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Joyfully Thankful

In my last post, I finished my series on the book of Galatians.  Since we’re now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel like posting some things that would prepare our hearts.

At one point, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to have a knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

That’s a long sentence, but it has a great message for us.  We’re told that we should live a life worthy of the Lord.  Our lives should reflect His character since we’re called to live as His ambassadors.  But how is that to be accomplished?

It also says that we should please Him in every way.  This is the only place in Scripture that particular word is used.  It means to have the desire to please someone – to want to make them happy.

I realize that sometimes we make big mistakes and fall short of this goal.  It’s good to know that if the desire’s there, then the Lord is pleased with us.

However, it can’t just end with the desire to please Him.  This desire is not just an internal part of me; it has to be manifested in how I live.

According to Paul, it’s shown forth as I bear fruit, growing, and allowing His power to work in me.  And right along with this, I need to be joyfully giving thanks to the Lord.

Please understand that there are two ways we view life when faced with challenges that we can’t change.  The first is to tolerate them with grumbling and complaining.  The other is to come at them with the knowledge that God has full dominion over everything and everybody.

Looking at life’s problems in this last way allows us to rejoice that God’s power will work in us.  Then it will be evident to the world around us that God is still on the throne.

I love that phrase, “…joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Thanking God with joy is what we need in in the challenging situations that we face all the time.

But this kind of response will only happen as we spend time with Him.  Being in His presence allows us to be strengthened by His Spirit.  It gives us the knowledge and faith that Christ is in control.

The word translated giving thanks is a part of speech that indicates Paul is not just talking about Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all about a lifestyle of giving thanks to God continually.

Keep your thankfulness to God going throughout the year.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What are you thankful for this season?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Choice is Yours – Faith or the Law

“What harm is there in trying to follow the Ten Commandment to the best of your ability?  Isn’t that how you please God?”

Actually, it doesn’t please God and could be hindering your walk with Him.  This is one of those teachings of Scripture that seem to be opposite of our logical thinking.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”
Galatians 3:10-12

This verse is clear, God does not consider us righteous because we do the right works.  True righteousness is only obtained through faith in Christ.  By trying to live by the so-called rules of Christianity, you’re actually placing yourself back under the curse.

Here’s the problem.  Every human being on earth, apart from Christ, is under the curse.  That’s because all of humanity is trying to follow one code of conduct or another.

That’s what sets true Christianity apart from all other world religions.  Every religion on earth has a code of conduct that must be adhered to if you want to reach perfection, Paradise, Nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever the goal is that they strive for.  It takes discipline, will power, and a lot of hard work to follow through on these goals.

If you think that being a Christian means that you’re trying your best to follow the teachings of the Bible; then you’re no different from all the other religions.  In that case, you’ve totally missed the Good News of Christ.

What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the fact that our God declares that it’s totally impossible for us to ever please Him on our own.  Therefore, He took it upon Himself to provide the way for us to reach His presence.

By trusting in the finished work of Christ, we receive everything needed to please God.  We have obtained His grace and are under His blessing.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13

The curse that Jesus experienced on the cross wasn’t His.  He was perfect and lived a sinless life.  That was our curse that was put upon Him.  He carried the entire weight of all sinful mankind.

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 3:14

In my last post, I talked about the joy we have of receiving Abraham’s blessing.  Here Paul repeats himself.  The whole purpose of the cross was to bring that very blessing to the Gentiles.  All it requires is for us to accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: What can you expect as a part of this blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Religion – An Easy Trap to Fall Into

Why do you serve God the way you do?  Because people are watching you; or because you’re trying to please God?  Religion wants you to look at what people think.  It can make you do some strange things under the pretense of serving God.

I’m glad that when the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, He didn’t whitewash the lives of the apostles.  We see them as they were – with all their faults and challenges.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he recounts a confrontation between the Apostle Peter and himself.  It all had to do with religious observances and trying to please men.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Galatians 2:11-13

According to ancient Jewish customs, it was not proper for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile or to eat with them.  But now that we’re in Christ, these outward appearances should hold no sway over who we fellowship with.

There were those in Jerusalem, however, who felt that these customs needed to be carried over into Christianity.  These were the Judaizers that I talked about in a previous post.

At this point in his life, Peter had already understood that he was free to fellowship with Gentiles.  The Lord revealed it to him and then sent him to a Gentile home to preach the Gospel of Christ.  (Acts chapter 10)

When he first arrived at Antioch, the site of the first largely Gentile church, Peter had no problem fellowshipping with the believers in their homes.  But when those of the Judaizers arrived, he wanted to stay on their good side and stopped eating with Gentiles.

What’s important to see is that even though Peter didn’t believe that it was necessary to separate himself from Gentiles, he was sucked into a religious observance.  Religion places customs above faith.  When that happens, we alienate people.

Paul understood that it needed to be stopped before any permanent damage was done to relationships.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
Galatians 2:14

The truth of the Gospel is that we’re all one in Christ Jesus.  Who’s house I enter, or who I eat with doesn’t make me any more or less holy.  The outside observances only serve to impress people (or push them away).

We need to be able to take a step back and question our own motives.  Why do we do what we’re doing?

Please understand that I realize there are many different styles of worship.  Some services are highly formal and ritualistic while others seem to have no structure at all.  It doesn’t matter what style you’re comfortable with, as long as you don’t invalidate those you’re not comfortable with.

Don’t let religion control who you fellowship with.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can do something to make God love you more.  In Christ, you’re already loved more than you could ever imagine.

Question: How have you seen religion alienate people?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Can You Admit when You’re Wrong?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the fourth in a series of posts that I’m writing about the Scripture. In my last installment we looked at 2 Timothy 3:16, which told us some of the uses for Scripture. These were teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. So far, I have talked about how the Scripture teaches us.

Next, is rebuking – we don’t even like the sound of that word. The question is; do I want to be thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has prepared for me? If so, then there are times I need to be rebuked. What exactly does that mean?

This word rebuked means to be convicted or to be told that we are wrong. There are times when I’m reading the Bible that I suddenly realize that I’ve been wrong concerning something. This is usually the hardest thing for me to admit.

I think it’s the same for all of us. Teaching is one thing, but being told that we’re wrong is something totally different. In order for us to rise to the level that God is calling us to, we must first see where we’re operating incorrectly.

We must be shown what we’re doing wrong. We need to know those things about our life that please God, and what doesn’t please Him.

Sometimes we get so positionally minded that we lose sensitivity to the rebuke of the Word. Yes, I firmly believe that I’m the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I also believe that because of the blood, God the Father is always pleased with me.

But these truths don’t negate the fact that there may be things I’m doing that are not pleasing to the Father. In those cases it’s up to the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin. He wants to lead me to repentance. This is very clear throughout Scripture.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
Revelation 3:19

It seems that we rarely hear the Bible used for this purpose in our modern generation. We need to read the Scripture as it was intended.

There are times that the Holy Spirit wants to use His Word to drive me to my knees. Not so that I’ll feel worthless and no good, but so that I can rise from the ashes of my self-will and truly enter the fullness of God’s life in me.

Questions: How have you been rebuked by the Scripture? What was the outcome?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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The True Expression of Faith

lampI’ve been taking an in-depth look at the parable of the Ten Virgins of Matthew, chapter 21. In my last post we concluded that the combination of faith and love was needed to produce righteousness in our lives. Could this be what we are looking for to explain the mystery of the oil and the lamps producing light?

Today I want to look closely at these concepts, to see if they’re what Jesus is talking about. The first question we must ask ourselves is, are they both non-optional in the forming of the light of our righteousness?

First we’ll look at faith. We know, from Hebrews 11:6, that without faith it is impossible to please God. The verse doesn’t say that it’s difficult to serve God without faith. It says that no matter what you do, how much love is in your heart, or how often you go to church, it’s impossible for your works to count for anything in the kingdom of God apart from faith. Working for God absolutely requires faith.

The second commodity necessary for the light to appear is love. Without love our faith will be of no value. The clear teaching of Scripture in I Corinthians 13:2 says if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

I can have faith in God for incredible miracles and yet still not be able to please Him, if I don’t walk in love. Again, the Scripture makes it clear that love is a non-optional requirement to serve the Lord.

Knowing this, I’m now in a position to understand how faith and love work together in my life. They’re not independent. I can’t use one without the other and expect my works to be pleasing in the sight of God.

So, we can see that these two spiritual concepts pass the first test. What about the next test? How do faith and love relate to each other? Remember, the oil must work through the wick of the lamp in order to produce light.

It takes a lamp for the oil to express its true nature. Light is revealed when the oil expresses itself through the lamp. Does this parallel the scriptural description of faith and love?

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6

It’s clear from this verse that all the outward trappings that man looks at are not worth a thing in God’s estimation. If we’re to please God, then our works must be a matter of faith expressing itself through love. Just like the light of a lamp is the oil working itself through the lamp, the light of our righteous works by faith working through love.

I believe that in this parable, the lamp is our love and the oil is our faith. Both are needed to produce the kind of light that will draw men and women to Christ for salvation. Love must be the medium through which the true character of my faith is revealed. It’s only as I have my lamp burning, my faith expressing itself through my love, that my works are acceptable before God.

Question: How does your faith express itself through your love in a practical way?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Faith, Return of Christ, The Church

 

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The Well Pleasing Sacrifice

FireIn my last post I talked about having a faith that’s well pleasing to God. Today I want to continue in that theme of pleasing God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

This is one of those verses that we wished wasn’t in the Bible. But it is, so we have to follow it. It says that there’s something we can do that’s holy and well pleasing to God.

The word offer means to stand beside your body. Paul is talking about something that can only be done in the spirit.

The original Greek says that it’s a burnt offering, living, holy, and to God – well pleasing. Wait a minute; we are to be a living burnt offering? There’s really no other way to say it.

Pleasing God requires sacrifice. But what exactly does that mean to us? Most people use the word sacrifice to mean they’ll try harder. They think it tells them to fast on holidays, eat according to the Old Testament food laws, dress like the 1940’s, and talk King James English.

That’s not what God is looking for. If you read the epistle to the Romans, you find that Paul writes about the walk of the spirit. If that’s in place, then you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. How do we get there?

We need the fire of God to consume the sacrifice. In the book of Acts we see tongues of fire on the heads of those praying in the upper room. We are also told (I Thessalonians 5:19) not to quench the Holy Spirit’s fire. Paul told his spiritual son, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift that was within him (II Timothy 1:6).

Paul was a man who had a rich experience of prayer in the spirit. He assumed that those he was writing to also knew how to pray in the spirit. When you pray in the spirit, you’re standing beside your body as a burnt offering.

The last part of the verse in Romans could be modernized as, logically – this is what you signed up for. We are living out a spiritual walk. You can try harder, stumbling around in the flesh without Christ. But if I’m to be well pleasing, it will require a spiritual work.

My last post talked about our faith being tested and approved – that’s the fire. As I pray in the spirit, I stand beside the burnt offering.

Remember, I’m not talking about whether or not you’re saved, or even acceptable to God. You’re all those things, and more, in Christ. I’m talking about going beyond acceptable and into the realm of well-pleasing to God.

This should be our desire if we want to see a move of God in our lifetime.

Question: Why do some believers find this sacrifice so difficult?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
 

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God’s Approval #theanointing

SpotlightI’ve been talking about walking in the anointing of God.  In my last post I discussed being well pleasing to the Lord.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 5:8-10

This verse tells us that we should live the way a child of the light should live.  The fruit of the light is the evidence that we’re walking in the light.

This passage literally says that as children of the light, we need to test and approve what is well pleasing to the Lord.  The more we walk in His light – the more we learn about pleasing Him.

It’s by pleasing the Lord that we secure the anointing.  That’s a key concept that many miss out on.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1Thessalonians 2:4

I’ve asked this before.  Where is your heart set?  Who are you trying to please?  Your anointing (God’s approval of your ministry) is resting on that answer.  It’s not about how much you want it; instead, it’s wrapped up in the direction your heart is taking you.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

What we have to realize is that in our own power we can never be well pleasing to God.  It only comes from time spent in His presence.  Only God’s power can secure our anointing.

We have to position ourselves to receive His power that works through us.  We have to be driven to walk in the anointing.

This means that we have set our heart on it.  It’s all about getting close enough in the spirit, to find out what’s well pleasing to Him.  It’s the only way to get ourselves in the position to receive.

In the final analysis it can only be accomplished by His power at work in us.

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:9

Be driven to please God.

Question: What is God calling you to do that will require His power to accomplish?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Anointing

 

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