

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
Mark 8:22-23

This is a very important Scripture, yet many read it without ever seeing the key issues.  The townspeople wanted to see this blind man healed, so they brought him to Jesus.  Look at Jesus’ response.

The Lord took his hand and brought him outside the city before He would minister healing.  Why would He do something like that?  By this simple act, the Lord was testifying against their refusal to trust Him as their Messiah.

How do I know this?  By Jesus’ own testimony.  At one point He denounced some of the cities that He visited.

“Woe to you, Korazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
Matthew 11:21

They were looking for the Lord to heal this man.  What they didn’t want was for Christ to change their lives.  They didn’t want to accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

This attitude even had an effect on the blind man’s ability to receive his healing.  Jesus laid His hands on the man then asked if he could see.

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”
Mark 8:24-26

The first time Jesus touched him, the man only received a partial healing.  It took another touch for him to be completely healed.  Then, once healed, the man was told not to go back into the village.  He didn’t need to be around that kind of unbelief.  It would only hinder his future trust in Christ.

We need to take this to heart.  If that’s how it worked under Jesus’ ministry, then it’s the same today.  Who you spend most of your time with determines who you’re going to become like.  It’s very easy to pick up attitudes, whether good or bad.

Just like with the blind man, you can still receive from the Lord if you pick up the unbelief of others.  It just takes longer for the Holy Spirit to get you to the point where you’re in a position to receive.

If you want to progress spiritually, then spend more time with those who are walking in the truth of the Word.

Question: How have you experienced the attitudes of others affecting you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 2, 2018 in Faith, Fellowship, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Mustard Tree

In looking at the parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, we will continue with the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  This will give us some insights into how the kingdom of God should be growing.

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mark 4:30-32

First, let me say that unless you know the region, this parable can’t be understood properly.  There are a few different species of “mustard” that are common around the world.  The one that can grow into a tree is not the one where we get the yellow goop for our hot dogs.

The seed for the mustard tree is tiny.  This speaks of the small origin of the church.  Jesus Christ was one man.  But He wasn’t just a man.  He was God made flesh.

When He was planted; the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection birthed an eternal kingdom.  But that’s one of the keys.  For this plant to grow, it has to be planted under just the right conditions.  That’s why Jesus had to emphasize over and over that in His ministry, everything had to be fulfilled according to the Father’s plan.

Another thing about this plant – it germinates quickly and grows slowly, but steadily.  God’s kingdom is unstoppable.  Many have tried to put an end to it, without success.  That’s because it’s a kingdom born and nourished in the spirit.  God is at work in the lives of His people.

As I said earlier, this isn’t the mustard we think of in talking about condiments and seasonings.  However, the leaves and fruit of this tree are edible and have a slight, mustardy flavor.  So animals and people can derive nourishment from it.

That brings me to my last point.  The mustard plant is very hardy.  Once it takes root, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.  Because of this fact, the mustard tree is used throughout the Middle East and Africa for land reclamation.

Because it thrives in hot, arid climates; it can turn deserts into habitable places again.  And isn’t that one of the mandates of God’s plan?  We are to bring life to the dead places around us.

Of course, not everybody sees it that way.  Because it’s so hard to remove, people either view the mustard plant as a beneficial tree or a troublesome weed.  Some spend a lot of time and resources to remove it.

That’s how the church is described sometimes.  Paul had this to say about it.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16

As for me, I’m grateful to be found in the kingdom of God.  As I continue; I look forward to His grace, power, and blessing that he desires to manifest through His people.

Question: How have you experienced the unstoppable growth of God’s kingdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Power of God, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Breakthrough to Maturity

I’m continuing my study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  In his teaching about the error of legalism, he now begins to talk about our sonship in Christ.

I’ve found that there’s a certain level of frustration in our growth to maturity.  We’d like to arrive there quickly and easily.  Unfortunately, just like in physical growth, spiritual maturity takes time and consistency.

Paul writes about it in this section.

What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.  He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.  So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
Galatians 4:1-3

This is a truth that many have missed.  Our position in Christ is not enough for us to experience the manifestation of His power.  If you’re a spiritual child, you have the position of righteousness and holiness.  But you’re still in slavery to the principles of the world.

Spiritually, you own everything that Christ has purchased for you on the cross.  But practically speaking, you’re living out your life never experiencing the reality of it because you’re a child.  We have to come to the realization that position only gets you into the presence of God.  When it comes to the power of God, you need the freedom and authority of adulthood.

As spiritual children, we’re still under the supervision – literally the guardianship and training –of the law.  I think you’ll be surprised by this aspect of childhood.

In the Faith Movement, we were taught the importance of trusting the Word of God.  As a result, we learned that the promises of God could be embraced and applied to our lives.  This was when we started to submit to the guardianship of the law of God.

We learned how to follow the requirements of the promises.  For instance – if I tithe, then God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out a financial blessing upon me.

Make no mistake about it, even though this was a fundamental part of our growth process, it was still a part of our childhood.  This is how children are trained to obey.

“If you’ll take out the trash every week, I’ll give you an allowance.”

“If you’ll tithe, I’ll open up the windows of heaven for you.”

Living on the level of “if you do this, then I’ll do that” is the childhood phase of our walk.  We all must go through it, but we’re not meant to stay there.

When I was a child, one of my chores was to put out the trash every week for pickup.  I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could be free of my parents’ rules.

I’m now an adult with a family of my own.  Actually, I’m still putting the trash out every week – but there’s a difference.  I don’t put out the trash because I’ll lose the privilege to use the car.

I put out the trash because THAT’S WHAT ADULTS DO.  I’m not under a law that tells me that I have to do it to receive a blessing.  I do my chores because I’m an adult.

I still give a tithe of my finances to the Lord, but, with an adult mindset.  God blesses my finances because I’m His son.  I tithe because that’s what mature believers do.

Spiritually speaking, I’m in my Father’s family business.  I get my salary from Him.  I know that it would please Him if I reinvest 10% back into His business every week.  Why would I refuse?  He’s never failed to provide for me.

Since I’ve started to look at God’s kingdom from this perspective, I’ve had more peace and freedom than I’ve ever known before.  I’ve seen more answered prayer than I ever have before.  My prayer is that I can apply this to more and more areas of my life.

The Lord is looking for His people to rise up to this level of maturity in Him.  We need a revelation of what sonship is all about.

Question: What’s the next stage in your spiritual growth?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Faith, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,