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Maturity and the Gifts

We’re continuing our look at the love chapter – First Corinthians, chapter 13.  We always need to keep in mind that the greater context for this passage is a teaching about the Gifts of the Spirit.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10

This is another of those hotly debated Scriptures.  There are some who teach that the “perfection” spoken of in this verse refers to the completion of the New Testament.  They say that once the Holy Bible is complete, then there’s no more need for the power-gifts of the Spirit.

But is that what Paul is trying to get across?  I don’t believe so.  The words that he uses don’t open up that interpretation.

He tells us that our knowledge and our prophecy are all partial.  That’s obvious.  None of us gets the whole plan from the Lord.  We only see partial glimpses into what God’s doing.

Paul goes on to say that when the perfect or complete thing arrives, then the imperfect thing will be rendered useless or idle.  This verse does not say that the imperfect thing would become more and more perfect until it was totally complete.  That would be the case if it were talking about the New Testament.

As he was receiving his revelation, the Apostle John was told something very important by an angel.

“Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Revelation 19:10b

All prophecy ultimately points to Christ.  But in our current conditions, it only a partial view of Him, or what He wants to accomplish in us.  However, when Christ – the Perfect One – appears, there will be no need for any of those prophecies anymore.  They will be rendered useless by the Lord’s appearing.

We will then have a perfect view of the One to which all knowledge and prophecy points to.  That’s right in line with what Paul goes on to explain.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

I think it’s clear from this verse that he’s talking about the church coming to maturity.  It’s not the Bible that needs to be matured and completed, but us.

This is especially true in regards to the Gifts of the Spirit.  As children, we think that everything is about us.  As we grow older, if we mature, we start thinking about the needs of others.

In some cases what you do remains the same.  It’s your attitude that changes.  When I was a teen, one of my chores was to put out the trash.  Guess what?  Now that I’m married I still put out the trash.

There’s a difference, though.  As a teen, I did those chores to gain privileges or an allowance.  Now, I do them because that’s what adults do.  I want my family to be healthy and safe.

That’s what Paul is trying to get us to see through this chapter.  Not that the gifts are going to cease to operate.  But that we need to move in the gifts with a heart of love towards those we are ministering to.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about prophecy, tongues, or giving someone a drink of water.  Walking in love is the sign that you’re becoming mature in Christ.

Question: How does walking in love bring about maturity in you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Useless Without Love

How do you rate churches or ministries?  What criteria do you use in determining their impact or effectiveness?  Let’s see what the Scripture uses as a standard.

In my last post, the Apostle Paul introduced what he called a more excellent way of ministry.  That brings us to First Corinthians, chapter 13 – the Love Chapter.

The word used for love, is the Greek word, agape.  This word is very significant.

Agape-love has no emotion attached to its definition.  It’s purely an act of your will.  It’s a choice that you make in how you treat others.

We know that Jesus Christ, Himself, commanded us to love each other.  If it were based upon feelings, then He could never make such a request.

Keep this in mind as we go through this chapter over the next few posts.  It’s up to you how you choose to treat people.  You’ll either walk in love or choose to follow the leading of your flesh.

The first thing we see in this chapter, are three things that human religion would point to as excellence in ministry.  Unfortunately, they’re not what God’s rating system includes.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1

The first area is that of your preaching and teaching ministry.  What if I had the command of every language on earth?  I could preach the Gospel anywhere I wanted to.

I could stand before thousands and proclaim Christ.  I could be God’s messenger to the world.  After all, that’s what the word, angel, means (messenger).

According to this verse, without love, I’m not ministering.  I’m simply making a noise that gets people’s attention.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

What about the flow of supernatural power.  Certainly, that would mean my ministry is on track with God’s plan.  Not necessarily.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are things that we point to as indicators of success.

“Look at my ministry.  The miracles are proof that I’m in the center of God’s will.  Send me your offering.”

We think the supernatural move of God is an indication that we’re someone special.  On the contrary, it only proves that we serve a great God.  Paul makes it clear that no matter how many miracles in my ministry, without love I’m a nobody in God’s kingdom.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3

The third area is one we’d probably never think of.  Self-sacrifice for others.

The word for flames is actually the Greek word, glory.  In other words, I use up every ounce of my physical strength for the benefit of others.

We sometimes think that we’ll give to the poor because God wants us to.  Or maybe because we see it as sowing seeds for God’s blessing.

The problem is that if I don’t give out of love…a desire to see the recipient blessed by my giving, then I’ve gained nothing.  There’s no profit, physically or spiritually.

Love is the determining factor in how God rates a ministry.  Keep that in mind as you work for the Lord.

Question: How can you tell if love plays a role in what you do for Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Unity and the Spirit

A lot of people talk about the need for unity in the church.  Do we fully understand what that means, or what it takes to walk in unity?  I think that the answer will surprise you.

We’re continuing our look at the way Paul describes spiritual ministry in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12

At this point, Paul continues a theme that was started in this letter.  I’m talking about the body of Christ.

This subject started in chapter 6 where they were told that their body was a temple to the Holy Spirit.  Then, in chapter 10, we’re told that when we break bread together in the Lord’s Supper it’s a participation in the Lord’s body.

The Apostle is now giving more insight into this truth.  He begins at a place we can all understand – the natural.  A human body is one entity.

However, you can also view the body as a collection of individual parts.  Even though these many parts all have different functions, they form one whole organism.

All the members of the body together form a unit.  A unit is the foundation for unity.  All the individual parts of the body work together to carry out the will of the mind.

But in all of this, the most important thing to grasp is Paul’s final statement.  So it is with Christ.

He did not say, “So it is with the church.”  It’s vital for us to see that He’s talking about God and not us.  It’s not our body that the Lord becomes a part of.  We participate with Him.  We must become a part of His body.

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Corinthians 12:13

I believe that this is a key Scripture in understanding unity in the church.  Yet, there are many who never give it much notice.

Part of the problem is in the translation.  The phrase, baptized by, is actually baptized in according to the original Greek text.  So this verse tells us that when we’re baptized in the Spirit, we’re also baptized into the body of Christ.

Throughout Scripture, we’re told that unity is a function of the spirit.  When you think about it, there’s no body-life without unity.

I look at how my own body operates in the natural.  If each member of my body was autonomous, I’d be in trouble.  I couldn’t live normally if each part acted independently regardless of what my brain wanted to be done.

In many cases that’s what the church is like.  We don’t spend the time needed to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Then we go off and do what we feel like doing for God.  And we call that the body of Christ.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

Unity requires effort.  It requires me to hear and obey God’s Spirit within me.  Only when we all synchronize ourselves to the will of the Spirit are we truly acting as the body of Christ.

Question: What’s the difference between unity and agreement?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Manifesting the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

In my last post, I talked about the differences in the way God works in each of us.  One of those was the manifestation – the appearance – of the Holy Spirit.  He works differently in each of us, personally.

Today I want to begin explaining the different ways that the Spirit of God shows Himself in us.

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10

That’s quite a list.  I want to take some time to explain what each of these is.  Unfortunately, there are many who don’t believe that the Holy Spirit still functions in all of these.  As far as I can see, none of the manifestations come with an expiration date.

The first thing we need to know is that these are not either/or.  If the Holy Spirit chooses, He can work them all in the same person.  Christ actually walked in all of these except tongues and interpretation.  It’s up to the Spirit to decide what’s needed at the time.

We also need to see that these are supernatural manifestations.  They point to the clear fact that God is working through you.  They’re not something that you have the power to do on your own.

The Message of Wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability to use the knowledge that you have to solve a problem.  This is supernatural wisdom that God imparts to you when needed.  So you could say that it’s a supernatural problem-solving ability.

This should be a common manifestation in the lives of God’s people.  I know that in my life there were many times that God showed up like this in my job as an Electrical Engineer.  My fellow workers knew my testimony, and they knew that because of this, I could come up with answers when no one else could.

Never think that it’s some flaky thing that makes you look and act weird.  On the contrary, the gift should highlight the power of God and draw people to Christ.

The Message of Knowledge.  This one is like the message of wisdom, but it’s a supernatural impartation of God’s knowledge.  Knowledge is simply facts.  When God uses this, you know things that you wouldn’t have known by any natural means.

It could be facts about people, places or things.  When you know something that you have no way of knowing, it points to a source beyond yourself.

Many times I’ve heard believers say, “It was like a voice on the inside said…”  Then they either say that they wished they’d listened to it, or they’re glad they did listen.

We need to spend more time in the Lord’s presence so that we can be sensitive to His voice.  I believe that God wants to speak more often than we’re in a position to hear.

Faith.  Too often we don’t understand this one.  It’s not talking about the normal faith in God that we have toward His Word.  This is a supernatural faith that God imparts to us when we need it.

This is especially true of believers who are facing persecution or a severe trial.  When there’s absolutely no way out, a supernatural, incomprehensible faith rises up on the inside of you.  You have no explanation as to why you have peace and trust during the situation in which you find yourself.

This causes the people around you to question what makes you so different.  The answer should draw them to Christ.

In my next post, I’ll continue my look at these important works of the Holy Spirit in us.

Questions: Has the Holy Spirit worked these in you?  How and when have you experienced them?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Making Christ Central

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re now in chapter 12 where he begins to talk about our spiritual life.

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 12:1

The first thing we need to realize is that the word “gift” is not in the original. What Paul literally says is that he doesn’t want the church to be uninformed about the spiritual.  To do that, he’ll talk about more than just gifts.

He begins by addressing their spiritual heritage.

You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
1 Corinthians 12:2

Because they were a mainly Gentile church, their background included the worship of idols.  They had a history of serving gods that couldn’t speak.  That’s very different from where they are now.

We serve a God who wants to speak to and through His people.  That requires a different kind of lifestyle.  We need to be in a position where we’re ready to hear and obey His voice.  Along with that, we need to discern between the other voices trying to get our attention.

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3

I have a problem with the way this verse is usually explained.  Why would any Christian need to be told that someone saying, “Jesus be cursed” is not speaking by the Holy Spirit?  There’s a deeper issue here.

In the context of this chapter, Paul is speaking to former idol worshippers.  The word for cursed is the Greek word anathema.  It’s a word that has a specific meaning in regards to the worship of the Greek and Roman gods.

In these pagan temples, if you wanted to appease a god that you needed a blessing from, you would give an animal sacrifice.  Once it was consecrated to that god, it was hung on a wall or a column of that god’s temple.  Now you could go your way and never have to think about it anymore.

In reality, Paul is explaining to these former pagan worshippers, that Jesus was not merely some offering made to appease an angry god.  Christ was, is, and always will be Lord of all.  Not only that, but He now wants to be on speaking terms with His people.

When you’re in a relationship with the true God, He wants a constant interaction with you.  He wants to have power over what you say and do.  He wants to set the direction of your life.

I hate to say it, but sometimes we get this “anathema Jesus” attitude in the modern church.  There are many who have accepted Christ as merely a payment for their sin.  They’re not looking for a relationship with a Lord who wants to direct their lives.

Being a Christian means that Christ has a central role in all that you do.  We live to please Him.  That means we need to spend time in His presence, listening for the voice of His Spirit.

This is where Paul starts with the Corinthian church.  He’s going to explain to them the earmarks of a spiritual life.  What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

Hopefully, as we continue on in this study, we’ll receive insight that will help us in our daily spiritual walk.

Question: How do you make your relationship with Christ central in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Self-Judgment

As we go through First Corinthians we’re continuing our look at the Lord’s Supper.  We’ve seen that it’s meant to be a powerful part of our worship.  It’s a time where we can attach our faith to what Christ has done for us on the cross.

In my last post, I talked about the need to examine ourselves before taking the Communion elements.  We need to check up on our faith.  Are we really trusting the Lord for our life?

This is a very important part of the Communion experience.

For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 11:29-30

We need to understand what Paul is saying here.  Unfortunately, the word, judgment, has some strong implications in our modern “Christianese” vocabulary.  We sometimes get the idea that God is going to curse us with problems if we do something wrong in how we receive Communion.

That’s not what’s being said.  The word judgment simply means a judicial decision.  Your attitude at the Lord’s Table determines the decision you receive.

If you understand who you are in Christ, and see yourself as receiving His provision, then you get the decision in your favor.  You will receive healing, resources, strength, or whatever it is that you’re trusting God for.

If, on the other hand, you don’t understand the payment that Christ made for you, there’s another decision.  If you don’t see Christ as Healer, then you miss out on His healing.  How we approach the Communion table determines the decisions we receive.

But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32

This is another passage where we need to understand the “judging” words being used.  The first sentence tells us that we need to take a step back and look at our lives objectively.  Where’s my faith at? How far am I really trusting God?

I have to be willing to do that and take the appropriate measures to fix any problems.  If I do this, then I won’t get that negative decision.  I’ll begin placing myself in a position to receive from the Lord.

If not, then it will be the Lord’s decision to train me up as a child.  This requires His discipline.  This could include hearing teachings from those over me.  It could also be situations that God allows into my life to get my attention.  Please understand that these situations are only temporary challenges that are designed to focus my attention on Christ and His ability.

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.  And when I come I will give further directions.
1 Corinthians 11:33-34

This closing statement from Paul is to further reinforce the fact that this meal is more than just about the food.  It’s about coming together in unity of faith, to receive our life from Christ.

Question: What’s your level of faith in who Christ is in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Unworthy?

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s Supper to the Corinthian church.  As we’ve already seen, this celebration in the church is more than just a mindless tradition.  It’s not just an act we do to fill the time.

There’s a power that’s released in us as we proclaim what Christ has accomplished through His death.  Through the participation in the Communion table, we embrace what Christ obtained for us on the cross.

That’s why we have to watch our attitudes as we receive the elements.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
1 Corinthians 11:27-28

I’ve seen these verses used to beat up God’s people.  It’s important that we understand what Paul’s saying here.

The word, unworthy, means to be unfit.  In the context of this chapter of the Bible, we see a group of people who viewed the meal as an opportunity to exalt themselves.  That’s being unfit.  The Lord’s Supper is not about me, it’s about Christ.

We are to come to the table humbly, with the understanding that I have nothing to offer God.  He has everything I need.  If that’s not my attitude, then I’m “guilty of the body and blood…”  But what does that mean?

It means guilty in the sense that something wrong was done and now I’m obligated to make it right.  In other words, if I steal something from you, I’m now indebted to you.  If I claim that Christ is the Source of my life and He’s not, then God will work to bring me there.

Part of coming to the Lord’s Table with the right attitude is to examine myself.  That literally means to test and approve myself.

Unfortunately, there are some churches do the testing for you.  They let you know whether they think you’re worthy or not to receive the Communion elements.  That’s not God’s will.  He wants us all to examine ourselves.

What do I have to do?  Do I check under all the rugs?  Search for any little hidden sin that I might not have repented over?  I don’t believe that’s what’s being talked about here.

There’s only one place in Scripture that uses that same word to tell us what to examine.  It’s found in a letter that Paul wrote to this same church.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you– unless, of course, you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5

We must examine and approve our faith.  Are we truly trusting God with our lives?  Are we in the faith?

In order to receive the communion elements in a way that’s worthy, we need to be looking to Christ in faith.  We see Him as the one who has already purchased all we need for life and godliness.

It’s not about me striving to be good enough.  It’s about me yielding my life to Him and letting the Holy Spirit bring me to where I need to be.

Question: What have you received from Christ that you couldn’t obtain on your own?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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