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Spirit vs. Flesh

In my last post, I started talking about Paul’s teaching on the Spirit-led life.  He tells us that we must cultivate our spiritual life if we want to overcome the flesh.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:16-17

When I read verse 16 in the original language, it’s very powerful.  Paul says that if you walk in the spirit, you will not bring to completion the things that the flesh is passionate about.

It doesn’t matter how much will-power you have or how many good intentions.  I’m writing this in September – how have your New Year’s resolutions turned out?  The only thing that can change the destination of our life is a walk in the spirit.

Verse 17 explains why this is true.  Your flesh is passionate against what your spirit wants.  Your spirit also has different goals than your flesh.  The two of them are battling for control of your mind.

But it’s the last sentence that gives us the understanding.  Because of their conflict, you cannot determine the things you do.  That’s the literal meaning of that verse.

You may not want to hear it, but your mind has very little to do in determining the path your life takes.  It usually bends either to the will of your spirit or your flesh.  Whichever has the stronger voice, determines what your mind will decide.

The teaching that “whatever you put your mind to you can accomplish” is a lie.  The illusion is strengthened by the fact that your mind can change course over the short term.  Like the first month of the gym membership that you knew would change your life.

The only time it appears to work is when your flesh and your mind are passionate about the same things.  If your flesh wants to be rich, or to own a large company, or to have great political power; that’s when it seems like your mind’s in control.

Other times, your flesh my use self-control as a means to an end.  That’s why many people who look like successes on the outside, turn out to be alcohol, drug, or sex addicts.  Then we’re shocked when their life ends in a tragic overdose or a suicide.

That’s why it’s so important that a Christian doesn’t fall victim to this false teaching.  You can’t bring about God’s plan for your life by disciplining your mind.  It has to be done in the spirit.

Paul brings this out in the next verse.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Galatians 5:18

Being led by the spirit is not about controlling yourself.  The only way to walk in God’s plan for you is to strengthen your spirit.  Then, your spirit will take over in plotting the course for your life.

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6

Spend time praying in the spirit.  Activate your spiritual walk.  Only then will you see the change in your lifestyle.  You’ll be glad that you did.

Question: How has your life changed since you started praying in the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Spirit-Led Life

In my last post, we saw that our freedom in Christ was not a license for our flesh to have its own way.  Our liberty is actually freedom FROM the old man, not freedom for it.  In today’s post, I want to talk about how to access this freedom that Christ won for us.

When we walk in the liberty of Christ, it’s easier to see the positive changes in our life.  The Holy Spirit will bring change from the inside out. This truth is also brought out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

Many times, when people quote this verse, they’re using it as a weapon.  I’ve heard people say things like, “Look at how that person lives, and they call themselves a Christian. They’re walking in their flesh so they must not have the Holy Spirit in them. They can’t really be saved.”

This isn’t a verse that Paul gave us to test whether a person is saved or not. This is a passage of Scripture to tell us how to receive the power we need to walk in victory over the flesh. The only way you’ll have the power you need to not gratify the flesh, is to live your life in the spirit.

You can’t do it by exercising the will power of your soul or even disciplining your body. This means that you spend time praying in the spirit, communing with God in the realm of the spirit. That’s where we access the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.

I know that there are those who would disagree with me on this point.  They don’t believe that praying in the spirit, using our prayer language, is for today.  I’ve even been told by some that they believe they can “pray in the spirit” in English (their native language).

One thing you have to remember is that the Apostle Paul wrote this.  He was adamant that he had a rich prayer life in the spirit through praying in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).  I believe that when he says to live by the spirit, he means a daily activation of the spirit through the use of this gift.

Please understand that this isn’t the only place in Scripture where we’re told to use the spirit to change our behavior.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

This is another piece of that same puzzle. Our outside will never change unless we have a change of heart. The problem is that our heart itself is very deceptive. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling.

That’s why true change can never be imposed upon it from the outside, by the written code. It must come from the inside, by the power of the spirit.

I don’t believe that a prayer you craft from your own mind and then speak from your mouth (part of your flesh), is ever going to be powerful enough to change your heart and actions.  It’s only when your spirit gets involved that true change will take place.

It’s only through daily prayer in the spirit that we see the fruit of what Paul is talking about here.  It’s through this gift that our spirit lines up with the Holy Spirit to put our mind and flesh on the right path.

I need make the choice to follow the Spirit’s leading. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today – while the Holy Spirit is seeking my attention. Don’t ignore His gentle voice calling for your fellowship.

Isn’t it great to know that your spirit, submitted to the Holy Spirit, can change your heart and walk?

Question: Is there something in your life that’s been hindering you from fully submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Legalism, Prayer, Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Life that’s Over the Top

SkateboardI’ve been posting about the Gift of God, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s a river of life bubbling up from within us. Jesus told us that it’s eternal life. It’s His perpetual, continual life that’s flowing through us.

But in calling it eternal life, the Lord was speaking about more than just length. It’s not just about how long you live for. Look at how Jesus describes it.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

If I tell you that something is full, would you only think about it in one dimension? Full implies more than just length.

The word full that the Lord used actually means superabundant in quantity, superior in quality, and excessive in amount.

Think about it this way. I come to you and ask you, “Can I borrow your car to go grocery shopping?”

You say, “Sure.” But the next thing I know is that a 2016 stretch limousine with a chauffeur pulls up to my house. That’s the picture this word evokes.

In spite of that, we usually settle for the Flintstone mobile – spiritually speaking. We should be expecting so much more from our walk with God. He wants to lavish His life upon us.

The gift of God is where this spring of life comes from. When Jesus called it a spring of water, the word He used was of the surface fountain. The source was not included.

That’s how it is with us. You can’t see the source because it’s in the spirit. I’ve got to tap into the Holy Spirit to get the spring going.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:6

This verse tells us that the gift of God is received by the laying on of hands. It’s imparted from one who has already received it. The gift must be passed on and received.

But this verse also makes it clear that it can lay dormant after it’s received. Why would anyone want to ignore the gift of God’s eternal life flowing through them?

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

How does Paul describe this gift of God? The apostle says that He’s a Spirit – the Holy Spirit. Boldness comes from this Spirit. Why? Because He gives us a life that’s over the top. If you have perpetual life to draw upon, who cares what people think?

If you borrow money for a mortgage, the bank tells you how big a house you can get. But if you win a Powerball jackpot, no one can tell you what to buy.

That’s what God gives us in the spirit. We have power, love, and a saved mind. Because you can draw on the Holy Spirit and His perpetual life, you now have the power for everything God calls you to do.

You have enough love for all who come your way. You have a saved mind to know God’s will.

What else do you need? It’s up to us to seek it out. All we have to do is to trust God to receive it or fan it into flame.

Question: How have you experienced God’s abundant life working in you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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A Testimony of Change

HandsFor a number of posts I’ve been talking about the spiritual walk. As we pray in the spirit, we’re affecting the natural. We looked at a few verses that tell us it’s through the spirit that we overcome the flesh.

There are those who spend their entire lifetime trying to master the fruit of the spirit by their own strength and will power. I’ve found that those who are able to do this are easy to spot. The older they get, the deeper the frown etched on their faces.

They’re quick to tell you how hard it is to stay committed to the Lord. Doing this work on your own is very detrimental to your joy and I don’t recommend it for long periods of time.

Another observation actually had me upset at God for a long time until I understood what was really going on in the spiritual realm. The problem is that sometimes we have an experience in God and try to explain it based upon our observances instead of searching the Word. I’m thinking specifically about my grandparents, who were the first in our family to receive Christ.

Back when they first immigrated to America from Italy, they were rough, unlearned people. At that point, an evangelist came from Chicago to Boston to bring the Gospel to the Italian community. That’s when my grandparents heard the Good News and submitted their hearts to Christ. The church I grew up in was the Italian Pentecostal Church that grew from that evangelist’s work.

Growing up, I heard all the stories of how God moved in those days. I heard about the power, the healings, and the miracles. I learned all about the righteous lives that these “old folks” lived. Their conversion became legendary.

“If we would only live like they did…”

This is why I was upset at God. I was told that when they were saved, they were really saved. Their lives were changed instantly. There was suddenly no more profanity, stealing, or fits of rage. They began walking in love, joy, peace and the rest of the gifts.

I knew my grandparents well enough to know that what was said about their lifestyle was true. They lived close to God. They loved like Jesus did. They evangelized everyone they met.

That’s what upset me. I felt that I had been short changed in my salvation experience. I wanted to know why I was still wrestling with my sin. Why did their lives change so radically, and mine seemed to be a never ending process?

What I was taught about this did little to help me. I was told that God just works differently in different people. Some people He cleans up in an instant and others the Lord takes His time on. I just resigned myself to the belief that I was one of those that would take a long time to see the changes occur in my life. All this, because we based our theology on observation rather than the Word of God.

Here’s what actually happened to my grandparents, based on what we’ve just learned from the Scripture. When they heard the Good News of the Savior, they submitted to His Lordship in faith. They were saved and immediately baptized in the Spirit with the evidence of their prayer language.

Then they began to attend meetings on almost every day of the week. Some of these were services and some were prayer meetings. Here’s the key. No matter what kind of meeting it was, they always spent hours praying in the spirit.

I know from watching her, that my grandmother prayed hours a day. By observation, people saw that when someone was saved and baptized in the Spirit, their life changed. It seemed to be instantaneous.

But looking back, I can see through the filter of the Scriptures, what really changed their lives was that they spent hours a week praying in the Holy Spirit. There was not one particular work of holiness – it was the ongoing process of putting to death the misdeeds of the body through prayer in the spirit.

Then, over the course of time, the prayer meetings stopped being attended by the next generation. Instead of using the power of the Spirit, they learned to serve God using will power alone. Holiness became a thing of the past, “the stuff of legends”.

We just looked back and said, “Those old Italians knew how to serve God.” What they learned was that power was only accessed in that secret place of intimacy with the Holy Spirit. This is how we must receive the power as well. To the extent that we worship God in His language, at His level, we will experience His power.

At one point the Lord impressed us to start having a prayer meeting only for prayer in the spirit. We met for one hour a week to pray in our heavenly language. During that time I observed that people who spent even moderate amounts of time praying in the spirit started to change at an incredible rate.

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
Romans 8:6

The good news is that you don’t have to know how it works for it to affect you. But, you do have to walk in it for the effects to be realized. Don’t just use the gift of the heavenly language as a once in a while plaything. It’s the access key to the release of the power of God in your life. You should use this gift daily. If you choose to do this, your life will never be the same.

Question: How have you seen the effects of praying in the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Why Prayer in the Spirit?

FireI talk a lot about praying in the spirit. I believe that it’s an important part of the Christian walk. Sometimes it can be a controversial subject. I want to take a few posts to talk about why God chooses this method.

We read about the start of this in the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit descended upon the church.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:4

Jesus had prepared His disciples, telling them that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit if they waited in Jerusalem. Then it happened on the day of Pentecost. There was a sound like wind, fire rested on each person’s head, and then they started speaking in unknown tongues.

Please realize that the word tongues was the old English word for languages. Somehow the name stuck even though we don’t use it that way today. We’re really talking about the gift of languages.

Why does God choose to use this gift? First of all, the gift of tongues is the proof of the baptism in the Spirit. We see this throughout the book of Acts.

It was that way when the Gentiles first received salvation.

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Acts 10:45-46

This was the proof the Jewish believers needed to know that salvation was opened to the Gentiles. They understood it because the Gentiles received the same gifting.

At one point Paul was ministering and met some men who had only received John’s baptism. He then preached to them the fuller revelation of Christ. They believed Paul’s testimony and were baptized.

On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Acts 19:5-6

This is the proof that the early church had of the baptism of the Spirit. What about the other things, like prophecy or healings? I’ve heard some people teach that these are valid proofs as well. I don’t agree with them because all of the other spiritual manifestations were seen in the Old Testament without the baptism.

I believe that this gift of tongues is the only evidence of an immersed life – it’s the start of our prayer language. But a reasonable question many ask is; why tongues? Why not fire, wind, or something else?

Speaking in an unknown language seems so foolish. Then again, foolish never bothered God. If something that looks foolish brings about the results God wants – He’s okay with it.

So I want to take a couple of posts to deal with the issue of; why tongues? What is it about our prayer language that makes it important for us to use regularly? I believe this series will be a help to those struggling to understand it.

Question: How often do you use your prayer language?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Sowing and Reaping in the Spirit

agricultureIn my last post I talked about receiving God’s power through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I realize that this is a controversial teaching in the body of Christ. There are many who don’t believe that it for all Christians.

Many say, “I don’t want it.” They choose not to receive this gift of God. The truth is that this gift is vitally important for the church to do its job. That’s why the enemy would do anything to convince us that it’s not for the church today or not for you personally.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Prayer in the Spirit is vitally important to our spiritual health. I believe that this is how we receive the seed of God’s Word in us. It’s needed to conceive the seed God wants to place into our lives.

In the above verse we see that your mind can’t conceive what God has planned for you. That word is how the translators handled two words in this passage. They are the words placed upon and rise up.

Think about how seeds work in field. The seeds are placed upon, sprinkled over the soil. Then the water and sun work to activate them so that the new plant rises up from the dirt. It happens the same way in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

Spending time in the Spirit allows God to plant His seed in us. Things we could never even imagine that He has planned for us. They enter into the good soil of our hearts. Some of these seeds can only be activated by prayer in the Spirit.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:7-8

We need to understand that there is a sowing and reaping in the spirit. Prayer in the Spirit is not just for the conception of the seed. It must be continued so that the harvest may be brought forth in due time.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:8

That’s why I’m such a proponent of prayer in the Spirit. I’ve seen what it’s done in my life and in others who practice it regularly. There is no substitution for this work of the Lord in us. It’s the power of God actively working in us to bring about His plan for us.

I don’t know how anyone could fully serve God without it. I couldn’t imagine my life without this gift. Don’t neglect it. Spend time praying in the Spirit and allow the seed of God to germinate and take root in your heart. It will change everything.

Question: How has prayer in the Spirit changed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Receiving God’s Power

LightningFaith is very often misunderstood in Christian circles. It’s sometimes described as a mental exercise. We’re simply trusting that everything’s going to turn out okay. That’s not Biblical faith.

True faith is putting your trust in a person – Jesus Christ – and what He says is truth. Look at the example of Scripture.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.
Hebrews 11:11

To understand this verse we need to look at the NKJV, which I believe is a more accurate translation in this case.

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
Hebrews 11:11 (NKJV)

This verse tells us that through faith Sara received. This is an important concept for us to lay hold of. Faith is always a choice. We choose to receive by faith.

God can hold something out to you, but unless you choose to receive it, it’s never more than a promise. It’s like that with everything God has for us as His children.

What is it that Sarah received? According to the above verse, she received strength. Above all, we need to receive God’s strength. That’s the Greek word dunamis – God’s miracle working power.

There should be a progression in our lives. We spend time with the Lord, talking and listening to Him. As we do this, we become aware of His calling upon our lives. Then, having heard His call, we choose to obey and follow His leading.

It’s at this point that many believers get into trouble. That’s because what God calls you to do cannot possibly be completed in your own strength. You need His power working through you.

Think about the example of Sarah and Abraham. They had no strength to obey what God was calling them to do. The only way this promise was completed in them was through the Lord’s intervention.

It’s the same for us. Many Christians choose to obey God. But they try to accomplish the work in their power. Maybe it’s because we don’t understand God’s power. Or sometimes it’s because we don’t like God’s method.

The above verse said that Sarah received power. That’s the exact same wording that’s found in the following verse.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

This is a part of receiving God’s power into your life. It’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes up residence within you when you’re saved. But the baptism is the immersion in the Holy Spirit.

I believe that this is one of the most important steps in the Christian walk. It opens us up to the power of God working in us. If we want all that God has for us, then we need to actively seek this baptism.

But it doesn’t end there. Once we’ve received our prayer language, we need to cultivate it through daily prayer in the Spirit. In this way we will, by faith, receive the strength we need to complete God’s work in us.

For the next few posts I’ll look at this important part of our Christian walk.

Question: How often do you pray in the Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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