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Spiritual Warfare – The Battle for Peace

In my last post, we looked at the opening of the title deed to earth (Revelation 6:1-2).  According to the deed, Adam was the first owner.

We then saw how when Adam was created he was given authority to rule the earth.  He had a spiritual bow and arrows.  He could defeat any enemy from a comfortable distance.  He had the high ground, so to speak.

What happens next was totally off-script.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”  Then another horse came out, a fiery red one.  Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.  To him was given a large sword.
Revelation 6:3-4

There are those who don’t like my interpretation of the seals in Revelation.  They don’t like the fact that I say they’re already past – a compressed view of the earth’s history.

But simply reading this passage should be enough to convince you.  This person on a red horse has the power to take peace from the earth.  There’s only one point in the history of the world when that was possible – before the fall of Adam.

Ever since Cain killed Abel there has been no peace on earth.  Right now, at this moment, no one can take peace from the earth.  There’s no peace to take.  This seal could only be a picture of Satan entering the scene with Adam.

The color red always stands for sin in the Scripture.  The enemy is seen as the one bringing sin into God’s perfect creation.

What we need to understand is the objective of the enemy.  Notice that he didn’t come to steal money, health or joy away from Adam.  He came to steal PEACE.

We know from Scripture that one title of Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 6:7).  He’s the Ruler of Shalom-Peace.  If you have this peace, then you have everything you need.

The word, Shalom in the Old Testament is rich in meaning.  It includes health, growth, prosperity, safety, fulfillment, rest, peace, protection, and more.  It implies “nothing missing, nothing broken.”  It includes everything God has for you.

That’s the prize the enemy was after.  If he could steal peace, then he’s got everything else.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:41-42

This is what the Messiah wanted to restore.  It broke His heart when they rejected His attempts to restore to them His peace.

But there’s good news.  The story doesn’t end there.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

When you receive Christ as your Lord and Savior you also receive His peace.  The peace of God, that passes all understanding, has been restored to us (Philippians 4:7).

The problem is that most Christians have no idea that this is the prize.  This is the objective that the enemy is trying to steal.  If he can rob your peace then he’s got everything else.

Once you know the enemy’s objective, it’s easier to fight the war.  Protect the peace that the Lord has given you.  Or…if you’ve already lost it, then stand your ground to get it back.  It’s God’s will that you walk in everything that Christ won for you on the cross.

Question: How active is the peace of God in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Marriage Between Light and Dark

In my last post, we saw the Apostle Paul’s teaching on divorce between Christian couples.  Now he goes on to talk about marriages between a Christian and a non-Christian.

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13

In this case, there’s a special set of circumstances.  You have two vastly different kingdoms living under the same roof.

It’s the problem of light and darkness coming together.  They don’t mix very well.  In many cases, the unbelieving spouse finds it very convicting as they live with a believer.  This is true even when the Christian isn’t actively trying to win them to Christ.

Because of this, Paul says that the decision should be left in the hands of the unbeliever.  If they’re willing to remain in the relationship, then the marriage should stay intact.

The reason it works this way is because of the influence of the Holy Spirit.  The Christian spouse brings a covenant blessing into the home because of their faith.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
1 Corinthians 7:14

Please understand what Paul’s saying here.  The unbeliever is made clean in a ceremonial sense.  They’re not saved by the spouse.  A clean rock is still a rock.

God gives the unbeliever a position of cleanness.  This is so that the children can come under the covenant blessing.  Because of the believer, they’re covered by God’s promises.

God will always desire for the marriage to remain together.  That’s because the Holy Spirit has a chance to work on the heart of the unbeliever.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.  A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:15-16

As in all things, the rule is peace.  God wants our homes to be a refuge of peace.  That’s why He will not keep a believer and an unbeliever bound together.  A battleground between light and dark is no place to live.

God’s desire is for our best.  He wants our homes to be a place of blessing for both parents and children.

Question: How can God work on the unbeliever even if they decide to leave the marriage?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2019 in Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Gifts – Married or Single

I’m now talking about First Corinthians, chapter 7.  That’s the section that talks about romantic relationships.  Paul now begins to speak to single people who were formerly married.

I wish that all men were as I am.  But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.  Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:7-9

I like the fact that Paul knows when he’s putting his own views into the teaching.  The word, wish, means a personal preference.  He was unmarried and preferred to stay that way.

You may be asking, why did I say that he’s talking about formerly married people?  The word he uses for unmarried usually means that they were married at one time, but now are single.  That’s in contrast to later in the chapter when he uses the word, virgin – someone who was never married.

Also, we know from Scripture that Paul was a Pharisee who came from a family of Pharisees.  His observance of tradition had been a source of pride before coming to Christ.  Jewish tradition was that a man needed to be married in his early twenties at the latest.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Paul was married at one time.  Traditionally, Pharisees needed to be married and it was a requirement for those who wanted to be a part of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling body.

But what happened to Paul’s wife?  The Scripture doesn’t clearly tell us, so there’s some speculation.  In the above verse, he puts the two words together – unmarried males and female widows.  Also, there was no widely used Greek word for male widowers.

Because of this, the most likely possibility was that he was a widower.  The other is that his wife left him when he became a Christian.  In any case, at this point, he’s unmarried with no desire to become married.

In talking about people who’ve been in a marriage relationship, but are now single, he gives some important truth.  This is the foundation for a fulfilled life.  He talks about our giftings from God.

He makes it clear that the call to be single is a gift from God.  In the same way, the call to be married is also a gift from God.  The important thing is that we desire to walk in the center of the Lord’s will for us.

The big question is, how do I know whether I’m called to be married or to remain single?  To answer that, you need to check your heart.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

I believe that God gives us an internal compass that points to His will – peace.  If it’s your desire to serve God wholeheartedly, then the peace of God will direct you.

If you feel perfectly satisfied to remain single, and have no desire to be married again, then run with that.  Don’t let anyone pressure you to “test the field.”  In all likelihood, you’re called to the gift of a single life.

If, on the other hand, you don’t feel complete without a mate, and you desire to once again be in a marriage relationship, then go in that direction.  Seek God for His wisdom in finding the right one for you.  Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for desiring a mate.

The fact is that God loves us and wants the best for us if we simply pursue His will for our lives.

Question: How has the Lord confirmed His calling upon your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Peaceful Church

This will be my final post from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  He leaves them with some parting admonishments.

And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
2 Thessalonians 3:13

This is especially important.  We must not get discouraged from doing the right things.  That’s because living right never ends.

We sometimes get discouraged because we find ourselves doing the same thing day after day.  That’s because it’s hard to see the cumulative effects of our lives.

It’s like watching a tree grow.  We think it looks the same every day.  Then someone visits who has not been there in years.  They exclaim, “Wow! That tree sure has grown tall.”

If we’re willing to continue doing what we know to do, then God will bring the harvest.  But we need to press in despite the weariness.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

On the other hand, there will be those who, over time, start to ignore the exhortations of Scripture.  We can’t allow our association with them to cause their attitudes to rub off on us.

Remember, they’re not our enemies.  They’re brothers and sisters in Christ.  We live an ordered life and hope it challenges them.  And, if we’re in a relationship with them where they will listen to our advice, we can point them back to the truth.

It’s all about restoration.  It’s not us trying to prove that we’re more spiritual or superior in holiness.  We want God’s best for them.  We want them to experience all of the blessings that Christ purchased for them.

That’s the spirit with which Paul closes his letter.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

This should be our overarching attitude.  It’s the desire for peace among believers.  We know that the world will never experience it apart from Christ.  But for the church, that should be the distinguishing mark of the Holy Spirit in us.

Notice that Paul didn’t say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with those who obey this letter.”  On the contrary; his goal is to see God’s grace at work in all who profess Christ.

That should be the attitude of all believers.

Question: How have you encouraged others to live by the Word of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2018 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, 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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The Spirit-Fruit: Peace

I’m continuing to look at the Fruit of the Spirit – today’s fruit is peace.  I’ve heard people talk about the fruit of peace in the past, but sometimes they misunderstand it.

The problem is that the Greek language has a couple of different words that are translated as peace in English.  I’ve heard people teach that it’s calm, quietness – like when Jesus said, “Peace. Be still”; and He calmed the storm.  This isn’t that Greek word.

The word used for the fruit means harmony between two parties.  In other words, it’s the opposite of war.  This is something that can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

One of the biggest divisions in history, and in the Bible, was between Jews and Gentiles.  Bringing both sides together into the body of Christ had to be a supernatural work of God.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace…
Ephesians 2:14-15

By fulfilling the requirements of the Law, the family of God was now open to the Gentiles.  But that doesn’t mean that the Jews would be happy about sharing their Messiah.  There needed to be a change of heart.

It wasn’t enough to take the requirements of the Law out of the way.  The Lord had to go even further to deal with the hostility.  Ingrained hatred is one of the hardest things to change in our flesh.

That’s what’s so powerful about the fruit of peace.  It changes the hearts of those affected by it.  Of course, that’s why there are many who refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit.  They’re afraid of the changes that may take place in them.

The fruit of peace abolishes things like bigotry, hatred, racism, or chauvinism.  It compels you to love and work with those that through your life, and even your heritage, you grew up hating.  Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, there’s not much else that can accomplish such a change.

Refusing to let his peace reign in you is refusing God’s plan for your life.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

There are many people who pray for unity in the church.  I think that in some cases, we don’t really know what we’re praying for.  We sometimes think that unity means that everyone thinks and acts like us.

That’s not true unity.  Unity built upon the bond of peace takes very different people and puts them together into one, perfectly functioning organism.  It’s what Jesus did with His disciples.

He brought working class people like Peter, James, and John, and put them with a spoiled rich kid like Judas.  He took Simon the Zealot – an anti-Roman terrorist – and placed him with Matthew, who collected taxes for the Roman government.  Only the Holy Spirit can do such a huge work.

But as good as this is, there’s an even greater work this peace can do in us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The peace of God even takes away the spirit of competition between us.  We’re not competing for God’s blessings.  I don’t have to worry that if the Lord answers your prayer, then He may not have the resources to answer mine.  He has an unlimited supply of grace.

Allow the Holy Spirit to work His peace in you.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s peace operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Two Kinds of Wisdom

Did you know that your life shows where your wisdom comes from? It either comes from Heaven, or the world and the devil. Do you know the difference?

The book of James explains it to us.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
James 3:13-16

We all want a good life. But do we want to do what it takes to receive the wisdom for it? And more than that; do we want to walk in the wisdom from heaven?

A good life shows that you’ve learned how to tap into Heaven’s resources. That means you’re spending time with the Lord. Then, you’re listening to and obeying the instructions of the Holy Spirit.

That’s what James means by the humility that comes from wisdom. You’ve humbled yourself before God, knowing that His plan for your life is better than yours. His destiny for you is worth whatever it takes to get there.

The wisdom of the devil – which is usually what the world operates in – is all about self-promotion. It sounds good in a logical way, but the focus is too narrow. It’s all about me; what’s best for me, what will make me happy, and how I can accumulate the most toys.

When we live a life that’s self-absorbed, we end up in disorder and doing things that we never thought we would – evil things. The word disorder literally means confusion. When I spend my life going after the things I want, I eventually learn that I didn’t really want what I thought I wanted. Now that’s confusing!

If we want a life that we’re pleased with – a good life – then we need to walk in the wisdom of God.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:6-7

Here’s the problem. The wisdom of Heaven is hidden. You can’t find it by careful thought and study. It’s only found in God’s presence. Quality time with Him, listening to His voice, will impart it to us. Then, as we walk in what we’ve heard from God, things around us will start to change. It will become evident that we walk in God’s wisdom.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
James 3:17-18

These are the marks of a life walked out in God’s wisdom. To walk in God’s wisdom is to walk in peace. You can even walk into a situation where there’s all kinds of confusion and problems, and by the wisdom of the Lord, bring peace. That’s what it means by the word peacemaker.

Heaven’s wisdom changes the atmosphere around you. That’s a good life. Walking in wisdom and making peace wherever you go.

Question: How has God’s wisdom brought peace into your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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