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Attitudes of Pharisees

In my last post, we saw that Jesus proved, in a very powerful way, that He could remove sin in all of its forms.  As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, this ministry of Christ becomes clearer.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.  A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Mark 2:13-14

In this passage, we see the Lord calling a new disciple – Levi.  I believe that this was his given name.  Later on, he’s called Matthew.  That’s probably the name Jesus gave to him.  It means the gift of God.

Remember, Jesus did this with a few of His disciples.  The Lord called Simon, Peter.  James and John became the sons of thunder.

But there’s an interesting point to this.  Both the name Levi and Matthew were strongly Levitical names.  That probably means that Levi was from the tribe of Levi.  He should have been training for the priesthood.  Instead, he was collecting taxes for the Roman conquerors.

Jesus had been teaching in the area.  Undoubtedly, Levi listened to Him and it spoke to his heart.  There’s no other reason why he would leave his lucrative position immediately when the Lord called.

Levi threw a dinner party to introduce Jesus to his friends and co-workers.  The Pharisees who were watching weren’t too happy about it.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mark 2:15-16

You have to understand the thinking of that day.  Levi was seen as a Jew, taking money from his own people, and giving it to Caesar.  They viewed him much the same way as we would view a drug dealer today.

Not only that, but he has the same type of friends that a drug dealer would have.  Prostitutes, loan sharks, and the like.  All the people that the upstanding Pharisees would look down on as the dregs of their society.

Why would Jesus, a prophet who obviously operated in the power of God, ever associate with such rabble?

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

Jesus has just proven Himself to be a remover of sin.  If your ministry is to remove sin, then your place is in the middle of great sin.  Jesus knew that He was sent to save these people.  The Pharisees may have written them off, but Jesus saw them as loved by God.

I always find it offensive when I hear a Christian remark that someone deserves hell.

“When they die, they’re gonna get what they have coming.”

That must break the Lord’s heart.  He died for everyone.  Not just the people we like.

We need to watch our attitudes about those without Christ.  The fact is that we all deserve hell – but I don’t want anyone to go there.

Even the most perverted, murderous, evil person on earth should be given the chance to hear about the life-changing work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We should be representing Christ and His attitudes in our generation.

Question: Why is it so easy to pick up the same attitudes as the Pharisees?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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A Pharisee Comes to Jesus

HandsI’ve been posting about how Scripture describes the born-again experience. It’s deeper than simply reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer.” It’s about clothing ourselves with Christ by the power of the spirit.

There’s only one way to put on the new man. Unfortunately, it’s also a concept that the church has pushed to the side in many instances.

To understand it, we’ll now look at the most recognizable Scripture concerning the concept of being born again.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
John 3:1-2

We need to look at a conversation between Jesus and a young man named Nicodemus. To understand what takes place, we must look at the background. First of all, this event is only recorded in the Gospel of John. That’s an important point.

All of the other Gospels were written to the unsaved people groups of world. Matthew was written so that the Jews would see Jesus as their promised Messiah. Mark was written so that the Romans would understand that Christ was the conquering servant-king. Luke was written so that the Greeks would know that perfection can only be found in Christ.

John, on the other hand, had a totally different purpose. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give the church a deeper view of Christ Jesus, the Living Word, God taking on flesh. This is important for us to realize in grasping what’s being said. It’s a story that directly applies to the church – those who are already saved and want a more intimate knowledge of Christ.

The second thing we find out is that this man, Nicodemus, is a Pharisee. Often, the Pharisees get an undeserved bad reputation in Christian circles. Of all people that lived back then, the Pharisees were the closest to us in doctrine.

They believed that God took notice and acted in the affairs of men. They believed the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. They knew that there was a spiritual realm that included the demons as well as ministering angels. They also believed that there would be a resurrection day at the end of the age. It’s unfortunate that the few who hated Jesus are the ones who get all of our attention.

Nicodemus was his own man. Think about the facts of the situation. He begins by calling Jesus Rabbi. This was a term that literally meant my great one. It was reserved for those who you felt were an example to you. It implied that I want to be like you. So it’s significant that a Rabbi is calling Jesus a Rabbi.

Furthermore, Jesus, Himself commends Nicodemus. In verse 10 of this chapter Jesus calls him the teacher of Israel. Obviously the Lord was pleased with his work.

Another event of note is the fact that when Christ was taken down off the cross it was Nicodemus who prepared the body for burial. (John 19:38-40) This was unheard of. You would never see a Pharisee handling a dead body on the eve of the Passover feast.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Nicodemus is a believer. He is someone trusting in Christ and looking for the next step in the process. We need to listen carefully to the teaching of Christ in this conversation.

In my next post we’ll see exactly what Jesus said was needed for Nicodemus to reach the next phase of his walk with the Lord.

Question: How would you counsel someone who wanted to progress to their next step in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Mercy and Sacrifice

surgeryIn my last post we saw Jesus rebuke the Pharisees for not understanding God’s mercy. The Lord said that God desired mercy and not sacrifice. I want to look at this truth. It’s through the power of God’s mercy that Jesus ministered the way He did.

So I ask you, do you want a higher walk before the Lord? Do you want to live above the promises? Do you want to walk as Jesus walked? If so, then you must learn what God meant when He said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”
Hosea 6:1-2

At this point in history, Israel was broken. But God was looking forward to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. They could be healed of their grievous wounds.

Please understand that they had the same problem with God that we have sometimes. It’s all a matter of perspective. From their perspective God was wounding them, cutting them and hurting them. From God’s perspective, He was performing open heart surgery.

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.
Hosea 6:3

Hosea calls the people to acknowledge God. The literal Hebrew means to know by seeing and experiencing. The phrase press on means to pursue. We pursue God in order to know and experience Him. The object should not be to know about Him, but to know God in person as He truly is.

“What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.”
Hosea 6:4-5

Here God is showing Israel how they respond to Him. He tells them that their love like the dew or a mist. It’s here for a short time and dissipates in the morning sunlight. Think about the church of today. Sunday mornings we sing and cry out about our undying love for the Lord. We tell Him that we can’t live without Him.

Right after the service, however, that love burns off like the dew. It’s because of this that God said He has to perform the surgery. So the Lord carved His people by the prophets, stabbed them by His Word.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

Here is the heart of the matter. This is the desire of God for His people. He desires us to obtain mercy by obeying Him out of a heart of love for Him. Mercy is all about pursuing God simply to be with Him.

Many in our present generation miss this. They pursue God, but it’s for healing, for prosperity, for a better job, or a new car. Many pursue God for the things that He can give us, not because we simply want to know Him more intimately. The walk of mercy is a walk that seeks to know God for who He is in that secret place.

Questions: How is your pursuit of God characterized? Why do you pursue God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Positioned to Receive Spiritual Power? #powerofthespirit

PlugI’ve been posting about how Christ walked and ministered in the power of God.  It’s all about how He positioned Himself to receive it.

A good example of this is found in a parable that the Lord told to His disciples.  We usually call it the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector.  They were both in the temple praying next to each other.  The Lord lets us in on what they were saying.

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
Luke 18:11-12

We read this, but we don’t take it to heart.  We know how it ends and who the Lord commends.  But do we really listen to the prayer of the Pharisee.  If we look closely at it, it sounds like a prayer that a modern Christian would offer up, filled with good confessions.

“I thank you that I’m the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath. I thank you that because I tithe you will rebuke the devourer and open the windows of heaven so that I cannot contain your blessing.”

His prayer was filled with good confessions and it was all true.  He was different than the tax-collector.  He did fast and tithe.  The problem was that he had no power.

But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Luke 18:13

Which prayer produced life changing power?  Christ was clear about it.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:14

It’s obvious, from the Lord’s perspective, that the person who dealt with relationship tapped into God’s power.  The Pharisee was focused on self.  The tax-collector was dealing with that which separated him from God.

Is the power of God about what I’ve done or what the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in and through me?  When I go before God, my telling Him what I’ve done doesn’t impress Him.  It will never move Him to work through me.

It’s only as I work on my relationship with Christ that I’ll see the changes necessary.  If you want to flow in the power of God, then your relationship with Him is the positioning agent.  It’s not about what you’ve done, but what He is able to do in you.

Questions: How well are you positioned for the move of the Holy Spirit?  What do you need to do to make it better?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Ministry, Power of God, Prayer, Revival

 

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The Importance of a Word from God

ChristIn my last post I talked about how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (and us) for using the Scripture superstitiously.  In effect, Jesus told them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess healing.  Yet you refuse to come to Me, the Healer.”

The Lord could say the same thing to us, these days.  “You think that by Scripture you will possess prosperity, yet you refuse to come to Me, the Provider.”

Please understand what I’m saying.  The Holy Spirit can speak a Word of healing to me through the Scripture, but He’s not limited to this avenue.  All that I need for life and godliness is found in Christ.

I will never obtain God’s blessing through my works – not even through intensive study and memorizing of the Bible.  Healing will come by the Word of God – no matter how God chooses to send it to me.

We need to hear a Word from God.  That Word will only come from time spent in His presence.  When I study the Bible instead of cultivating intimacy with the Lord, I’m going to lose out.  That’s the very problem that the Pharisees had.

…and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…
Titus 1:3

In this passage, Paul tells Titus that the Word of God is made visible by the command of God.  It is God’s Word made manifest in God’s time.  That’s why time spent with the Lord is so important.  I need to be quiet and listening to hear His voice.  Hearing from God is actually the greatest theme of the New Testament.  It’s the foundation for everything we need in our walk with God.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

This is one of the greatest misunderstandings that we have in looking back to the early church.  We think that they were just like us.  On the contrary, they knew the importance of seeking a Word from God.  They spent time in His presence listening for His voice.

What I’m saying is this – the study of Scripture and hearing from God are not replacements for each other.  We need both, in order to have an abundant life in the Lord.  In our generation, the study of Scripture has been elevated out of proportion to listening for God’s voice.  That’s why my message is so strong for the church to spend time listening to God.

Question: Have you ever been guilty of seeking blessings from Scripture rather than Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Revival, Word of God

 

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Spiritual Power – What Does it Take?

LightningIn past posts I talked about spiritual power in physical terms.  What does it take to walk in the power of God?  Scripture gives us the answers.

The following is an event that’s recorded in Luke 7:36-50.  I encourage you to take the time and read through this section of Scripture to see the truth of what I’m describing.

A Pharisee had invited Jesus over to his home for dinner.  When Jesus arrived at the house, the Pharisee neglected a few simple courtesies that were a way of life in that region of the world.

He didn’t offer Jesus a kiss, water for His feet, or oil for His hair.  This was a slight against the Lord.

During Jesus’ visit, a woman came in and did something unique.  She knelt before Him and wept, allowing her tears to fall on His feet.  Then she wiped them with her hair.  Once His feet were cleaned, she opened an alabaster bottle of expensive perfume and began to anoint His feet.

As this was going on, the Pharisee was thinking that if Jesus were really a prophet, He would know how sinful this woman was.  According to the Pharisee’s thinking, Jesus shouldn’t let her touch Him.

Jesus, knowing his thoughts, turned to the Pharisee and told him a parable about two men who had their debts forgiven.  One had a large debt, and the other a small one.

He asked the Pharisee which had more love for the one who forgave the debts.  The Pharisee answered that the one who was forgiven more, loved more.  Jesus then applied that truth to the Pharisee and the woman, much to the Pharisee’s shame.

In doing this, Jesus said some things that are very important for us to hear in regards to the flow of the power of God.

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:50

We see from this verse that faith brought the woman salvation and peace.  These are two results that can only be accomplished by the power of God.  It is through the salvation and peace of God that we can live above the problems found in the world system.

But there is something else that Jesus said that causes us to question if faith was the only thing involved.

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Luke 7:47

According to Jesus, she had something else that released the power of God into her life.  She had much love.  This is an important concept for us to grasp.  In order to truly understand the nature of power, we must come to terms with the relationship between faith and love.  In short, we must understand the faith – love connection.

Question: Do you see the connection between faith and love?

© Nick Zaccardi 2012

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Faith, Power of God

 

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