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Our Example

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s teaching on how to handle the grey areas of sin – things that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.  We’re finding that it’s more about spiritual principles than a black and white list of do’s and don’ts.

He now begins talking about Israel under the Old Testament.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Paul is now talking about the spiritual walk of the ancient Israelites.  Specifically, he tells us about those who were saved and walking with God, the same as we are.  The only difference is that their salvation was “on credit”.

They were looking forward to what God was going to do in Christ.  They didn’t know how or when it would happen.  We look back on the completed work of Christ and know all the details.

Just like us, in order for them to be saved, they had to walk by faith.  It wasn’t the observing of the law that saved them.  The sacrificial system was simply an ongoing observance to which they could attach their faith.

Paul shows us that they went through the same type of ongoing process that we have in our walk with Christ.  They had to undergo two baptisms – representing water baptism and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

They were also provided with food (manna) and water through the wilderness.  It was only obtained through a daily act of faith in God.  Paul goes as far as to say that the rock from which the water flowed was an Old Testament manifestation of Christ.

Why is it important for us to know this?

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
1 Corinthians 10:5-6

Here are the facts.  Even though they were saved and in God’s kingdom by observing the law by faith, God wasn’t pleased with most of them.  Many of them ended up dying before seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Paul tells us clearly that this was recorded in Scripture as an example to us.  We need to understand how this applies to our walk with the Lord.

I think that in the modern church, we’ve mixed up the concepts of God’s love and God’s pleasure.  God can love us unconditionally, yet at the same time be displeased with us.  We need to take this truth to heart.

I have three children.  There have been times that I was absolutely displeased with them.  But even at their worst, I loved them and would give my life to defend and protect them.

We have to understand that the law of sowing and reaping is a definite part of the New Covenant experience.  The Bible tells us that we can either sow to please our flesh or our spirit.  What we set our hearts on will determine the outcome.

There are many Christians that are in bad situations.  It’s not because God doesn’t love them or because He’s judging them.  Instead, they’re simply reaping the bad seed that they’ve planted.

This is Paul’s warning to us.  Don’t follow the bad example of Israel.  Set your heart on the good things of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen the results of sowing and reaping in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Family Distractions

As we continue looking at the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul explains his reasons for enjoying the single life.

I would like you to be free from concern.
1 Corinthians 7:32a

The first thing he talks about is our concerns.  The Greek word he uses is an interesting one.  In our modern terminology, I could say that he wants us not to be overwhelmed by having too many things on our plates.

As I look around at our society, it seems that this is a big problem today.  Many people spend their time trying to handle too many things.  Between jobs, education, and recreational activities, we seem overloaded.

Paul goes on…

An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord.  But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided.  An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.  But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband.
1 Corinthians 7:32-34

This is an important truth that needs to be dealt with very seriously.  It’s especially true with young Christian couples who are engaged to be married.

That’s why I require pre-marital counseling for any couple who wants me to perform their marriage.  There are topics which need to be covered and understood BEFORE the marriage.  This is a big one.

There’s a whole host of issues that need to be decided in my personal life.  These include prayer time, Bible reading, church attendance, my personal ministry calling, tithing, and many others.

These are the Lord’s affairs that I need to be concerned with.  In the same way, my future spouse has to deal with these same personal issues.

But now, as we come together, there’s a whole list of marital issues that we need to work out.  On top of that, we need to take our personal walks with God and get to the point where we serve God in unity.

It’s unfortunate, but I’ve talked to couples who didn’t even begin to work through these issues until after the marriage.  The problems this causes even made some couples question whether they should have gotten married at all.  That’s a really dangerous place to be in.

In some marriages, it becomes worse over time.  I’ve seen a person having to decide whether to do what God wanted or what the spouse wanted – but they couldn’t do both.

Paul wants the unmarried couples under his care to understand this before it’s too late to change course.  Think seriously about your life together.  How will your service to God fit with each other’s callings?  Is it God that’s bringing you to the marriage altar?  Or your own desires?

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:35

Paul literally says that he’s not trying to put a noose around our neck.  He wants us to live our best for the Lord.

I can honestly say that my devotion to God and my service to Him increased dramatically when I met and married my wife.  She was God’s choice for me.  However, if we had not received the Godly counsel before marriage, it would have been a rocky path.

Make sure that you receive the best counsel available before you take that big step into married life.

Question: How did pre-marital counseling prepare you for life with your spouse?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Ministry, Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Will vs. Permission

Jesus had to deal with some very controversial subjects sometimes.  This was one of them.  Even today, the subject of divorce and remarriage can cause arguments among believers.

It’s a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to fully deal with it in this post.  I’m merely going to explain what Jesus is saying to those who asked Him a question.  There are plenty of books and articles you can obtain if you want to get deeper into this subject.

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.  Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
Mark 10:1-2

Clearly, the Pharisees were trying to cause trouble for Jesus.  The question they asked was; is it right for a man to divorce his wife?  So Jesus is about to answer a question in terms of right and wrong.

As He frequently did with people who should know better, the Lord answered their question with another question.

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
Mark 10:3-4

These two statements really explain everything that characterized the Pharisees.  Jesus asked what Moses commanded.  They answered with what he permitted.

That’s actually what many Christians ask about in our generation.  Many times I’ve been asked, “Pastor, can I still be a Christian and go to Heaven if I … ?”  You can fill in the blank with anything you want.  What they were really asking is; how far into the world can I get and still go to Heaven?

The problem with that thinking is that it misses the point of salvation.  It’s not about making it to Heaven.  My life in Christ is about becoming who God created me to be.

So Jesus answered His question for them by quoting Moses’ commands from the book of Genesis.

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.  “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.  He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:5-12

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to Moses’ original commands before the law was given.  We see the will of God in this matter.  Throughout the Bible, God shows that He hates divorce.

It was later on that the law gave permission and requirements for divorce.  The reason was not that divorce was acceptable to God, but that people were going to do it with or without His permission.  Paul explained it this way…

What, then, was the purpose of the law?  It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Galatians 3:19a

Like I said, this post is not about fully investigating divorce in Scripture.  Instead, it’s about the lesson Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees.

As in all areas of life, my goal should never be to see how much I can get away with and still be a Christian.  I should be trying to please God with every fiber of my being.

Question: How does this truth apply to areas other than divorce?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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