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Whose Authority?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Now we’re going to get into a new area as we start chapter 4.

Just to remind you, I’m going through the New Testament in the order it was revealed to the church by the Holy Spirit. The first four books, James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark, are the foundation stones of our walk with Christ.

Because of this, there are a lot of “firsts” in these writings. In this post I’m going to deal with an important first principle. It’s one that’s almost lost in our modern church experience. I believe that God wants to restore it in this generation.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Before I get started into the main subject, I want you to see that God’s desire is always for our growth. Whatever we’ve learned and implemented in the past, it must always increase more and more each year. We want the life of Christ to become increasingly brighter all the time.

The principle that we need to understand is that of authority and submission. These are two subjects that most people don’t want to deal with in the church. That’s usually because it’s not done in a Scriptural way.

In these verses, we see the first time that a church leader talks about his authority in Christ. It’s the foundation for the relationship between leaders and followers in the body of Christ.

When Paul says that we instructed you, it literally means you received instructions from us. I believe that there’s a big difference in those two phrases.   Paul didn’t just talk to them, they actually took what he said seriously; and applied it to their lives.

He taught them how to live in such a way that it pleases God. To please God means that you evoke a positive emotional response from the Lord. Some of our modern teaching gives us the wrong ideas.

The fact is that God loves us and wants us as His children at all times. However, not everything we do brings a good emotion to the Lord. When I operate outside of His will, He’s not smiling happily saying, “That’s My boy!” There are plenty of Scriptures that implore us not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us.

On the other hand, our present church culture usually doesn’t want to be instructed on how to live for God. It’s okay to suggest to us some things, but don’t tell me what I need to do. I’ll decide for myself what I will and won’t do in my life.

By this time, you might think that I’m simply talking about being obedient to church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This lack of submitting to instruction has a lot to do with our present leadership.

I call your attention to the second verse above. The word instructions is actually the word commands; like in the military. They’re not optional.

Here’s the important point that I don’t want you to miss. The word authority is not in the original Greek verse. Paul actually says; you know what commands we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Please understand that Paul is not saying that Jesus gave me the authority to tell you what to do. Unfortunately, that’s how many leaders incorrectly interpret it. Then the leaders try to force people to do their will.

On the contrary, Paul was saying that he spent quality time in the presence of the Lord. He then heard from Christ certain commands that he was to pass on to the church. And that’s where, I believe, we’ve missed it.

We need leaders who are willing to do what it takes to hear a Word from God. People don’t need to hear my opinion on how to live for Christ. They need to hear from Christ, Himself. That’s where God is bringing His church to in our generation.

Question: How have you seen the effect of leaders operating in their own authority?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Judgment and Mercy

In my last post I talked about the judgment of God that we all need to be prepared for. James completed his thought by talking about mercy.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13

But what is this mercy? I believe that our generation has no concept of what this word means.

When we use the word mercy it’s usually when we’ve done something wrong. We want to be shown leniency, so we say, “Please have mercy on me.” This is not the Biblical concept of mercy.

It’s interesting to note that two times were recorded in the Gospels where Jesus made the same statement to the Pharisees. In both cases they were condemning Him for what He was doing. He did things like eating with “sinners.” The Pharisees were thinking, “How can the power of God work in you if you do that?”

Jesus had a stern rebuke for them.

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
Matthew 12:7

This statement was directed at the Pharisees, But I have to admit that when I began studying about mercy I had no idea what He meant by it. I had always quoted the verse “to obey is better than sacrifice.” This view of the mercy of God was new to me.

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

This is why James talks about the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment. God would much rather reward your faithfulness than discipline you. It’s the same with sacrifice in the above verse. The Lord would rather reward your obedience than forgive your sin – even though His forgiveness is unlimited.

This knowledge of the mercy of God should color all we do in our relationships with other believers. If God wants to show us His favor, then we should have that same attitude toward fellow Christians.

James is clear on how we’re to do this. First of all, we’re to speak to each other in the understanding that the one we’re speaking to is under God’s favor. Why would I treat someone badly, that God loves and favors?

To do that would be to invite God’s discipline. It’s like that in any family. When someone is mean to their sibling, they’ll definitely get a time-out.

The second part has to do with our actions. Sometimes they speak more loudly than our words. How do we treat each other?

When we refuse to participate with fellow believers, it’s a sign that we don’t favor someone that God loves and wants to work with.

An understanding of God’s mercy is what should drive us forward. We need to let it work in us to live and act as Jesus did. Then we’ll see the results of God’s work in us and in those around us.

Question: How have you seen God’s mercy operate in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Pattern of Faith and Obedience

ProfitI’m posting about the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine. In my last article we saw that Jesus had not stepped into His role as Messiah yet. In this one instance He’s acting as God in the flesh.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
John 2:7-8

In this passage, Jesus is speaking as God – not man. The servants are hearing the Word of God. What will they do with what they hear?

Step one is easy. It takes no faith at all to fill the jars with water. That in itself must have taken a lot of time. Each jar held about 20 to 30 gallons. Drawing water from a well was time consuming.

It’s the same thing in our lives. The first part of faith is the easy stuff. We hear the Word of God to us. We accept it, meditate on it, and declare it.

Then comes step two, when you have to trust in the Word of God. The hard part for the servants was when Jesus told then to take this “water” to the master of the banquet for him to taste. They would have looked like fools if nothing had happened.

That’s why it’s important for us to continue to do what we know to do. We walk by faith in the Word of God. Even when it doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary is happening. It’s the obedience of faith that brings about the miracle.

Hearing God’s Word is not enough. We need to move ahead and walk in it. That’s the sign that we truly believe it. That’s when the world sees that Jesus is Lord.

Through this miracle, the disciples got a glimpse into who Jesus really was. He wasn’t just a good teacher with a message for Israel. He was God taking on flesh to reveal Himself to lost humanity.

That’s why the Gospel says…

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
John 2:11

The word first in this passage literally means the first in priority. It doesn’t mean the first in order – like 1, 2, 3. (Actually, the first miracle recorded by John was when Jesus saw Nathaniel under the tree before they met.)

What this verse is saying is that the miracle of turning the water into wine was the most important miracle of Jesus. It was through this that He revealed to the disciples that He was God. It proved to them that they could trust His Word.

When the Lord spoke to them, they knew that whatever He said would come to pass just as He said it would. We need to operate on that level of faith.

That’s how the words of Jesus are introduced to us in the Gospel of John. That’s why it’s so important for us to understand that John was writing to the church. It’s for God’s people to learn to walk the same way Jesus did.

The church needs to learn this lesson. If we want to see miracles to a greater degree it will require more than just church attendance. Listening to God’s Word is not enough. Hearing and obeying must become the pattern of our walk with God.

We need to be praying for the grace to hear and obey. Pray for the power of the Lord to be evidenced in us. The power to walk His road, hear His voice, and then to follow through on His instructions.

Question: What were the last instructions that you heard from the Lord that you need to obey?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Ignoring the Signs

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m posting about how supernatural signs fit into God’s plan. I talked about the signs that God has used throughout history – the sun, moon, stars, and rainbows.

The only time it’s a problem, is when we ask for a sign.

“God, if this is your will, let a bird start chirping.”

Asking for a sign is actually pretty dangerous. There are examples from Scripture that prove this out. Look at Gideon in the Old Testament. He asked God for a sign that he would be victorious in battle. God gave him the sign, but then cut his army down to 300 men. If you ask for a sign, then you’re required to show more faith.

In my last post we were talking about king Ahaz.

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
Isaiah 7:10-11

God said to Ahaz that He would show him a sign. Ahaz just had to tell the Lord what it would be. I could think of some great signs that would convince me to move forward. What was Ahaz’ response?

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Isaiah 7:12

Why would he respond like that? It does sound holy – but it was disobedient. When God tells you to do something and you say no, that’s the definition of disobedience – no matter how righteous you sound.

Remember from my last article that Ahaz wasn’t serving God. Part of Isaiah’s prophecy said that within 65 years, Israel would be shattered. In effect, Ahaz is saying NO to the entire prophecy.

What he does is to meet with the king of Assyria. He wants to make a treaty with them. He told them that he would give them Judah, and he would become one of Assyria’s vassals.

To show his submission to Assyria, Ahaz cleans out the gold and silver from the temple, and gives it as a gift to the king. The king of Assyria seems to be happy with this, then turns and conquers Israel, Judah’s rival.

In the prophecy, God said that He would defend Judah. Ahaz was saying, “No, I can handle this on my own. I don’t need or want your sign.”

What we need to realize is that a sign is the proof that God did the work. Someone far from the Lord doesn’t want any proof that God’s doing anything. Ahaz had a very religious way of saying, “I don’t need God.”

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?”
Isaiah 7:12

By his actions, Ahaz wearied God to the point of disgust. You know you’re in trouble when God is disgusted with you. That’s where the sign of the virgin birth comes in.

In my next post we’ll see how it fits in to God’s plan.

Question: What religious reasons do we use to excuse our disobedience these days?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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You’ve Been Hand-Picked

MixFor the last couple of posts I’ve been talking about Peter’s opening remarks in his first epistle.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1-2

I’ve talked about the fact that we are aliens, scattered throughout the world. Today I want to emphasize that we are chosen. That word chosen means selected, hand-picked, or favorite.

Why has God chosen us? The answer is simply because we responded to His call.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:14

We are all invitedcalled – but chosen means that you responded and put yourself in the position of being selected.

The Apostle, Peter described this truth in the verse we looked at above. He said that we were chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father. Then we were sanctified by the working of the Holy Spirit in us.

That, in and of itself, is great news. But he didn’t stop there. He had to put in that tough little word – “for”. That changes everything. That means that there was a reason for all that He did. It can be summed up in one word – purpose.

It turns out that we are strangers, scattered and chosen for a purpose. What is that purpose? According the Peter, the purpose is obedience to Christ.

That word obedience literally means to hear under. You could also call it attentive listening. If I’m an alien, then I must listen to MY King. Being scattered in the world I have to listen for the Lord’s special instructions for me.

If I’m chosen, then I need to listen to the one who chose me. We must listen carefully and follow His instructions. If we don’t, then things will start to go wrong.

The problem is that listening requires time in the Lord’s presence. We live in a fast paced world. We look for the quick fixes. How can I get it done immediately?

The truth is that there’s no technology that can speed up the development of relationship. The only way is by spending time. Whether it’s with another human, or the Holy Spirit, I have to take the time necessary to get to know them. This fact will never change.

I am a stranger, an alien, to this world. I am scattered to be salt. I am chosen by God to obey Him. Therefore, I must listen attentively.

We need these attitudes if we’re going to be effective for Christ. Only then will we see a difference in the world around us. The world is desperately waiting for a church that knows who they are in Christ.

Question: How have you made a difference for Christ in the lives of those around you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, The Church

 

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Obedient Faith

BlurI’ve been posting about the Holy Spirit as the one who nourishes our spirits. I talked about Jesus speaking to the crowd who had been miraculously fed by the loaves and fishes.

The Lord told them that He was the living bread from Heaven. They got offended at some of His words and many began to leave Him. As He was left alone with His disciples, they told Jesus that His teaching was hard for them to understand. So He said the following…

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
John 6:63

He explained to them that He wasn’t talking about His physical flesh. Christ was talking about His Spirit – the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is sent from heaven He will give life.

At that point in history, Jesus fulfilled the role of the Holy Spirit to His disciples. That’s why He could tell them to believe His words and receive life – the living bread.

But understand; right now it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to give life. If I want this in my life I must feed on His word to me. Hearing and believing the Holy Spirit is the key to everything we need.

But the real question is; do you truly believe if you don’t obey?

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
James 2:17-18

What kind of faith is James talking about here? Some ethereal faith, believing it will all turn out good in the end? Absolutely not!!

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
James 2:20-23

We must have faith in the instructions God gives us. How? By the Holy Spirit. Why did Abraham offer his son? Because God had said to do it

That’s righteousness – our spiritual food. Believing that what God speaks to you is the right thing to do. That’s the same spiritual food that Jesus ate. That’s the life that the Holy Spirit is offering to us right now. But in order to see this manifest, I must spend time with the Holy Spirit – the giver of life to the church.

Question: How have you been obedient to the Holy Spirit lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Permanently Temporary

TentI’ve been posting about the obedience that springs from our faith. In my last post I talked about one of the attitudes of obedience to God. Today I want to talk about the second. We’re looking at what Hebrews, chapter 11, says about Abraham.

By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
Hebrews 11:9

The literal Greek of this text says that he lived permanently in tents. As an avid hiker and camper, I think that’s an interesting statement. In other words, he was living permanently in a temporary home.

But it wasn’t only Abraham. He was with others who were called as well.

The next attitude of obedience says that even though I’m trusting God to move me forward, I’m willing to stay here forever waiting for the Lord’s call. How could Abraham be so content to stay in his tents?

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:10

This is the secret to Abraham’s obedience. This verse literally says that he could obey because he accepted from the source, a city built by God.

This should be the same for us. We obey because we’ve accepted God’s destiny for our lives. We know who it is that promised.

I can only find the strength to obey God if I’ve accepted His destiny even if I don’t know all the details. That’s the tough part of this attitude. I have to accept His plan before I know where it will take me.

We walk by faith, not sight. Think about how incredible the place is that He is taking us to.

This city has foundations. We know from the Scripture that Christ is our foundation. We’ve started to build our little spiritual house. The thing is, God wants to take us to the city level. We have such a small vision some times.

This is a city whose architect and builder is God. Every time you obeyed a calling, God was building. Every pain and inconvenience – God was building.

But it gets even better than that. The word Builder in the above verse literally means public worker. The Lord does all the public works of the city.

Think about that for a minute. What if He did all the public works in your city? There would be gold streets, gem encrusted fire hydrants, and who knows what else.

Waiting on God’s destiny for your life is worth all the inconvenience of obedience.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12

This is what the fight of faith is all about. It’s the fight to obey your calling. You must push through to wait upon God and listen for His voice calling you forward. It may seem hard to take in the short term. But in the end you’ll find that it was well worth the struggle.

Question: Why are we so reluctant to wait in the place of prayer to hear God’s voice?

©Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Faith, Ministry, Prayer

 

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