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A Passion for Greater Gifts

In my last post, I finished talking about the local church ministry gifts.  Paul concludes this section of his letter with an exhortation as well as an introduction to his next thought.

But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31

The first thing that gets my attention is that Paul tells us to eagerly desire something.  That’s important.  The word he uses means to be passionate about it.  We’re to be emotionally invested in obtaining these gifts.

I feel bad when I see Christians who seem disinterested in walking in the power of God.  What greater witness could there be than to see a divine miracle take place in your life or the life of your loved one?  It’s the power of God that draws people to the cross.

However, there’s another aspect of this statement that’s often misunderstood.  I’ve heard teachers use this verse to say that some gifts are more important than others.  So they start comparing gifts.

“After all, speaking in tongues only builds up that believer; while prophecy builds up the church.  So it’s more important that you prophesy.”

That statement shows a lack of understanding concerning the gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve heard others explain that the greater gifts are the ones that you need right at the moment.  While that’s a little bit better, it doesn’t go far enough.

The word greater, in the Greek, is a special word.  It literally means larger or to a greater degree.  I don’t believe that Paul wants us to compare gifts and only be passionate about the better ones.  He’s telling us to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts to a greater degree.

There’s a verse of Scripture that will bear this out.  Look at how this same Greek word is used here.

But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

More grace.  Do you think that the grace we have isn’t good enough?  So God has to give us better grace?  No!  God wants to give us His grace to a greater degree.

We need to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts, and His grace, to a greater degree than we now have.

But Paul isn’t finished yet.  He wants to show us the most excellent way of walking in the gifts of the Spirit.

The Greek word translated as excellent is hyperballo.   Hyperballo, literally means, to throw beyond.  The word picture being used is of an Olympic sport such as the javelin throw.

Everyone else has thrown it to a certain, average point.  You, however, get up and throw it beyond all the others.  That’s a picture of the concept of excellence.  When you throw beyond the normal or what’s expected, then you’ve entered the realm of the excellent.

When you serve Christ, you need to be going beyond the average or what’s expected.  That’s what will get people’s attention.

So starting in my next post, we’ll be looking at this most excellent way of ministry.  Of course, many of you already know that Paul is going to be talking about the way of love.  Hopefully, as we study it together, we’ll get some new insight into this amazing walk.

Questions: How passionate are you about walking in the Lord’s power to a greater degree?  How does it show?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Church Ministry (Part 1)

In my last post, we saw the list of ministry functions needed for a healthy church.  In today’s article, I want to begin looking at them in more detail.

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?
1 Corinthians 12:28-30

As I said in my last post, even though some of these may sound similar to the manifestations of the Spirit, it’s not the same list.

Apostle.  Over the years, we’ve Christianized this word to the point where the meaning is almost lost to us.  We get the idea that it’s a “holy man” so high in the ranks that it’s all but unreachable.  Some teach that after the first 12 apostles, there were never any more.

We need to understand that Paul is talking about ministry in the local church here.  That means this apostolic ministry should be found within each local congregation.

This word means to be set apart as a messenger or delegate.  It’s someone who is under orders to go to a certain place and represent the one who sent them.  I believe this is talking about the pastoral ministry in the local church.  It’s the person or people who oversee all the other ministries of the church.

Prophet.  These are people who hear God’s voice and speak what He wants to be said.  We need to be aware of what God is saying to the church.

I think that sometimes we get the idea that prophecy is always about the future.  That’s not the case.  A prophet will reveal truth that we need to hear.

There are times when a prophet will bring hidden sins to the surface so they can be dealt with.  Sometimes it’s a word of encouragement or insight into a challenge we’re going through.  And, yes, there are times when they will reveal something that’s about to happen in the future.

Teacher.  This is the one that we’re the most familiar with.  It’s the person who helps others by explaining truth that has already been revealed in Scripture.

However, that’s not as easy as it sounds.  In the church, we’re not just dealing with facts and figures.  We’re to train people in how to apply the truth of Scripture to their daily walk.

This requires us to spend time in the presence of the Great Teacher – the Holy Spirit.  He alone will give us the insight we need to speak life to those who will listen.  A godly teacher will make deep truths accessible to those who want to learn.

Workers of Miracles.  Now we’re getting into an area we don’t see very often.  Maybe it’s because nobody thinks of this as a ministry of the church.  In most churches, miracles aren’t common anymore.

Simply put, the word miracle in this verse is actually the Greek word for power.  It’s talking about people who consistently walk in the power of God.  They’re the ones you go to when you have a pressing need.

These people should definitely be a part of the church prayer team.  They spend time in the Lord’s presence developing their faith and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Like I said, this isn’t seen very much in the church of our generation.  My hope is that as I teach it, many will feel the call to walk in this great ministry.  Then, they’ll spend the time needed to develop intimacy with God.

In my next post, I’ll continue explaining these important local church ministries.  If you don’t already know your calling in the body of Christ, read them prayerfully.  Be open to what the Holy Spirit wants to do through you.

Question: Why does the church of our generation seem to downplay the more powerful ministries?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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My Will or His?

In my last two posts, I talked about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  Not everybody believes that they’re still active today.  How do you feel about walking in the power of these gifts?

I think that in many cases, we don’t want the attention that they’d bring to us.  People would start to question how we were able to do some of these things.  Then we’d have to explain ourselves.

But, in actuality, isn’t that what we’re called to do in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What better way of getting someone’s attention, than seeing the power of God firsthand.

I think it’s sad that we’ve turned this Scriptural truth into a theological debate.  Why not just step out in faith and see what happens.

It’s probably because there’s a deeper issue.  Paul gives us some insight into it.  He concludes his list of the manifestations with the following statement.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:11

The first thing I see is the word “all”.  They are all the work of one and the same Spirit.  The same Spirit who gives wisdom also gives tongues.  We need to understand the significance of this.

Right now there are churches who want to pick and choose what they’ll accept.  The same church that would ask me to pray for wisdom in a situation would throw me out if they knew I prayed in tongues.

How could we possibly say that God is the same yesterday, today and forever if we think some of these are temporary?  We need the power of God to be evident in all generations.

I’ve heard some say that the Gospel needed this power temporarily to kick start the church.  Now that the church is in place, our testimony is all that’s needed.  I submit to you that our testimony – without the power – is getting us nowhere.

The next important phrase is that the Holy Spirit gives them…just as He determines.  It’s not up to me to determine what God will or will not do.  Let the Holy Spirit be free to move however He determines.

That’s what bothers me the most about this subject.  There are people who get upset at me for simply believing that all of these are still in operation today.  Why not just let me live in my fantasy world?

Why not let me go my merry way believing that God will impart His wisdom to me when I need it (which He has!).  Why not let me go on believing that God can use me to pray for the sick and see them healed (which He has!).

Don’t they know that if I want to be used of God to heal someone, and it’s not God’s will, then no matter how hard I pray nothing will happen?  But if God still heals then…

So I have a challenge.  Feel free to use it with anyone you know who doesn’t believe in the manifestations.

I simply challenge those who think they’re not for today to pray a simple prayer.  “Holy Spirit, if these gifts are still in operation in the church today, please manifest them in me.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

That should be no problem.  If you’re right in thinking they’re not for today, then you’re just speaking into the air.  Nothing will happen.

But, if my hunch is correct, they won’t pray this.  Because in many cases these people want to be in control of their lives.  They don’t want the Holy Spirit messing things up by making them an undeniable witness to the power of God.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit to confirm the Gospel that we preach.  Without it, we’re simply in a philosophical debate with other religions.

Keep your spiritual life strong.  Expect the Holy Spirit to show up at just the right time.

Question: Why do many in the church shy away from the power of the Holy Spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Manifesting the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

In my last post, I started looking at the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10

I’ve already talked about the Message of Wisdom, the Message of Knowledge, and Faith.  Now we’ll move on to the rest.

Gifts of Healing.  You may remember that a couple of posts ago, I talked about the word, gifts.  This is the Greek word, charismata.  It’s a gift that the giver retains the right to tell you how it will be used.

Another interesting point about this manifestation is that the original text reads – gifts of healings.  Both words are plural.

I see an incredible word picture in this.  It’s like each of us is given a bag full of presents – healings that we’re to deliver to particular people that we’ll meet throughout our lives.  It’s up to us to stay sensitive so that we can be obedient when the Holy Spirit tells us to pray over that sick person.

Miraculous Powers.  The words used in Scripture mean the working of power.  This can be anything, other than healing, that seems to go against the natural laws.

This also includes the instances of divine favor that we experience.  People in the world will say, “Wasn’t that a great coincidence.”  No, it was the power of God at work orchestrating things on my behalf.

Prophecy.   This is when God gives you a message that He wants you to deliver for Him.  It could be a private or public message.

Many times when we hear the word, prophecy, we think future.  That’s not always the case.  God may want something said that could deal with the past, present, or future.  I think that there are times when believers are speaking prophetically and they don’t even realize it.

Distinguishing Between Spirits.  The phrase, distinguishing between, comes from a Greek word that means to make a judicial decision.  It’s this supernatural gifting that gives you the ability to know what spirit, if any, is at work in a situation.  You’ll know if the demonic forces are trying to hinder.  You’ll also know if the Holy Spirit is at work in the background.

Speaking in Different Kinds of Tongues.  This is the use of your prayer language for ministry.  It could include simply praying for yourself or others.  It could also be a part of deep intercession.  It’s when you allow your spirit to pray in the will of God beyond what you know in the natural.

Interpretation of Tongues.  This is when the Holy Spirit gives you insight into what you or someone else is praying in the spirit.  It’s not quite the same as a translation.  That’s because what you’re speaking with your mouth may not be what’s being exchanged between you and the Lord in the spiritual realm.

These are the manifestations of power that the Holy Spirit wants to display through His people.  They’ll directly point to Christ as Lord.  They’ll cause people to move closer to a relationship with Him.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 15:18-19

I don’t believe that you can full proclaim the Gospel of Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Question: How have you seen the manifestations of the Holy Spirit at work?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Manifesting the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

In my last post, I talked about the differences in the way God works in each of us.  One of those was the manifestation – the appearance – of the Holy Spirit.  He works differently in each of us, personally.

Today I want to begin explaining the different ways that the Spirit of God shows Himself in us.

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10

That’s quite a list.  I want to take some time to explain what each of these is.  Unfortunately, there are many who don’t believe that the Holy Spirit still functions in all of these.  As far as I can see, none of the manifestations come with an expiration date.

The first thing we need to know is that these are not either/or.  If the Holy Spirit chooses, He can work them all in the same person.  Christ actually walked in all of these except tongues and interpretation.  It’s up to the Spirit to decide what’s needed at the time.

We also need to see that these are supernatural manifestations.  They point to the clear fact that God is working through you.  They’re not something that you have the power to do on your own.

The Message of Wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability to use the knowledge that you have to solve a problem.  This is supernatural wisdom that God imparts to you when needed.  So you could say that it’s a supernatural problem-solving ability.

This should be a common manifestation in the lives of God’s people.  I know that in my life there were many times that God showed up like this in my job as an Electrical Engineer.  My fellow workers knew my testimony, and they knew that because of this, I could come up with answers when no one else could.

Never think that it’s some flaky thing that makes you look and act weird.  On the contrary, the gift should highlight the power of God and draw people to Christ.

The Message of Knowledge.  This one is like the message of wisdom, but it’s a supernatural impartation of God’s knowledge.  Knowledge is simply facts.  When God uses this, you know things that you wouldn’t have known by any natural means.

It could be facts about people, places or things.  When you know something that you have no way of knowing, it points to a source beyond yourself.

Many times I’ve heard believers say, “It was like a voice on the inside said…”  Then they either say that they wished they’d listened to it, or they’re glad they did listen.

We need to spend more time in the Lord’s presence so that we can be sensitive to His voice.  I believe that God wants to speak more often than we’re in a position to hear.

Faith.  Too often we don’t understand this one.  It’s not talking about the normal faith in God that we have toward His Word.  This is a supernatural faith that God imparts to us when we need it.

This is especially true of believers who are facing persecution or a severe trial.  When there’s absolutely no way out, a supernatural, incomprehensible faith rises up on the inside of you.  You have no explanation as to why you have peace and trust during the situation in which you find yourself.

This causes the people around you to question what makes you so different.  The answer should draw them to Christ.

In my next post, I’ll continue my look at these important works of the Holy Spirit in us.

Questions: Has the Holy Spirit worked these in you?  How and when have you experienced them?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Replacing Power with Talk

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul shows his frustration with the church leaders who insist on doing things their own way.  They had an inflated view of themselves.

Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you.  But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.  What do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 4:18-21

Paul’s words to us are very clear.  When it comes to power in the kingdom of God, we better do more than just talk.  The problem is that much of what’s called power in the kingdom today is just that – talk.  The first step toward walking in the power of God is to understand what true power is all about.

Let’s start by looking at things from a natural perspective.  When we talk about power it’s usually in the context of electrical power.  We use phrases like power lines, power plant, and power outages.  We think of electricity as being a form of power.  This can help us to understand spiritual power.

Simply put, the definition of power is the same whether you’re talking about electricity coming into your house, or the power of God to heal the sick.  The International Edition of the Webster Comprehensive Dictionary defines it in the following way:

“Power is the ability to act.  It is the property of a thing that is manifested in effort or action, by virtue of which that thing produces change.”

Let me boil it down for you.  True power is the ability to produce change.  Change is the keyword.  It takes power to transform water at room temperature into hot water for a cup of tea.  It takes power to get a one-ton car to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour.  It takes power to transform a body from sickness to health.  It takes power to change a liar into a saint.  It takes power to replace guilt with innocence.

If we understand this correctly, then the verse above should bring new understanding.  It’s our assignment in the Kingdom of God to produce change.  It’s not about how well you can speak about it.  Change is the priority.  Is the church producing change?

You have to remember that this passage was written when Christians were the people who were “turning the world upside down”.  In light of this, how powerful is the kingdom of God today?  In order to answer that we must ask, how much change is being produced in the church today?

The unfortunate answer is – not much.  In many churches around the country, few are being healed, set free from sins, or seeing great growth in their spiritual lives.  It seems that we’ve become masters of talking as if there’s power in our lives.

We say things like, “That was a powerful message.”  Or, “We had a powerful service last night.”  I’ve also heard, “She has a powerful anointing to sing.”

But if no one leaves the service changed, then there was no power manifested in the service.  There are plenty of unsaved actors and singers that can evoke an incredible emotional response from their audience, but that’s not power.  People weeping during the service is no indication of any power.

We’ve learned to cover over our powerlessness by calling emotionalism power.  The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many people wept, how many chills ran down your spine, or how many people were slain in the spirit.  If no one was changed, then there was no power.

Do you want to walk in the true power of God?  Then you need to stop talking about it, and admit your lack – if that’s the case.  We need a true, Biblical knowledge of what it is and how to use it.  We need to seek God for a touch from His hand.  That’s where true change – true power – originates from.

Question: What does a church look like that’s walking in the power of God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Lukewarm Confession

How could a church that’s not lacking any spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:7) have so many problems?  That’s the question that rises up in me when I read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  As we go through this letter, the answer now becomes obvious.

Already you have all you want!  Already you have become rich!  You have become kings — and that without us!  How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!
1 Corinthians 4:8

I love Paul’s attitude, it’s a lot like mine sometimes.  He has humor with an edge of sarcasm.  There are times that this is needed to wake people up from their lethargy.

Paul exposes their faulty mindset.  They felt that they had all they wanted.  They felt that they were rich.  They felt that they no longer had any need of Paul’s apostolic ministry to their church.

For anyone who’s read the book of Revelation, this should sound very familiar.  There was a church to which Jesus Christ dictated a letter through John.  It was situated in the town of Laodicea.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Revelation 3:17

Here’s the problem.  They have a good confession, but they were self-deceived.  Please understand, I believe in and practice the memorization and confession of the Word of God.  It’s Scriptural and needed to bring maturity.

The problem arises when we deny the reality of our present situation.  For instance, if I’m sick, I can acknowledge my sickness BUT confess Christ as my Healer.  I can speak the Word that says I’m healed because of the wounds of Christ.

Usually, people only deny that they’re sick because they’re afraid to admit it.  But if you never acknowledged your sickness, how can Christ get the glory for your healing?

“We don’t need you, Paul.  We have all we need. We’re rich.  We’re ruling and reigning.”

The whole time, it was obvious to all outside observers that the church of Corinth was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  I’m glad that Jesus gave John the diagnosis in the opening of His letter.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Revelation 3:15-16

Most people don’t understand what being lukewarm refers to.  It’s a stubborn refusal to tap into the power of God’s kingdom.

It takes power to raise water from room temperature to boiling.  It also takes power to transform room temperature water into ice.  It requires no power to remain lukewarm.

There’s a subtle deception that many believers have fallen victim to.  That’s exalting their “good confession” over Christ Himself.  It’s not your confession that heals you – Christ is your Healer.

The reason we confess God’s Word is to change us.  I want to renew my mind so that it conforms to God’s Word.  Confession reprograms my internal computer.

When I start having faith in my confession, rather than in Christ, then I’m on the road to becoming lukewarm.  I need to see my need for Christ.  He is the Supplier for all that I need for life and godliness.

You don’t need to deny the situation you’re in.  But just the same, confess what God’s Word says about your situation and look for Christ to show up and bring about the change that’s needed.

Question: How does the confession of God’s Word renew your mind?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Faith, Healing, Power of God, Word of God

 

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