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Tag Archives: maturity

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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Spirit Fruit

In my last post, I talked about the warning signs telling you that your flesh needs more change from the spirit.  But did you know that there are signs to look for showing you that your spiritual walk is maturing?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately, many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit production is a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunlight).

This is something that many Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.  They will not even come by willpower or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT.

All the fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be produced from our strength.

As a matter of fact, if you understand what these different fruits are, then you’ll know that you can’t fake them.  You can’t be producing them on a habitual basis without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you.

I think that one of our problems is that we read this list of fruit and assign them the definitions given by our present society.  Actually, what God calls love is not what the world calls love.  It’s the same with all the rest.

If we look at how the Lord describes these characteristics, we’d see that they can only be done consistently by walking in the spirit.  This is one of the reasons why prayer in the spirit is so important.

Over the years I’ve seen this work.  In my own life and the lives of others, who regularly spend time in the spirit, this change takes place.

The key word is time.  It usually takes place gradually as we spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I wish that it would be instantaneous, like a New Year’s resolution.  But the fact is, I’d rather have it take place slowly and permanently instead of quickly and only a temporary change.

I think that it’s important to know what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us.  So I feel led, over the next nine posts, to go over each of the fruit separately.  In this way, we’ll know what to look for in evaluating our growth toward maturity.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Short-Circuiting God’s Work

Today, many Christians are trying to win God’s blessings by striving to make themselves more worthy. In New Testament times there were some who thought circumcision and submitting to the Law of Moses would help get you closer to God. Paul wrote about these people in his letter to the Galatians.

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.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Galatians 5:1-2

Wow! Paul uses some powerful words in this passage. Christ will not benefit you at all if you strive to do the work in your ability. Nothing on the outside will avail you in trying to deserve the power of God.

As a matter of fact, it will have just the opposite effect. It will hinder your ability to flow in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul continues.

Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:3-4

We’re always looking for the quick fix. So, in order to get around the time needed to be intimate with God, we’d rather try different Old Testament acts, hoping that they’ll do the trick. People try tithing, food laws, vows, and other Old Covenant traditions thinking that somehow it will make them more worthy.

Unfortunately, by doing this one simple act, Christ, the Anointed One is rendered idle in your life. That’s what the literal Greek in this verse says. Paul states that you have gone off course from grace.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
Galatians 5:5

The only way to walk in the power and righteousness of God is to wait in the Spirit. It’s only by intimacy with the Lord that we’ll gain this precious gift. It’s not going to manifest through your work and ability. It will only come about as God declares you worthy as a mature son.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there’s something wrong with tithing, eating healthy, reading the Bible, confessing the promises or going to church. These are a necessary part of our growth in the Lord. They’re also a normal part of a mature Christian’s life. What I’m saying is that if your sole purpose in doing these things is to make points toward receiving God’s power, then you’re going to be disappointed.

What I desire is to see the church reach its maturity in Christ. Only then will we see the manifestation of the power of God in our services. As long as we have the mentality of spiritual childhood, we’ll never experience it. Having to recite and claim the promises are a part of childhood.

It’s what children do in the natural. It’s the “are we there yet?” attitude. If we decide to go fishing on Saturday and I tell you I’ll be by to pick you up at 5:00 AM, you don’t keep calling me to remind me. I show up at your house at 5 and you’re ready and waiting. That’s what adults do (or should do).

My children don’t have to keep reminding me that it’s my responsibility as a parent to feed them. They know where the refrigerator is and they know they’re free to get something whenever they want.

It’s the same with God. Jesus, as a mature Son, did not have to keep reciting the promises to the Father. He knew that they’d activate when needed. Maturity lives above the promises. If only we could grasp the freedom and power of spiritual maturity. It would propel us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

Question: How does waiting on the Lord in the Spirit bring growth and maturity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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