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The Power of Love

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the spiritual gifts.  He’s explaining them to the church in Corinth.  The apostle was trying to straighten out some of their foolishness.

For the last few posts, we saw that the Gifts of the Spirit are useless without walking in love.  That’s the most important ingredient in any ministry.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1

We’re told here, that of the three most important concepts in Scripture – faith, hope, and love – the greatest is love.  Paul then tells us to pursue love.  In order to do that effectively, we need to walk in the spiritual gifts.

It literally says to be passionate about the things of the spirit.  We should especially desire to show love by speaking a Word on behalf of God.  That’s what prophecy is.  God is love and if you speak His Word, then love will be evident.

In order to understand First Corinthians, chapter 14, we need to keep it in its context.  Paul is writing to a church where everyone’s doing their own thing.  All they care about is their own wants and desires.  Love for others doesn’t enter into their thoughts.

He wants them to use their gifts to bless others.  That’s the context of his next statement.

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:2-3

There are those who look at these verses, and the ones that follow, and conclude that the gift of tongues is bad and prophecy is good.  That’s not what Paul is trying to get across to this church.  That’s why I talked about the context.

The apostle wants us to see that in the church setting, love needs to be the major component.  Prayer in tongues has a definite purpose.  I use it to build myself up.  That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t directly show love to others.

So if I come to church and all I do is pray in the spirit, then I’m not loving others.  Instead, I’m being self-centric.

In the church, there needs to be an evident communication of God’s love.  Prophecy is a great gift for showing God’s love.  God’s Word can be a powerful encouragement to those around us.

In the church, I have a choice.  I can major on making sure that I’m blessed.  That’s what the Corinthian Christians were doing and Paul wasn’t happy with them.

My other option is to go to church with a desire to bless others.  Through the gift of prophecy, I can speak a word of strength, encouragement, and comfort.  I believe that’s what “being the church” is all about.

And in reality, I’ve found that when I want to bless others, God finds a way to bless me in the process.  There’s a mutual encouragement in the body of Christ.

Be passionate about spiritual gifts.  And seek to show the love of God in all that you do.

Question: How were you positively affected by someone operating in their spiritual gift?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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Love and the Gifts

We’re continuing our study of love in First Corinthians, chapter 13.  Paul is now going to compare its lasting effects to that of some spiritual gifts.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8

This is a verse that has sparked a lot of debate over the years.  There are those who point to it and say that the Gifts of the Spirit had an expiration date.  They conclude that these gifts ceased to operate after the original 12 apostles died.

I don’t think that’s what Paul is trying to say.  He’s teaching us a more excellent way of walking in the gifts.  Love is a factor that brings greater results.

He starts by saying that love never fails.  This means that the effects of love are enduring.  An act of love will continue to touch someone’s life long after the event has passed.  With that in mind, look at some of the other gifts.

Paul says that prophecies will cease.  That word, cease, means to be rendered useless or idle.  It does NOT mean that people will stop prophesying.

The prophecies themselves are only temporary.  Once they’ve been fulfilled, they have no more purpose.  That’s because a prophecy will always point to something.  And once the focus of the prophecy arrives, we begin a new chapter.

He goes on to say that tongues will be stilled.  Again, this verse does NOT say that the gift of tongues will no longer be available.  The word, stilled, means to be paused or restrained.

This tells me that the gift of tongues will be paused or put on hold.  It also means that those who operate in this gift would be physically or legalistically retrained from using it.  A look at church history will prove the truth of this interpretation.

Finally, the apostle says that knowledge will pass away.  It’s actually the same Greek word he used when he said that prophecies would cease.  It simply means that the usefulness of the knowledge given will come to an end.

Why is Paul telling us all this?  Because he wants to take our supernatural gifts to a higher level.

The Gifts of the Spirit, all by themselves, are only temporary events.  People won’t remember that I gave a prophecy on a certain date in the past.  But they will remember if the prophecy was used to show love to them.

Prophecy, tongues, and word of knowledge – they all give temporary benefits.  But if they’re used to show love to others in a tangible way, they have a lasting effect.

The Corinthian church was boasting in their ability to “flow in the anointing.”  They had all the gifts evident in their meetings.  Unfortunately, it was all for show – “Look what I can do!”

They left out the most important ingredient – love for one another.  There were factions and divisions.  The poor within their congregation was being publically shamed.  Love was noticeably absent.

We need to learn their lesson.  Having a move of God with the Gifts of the Spirit is an awesome thing.  But we can’t leave out love for our brothers and sisters.

It’s not an either/or proposition.  We need both the Gifts of the Spirit and love if we’re going to minister as Christ did.

Question: How have you experienced the Gifts of the Spirit operated in love?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Love Defined

In my last post, we saw that ministry without love, no matter how powerful, is not up to God’s standards.  Love must play a major role in all that we do.

But do we really understand what love is?  People have so many ideas.  Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered.  Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural?

Of course, it’s when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends.  I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

Remember, this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment.  It’s purely based on decision and will.  True love cannot be based on emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way.  Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them.  This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not.  Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you’re in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround a ministry of excellence.  When you’re ministering to people, all these aspects should be evident in your work.  Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect.  This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing.  But it’s still a thing.  Things can never be more important than people.  Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t care for the people.

You’re not their Lord, Jesus is.  Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives.  If you’re walking in excellence, in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family.  Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord.  It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry.  I never let him preach at our church again.  God has never accepted child sacrifice.  The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends.  Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies.

If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”  We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love.  Christ’s example stops us from doing this.

He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples.  When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

Question: What is the evidence of the love that can be seen in your life and ministry?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

<Note – This post was an excerpt from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence available on Amazon>

 

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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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Knowledge vs. Love

In my last post, I concluded the section of First Corinthians that dealt with romantic relationships.  Now the Apostle Paul is starting a new subject.

The Corinthian church had sent him a letter asking whether or not they could eat meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  You may think that this doesn’t apply to us, but I assure you, it does.  You’ll find out why as we go through chapter 8 of Paul’s letter.

In his society, the people of his day would look for any advantage they could get.  They would seek the blessing of an idol so they would bring an animal for sacrifice to the pagan temple.  Usually, they would bring their very best for this purpose.

The pagan priests who ran the temples would then take this meat from the sacrificed animals and sell it in the market to raise money for their support.  Because of its source, it was usually the best meat available.  So the question of whether a Christian could purchase this meat was a valid one.

How would this apply to us?  The problem of Paul’s day was that there was no Old Testament Scripture that directly talked about this issue.  So there were some believers who said it was a sin while others thought it was perfectly fine.

There are issues that we deal with in the church today that are like that.  Things that the Bible doesn’t mention, yet we have opinions about.  We ask are they sin or not.  I’m talking about things like dancing, drinking alcohol, going to a casino, getting a tattoo, or playing the lottery.

We need to hear Paul’s answer if we’re to walk correctly before God.  He starts by laying down some important principles.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  But the man who loves God is known by God.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3

It all starts with our knowledge and love.  In all cases love trumps knowledge.  That’s because with knowledge comes pride.  We think that we’re somehow better than others because we possess more knowledge than them.

That’s not the case.  Knowledge is like air.  You can blow up a balloon, but there’s no substance to it.  In our society, people will spend years of their lives accumulating knowledge in universities.  They think that somehow they’re more valuable because of it.  In reality, the more love you possess, the better a person you become.

This is especially true when you think that you know something completely.  Paul is trying to get across to us that you can never know everything about a particular subject – especially when it deals with your walk with God.

Paul says that the man who loves God is known by God.  That phrase literally says that the one who loves God is known under God.  That tells me that the more you love God, the more you submit yourself under His control.

The more you love the Lord, the more people begin to see your submission to Him.  Then, your love for others will begin to increase.  The more you love, the more valuable you are to God and His kingdom.  It has no relationship to how much knowledge you possess.

Make it your goal to live a life of love, then you’ll be able to use your knowledge for the benefit of others.

Question: How have you seen the effect of knowledge bringing pride with it?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in Fellowship, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Keeping Your Distance

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, is dealing with the matter of how carnal Christians are to be treated.  In many cases, we find ourselves off the track of God’s will in our generation.  There are times we either totally ignore sin in the church, or we kick people out of our fellowship.

As we’ve seen through these last few posts, Paul was not endorsing either of these options.  Instead, he tells mature believers to take authority over the situation in the spirit.

Now Paul shows us the way a carnal believer should be treated on a personal level.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Once someone has been identified as a carnal believer who has no desire for repentance, the work of restoration begins.  There must be intercession in the spirit for this person.  But that alone is not enough.

It’s the love shown to them that will draw them closer to God.  That’s why an understanding of this passage is so vital to church leadership.

The word, associate, in the passage literally means an intimate friendship.  It speaks of a mixing together of two lives.  It’s not referring to a casual acquaintance.

Paul is not telling us to cut all ties with this person.  Instead, we’re to love them back to the cross.  We can treat them in a friendly way without being best friends with them.  The goal is for them to desire a closer walk with God without their lifestyle or attitudes rubbing off on us.

The subject of eating together also needs to be addressed.  In our fast-paced society, meeting someone to discuss business over lunch has no intimate associations at all.  When Paul wrote this, eating together was a long process that usually meant a close, intimate friendship.

The key is that we’re not to develop an intimate friendship with carnal believers.  This goes right along with what Christ taught concerning those in unrepentant sin.  Look at what Christ says to do after repeatedly trying to restore this person.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:17

I’ve seen people who use this verse to kick members out of their church.  Let’s understand what Jesus is saying here.

I think that I can sum it up in two simple questions.  How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  Did He shun and exclude them or did He spend time with them in order to bring restoration?  I think the answers are obvious.

The Pharisees judged people for their sins and had them expelled from the synagogue.  Jesus loved people and spent time with them to bring them nearer to God.  Would you rather your life imitate Christ or a Pharisee?

It’s time that the church started to deal with sin in a scriptural, Christ-like way.  Our goal should be healing and restoration for the body of Christ.

Question: How have you seen scriptural restoration exemplified?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Faith + Love = Growth

I recently finished my series on the Gospel of Mark.  I had been systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.

I started with the four foundational books – James, First Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.  It’s interesting to note that the next thing on the Holy Spirit’s agenda was to inspire books that dealt with our personal walk with the Lord.

These books include Second Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, and Luke.  In this post, I want to start on Second Thessalonians.

This letter was written to a church in confusion.  They were a young congregation facing much persecution.  They were looking forward to the return of Christ.

The turmoil started when someone pretended they were Paul and wrote them a letter saying that Christ had already returned.  They were upset that they had missed it.

Paul had to write this epistle to bring them back to order with the truth.  The main theme of this book is how to live for Christ with His return in view.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

Even the way Paul starts the letter shows the apostle’s care for them.  He wants the grace and peace of the Lord to overshadow them.  He wants them to walk in assurance, knowing that they’re secure in Christ.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Even though this is a young church, Paul commends them because their faith is growing.  We know that the only way for faith to increase is by time spent with the Spirit – hearing God’s Word.  This was a church with a rich spiritual prayer life.

But they didn’t just keep it on the inside.  They lived it out.  Individually, each one of them showed a true love for all of the others in their body of believers.

Faith and love are the two non-optional commodities that the Lord looks for in His people.  They are the true measure of spiritual growth in the kingdom of God.  These people showed by their lives that they were growing in maturity.

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:4

Scripture makes it clear that the trying of our faith develops perseverance.  All three are mentioned in this verse.  This church is headed in the right direction.

Now they just need the truth to dispel their confusion about the return of Christ.  In my next post, we’ll start to see how the Apostle Paul deals with this subject.

Question: If faith and love are the measure of maturity, where are you in your spiritual development?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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