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Quick Repentance

I’ve been posting about the events surrounding the arrest of Jesus.  The focus now turns to Peter, who has been watching from a safe distance.  You may want to read Mark 14:66-72 before continuing in this article.

We find Peter in the courtyard, watching the Jews question the Lord.  Then, one of the servant girls notices him.

When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.  “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
But he denied it.  “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
Mark 14:67-68

What a response!  This is the same man who vehemently said that he would die before denying Christ.  Why would he do this?

I believe that Peter is no different than any of us.  As he sat there watching the proceedings, he began to go over all of the possible outcomes in his mind.  He saw that it was the Pharisees’ intention to put the Lord to death.

His whole focus now became; how to save himself.  That was what his mind was dwelling on.  What makes me say this?

If you look at Peter’s answer to the girl, you see what I’m talking about.  What he gave as a response was actually a legal phrase.  It was what a witness would say in a trial if they hadn’t seen what they were being asked about.  He gave a well-thought-out answer.

Later on, the servant girl asked Peter a second and a third time if he was one of the disciples of Jesus.

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Mark 14:71

Peter actually goes to the point of calling down a curse upon himself if he were lying.  Notice that he never mentions Jesus by name, but calls Him “this man”.  He had definitely been rehearsing what he was going to say.

Then, suddenly, the truth of what he had done hits him.

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”  And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72

I don’t know why this happens.  When it comes to sin, we don’t realize the weight of it until after we’ve fallen.  Then we feel upset and guilty about it.  That’s the time to take care of it.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Don’t wallow in guilt and regret.  As soon as you realize your sin, repent and be free of it.  God doesn’t need time to “cool off”.  The Holy Spirit is with you to bring forgiveness and restoration.  The quicker you repent, the quicker you can get back on your spiritual feet again.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about quick repentance?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Power of Guilt

In my last post, I talked about how Jesus sent His disciples to prepare the towns ahead of Him for His arrival.  As they went, they begin doing the same miracles as Jesus.  Word starts to circulate about the power of Christ and His team.

Finally, word reaches Herod, the ruler of the region.  Mark now begins to explain the relationship between Herod and John the Baptist.  You may want to read Mark 6:12-29 before you continue.

King Herod is an interesting person in Scripture.  He was actually only Jewish by religion, not birth.  He used this religious affiliation as a means to wealth, and political power.

When he heard about the ministry of John the Baptist, he was attracted to the message.  But like so many people, he only wanted to hear God’s Word until it meant that he needed to change.

At one point, Herod took his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own.  She also happened to be his niece.  As a preacher of righteousness, John the Baptist had something to say about that.

For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Mark 6:18

Herod found himself in a tight position.  He felt the conviction and power of John’s words.  On the other hand, he didn’t want to stop what he was doing.  Not knowing what to do, he had John arrested and put into prison.

But there’s more to the story…

So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.  But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.  When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Mark 6:19-20

There was a conflict raging on the inside of him.  It was the tension between the knowledge of truth and a refusal to walk in repentance.

It’s sad to say, but many believers find themselves in this position.  They hear a message about God’s call to a holy life, but they want to hold on to their present lifestyle.  They try to quiet the inner voice of the Spirit by convincing themselves that they don’t have to accept the “message of condemnation.”

Please understand; a call to repentance is NOT condemnation.  Being condemned means that you’re given no chance to repent.

Eventually, through trickery and deceit, Herodias’ grudge turned into full-blown murder.  She had John the Baptist beheaded.  You may think that this was the end of it.  It wasn’t because guilt seems to have a life of its own.

It continued to eat away at Herod’s thoughts.  That’s why, when he heard about the works of Jesus and the disciples, all he could think about was John.

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known.  Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”  Others said, “He is Elijah.”  And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
Mark 6:14-16

So strong was the guilt he felt, that he actually believed that John had been raised from the dead.  It was consuming him.

Don’t allow guilt to work death in your life.  If repentance is needed, then handle it quickly.  Allow the life of Christ to bring renewal and restoration.

Question: What are some positive results of repentance that you’ve experienced?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Restoration

Toward the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, he begins to talk about some important issues for dealing with people.  The first is working with people who aren’t perfect.  I think we forget, sometimes, that none of us walks in the clouds.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Paul talks about someone who’s had a side-slip.  Whether intentional or not, we sometimes see our past sinful life try to make an appearance.  That’s why God has us doing life together.

The Lord’s desire is always for restoration.  It’s not about guilt or condemnation.  When we experience a failure, there’s usually enough self-condemnation, so that we don’t need to add any more from the outside.

I believe that’s why the Holy Spirit wants restoration to be accomplished only by those who are spiritual.  Notice that He didn’t say that those versed in psychology, or those who’ve never sinned, should work with them.

The qualification is for those who are spiritual.  They spend time listening to the Holy Spirit.  It’s evident from their lives that they consistently produce the Fruit of the Spirit.  They’re the ones uniquely qualified to bring restoration.

But even spiritual people aren’t above being tempted.  Tempted to do what?  Paul goes on to talk about this temptation.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Galatians 6:2-5

In dealing with the weaknesses of others, there’s always a temptation to compare.  We end up comparing our strength with their weakness.  But that gives us an inflated view of ourselves.

It also makes it easier for us to begin judging others.  We start to criticize and condemn, instead of bringing the restoration of the Holy Spirit.

I think that an important part of this is understanding the difference between a burden and a load.  These are two very different words in the Greek.

The word burden simply means a weight – something heavy.  There are times where, because of what we’re going through, our life seems a little too tough to handle.  Spiritual people are a help during these times.  The law of Christ is their internal prompting by the Holy Spirit to bring encouragement during these times.

The word, load, on the other hand, speaks of an invoice or work-order.  That’s our God-given assignment.  No one can do that for us.  Mine is different than yours.  I can’t compare what I’ve been called to do with your calling.

There are people only you can reach and assignments only you can do the way the Lord wants them done.  So it’s not my job to take over because I think you’re inadequate.  If I truly am spiritual, then I’ll encourage and strengthen you so that you’re able to fulfill your unique destiny.

Comparison and condemnation have no place in the body of believers.  We’re here to fulfill the plan of Christ, not to please each other.

Spend time in the presence of the Lord and then be a blessing to those around you.

Question: What is a time that the Holy Spirit prompted you to be a help to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Encountering Jesus

cross 2What would you do if you met Jesus in the flesh? How would you react, and what would you say to Him? I want to talk about a Scripture that speaks about an encounter with the Lord.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
John 4:4-7

This translation puts Jesus’ words into the form of a question, but it was actually a statement – “give me a drink.” The woman had an interesting response.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
John 4:9

The first question I have is; how did she know he was a Jew? I believe that there was an inner witness. She feels the guilt – I’m not worthy to give you a drink.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
John 4:10

What’s Jesus talking about? What does He mean by the term living water? I believe that He’s referring back to an Old Testament passage.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

In this encounter with the woman at the well, we see the first record of Jesus talking about living water. It’s important that we understand what the Lord’s getting at.

According to Jeremiah, Israel had left God, the spring of living water. Therefore, If Jesus can give living water, then He’s God.

This is the foundation of our walk in the Spirit as believers. I’ve said it before, that the unsaved cannot fully understand the book of John. This Gospel was written so that the church would have a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and how He operated.

I believe that this is one of the reasons why the church has so little power in our generation. So often we simply use the Gospel of John to get sinners saved. Then, we don’t read it with understanding that it’s to teach us how to live like Jesus.

I want to take a couple of posts to look at this encounter from our perspective. I want us to see what John is trying to convey to us as believers. In my next post I’ll look at this concept of living water.

Question: Were there times when someone sensed that there was something different about you because you’re a believer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Truth About Forgiveness

presentsI’ve been posting about forgiveness and how God has provided it in the work of Christ on the cross. In my last article I said that it’s not always evident in society around us. That’s because of the last truth concerning forgiveness.

”All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 10:43

The Apostle Peter spoke these words as he testified to a Roman Centurion and his family. The simple truth is that God gives forgiveness. So it should be obvious that forgiveness is something that’s given.

But there’s one more step in the process. Just because God forgives, doesn’t mean that you’ve been forgiven. WHAT!? What could I possibly mean by a statement like that?

The next truth that’s just as important is that in order to be effective – to manifest itself – forgiveness must be both given and received. It’s a gift. It’s not something that just gets spread out. (Although there are some cults that teach this.)

God has forgiven everybody. But not everybody has received that forgiveness.

The Lord is a gentleman. If you are dead-set on being His enemy, then He will allow you to walk in that decision. Christ will never force anyone to accept His offer of forgiveness and freedom. But He constantly holds out the invitation of a clean life.

You may remember the past. But thanks to the grace and mercy of God, the guilt and the penalties are wiped clean. Your future is now filled with hope. We are no longer bound by the fear of impending judgment.

That’s God’s idea of forgiveness. But truly, the best part of the work of God’s forgiveness in us is that under the New Covenant, we get to forgive others. That’s something no one but God could do in the Old Testament. But I’ll save that for some future posts.

Right now we’re called to walk in the forgiveness of God. If there are areas of your life that you keep looking back on with shame and guilt, then now is the time to receive the freedom from the penalty. It’s what God provided through the blood of Christ. Don’t let the enemy steal your joy.

If you’ve never received God’s forgiveness for your past, you can do that right now. Take the time to pray to the Lord. Ask Christ to forgive all your sin. Thank Him for His gift of forgiveness. Tell Jesus Christ that you want Him to be the Lord of your life and that you desire to follow after Him forever. Then thank Him for the Holy Spirit that He places on the inside of you. Pray this prayer in the name of Jesus.

That’s all it takes. The work of your restoration has already been accomplished on the cross. Now walk in the freedom that God has provided for you. If it was your first time praying this, then find a church near you where the Bible is preached, so that you can grow in your faith.

Question: What was your experience in receiving God’s forgiveness?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Forgiveness and Restoration

JailIn my last post I started writing about what forgiveness is all about. We saw that it was God’s idea that culminated in Christ on the cross. Now the penalty of our sin is no longer demanded.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14

We were dead – the penalty of our sin was looming over us. But now, because of grace, if we’re in Christ and there’s no more penalty. I can look to becoming clean without worrying about the mistakes.

As good as this is, forgiveness is much deeper than that.

The second definition that I found in Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary reads, “To grant freedom from the penalty.”

That means that forgiveness cancels the penalty. But wait a minute. Isn’t ceasing to demand the penalty and freedom from the penalty the same thing?

NO!!! The first stops the demand. Freedom is needed when you’re reaping the penalty. Forgiveness stops the penalty in its tracks.

The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.
1 Timothy 5:24

The problem is that not all sin has the same effect on our lives. Sometimes you reap the penalty here. Other sins will not bring a penalty until the judgment seat.

For example, the penalties associated with alcoholism can destroy your life right here and right now. The way is open for anyone to come to Christ as an alcoholic. But if all we had was the first definition – they would be on their way to Heaven, but their life would remain in shambles.

Our God is bigger than that. Because He grants freedom from the penalty, their life can be restored by the power of God.

We need to lay hold of this. Many times we find ourselves walking in penalties that we think we deserve. The forgiveness of the Lord stops the penalty. We don’t have to walk in guilt anymore. The blood of Christ removes the guilt.

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

The writer makes a statement here that our hearts are sprinkled. Sprinkled with what? The blood of Christ that forgives us of our sin.

So the reality is that we’ve been forgiven by Christ on the cross. Now, in Christ, there’s no more penalty. We can have a clean conscience.

Unfortunately, as we look at the world around us, it seems that this forgiveness has very little effect in our society. That’s because there’s one more truth associated with forgiveness. It’s the part that makes all of the difference.

I’ll talk about that definition in my next post.

Question: In what ways has the forgiveness of God restored your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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How to Turn Dirt into a Garden

Flower GardenIn my last post I started a “dirt” theme. I talked about a verse in James that tells us how to bring about the changes we need in our lives.

Today I want to ask a related question. How do you turn plain old dirt into a beautiful garden? James tells us the answer a few verses before the one we looked at last time.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:18

The answer to our question comes with the realization that the difference between dirt and a garden is the seed that’s planted. You put the seed into the dirt, water them, and all by themselves the flowers grow.

At some point a transformation takes place. There’s a change from a patch of dirt to a garden. Even though the dirt is still there, people will say, “Look at the wonderful flowers.” I’ve never walked by someone’s garden and said, “Hey, that’s really great dirt.”

In the last post we were told by James that in order to remove the evil in us, we need to humbly accept the Word planted in us. That’s what I’m talking about. Today’s verse tells us that the Lord gave us new birth through the Word. It’s the Word of God that breathes new life into us.

He wants us to be a kind of firstfruits for His glory. Farms go through the same transformation that a garden does. It starts out as dirt, but the emphasis changes to tomatoes, wheat or whatever was planted.

“Who cares about the dirt; look at all those watermelons!”

It’s the same way in our lives. As we allow the Word of God to take root in us, people no longer emphasize the “dirt” that we’re dealing with. It’s the fruit of the Spirit that catches their attention. As I accept the seed of the Word into my heart, it can transform my life. Instead of dirt, I’m now considered firstfruits to God.

This is actually a humbling experience. When the focus turns to the fruit, it no longer has anything to do with us. After all, the dirt has nothing to do with what kind of plant is grown. That’s determined by the seed.

When people see the fruit of the Spirit in us, it’s all the work of God. The humbling admission is that I’m nothing, just a patch of dirt, without His Word in me.

Allow the life transforming Word of God to change you into firstfruits for His glory.

Question: How has the Word of God transformed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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