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Maturity and the Gifts

We’re continuing our look at the love chapter – First Corinthians, chapter 13.  We always need to keep in mind that the greater context for this passage is a teaching about the Gifts of the Spirit.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10

This is another of those hotly debated Scriptures.  There are some who teach that the “perfection” spoken of in this verse refers to the completion of the New Testament.  They say that once the Holy Bible is complete, then there’s no more need for the power-gifts of the Spirit.

But is that what Paul is trying to get across?  I don’t believe so.  The words that he uses don’t open up that interpretation.

He tells us that our knowledge and our prophecy are all partial.  That’s obvious.  None of us gets the whole plan from the Lord.  We only see partial glimpses into what God’s doing.

Paul goes on to say that when the perfect or complete thing arrives, then the imperfect thing will be rendered useless or idle.  This verse does not say that the imperfect thing would become more and more perfect until it was totally complete.  That would be the case if it were talking about the New Testament.

As he was receiving his revelation, the Apostle John was told something very important by an angel.

“Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Revelation 19:10b

All prophecy ultimately points to Christ.  But in our current conditions, it only a partial view of Him, or what He wants to accomplish in us.  However, when Christ – the Perfect One – appears, there will be no need for any of those prophecies anymore.  They will be rendered useless by the Lord’s appearing.

We will then have a perfect view of the One to which all knowledge and prophecy points to.  That’s right in line with what Paul goes on to explain.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

I think it’s clear from this verse that he’s talking about the church coming to maturity.  It’s not the Bible that needs to be matured and completed, but us.

This is especially true in regards to the Gifts of the Spirit.  As children, we think that everything is about us.  As we grow older, if we mature, we start thinking about the needs of others.

In some cases what you do remains the same.  It’s your attitude that changes.  When I was a teen, one of my chores was to put out the trash.  Guess what?  Now that I’m married I still put out the trash.

There’s a difference, though.  As a teen, I did those chores to gain privileges or an allowance.  Now, I do them because that’s what adults do.  I want my family to be healthy and safe.

That’s what Paul is trying to get us to see through this chapter.  Not that the gifts are going to cease to operate.  But that we need to move in the gifts with a heart of love towards those we are ministering to.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about prophecy, tongues, or giving someone a drink of water.  Walking in love is the sign that you’re becoming mature in Christ.

Question: How does walking in love bring about maturity in you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Imitation – The Road to Maturity

What do you think it takes to start maturing in Christ?  Would you need to go to Bible school for four years?

In dealing with the Corinthian church, Paul had some advice for them.  They were basically a church full of immature believers.  They had been Christians for years but had never grown up.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2

The phrase, follow my example is actually a Greek word that means to imitate me.  It’s the word from which we get the word mimic in English.  Paul was instructing these believers to imitate his lifestyle in the same way that he was imitating Christ.

The apostle had lived among them for months when he was starting their church.  They saw how he lived and worked.  Now they needed to walk before God in that same way.

In the above passage, Paul commends them for remembering his teaching and the things he told them to do.  That’s great.  But simply remembering what you’re taught is not enough.  At some point, you need to start putting it into practice.

The fact is that we can’t watch Jesus living His life.  We can only see the godly leaders that the Lord has placed before us right now.  Imitation is the first step down the road to maturity.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us the same thing.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:9

This verse gives us a little more detail about who we need to be imitating.  The problem is that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy of being imitated.

The real question is; do you see the fruit of Christ’s ministry at work in them?  They should be walking in love and the blessing of God must be evident in their ministry.

The real challenge is the walk of faith and patience.  Sometimes imitating Christ isn’t evident in someone’s life.  They seem to be doing the same thing every day.  You don’t realize the significance until you see the outcome of what they’ve done.

It’s those who have a track record of spiritual fruit that we need to imitate.  Anyone can be an overnight success that’s here today and gone tomorrow.

In order to have a sustained ministry of fruitfulness, it requires a different kind of walk.  There needs to be a consistent degree of faith in God.  But more than that – faith must be held with perseverance.

If you want your maturity to grow, then you need to seek out those who are walking in a mature lifestyle.  Then, follow their example and apply their principles to your life.

Question: Who do you know that you can imitate their walk of maturity?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Navigating the Grey Areas

We’re approaching the conclusion of Paul’s teaching on the grey areas of sin.  These are activities that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.

The apostle now gives some advice on how to handle these things.  The specific issue he’s dealing with is the eating of food that had been previously brought as a sacrifice to a pagan temple.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1 Corinthians 10:25-26

God has placed His Holy Spirit within each of us as believers.  If the Bible is silent about it, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t activate our conscience, then don’t over-think it.  If it troubles your conscience, then keep away from it.

That’s for you as an individual.  There’s more advice once others are involved.

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
1 Corinthians 10:27

If an unbeliever invites you to an activity, and your conscience isn’t troubled, then you’re free to go.  The fact is that we need to be cultivating healthy relationships with the unchurched.  How else will they be affected by the Gospel of Christ?

That was easy, but what about a mixed crowd of both believers and unbelievers?

But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.  For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
1 Corinthians 10:28-30

This is where it begins to get complicated.  I now have to take my mind off myself and think of the good of others.  I can’t just run rough-shod over another person’s conscience and proclaim, “I’m free in Christ to do what I want.”

We have to be sensitive to the maturity level of those around us.  We don’t want to be the cause of an offense that hinders their walk with God.

“Well, they just need to grow up!”

Try telling that to a three-year-old.  Growth takes time and nurturing.  Take your eyes off yourself, and be a blessing rather than a hindrance.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33a

The bottom line is that it’s not about me, but God receiving the glory from my life.  I should be able to live with a little inconvenience in order for God’s kingdom to advance.  Our goal should be that the name of Christ is exalted.

Question: Why is sensitivity to the needs of others so important to God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Godly Imitation

They say that imitation is a form of flattery.  I’ve found that I learn things best when I can watch someone else do it first.  This is just as true in our Christian walk.

In his exhortations to the Corinthian church, Paul tells them their need to follow after his way of life.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:16

In serving Christ, it’s always beneficial to have a mature, godly example to follow.  In that way, we can see how this walk is lived out.

I praise the Lord for the Scripture.  It’s a blessing that His written Word is so accessible to us as believers.  But there’s so much in the Word that I have a hard time applying.

I need to see an example of how it operates in someone’s life on a continual basis.  I’m talking about someone through whom the love and power of Christ are operating consistently.

Of course, there are those that I look at and by their lives, they teach me what NOT to do.  However, this post isn’t about the negative examples in our lives, but the positive.

Paul saw that over time the Corinthian church had lost sight of the things that he had tried to get across to them.  In their struggle to do things their way, they had missed the clear path of the Gospel that Paul preached to them.  Now they were in need of correction.

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.  He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:17

This verse is very important for us to see and understand.  It should remind us of something that was written in the Gospels.  On different occasions in Jesus’ ministry, a voice was heard from Heaven saying, “This is the Son I love, listen to Him.”

Now we see the Apostle Paul saying the same thing about Timothy.  He adds that Timothy is faithful in the Lord.  That’s an important thing for us to understand.

We know that Christ only did those things that He saw of the Father.  Then, after the Lord’s ascension, the apostles did what they had seen in Jesus.  Now, they’re exhorting the church to follow in they’re footsteps.

Paul knew that Timothy was faithfully living out the Christian walk that Paul had preached to the church.  He was now sending his spiritual son to remind the Corinthians how that walk was to be lived out.

With Paul, he wasn’t just preaching theory on how to follow Christ.  He had experienced the walk of maturity.  He knew what it would take to be faithful to the Lord.

The Corinthian church had heard the message but treated it as a suggestion.  As a result, their church was wallowing in divisions and power struggles.  They weren’t able to fully proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  They needed to get back on track, spiritually speaking.

The only way for the church to course-correct was for each individual believer to submit to Christ’s lordship.  Then, as each person follows God’s plan, the church is back where it should be.

That’s why it’s so important for us to seek out and watch the lives of mature believers.  Even as a pastor, I need to watch the lives of those who are further along in Christ than I am.  In that way, we can see the growth that only comes through godly imitation.

Question: Who do you know that you can follow their example of a mature walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Leadership, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Adolescent Church

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church sounds like he’s writing to a group of adolescents.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the worse stage of growth whether you’re talking about the spiritual or the physical.  If there was one point in my life I wouldn’t want to go back to, it would be my pre-teen and teenage years.

The problem with life as an adolescent is that you’re coming into the height of your adult strength and intelligence.  Yet, you lack the experience and permission to do things on your own.  You see the freedom and resources that adults enjoy, yet you’re locked into a world where you have to wait for your turn to experience it.

In many ways, this is the place that most of the modern church finds itself in.  We understand what should be ours in Christ, but walking in it seems to elude us.  We need to learn how to overcome and make it successfully through this stage of our Christian development.

I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.  Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Corinthians 4:14-16

In this passage, Paul urges his people to follow his example as a mature believer. That’s the toughest assignment for a growing Christian. It’s a very hard thing to move from a childish mindset to that of an adult.

There are behaviors that will work for children that adults will never get away with.  The problem in most of the church is that we want the irresponsibility of childhood with the freedom and resources of adulthood.  This will never happen.

There has to be a giving up of childish ways.  We have to move into our role as mature followers of the risen Lord.  Until this happens, we’ll never attain our true potential in Christ.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Galatians 4:19

This verse should wake us up.  Paul is writing to believers who are in the adolescent stage of their spiritual growth.  They’re saved and on their way to Heaven, but he tells them something that should get our attention.  His burning desire is that Christ would be formed in them.

This is the Greek word morphoo.  It’s where we get our English word morph.  We hear this word a lot in dealing with computer graphics.  When we see special effects in a movie, where one thing turns into something else, we say that it morphed.  That’s the spiritual change that we’re looking for.

I want to let the world see a change in me.  I want to “morph” into the same life that Christ lived.  This is the point where the change happens that brings me from being a child to living as an adult.

In life, it happens almost unnoticed.  Then one day you see what you’re doing and realize you’re not a child anymore.  As Christians, we need to go through this change on a spiritual level.  The church as a whole needs to walk in adulthood.  This is what Christ is looking for in us.

Question: What would a spiritually adult church look like?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2019 in Leadership, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Work of the Cross

As believers, most of us know that the goal is to walk in maturity.  What I’ve found is that in order to understand the road to maturity, we must first understand the significance of the cross.

Usually when we think about Christ, and all that He accomplished for us, we mention the cross but immediately focus on the resurrection.  Don’t get me wrong, the resurrection of Christ was the most important event in all of history.  It sealed our redemption.  Without the risen Lord, we would still be dead in our sins.

Our problem is that we usually don’t give the cross a second glance.  We sometimes downplay the cross.  We’ve become too familiar with it.  We see crosses everywhere.  It’s become the most recognized symbol of Christianity.

But do we really understand its significance in our growth process?  As Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he’s trying to get across to them its importance.  I think that our generation of the church needs this same understanding.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18

In my last post, I talked about this a little.  When I meditate upon what Paul is saying in this passage, it causes me to take a step back.  Paul said that Christ did not make me an apostle to baptize.  This statement should capture our attention.

The apostle was not sent out to make converts.  That wasn’t his goal and it shouldn’t be ours.  In some circles, this needs to be emphasized.

We’re not in the Kingdom of God to “get people saved.”  We’re simply here to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.  How people respond to the message is up to them.  The only thing I’ll be judged on is how accurately I gave that message, not on how many believed it.  I think this distinction is lost on many believers.

However, there’s a deeper truth here than just to preach the Gospel.  We must preach this Good News without emptying the cross of its power.  By expressing the Gospel through my human wisdom and reasoning, I lose the power that’s resident in the cross.  That’s why I need to hear a Word from God and preach that Word.

The Word of the cross has the power to save.  But it’s how we understand this statement that makes all the difference.  Remember, being saved is not a one-time thing.  It’s an on-going process.  That’s why the Word of the cross is for those who are being saved.

I need the saving power of God on a daily basis. This is the power that saves me from my sinful actions, sickness, poverty, depression, and a whole host of other issues I have to deal with in my old nature.  The message of the cross speaks to all of these and brings victory.  It’s because we’ve watered down the message of the cross, that we have such a battered down church in our generation.

When we give the Word of the cross a back seat, we miss out on the victory that God has made available to us.  We need to understand what Paul is saying to us about the cross.  My hope is that it will help us in becoming more like the Lord.

Question: What do you see as significant about the cross?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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