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Getting Behind Christ

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we see the Lord bringing His disciples to a deeper level of knowledge about Himself.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mark 8:31-32

Jesus began to explain to the disciples that the Messiah must undergo rejection by Israel.  Then, He needed to die on the cross, be buried and three days later, rise from the dead.

Peter was obviously upset by this.  He was so taken back by hearing about the Lord’s death that he totally missed the part about rising from the dead.  He began to rebuke Jesus for His “negative confession.”

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Get behind me, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Mark 8:33

No, Peter was not possessed by the devil at this time.  The Greek word, satan, means accuser.  Jesus was not calling Peter the devil, but describing his actions.  (Actually, the devil would have enjoyed seeing Jesus die.)

In his statement, Peter was accusing Jesus of being out of the will of God for his life.  Peter was placing himself on the same level as Christ, telling Him what He should be doing.

That’s why the Lord told him to get behind me.  In other words, you’re not my peer; get back in line following me where you belong.  He explained that Peter was not thinking like God thinks, but like men think.

Jesus took this as a teachable moment.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38

Christ makes it clear that in following Him, we have to give up our fleshly, human way of thinking.  Ministry in the kingdom of God is not based on what I think is best for God.  It’s about what He thinks is best.

Too often we’re guilty of giving God our opinion of what should be done.  Then, we run off with our plans and seek God’s blessing on it.  We then get frustrated wondering why it has no effect.

Instead, we need to seek the Holy Spirit to change the way we think.  We need our minds to be renewed.  Because if I can think the way God does, then I’m going to want His perfect will.

This is important.  I won’t need to seek His will; I’ll know it because I want what He wants.  Then it will be blessed – not because I prayed for God to bless it, but because it’s already anointed by God.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  But not spending all our time seeking things and answers to problems.  We must desire to know Him better – His thoughts, His will, and His heartbeat.

Question: What’s the difference between seeking God’s will and seeking God’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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The Spirit-Fruit Goodness

Our Supply in GodI’m taking a few extra posts to look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  The next one to see is goodness.  As with the others, goodness is not merely about being good.

Just to remind you, all of these fruits are the result of cultivating our spiritual walk.  It’s time spent with the Holy Spirit that causes these to grow in us.

We can’t just go by society’s definition of the word.  What’s important is how God defines it and uses it in Scripture.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
Colossians 1:10

In this verse, Paul talks about bearing the fruit of goodness.  But what we find is that he prayed for something that needed to happen first.  What was required for the Colossian people to walk in goodness?

Paul tells us in the previous verse.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9

In order to walk in the fruit of goodness, you must lay hold of the knowledge of God’s will for you.  That will never come through your own human intelligence.  You must tap into the wisdom and understanding that only come through the Spirit.

In other words, if you’re not hearing from God, then there’s no way you can do good – at least by the Lord’s definition.  To God, doing good is doing His will.

Jesus described this very thing in one of His parables.  At one point He described the Word of God as the seed planted in many different types of soil.  The seed in good soil flourished and produced an abundant harvest.

Listen to how Jesus explained this parable to His disciples.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Luke 8:15

According to Christ, there are three distinct activities that are a part of a good heart – a life that consistently produces goodness.  The first is the most important, and that is to hear the Word of God.  If you’re not hearing the Word, then you can never go on to produce the fruit.

The second part is just as important.  Once heard, you must retain it.  That literally means that you hold fast to it, you lock it down into your heart.  This means that you meditate on it.  You rehearse it and think about it until it becomes second nature to you.

The third thing that has to happen is that you continue holding fast to that Word.  This requires perseverance.  Day after day; month after month; even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening in the natural.

Then, as we remain in the Word of God, that change begins to take place and we receive an abundant harvest.  The Greek phrase for producing a crop is that we become fruit-bearing.

I don’t know how anyone who reads these verses can say that to bear the Fruit of the Spirit you just need will-power.  That won’t get you anywhere.  The fruit can only be produced by the Holy Spirit working in you.

Do you want to produce what the Father describes as good works?  Then spend time in the presence of the Lord with a listening heart, then guard that word, and allow the Spirit to bring them forth in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s goodness operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Knowing and Doing

I’ve been posting about how James exhorts us to keep watch over our speaking. Today we will deal with how submitted we are to God. It’s a passage of Scripture that, I think, is usually misunderstood.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:13-14

In order to understand this passage, you need to see the assumptions that James is making. He’s speaking to believers who have no care about God’s will for their life. How do I know this?

First of all, they say “we will” go there, we will buy and sell, and we will make money. They’re saying all of this without ever knowing what’s really going to happen. They didn’t go on this trip because they felt the Lord impressing them to go. It was all about their desire.

This is clear from the next verses.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 4:15-17

When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence. That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF confidence. When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.

One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek. There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize. I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”

It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do. If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led of the Holy Spirit.

I think that makes more sense in light of the last sentence in the above passage. I don’t believe that James is just adding some random thought about doing good. It’s all a part of the same exhortation.

You need to know that you’re in the center of God’s will. Of course, that’s why many choose not to seek God’s will. They’re afraid that it won’t agree with what they want to do.

Once you’ve spent the time and effort to know God’s plan for your life, you can’t simply ignore it. The Holy Spirit would continue to remind you and draw to complete your calling. Some people feel that it’s better just to do what they want and never ask God.

Many people make doing their own thing sound holy. They say, “I’m going to do this, God willing.” What they mean is, “This is what I want to do and I hope God doesn’t stop me from doing it.” At least that’s what I meant when I used to say that.

The key is that we need to know what God wants us to do before we start doing it. If God wants it accomplished, then it’s blessed without me even asking for a blessing. If it’s not God’s will, it won’t be blessed no matter how hard I pray for it.

Spend quality time in God’s presence. In that way you’ll know that what you’re doing is of God. You can then walk in the assurance that everything you put your hand to will be blessed.

Question: What has the Lord called you to accomplish for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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How Do I Find God’s Will?

 

ButterflyMy last two posts talked about our faith being tested and approved – that’s the fire. Next I talked about prayer in the spirit – standing beside the burnt offering. The next question is; now that I’m hearing God’s Word in my spirit – what do I do with it?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

There’s still a choice to be made. This is where, according to Christ, the thorns and thistles of distractions could choke it. We need to be careful about what our heart dwells on.

This verse literally says; don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold. Instead, let the Word renew (renovate) your mind.

If you want a life that’s well-pleasing to God, it will require a renewed mind. It’s the renewed mind that will transform your walk. That word transform is the Greek word metamorph. It’s how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

It’s only when we are allowing the Word to renew our mind that we are able, have the power, to test and approve God’s well pleasing will.

Many people have asked me, “Pastor, how do I know God’s will?” The truth is that you will never know God’s will before you do it. It’s by faith.

I get my faith approved. Then I stand beside body praying in spirit to hear God. I allow God’s Word to renew mind.

Then, as I live out my faith, opportunities arise. I feel a stirring on the inside of me, “I believe God wants me to do this.”

I now have the power to test and approve God’s will for my life. I step out. By faith, I expect either a miracle to confirm what I’m doing or the intervention of the Holy Spirit to stop me from doing it.

Paul understood this and tells us the bottom line.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
Romans 14:17-18

To be well pleasing to God, it’s not about the rules you place on yourself. It’s a life lived in the spirit. That’s what God finds well pleasing. Because the flesh can never fulfill God’s perfect will.

Simply put, a well-pleasing life requires a spiritual walk.

Question: What do you believe is the next step in God’s plan for you right now?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2014 in Faith, Ministry, Word of God

 

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The First Step to Excellence #excellenceinministry

MountainI’ve been posting about the walk of excellence for a few days now.  Hopefully, as a child of God, you desire to walk in excellence before Him.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Where do you start on this road to excellence?  As is the case with many things in Christ, it’s going to start with a choice.

It’s sad to say, but many believers will not be willing to make that choice.  The cost is great.  This is that small gate that leads to the narrow road that Jesus said few would find.

The reason is not that it’s difficult to see or understand, but because it involves sacrifice.  I have to sacrifice my plans, dreams, and hopes to make room for His.

Basically, I have to learn to see myself as lying dead upon the altar of the Lord in order for His resurrection power to raise me to new levels in Him.  That’s why, generally speaking, the body of Christ in this generation is in its present state.

There is a transformation process that I need to undergo in order for His Word, His will, and His Way to become a part of my being.  I must allow the Living Word and the Holy Spirit to renew my heart and mind.  My thought processes and desires must be transformed into that which conforms to His plans.

It’s only when I’m willing to see it through to completion, in God’s way, that He will entrust me with His excellent plan for my life.  So many people have come to me as pastor down through the years asking me how to “find” God’s will for their lives.

The above verse doesn’t say that I need to struggle or search for God’s will.  It says that if I’m willing to lay my life down on His altar and begin the renewal process of my mind, then I will just know it.  When I see His will for my life, I will approve it.  I think you can agree that if something is good, pleasing and perfect – it can also be described as excellent.

It’s only after the decision of excellence is made that God will entrust you with His will.  Too often our attitude is that we want to know His will first so that we can decide whether we want to do it or not.  The Lord requires faith if we’re to please Him.  We must come to Him with the decision to see it through before He’ll give us the glimpse of the road ahead.  If you will not trust God with your future, then He will not trust you with His vision.

Question: Have you chosen the road of excellence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Spirit of Excellence

 

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