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Rules and Power

In this post, I’m continuing to talk about Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s addressing the issue of trying to live for Christ by turning the Gospel into a set of rules.

In the church, we’ve come up with all kinds of excuses as to why we lack the power of God.  The one that I’ve been posting about is the notion that until we walk in righteousness, we’ll never experience the move of the Spirit.

This is exactly how the Pharisees viewed the world.  Unfortunately, many of us are walking in the same amount of power they walked in – NONE.

There was a group of former Pharisees who were trying to lead Christians to follow the Law of Moses “if they were truly saved”.  Paul was vehement in his opposition to this movement.  Let’s continue in Second Corinthians, chapter 3, and look at the revelation that he received concerning this teaching.

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.  It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
2 Corinthians 3:13-14

Here Paul is referring to when Moses came down from the mountain where God delivered the law to him.  The Bible says that Moses’ face shown so brightly with the glory of God that it looked like the sun.  People had to shield their eyes from it.

So that he could be among the people, Moses put a veil, or a cloth, over his face to shield them from the light.  But something else happened.  As Moses was with the people, the glory of God started to fade and grow dim.

At one point, even though the glory was dim enough for people to see without hurting their eyes, Moses left the veil on.  Paul said it was so the people would not see the glory of God fading.  In other words, Moses put on a veil so that the Israelites would not see his spiritual batteries draining.

Moses was a man who walked in great power.  He called down plagues upon Egypt.  He commanded the Red Sea to part.  He obtained water from the rock.  The list of miracles God performed through his hand goes on and on.  Yet, all of Moses’ power was derived through the law.

On more than one occasion he blew it.  He even missed out on entering the Promised Land because of one of his failings.  As great as his power was, it was only a battery pack compared to what the Holy Spirit offers us today.  What surprises me is that many of us try to use the same lesser power that Moses used.

We have a better covenant than Moses had.  In my next post, I’ll show how trying to live like Moses will actually rob us of spiritual strength.

Question: Why is it popular to think that we can adequately serve God in our own strength?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spirit or Law

In my last post, I talked about not turning our New Covenant into a law.  Trying to follow a set of rules to please God is what got Israel in trouble.

Many try to use the “cookie-cutter” approach to Christianity.  They try to get everyone to follow the same set of rules.  But that’s not what life in the Spirit is all about.

Yes, there are certain absolutes that the Bible tells us will bring death into our lives.  There are also some other things that God desires us all to do.  But a vast majority of our walk with God is based upon what we learn in His presence.

The fact is that life in the New Covenant is greatly superior to what it was like under the Old Covenant.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.
2 Corinthians 3:7-10

The beginning of this passage is about the former ministry that condemned men.  The glory that God exhibited back then was indeed glorious.  But Paul says in verse 10 that we’re now living in the day when God wants to exhibit His excellent glory.

When I think about the glory He showed in the Old Testament, I wonder how it could be any better.  He ordained a place of worship that was lined in gold.  Even the utensils used in its service were mostly of gold and silver.  The priests themselves were lavishly dressed – the high priest having precious stones on his garment.

But we have to realize that having a powerful ministry is not about things, but about spirit.  It’s based on who you are.  Are you living up to God’s expectations for your life?  This is different for everyone.

In some places, it might mean a large building and the latest technology.  In other places around the world, however, a great ministry might mean a building with a roof that doesn’t leak.  I’ve found that in some cultures, just starting a meeting on time is a mark of maturity.

When you look at ministry, the difference is in our attitude.  Turning the New Covenant into a set of rules brings condemnation.  On the other hand, ministry in the Spirit brings life.

That’s how you can tell the difference between the two.  What’s the focus?  If a ministry is always pointing out our faults without showing how to let God change us, then they’re missing the most important aspect.

The Lord came to bring us new life.  I do need to know where I’m missing the mark.  But I also need to know that I can’t change myself.  It only comes as I yield to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is looking for people who will allow Him to shine through them.  That should be our desire as well.  Then the world will see and be attracted to the excellent glory of God revealed in us.  Oh, that the Church would rise up in the excellence of our New Covenant, that the world might once again be turned upside down for the glory of God!

Question: How does the glory of the New Covenant play a role in your life and ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2020 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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From Promises to Legalism

What’s your view of the promises of God?  Do you expect them to be fulfilled in your life?  How are they accomplished in us?

I’ve found through the Scripture, that if you’re not careful, trying to “claim the promises” might trap you in legalism.  There are some who are bound by the idea that unless I perform certain actions, God won’t bless me.

That was my thinking at one point in my life.  I was bound by the attitude that I HAD TO tithe in order for God to bless my finances.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.”  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:19-20

One day, as I was in prayer, the Lord showed me that when I decided to tithe in order for God to rebuke the devourer (Malachi 3:10-11), I was appealing to the law for my financial blessing.

Through the gentle leading of the Spirit, I came to the realization that I had placed myself under the commandment.  I now understand that my trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises is a form of legalism.

What I had forgotten was this:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
James 2:10

By placing my hope in keeping the tithe law, I was missing the rest of the puzzle.  Here’s what I had neglected.  The passage in Malachi showed me the conditions to rebuke the devourer.  But there are 20 other verses that deal with things I can do that allows the devourer to get my stuff.

They talk about everything from hiring prostitutes to neglecting the needs of the church.  So in effect, when I tithed, God rebuked the devourer.  Then, if I neglected the church, I was calling the devourer back so he could continue his work.

I became more and more aware of the fact that trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises actually puts me under the law.  So I did a study of promises in the New Testament to see how they’re used under the New Covenant.

I was surprised at what the Scripture had to say.  Nowhere did I find it taught that we have to fulfill the requirements.  As a matter of fact, it was just the opposite.  The reason for this is the finished work of Christ on the cross.  He even told us that was why He came to the earth.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5:17

In this statement, Jesus tells us the whole foundation for walking in the blessings of the Word.  Part of His work was to fulfill everything written in the Old Covenant.

The word, fulfill means to cram full, to fill in the holes.  All of the open-ended requirements needed to “claim” the promises have been filled in by Christ.

This means that we are exempt from the requirements unless we voluntarily place ourselves under the law.  In that case, the kingdom of the enemy has the right to use its power against us on the same level.

God caused me to mature in how I view the promises.  I still tithe, because I know that it’s the spiritually mature thing to do.  God blesses my finances because, in Christ, I have already received this blessing.

Question: What promises have you turned into laws in your life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2020 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Power-Up the Enemy

In my last post, I talked about the power of the resurrection in our lives.  This power affects every aspect of our walk with God.

Jesus told us that we had authority over all the power of the enemy.  This causes me to question our current church experience.  If what the Lord said is true, then why does the enemy seem to be winning?

To understand this you must realize that just like electricity, there are two forms of spiritual power.  Paul writes about one of these in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:56-57

That should be an eye-opener.  Most Christians have no idea that the power of sin is the law.  We seem to have missed this fact even though it’s plainly taught in the Scripture.  This means that without the law, sin would have no power.

The other source of spiritual power should be obvious to us.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

These were some of the last words of Jesus before He was taken up into Heaven.  We must realize that our power comes from God Himself through the Holy Spirit in us.  This means that the two sources of spiritual power are the Holy Spirit and sin.

That’s a very important fact to know if we’re to grow in our spiritual walk.  Our goal should be to only receive our power from the Holy Spirit.  We must be certain that we’re not powered by the same thing that powers the enemy’s kingdom.

As a matter of fact, Satan’s power is derived totally from sin.  So if there were no law, then the enemy would have no power.  Everything that Satan is able to do is powered by the law.

Whether you realize this or not, every accusation and attack that he makes are all based upon the law.  The problem we have is that just knowing this truth isn’t enough to defeat him.

Like AC and DC electricity, both forms are very powerful.  AC is the type of electricity that powers your house.  DC is the type that starts your car in the morning as well as supplying power for the lightning we see in a thunderstorm.  In the same way, the two forms of spiritual power can be very potent.

There are some important differences between the law and the Holy Spirit.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

Literally, this verse says God is powerful enough to do everything you need according to His grace.  In all things, at all times – this means that the power of the Holy Spirit is permanent, whereas the law is temporary.

If I base my walk on how well I follow the law, I’ll soon be in big trouble.  Everything is fine while I’m at church, especially if I just went to the altar and repented.  I go on my way feeling strong spiritually.

Then it happens, on my way to the car, I get into an argument.  It all goes downhill from there.  Now Satan has a basis for accusation again and I can feel my power dwindling.

On the other hand, I can base my spiritual walk on the Holy Spirit within me.  I know that He’s always there.  I can run to Him in all things, at all times, and I know that He’s able to meet my need no matter what.  We, as believers, need to understand this truth so that we’ll not fall into the trap of trying to use the enemy’s power to defeat sin in our lives.

Question: How do we sometimes try to use our sinful nature to defeat sin in our lives?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Attitudes of Pharisees

In my last post, we saw that Jesus proved, in a very powerful way, that He could remove sin in all of its forms.  As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, this ministry of Christ becomes clearer.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.  A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Mark 2:13-14

In this passage, we see the Lord calling a new disciple – Levi.  I believe that this was his given name.  Later on, he’s called Matthew.  That’s probably the name Jesus gave to him.  It means the gift of God.

Remember, Jesus did this with a few of His disciples.  The Lord called Simon, Peter.  James and John became the sons of thunder.

But there’s an interesting point to this.  Both the name Levi and Matthew were strongly Levitical names.  That probably means that Levi was from the tribe of Levi.  He should have been training for the priesthood.  Instead, he was collecting taxes for the Roman conquerors.

Jesus had been teaching in the area.  Undoubtedly, Levi listened to Him and it spoke to his heart.  There’s no other reason why he would leave his lucrative position immediately when the Lord called.

Levi threw a dinner party to introduce Jesus to his friends and co-workers.  The Pharisees who were watching weren’t too happy about it.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mark 2:15-16

You have to understand the thinking of that day.  Levi was seen as a Jew, taking money from his own people, and giving it to Caesar.  They viewed him much the same way as we would view a drug dealer today.

Not only that, but he has the same type of friends that a drug dealer would have.  Prostitutes, loan sharks, and the like.  All the people that the upstanding Pharisees would look down on as the dregs of their society.

Why would Jesus, a prophet who obviously operated in the power of God, ever associate with such rabble?

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

Jesus has just proven Himself to be a remover of sin.  If your ministry is to remove sin, then your place is in the middle of great sin.  Jesus knew that He was sent to save these people.  The Pharisees may have written them off, but Jesus saw them as loved by God.

I always find it offensive when I hear a Christian remark that someone deserves hell.

“When they die, they’re gonna get what they have coming.”

That must break the Lord’s heart.  He died for everyone.  Not just the people we like.

We need to watch our attitudes about those without Christ.  The fact is that we all deserve hell – but I don’t want anyone to go there.

Even the most perverted, murderous, evil person on earth should be given the chance to hear about the life-changing work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We should be representing Christ and His attitudes in our generation.

Question: Why is it so easy to pick up the same attitudes as the Pharisees?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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God’s Mercy – The Bottom Line

In our walk through Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, we now come to his closing remark.  It’s the summation of his entire teaching.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Galatians 6:14-18

When you walk in legalism, trying to please God by your good works, it’s the basis for boasting.  After all, I can always find someone that I’m better than, at least in my own mind.

The true walk in the spirit requires us to rely on the Lord.  That means I can only boast about what He’s done in my life.

According to the Apostle, this walk will supply you with peace and mercy.  I’ve already talked about peace in a previous post, so today I’ll deal with mercy.  It’s important for believers to understand this concept.

If you boil it all down to a simple phrase, here’s what I see in Scripture.  Mercy is the favor God shows to His sons and daughters.

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:11

One thing that’s abundantly clear from Scripture, the walk of mercy will require perseverance.  Of all the people for James to use for an example, did he have to pick Job?  The simple truth is that Job drove his friends crazy.  The big question on everybody’s mind is; why was Job at a standstill?  According to his friends, it was because he must have been doing something wrong.

That kind of thinking was absolutely incorrect.  Job was being trained for a higher walk in God.  As I’ve said before, promises are for spiritual children.  In order to get them to obey, you must say things like, “Clean your room and you can have ice cream.”  Adults don’t live like this.

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.
Romans 12:1

Many times I’ve preached from this verse telling my congregation the importance of laying their lives down as living sacrifices.  But until I understood the concepts of Biblical mercy, it was always in a legalistic vein.  Notice the motivation that should propel us to offer our lives before God.

Is it in view of God’s law?  Maybe it’s in view of the promises?  NO!!!  It’s as we keep the Lord’s mercy in our sight that we have the drive necessary to lay our lives down on His altar.

That’s how powerful the walk of mercy can be.  In order to obtain it, it’s worth the greatest cost we can imagine.  The total surrender of our lives to God’s plan.

God simply asks you to make the offer, wholeheartedly.  Why do we make this life-altering decision?  It’s because we know that this is the Lord’s desire.

No strings attached; no hidden agendas.  “Lord I want to know You because only You are worthy of the investment of my life.”  We only obtain mercy through becoming a willing sacrifice.

If you desire to walk this walk, you must know that mercy makes this the only rule. “Boast only in the cross.” Do you want power? Do you want to live above the law and the promises? Then you must learn to walk the way of mercy.

You must pursue God simply to know Him. You must offer all you are to God, simply because He desires it. Then, when you see the manifestation of His power in your life, boast only in the cross. This is the secret to how Jesus lived and ministered in the world.

Question: What must you do to begin walking in God’s mercy?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Freedom and the Flesh

We’ve been given perfect freedom in Christ.  But just how far does that freedom allow us to go?  There are many who preach the Law so that Christians won’t live for themselves.  What’s the Biblical view?

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

In order to understand our freedom, we need to see the greater context of Scripture.  There’s a flow to how the Holy Spirit revealed the Word to the church.  Knowing this will give us added insight.

The first mention of our liberty in Christ was when the Holy Spirit revealed it to James.  In his book, he simply referred to the Word of God as the perfect law that gives liberty (James 1:25).  But it’s in the letter to the Galatians that we see the first explanation of that freedom.

Actually, in this verse, we see the first revelation of how freedom and the flesh relate together.  So this gives us the foundational truth we need to understand.

The first thing I see is that we are called to be free.  That’s important.  Our freedom in Christ is a positional freedom.  That means I have to respond to it if I want to see the manifestation in my life.

If I want to walk in freedom, I need to cultivate my relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He’s the One that will turn my position of freedom into something I can experience on a daily basis.

Now we can go to Paul’s next statement.  He says that we must not use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  When I read this verse in the Greek language, I see an important truth.  Paul says; don’t start off in your liberty with the flesh as your goal.

Motivation is everything.  What’s your first thought when you hear the word, freedom.  Do you think, “Great! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and God won’t care!”?  If that’s your thinking, then you’re too immature to walk in God’s freedom.

The point of this liberty is that I’m free to serve God while He’s cleaning me up.  I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect.  I can listen for His call and obey Him.  As I’m serving the Lord, if I make a mistake I can repent and move on.

Freedom is knowing that I please God just as I am, right now.  As I grow and mature in Christ, I’ll continue to please God.  It’s not based on my performance, but on His work in me.

That brings me to Paul’s third point.  When I’m walking in freedom, I can serve God by serving others.  I’m not worried about how God sees me.  I can do what I’m called to do without any hindrance.

Because I know that I’m loved by God, I’m free to love others.  I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll accept me or not.  I’m already acceptable to the Lord.  That’s true liberty.

Trying to follow the law is just the opposite.

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5:14-15

When I’m performing for acceptance from God, everything becomes a competition.  I have to prove that I’m better than you.  That means I have to pick on your faults and emphasize my strengths.  A group of people with those attitudes will never do anything great for God.

Choose freedom.  Cultivate your walk with the Spirit and let Him do His work in you.  And always remember that God loves who you are right now.

Question: How has God’s love changed your view of yourself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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