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Freedom vs. License

I’ve heard people say that if you preach too much about our freedom in Christ, then believers will start to think that they have a license to live however they want.  But is that the truth?  And if it was, would that be a reason to stop preaching the true Word of God?

Paul starts to deal with some of these issues in his letter to the Galatian church.

At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.  It is the same now.
Galatians 4:29

It’s obvious from this verse that Paul’s talking about the Judaizers who were causing him so much trouble.  They felt that the Gentiles needed to come under the Law of Moses in order to maintain their salvation.

In my experience, this verse is as applicable today as it was back then.  There are Christians in our generation who believe in a set of rules that must be followed.  They believe there’s a certain lifestyle that must be adhered to.

Understand me – if the Bible calls something sin, then God hates it.  If we’re involved in it, we need to repent and turn from it.  So I’m not talking about a freedom to sin.

What I am talking about, are believers who try to make it so hard for people to grow.  If a child spills his milk, you expect that; he’s a child.  Why don’t we give young believers that same benefit of the doubt?

I’ve been told that you can’t emphasize our freedom in Christ.  It causes believers to “backslide” and fall into sin.

Well, I’ve been a pastor for 30 years.  I preach about our sonship and freedom in Christ.  I preach about the walk of maturity and power.  So I think that I have some experience in this area.

What I’ve found over the years is that the vast majority of those I taught have gone on to a mature Christian walk as well as an understanding of their call to ministry.  Yes, some have fallen away.  But most of those who fell into sin, started by first rejecting me and my teaching.

Paul makes it very clear…

But what does the Scripture say?  “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Galatians 4:30-31

My belief is that new believers should start out being shown what they need to do to grow in Christ.  Reading the Word, attending a church, tithing, praying, etc.  Just like physical children, they need to be shown how to be responsible with their salvation.

Along with that, they need to be shown the freedom and joy of maturity.  That’s what works in the natural.  Children look up to their parents.  They want to be free to drive their own car someday.  They want to have a job and have their own money.

If you never show people what God offers, they’ll never strive for a deeper walk.  It’s not natural for a 25-year-old, living with his parents, to be told that if he cleans his room he’ll get an extra treat after dinner.  There’s a freedom that comes with maturity.

We just have to learn this truth in the family of God.  I like the way the Apostle Paul sums it all up.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

I believe that given the choice, most Christians will choose the power and freedom of a mature walk in Christ over sin every time.

Question: What’s been your experience with legalistic believers?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Hearing Faith

I always thought that I was as far from legalistic as you could get.  What does the Apostle Paul, a former Pharisee, have to say about the subject?  Be prepared; I think that the answer might change your whole outlook as well.

As I look at the church in America today, I can’t help comparing us to what I read in the book of Acts.  I’m also thinking about the stories I heard from my grandparent’s generation.  They came to the Lord in the wake of the Azusa Street revival.  When they were saved they saw miracles, healings, signs, and wonders.  What’s happened to us since then?

You may think as I did, “I’m not legalistic.”  But do we even know what legalism looks like?  Let’s find out what the Paul has to say about it.

You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
Galatians 3:1-2

The word translated foolish in the above verse literally means not thinking.  Paul is asking these Galatian Christians why they’re not thinking about what they’re doing.

The next line he writes literally means; who has fascinated you by false representations?  It’s obvious from the way he writes that these believers were not being convinced by the truth, but rather a clever counterfeit.  Paul reminds them of the fact that when they first believed, they clearly understood that Jesus Christ was crucified for them.

He then asks a simple question – how did you receive the Spirit?  The literal answer is that the Spirit was received by the hearing of faith, trusting in God to do the work.  This is an important truth.

Faith comes when you hear a Word from God.  Whether it’s in your prayer time, during a sermon, or while reading the Scripture – hearing from the Holy Spirit produces faith.  Paul was re-emphasizing to them that the law can’t save anyone.  The law only condemns.

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing?
Galatians 3:3-4

This is what we need to understand.  If, by all of our rules and self-discipline, we couldn’t even start the salvation process; what makes us think that we can complete it by our own strength?

Paul, however, continues along this line with another question and we have all but ignored its implications.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

Paul literally asks how does God fully supply you with His Spirit and activate His miraculous power in you?  That’s the question of the hour.  It’s what the church desperately needs to learn and lay hold of.  It’s what the world is dying to see in operation.

I believe that it’s this truth that will usher in the end time harvest of souls before the coming of the Lord.  Paul’s answer is that the Spirit is given and His power is activated in you by the hearing of faith.  This is where the power of God resides.  It’s not a work of the law.  It only comes as I hear His voice and let it inspire faith in me.  This is the foundation for the miraculous.  God and I as co-workers.

He’s looking for someone who’ll listen for His voice.  It’s time for the church to enter that intimate place with the Lord.  Only then will we see the glory of God released through His people.

Question: What should your mindset be while hearing the Word preached or taught?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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In Christ is Perfect Freedom

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  In it, he outlines what Christ did to overcome the effects of the Law.  We’ve been set free in Christ.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Galatians 2:19

The result of trying to serve the Law is always death.  There’s no way that anyone can live up to all it contains.  Paul understood that no matter how hard we try, we always end up at the same place.  The Law places us in an endless cycle of guilt, fear, and frustration.

That’s why the Lord wants to get rid of your entire past. The “old you” is removed and nailed to the cross with Christ. It’s never to be heard from again. But it doesn’t end there.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Christ doesn’t only deal with our past. The work He did on the cross affects our present and future as well. This is because the cross means nothing without the resurrection. The two must go hand in hand.

It’s great that Jesus got rid of my past sins and the guilt and shame that came with it. But I’m living in the present. I’m concerned about the future. How does what He’s done speak to this?

The power that was released when Christ rose from the dead is available to me today. I now have the power of God present in me. I have a source of strength that will get me through today victoriously. It will carry me through until I reach my destiny in Christ Jesus. That’s the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.

It’s just like when we’re doing something on our computers. You can create a lot of great stuff. But until you click on the save button, everything can be lost. Christ did a powerful work on the cross. But it was when He rose up from the dead that He hit the save button.

The Lord’s death and resurrection opened up the saving work of God for all time and to all people. This is what the church should be proclaiming. Repentance and forgiveness are now available through Jesus Christ.

That’s why I’ve bowed my knee to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. No other god has ever done this for his people. All the other religions tell their followers that if they want acceptance, enlightenment, or paradise, then they need to work harder. Sweat for it, bleed for it, suffer for it. Only when you’ve put enough effort into your seeking, will you attain the prize.

My God understood my problem. As a human being, I’m incapable of living the perfect life He requires. I had no ability to approach God on my own merit.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Galatians 2:21

If there was a rule book or a set of laws that we could follow correctly, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. Because of the grace of God and the work of the cross it’s no longer about my ability. It’s now all about God’s work in me.

Question: How does Christ’s work continue to change your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Legalism and the Promises

LionIn my last post I shared that when I decided to tithe in order for God to rebuke the devourer, 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 trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises is a form of legalism.

What I forgot 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.

Now, don’t get ahead of me.  This is a dangerous point to only have half of the truth.  You need the whole truth, if you’re going to walk in the power of God.  At this point I’m still dealing with the first half.  You must read all the blogs in this series to get the whole picture.

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.

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 1:20

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.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Legalism, Power of God, The Church

 

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How God Exposed my Legalism

SpotlightIn my last post, I looked at Paul’s question – How does God give His Spirit and work power in the church?  This question is the difference between all other religions and Christianity.

Think about it.  In the book of Acts, the early church had no phones, radio, New Testament Scripture, or anything like the resources and knowledge we have today.  Yet they walked in the power of God that’s unrivaled in our modern generation.

As I thought about it, I also realized that my grandparents couldn’t read and had no formal education to speak of.  Yet there was an incredible manifestation of the power of God in their lives – what happened?

Let me say something now, for shock value, that I’ll explain more fully in a later post.  It was when the church started teaching about the promises we began to lose the power.

Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.  I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
Romans 7:9-10

This verse is very clear.  God saved me apart from the law when I trusted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Through this finished work I was made alive apart from the law.  Then the commandment came, which the Scripture says is the power of sin (I Corinthians 15:56). When this happens, death begins its work in me.

Let me explain how God used this truth to minister to me.  One day, as I was driving, praying, and meditating upon the Word, the Holy Spirit started to speak to me.  I had been going through a rough time financially.

I had done everything that I knew to do.  I had stood on all I’d been taught about prayers and confessions.  I’ve always been a tither.  I always remind the Lord what His Word says and that I’m standing on His promises.

At this point in my life I clearly heard God speak to my heart and ask me, “What are you basing your expectation on?”  Immediately my thoughts turned to the Scripture.  I’m basing my hope in the Word that tells me to tithe.  If I’ll tithe, then You will rebuke the devourer and open the windows of Heaven.  I give special offerings when You lead me to, so that I’ll receive the blessings of the seed of faith.

The Lord then asked me a question that floored me.  He said, “So you’re basing your expectation upon the law?”  I was speechless.  I had no response to this.  On the inside I felt like defending and justifying my actions.  But deep down I knew that the Lord had hit upon the very root of the problem, even though at that point I had no clue how to get out of it.

I came to the realization that I had placed myself under the commandment.  Trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises is a form of legalism.

Question: Are there Scriptural promises that you find yourself legalistic about?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Legalism, Power of God, The Church

 

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The Law and the Power of God

PowerlessI’ve posted in the past about the power of God and the power of sin.  How do I know which power I’m using?  When I understood the answer to this, I was shocked.  I always thought that I was as far from legalistic as you could get.  Be prepared, I think that the answer might change your whole outlook as well.

My goal is to answer two questions over the next few posts.  Why does the church seem to have no power?  And what do we need to do to get it back?

When I say this, I’m comparing us to what I read in the book of Acts.  I’m also thinking about the stories I heard from my grandparent’s generation.  They came to the Lord in the wake of the Azuza Street revival.  When they were saved they saw miracles, healings, signs, and wonders.  What has happened to us since then?

You may think as I did, “I’m not legalistic.”  But do we even know what legalism looks like?  Let’s find out what the New Testament has to say about it.

You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
Galatians 3:1-2

The word translated foolish in the above verse literally means not thinking.  Paul is asking these Galatian Christians why they are not thinking about what they’re doing.

The next line he writes literally means, who has fascinated you by false representations?  It’s obvious from the way he writes that these believers were not being convinced by the truth, but rather a clever counterfeit.  Paul reminds them of the fact that they first believed Jesus Christ was crucified for them.

He then asks a simple question – how did you receive the Spirit?  The implied answer is that the Spirit was received by faith, trusting in God to do the work.

Paul was re-emphasizing to them that the law can’t save anyone.  The law only condemns.  Paul, however, continues along this line with another question and we have all but ignored its implications.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

What most people don’t realize is that the word translated miracles in the New Testament is the Greek word dunamisPOWER.  Usually it is just the context that the translators use to decide whether to use miracle or power as the English word.

The question Paul asks is fundamental to our understanding of the power of God.  How does God give His Spirit and work power in the church?  Obviously, the answer is by faith.

Question: Why does following the law never lead to the power of God?

© Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Faith, Legalism, Power of God

 

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Are you a Transient Christian?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my last post I talked about the differences between the power of the law and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

There’s another big difference between the law and the Spirit.  When you walk by the Spirit, you are totally dependant upon the Spirit.  The law, on the other hand, allows you to be self-sufficient.  All through Scripture we see this truth.  If we are to minister for Him, then we must work in His strength.  There is no other way to operate in the Spirit of God

The law gives you the appearance of self-sufficiency.  That is, until the batteries die.  That’s why it’s so hard to reach people in legalistic churches.  They know what they’ve done to keep the law – to live right.  They know the effort they’ve put forward.

“I’m okay because I’ve served God faithfully for forty long years.”

That brings us to the final difference that I want to cover.  It’s actually the same as the last one, but from a little different perspective.  To understand this we could look at the whole of the Gospel of John, chapter 15.  Instead, I’ll only look at a few verses that emphasize the point I’m trying to make.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
John 15:7-8

REMAIN IN CHRIST!  That’s the crux of the whole matter.  In order to be entrusted with the power of God, we must remain in the Spirit of Christ.  This is what trips most of us up.  We don’t want to remain.

The law is a little more lenient, it allows you to be transient.  What’s transient?  Now there’s a word you don’t hear very often, but it describes the situation exactly.  Let me explain it to you.

My parents used to have a summer home in the state of Maine.  It was in a trailer park in the woods.  We used to have a lot of fun going up there each year.

My parents spent most of the summer and fall there.  They knew all of their neighbors and had a wonderful time living there.  While my family and I visited, we heard about another section of the park, with a different sort of people.  That was the “transient section.”

The transient section of the park was reserved for those who would come for only a week and then leave to go somewhere else.  They didn’t remain there permanently, as my parents did.  Instead, they wanted to come and go as they saw fit.  This seems to be a problem of epidemic proportions in the body of Christ today.

We don’t want to remain in the Spirit.  We want the freedom do what we want and have the blessing of God on our lives.

According to Christ, it is as we remain in Him that we enter the place of power.

Question: Why does remaining in Christ sound so difficult to this generation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Power of God

 

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