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Ignoring the Cross

As I continue my series through First Corinthians, we’re looking at the wisdom of God manifest in the cross.  It’s something that God expects His church to understand.  It’s been revealed to us in His Word.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21-24

This is a problem we face even in our society today.  There’s a pressure on the church to cater our message to those we’re trying to win.

Religious people want to hear one thing, while the educational community wants to hear something else.  Many times we fall into the trap of trying to please our listeners with the message we think they want to hear.

Paul strips away all of these elements by boiling the message down to its vital component.  He preaches the same essential message to all who will listen.  That message is the Word of the cross – Christ crucified.

The reason is clear.  There’s a supernatural call in that Word.  It contains the power of God to draw men and women to the place of repentance.

We need to see this.  When we water down or ignore the Word of the cross, we lose the bulk of the power needed to win the lost.  Beyond that, those who do come to the Lord with little knowledge of the cross, have no desire to become radical disciples of Christ.

This is what the world desperately needs to see in the church.  It’s also what the church needs in order to be transformed into the victorious kingdom that was set forth by Christ.  We must hunger and thirst for the Word of the cross.

We’ve tried a whole host of other strategies only to be met with little or no results.  Isn’t it time to proclaim Christ the way they did it when the world was “turned upside-down” by the Gospel?  We need to renew our knowledge of what happened in and through the cross of Christ.  This is a message that the Lord can’t wait to reveal to us if we’ll just stop and listen.

This is one of the things that we’re missing in our churches these days.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:7

Paul explains to us that this message was destined for our glory.  That’s why it’s such a mystery.  From the outside, the cross looks like a place of pain, suffering, and weakness.   But in reality, it will bring glory to all who live by it.

It was the same for Christ.  The demonic kingdom had no idea what would be unleashed on the cross.  When the “Lord of Glory” was crucified, there was an explosion of power that rocked the universe.  It’s clear that Satan would never have allowed this to happen if he had known what the results would be.

It’s time for God’s people to once again unleash this power in the world.  We need to walk in the power of the cross.  The message of the cross is vital for our last-days testimony.

Question: What would change if we incorporated the teaching of the cross into our message?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Growing Up

Did you know that just because a person or a church walks in the gifts of the Spirit, it has no relationship to their maturity?  A baby Christian can pray for someone and see them healed.  Paul observed that in the Corinthian church as he sought to help them to grow up in Christ.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

The church in Corinth gave Paul a lot of headaches over the years, but he continued to thank God for them.  In spite of their immaturity, Paul saw the working of God’s grace in their fellowship.

For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Even though they had many problems, Paul was able to see the obvious working of the Holy Spirit in them.  He says that they had been made wealthy in every way – in Christ.  This was a wealth of spiritual gifts.

This was a result of Paul’s ministry to them.  He spent years teaching them the truths of the kingdom of God.  Because of this, they were spiritually wealthy in their Word and in their knowledge.  Spiritual gifts were operating in Corinth like nowhere else.

But is that a sign of maturity in a Christian walk?  Obviously not.  As we’ll see in future posts, the believers at Corinth were spiritual babies.

The problem is that they weren’t immature because of a lack of teaching.  Paul made sure of that.  They had chosen to live that way.

In the natural, there are people who don’t want to grow up.  I experienced this first hand.  I graduated from high school in 1975.  I went to the first few high school reunions until I realized that I had grown up, but many of my classmates were still trying to be teenagers.

That may be okay in the world, but it’s self-destructive in the body of Christ.  There are things that God needs mature men and women to accomplish.  But for that to happen, our eyes need to be focused on the eternal.

That’s why Paul is reminding them of their hope in Christ’s return.  At that time we’ll face our ultimate performance review.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9

These are the things that need to be constantly before us if we are to progress in our spiritual maturity.  We should all want to be blameless in our walk with God.  According to Paul, this will take the strength of the Lord working in us.

We have to constantly be looking at our relationship with Christ.  We are not alone in our walk.  What I say and do has an effect on the body of Christ around me.

God is faithful to uphold His part of the relationship.  But it’s up to me to understand and cultivate my connection to Him.  That’s why He’s placed the Holy Spirit within us.

I know that there are those who simply seek the gifts of the Spirit with no desire for growth.  My hope is that I can encourage all of us to lay hold of everything that the Lord desires for us.

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Thanksgiving and God’s Will

Here in the USA, tomorrow is a holiday devoted to Thanksgiving – at least that was the original intent.  I’ve been meditating on Thanksgiving lately.

I think about the age we’re living in.  I look around at all that’s happening in the society I’m a part of.

Many people seem to have the attitude, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

The truth is that we’ve rewritten history.  If you believe what they teach in most public schools, it started solely from the Pilgrims’ thankfulness to Native Americans for helping them.

That was definitely a big part of the original celebration.  The problem is that we’ve all but erased God from the picture.

The pilgrims arrived at the new world in the winter.  That first year almost half of them died.  Every family lost someone.  Yet, in spite of their hardships, they gave thanks to God for His blessings.

I think about the times we’re living in right now.  The world around us is so uncertain.  People are worried about finances, healthcare, government, crime, terrorists, the weather, and a host of other fears that seem to be hanging over our heads.

Society is on the edge of their seat.  How can we be thankful in a time like this?

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

As believers, we have the answer in Scripture.  The principle is that He gives us the victory…

That is a comforting thought.  He won the victory and then gives it to us.  How does that work?

It’s all about thankfulness.

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Bible makes it very clear that giving thanks is God’s will.  It doesn’t matter what you’re going through.  You could be facing good or bad situations.  There might even be a cloud of uncertainty looming before you.  It’s always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Notice that He doesn’t say for all things.  He simply wants us to be thankful in all things.  What’s happening around us shouldn’t affect our thankful attitude towards our God.

Remember we’re not moved by the visible.  We must keep our eyes on the eternal.  The ups and downs of society around us are temporary conditions.  Everything is subject to change.

In any situation I find myself in, I can give thanks to God.  When I’m thankful, I know that I’m in the center of the will of God for me.

Be thankful and have a blest Thanksgiving!

Question: What are you thankful for right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Rise of Lawlessness

In our study of Second Thessalonians, we’ve been talking about the lawlessness of mankind being uncovered in the Last Days.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
II Thessalonians 2:5-7

It’s clear from this section that Paul’s merely reminding them of the things he taught when he was with them.  He apparently told them what was holding back the lawlessness.

It’s also clear that the secret power of lawlessness was already at work 2,000 years ago.  What Paul literally says is that the secret power of lawlessness was already energized.

I’m reminded of a parable of Jesus (Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43).  He said that the church and the world were going to grow up together.  These two kingdoms would grow in power and mature side by side throughout history.  The seeds that were planted by the enemy already had lawlessness working in them.

According to Paul, there’s something holding back the full force of this lawlessness.  Most of the modern translations add a lot of preconceived ideas to the text.  What Paul literally said in verse 7 is the restraining will continue until it is removed from the midst.

I believe he’s talking about the laws that govern us.  Back then; they had a system of government where if you disobeyed the law, you paid the penalty for your actions.  But more and more, around the world, it now seems that laws don’t mean anything.  The lawmakers tell us that it’s how you interpret that law that matters.

My wife, Cheryl, was called for jury duty a number of years ago.  She was selected to hear a drunk driving case.  It was clear from the testimony that the man was drunk, and he was driving.  He could have very easily killed somebody.  Thank God, he was caught before he did any damage to himself or others.

As they were discussing the case in the jury room, an interesting thing started to happen.  All of these jurors started seeing themselves on the stand.

“Well, I drink sometimes, and I’d hate to have a policeman take away my license because I got caught.”

“Maybe we should let this guy go because nothing happened and nobody was hurt.  After all, there was no accident and no damage.”

Those who know Cheryl understand that she has a very prophetic ministry.  If you can imagine how Elijah would’ve responded to all this, you’d be pretty close to what actually happened.

Cheryl’s response was that the question is not what we would do.  It’s not even about what we would want to happen if we were caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

The question is; was he drunk?   Was he driving?  If so, then he’s guilty, whether or not you do it as well.

They did find him guilty.  But please understand that if there wasn’t a Christian on the jury, then the outcome might have been very different.

Lawless man says, “I know what the law is, but I wouldn’t like that law if I were the one driving.”  What we will find is that this what it’s going to be like more and more in the last days.

Yes, there might be laws, but they’re going to be followed less and less.  Paul is saying that lawless man is going to be uncovered for what he really is.  In the last days, we’re going to see an increase in lawlessness the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

That’s why, more than ever, we need to trust the Lord for our safety, protection, and provision.

Question: How have you seen a rise in lawlessness over your lifetime?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Faith, Return of Christ

 

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The Day of the Lord’s Appearing

In my last post, I began a study of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.  As I said, because of a false message, they believed that Christ had already come and that they had missed it.  Paul is writing this letter to calm them down and get them on course again.

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
2 Thessalonians 1:5

In my last post, we saw that Paul began the letter by commending them for their faith and perseverance in spite of the persecution that they’re suffering.  What he wants these believers to see is that if they remain faithful, they will not miss out on the Lord’s return.

Now, Paul wants to explain to them about some of the things that are going to happen in the future.  This is one of those verses that’s mostly ignored by people who believe in a seven-year waiting period between the Rapture and the Day of the Lord.

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-7

This passage literally says that God is righteous.  In His righteousness, He will vindicate His people.  He will not let things go on the way they are forever.

There’s a limit to the Lord’s patience.  On our part, it’s faith and perseverance that will see us through to the end where we’ll see the righteousness of God revealed.

The Scripture is clear that when it happens, both punishments and rewards will be handed out.  The word he uses for give relief, literally means rest, relief, and relaxation from trouble.

Paul uses the same word, trouble, in this passage (also translated “tribulation”) that Jesus used when He said, “As long as you are in the world you will have trouble.”  Paul said that there’s a day coming when Christ is going to relieve you of trouble.

So, if Jesus said that as long as you’re in the world you’ll have trouble, then the only way we’re going to be relieved of trouble is if we leave the world.  It’s only logical.

But verse 7 says this will happen when He reveals himself from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  That sounds very similar to what Jesus said about His return.

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.  This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Paul goes so far as to say that the relief of the Church and the punishment of the world will happen on the same day.  Isn’t that just what Jesus said?

On the day that we’re relieved, He’s going to judge those that don’t want to believe.  It’s no wonder that so many people ignore this section of Scripture.  It reiterates Jesus’ teaching that there’s no waiting time between the taking up of the church and the punishment of the ungodly.  It all happens THE SAME DAY.

Question: Why is the seven-year waiting period such a popular teaching in our generation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2018 in Return of Christ, The Church

 

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One Spirit – One Wind

What has to happen for the church to walk in unity?  I’ve been posting about it, and I think the answer will surprise you.

In my last installment, we saw that Jesus prayed to the Father, that He would make us one.  That means that it must be by the Spirit.  The church can never operate as one person in the natural; it’s a work that only can be performed in the spiritual realm.  In His prayer, the Lord gives an indication of how this process works.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
John 17:22-23

If the unity of the church is just like the unity shared by the Father and the Son, then we must ask; how are the Father and the Son one?  Simply put, they share the same Spirit.

It sounds to me as if this is one of the most important aspects of our walk with God.  It’s our unity that speaks to the world and lets them know the truth about Christ.

I don’t believe that this is what the world sees in this generation.  Right now many churches have no agreement or unity.  Agreement is good; it means that we’re all being taught the truth.  Our agreement lets the world hear the Good News with one voice.

Unity is better.  It allows the church to operate as a unit.  But the real place of power is a church that’s operating in both agreement and unity together.  This means that we not only believe the same and speak the same, but also operate in one spirit.  How is that accomplished?

Let me illustrate how this truth works.  Picture yourself out in a field.  The wind is gently blowing and you can see the grass swaying in the breeze.  For the purpose of this illustration, the natural wind is the Holy Spirit.

Now I come into the picture.  Compared to the wind, I’m a little electric fan.  When I pray “in the Spirit,” I align my spirit with the Holy Spirit and start to blow my wind in the same direction as the natural wind.  When I’m in the spirit, I’ve lined myself up with God’s Spirit.

Being in the spirit allows my spiritual wind to blow in the same direction as the Holy Spirit.  If this scenario were happening in the natural – a fan in a field – would you be able to tell which part of the wind came from the fan and which came from the air?  No, it would be impossible to differentiate the two.

In the same way, you can’t differentiate my spirit versus the Holy Spirit.  The wind of the Holy Spirit completely envelops my wind, it’s all ONE.  The Holy Spirit and I are in unity.  This is what Paul wrote about to the Corinthian church.

But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:17

We’re now starting to see the whole picture.  To be one with Him, I must unite myself with the Lord.  It’s interesting to note here that the word, unite is the word, glue in the Greek.  According to Paul, being one with the Lord in spirit is being glued to Him.  This is the unity we share with the Lord.

In my next post, I’ll show how my unity with the Lord becomes unity in the church.

Question: Why is it important for us to be in unity with the Lord?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Wind of the Spirit

I’ve started to post about the corporate use of prayer in the spirit.  In my last article, I talked about the difference between unity and agreement.

Today, I want to share some things that Jesus taught about the move of the Spirit.

At one point a teacher of the law named Nicodemus asked Jesus some questions.  Jesus spent some quality time with this young man.  I think however that this teacher left with more questions than he started with.  During the conversation, Jesus said the following to Nicodemus:

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:7-8

When you’re born of the Spirit, you can now live life on a new level.  It’s the level of the spiritual realm.

God describes it as wind.  It blows wherever it pleases.  Just as in the case of the physical wind, we can see the effect, direction, and speed it’s traveling.

This is the case even if we don’t know where it’s coming from or going to.  Maybe you’ve seen a weather map on TV.  Personally, the Weather Channel is one of my favorite places on Cable TV.  I’ve gotten many spiritual illustrations from its programs.

When you look at a weather map, sometimes it shows you the flow of the Jet Stream over the United States.  It could start flowing East over Washington state.  Then it dips down to Texas and takes a turn to flow directly up the East Coast.

This is how the flow of the wind operates.  You can’t tell where it’s been or where it’s going just because you know the direction where you’re standing.  In Washington, it flows east, in Colorado it flows south, and in Kentucky, it flows north, all at the same time.

The flow of the Holy Spirit is just as unpredictable; that’s why we must be sensitive.  The Spirit of God may be moving through prophecy in one church, healing in another, and weeping in a third.

I can’t say that because God is not moving in your church the way He moves in mine, that therefore you are out of His will.  It takes sensitivity to the Spirit to know just what He wants to do right here, right now.

It’s just like the wind.  It takes someone who’s born of the Spirit to understand the move of the Spirit.  That’s why it’s called the “flow” of the Spirit.  It’s my goal to get in on that flow which is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

But what does the flow of the Spirit have to do with unity in the body of Christ?  As you’ll see, it has everything to do with it.

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:20-21

Jesus is praying in this verse for the church to be one.  This is the same Greek word that’s translated as unity in the verses we looked at in my last post.  It literally means to be one.

This is not a word that means “I agree with you”.  According to the Lord, the way it works between the Father and Himself is that He is in the Father.  It’s Christ’s desire that we share this same degree of unity.  He wants us to be one in Him.

In my next post, we’ll see how this is accomplished.

Question: What would a church look like if it operated in true unity?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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