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The Great Deception

TrophyIn my last post I talked about Paul’s rebuke of the Christians who live as enemies of the cross. There are many who replace Christ with worldly pursuits. I’ve heard a lot of holy sounding excuses.

“We need to be a witness to the world.”

“God understands that I need to do this.”

“I’ve been faithful for months. I can take a week off.”

Here’s the problem. We’ve begun to believe a lie. It sounds so good that even preachers will quote it. But, it’s destroying God’s people. What is this great deception?

“Jesus Christ needs to have first place in your life.”

It sounds so pure and holy, but it has the potential to destroy your walk with the Lord. Why is this the case? Because Jesus never wanted to be first in your life. It’s abundantly clear from the Scripture – Christ wants to be the only thing your life revolves around.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
Philippians 3:7-8

If Christ is in first place, then we can have a close second and feel good about it.

“I go to church most Sundays. I only missed one week this month. Of course Christ has first place over the amusement park.”

We need to get back to the pattern. That’s what will change our lives, and the world around us. This is what we were saved for. Not a one-time encounter with Christ, but an ongoing relationship of renewal and transformation.

In order to live this way we must move on into the walk of victory that Christ has destined us for. This will require us to get a new revelation of the cross of Christ.

First we must get over our fear of the cross. For too long God’s people have backed off from it because it sounds uncomfortable. It’s always been this way. Even from the first time Jesus mentioned it to His disciples. At one point the Lord described what He was going to do on the cross and Peter openly rebuked Him.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Matthew 16:23

Very few people understand the cross. The enemy’s kingdom didn’t. Neither did the disciples. But we see here that the very notion of rejecting the cross was offensive to Christ. Peter had no idea the significance of what would happen there. So at this point in time, Peter was an adversary of the cross. It’s the same place we find ourselves so often. Not enemies of Christ, but of His cross.

Even back then, the Lord didn’t let it end there. He went on with His teaching.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
Matthew 16:24-25

Christ tells His disciples, and us as well, that if we want to walk in step behind Him, then we need to go where He’s going. We have to be on the same path He’s taking. That means that we must deny ourselves – literally to contradict ourselves – in order to follow Him. That tells me that I must go in a direction that’s opposite of what I think is the logical course for my life.

Question: What does embracing the cross mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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Avoiding the Cross

 

 

Cross SunsetIn my last post I talked about the pattern of living that the Apostle Paul handed down to his churches.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

The unfortunate truth that Paul saw in his day, and is an epidemic in ours, is that many believers live as enemies of the cross. Please understand. They’re not really enemies – they would never think to put it into those terms.

They actually think they’re followers of Christ. But in reality, enemies try to avoid one another at all costs. That’s how many treat the cross.

You can see it in a church service. When the sermon starts heading in that direction, eyes start to glaze over.

“Yes, Pastor, we know we need to take up our cross. But I’d rather hear something that will get me a better job.”

Paul describes these people in the next verse.

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
Philippians 3:19

Actually, this verse isn’t as bad as it sounds. What’s translated as their destiny is destruction isn’t talking about spending eternity in hell. What it means is that the destination of the road they’re on is ruin and loss.

It’s talking about what happens in this life. So much of the church is wallowing in ruin and loss. We spend so much time trying to come up with teachings that merely put a Band-Aid on the problem.

He also describes the objects of their focus. It’s all about their stomach, their shame and earthly things. Christians are involved in so much these days – a lot of them are healthy pursuits. Restaurants, gym memberships, sports leagues, and hundreds of other things.

Many of us give great sounding reasons for what we do. We want to be well-rounded people. Our lives need to be in balance. We want the world to see that we’re regular people. Paul, however, sees it from a different perspective.

Through the eyes of Christ, the Apostle breaks through our excuses and zeroes in on what’s really going on. It’s all about us. Our god is our stomach. Our desire is to fulfill the lusts and desires of our flesh. We look at the world around us and get jealous of all that they experience. We want to partake of the same things.

We glory in our shame. This is a hallmark of our society. I’m ashamed that I don’t look like the actor on TV with those washboard abs. I have to start a program at the gym to try and work on it.

My heroes are the singers on American Idol, so I need to take voice lessons. I want to be like the athletes I watch at the stadium, so I join a basketball league. Now, I’m too busy to do very much for Christ.

It all boils down to the last statement Paul makes – their mind is on earthly things. It doesn’t matter how good you make it sound. The things that distract us from pursuing Christ will only pull us down to ruin and loss. It’s time for the church to wake up.

Question: How do we break free from the distractions of the world?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Revival, The Church

 

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Choosing the Right Path

TrailIt seems that the more I study about the cross, the more I’m drawn to it. It was on the cross that Christ became our Savior. It was there that the saving power of the Messiah was released to transform our lives forever.

Salvation is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing process. It’s a process that all focuses on the work of the cross.

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 1:18

It all hinges on the Word of the cross. What we find in the body of Christ is two kinds of believers. One group is composed of those who are being saved. They have decided to submit to God’s renovation plan in their lives.

They want to see the whole package of God’s provision accomplished in them. They want not only healing, joy and prosperity, but they’re willing to see righteousness, holiness, and obedience developed as well. They want to see all the losses of the curse turned around. To this group, the Word of the cross is the power of God that transforms them into the image of Christ.

There’s another group as well. These are people who have accepted God’s forgiveness, but haven’t progressed any further. They’ll be in God’s kingdom when they die, but for now they’re content to live for themselves.

The word perishing in the verse above simply means decay or loss. There are those in the church who have chosen the path of decay and loss.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

There’s a pattern that we can follow. Literally this verse says that there is a die that has been struck. A die, in this sense, is a mold for shaping something according to an original pattern. Christ was the original.

On the cross He became a pattern for us to follow in the spiritual realm. There’s a work the Holy Spirit wants to do in us if we will only let Him.

As he went around to all the churches, Paul would give them a pattern of living. This is what we’re missing in our generation. We need a pattern to focus our lifestyles around. Following Christ is not a hobby. It’s not just one of many pursuits in our daily schedules. If we serve Christ, then that’s all there is – everything else revolves around that truth.

That’s the goal of these posts. I want us, as the people of God, to get back to the pattern. We have made serving God into formulas. Each one has their own little bubble. Nothing affects anything else.

We’ll teach about the “Ten Steps to Prosperity” or the “Five Steps to Receive your Healing.” We’ll talk about how to walk in the power of God or what to do to overcome depression. Once in a while we might even hear that we need to become a disciple. Each teaching comes in its own separate parcel. Little do we realize that our life in Christ is a package deal.

Everything we do affects all the areas of our life. My righteousness affects my prosperity. My holiness affects my relationships. Everything is intertwined. That’s why I need the pattern, if I’m going to live the abundant life that Christ talked about.

Question: Where do we find the pattern for how we are to live?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in Power of God, Revival

 

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