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The Yeast Principle

I’m continuing my study through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  Chapter 5 is very controversial in some circles.  How do you deal with carnal Christians?  It’s an issue that every church leader has to face.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, the key attitude is a desire for restoration in the lives of these individuals.  Unfortunately, in our generation, many leaders simply ignore the issue, hoping that it will resolve itself.  Human nature should warn us that this rarely happens.

In my last two posts, we saw that Paul called for a spiritual separation to take place.  First, lifting up this person before God in prayer.  Then, if no repentance was forthcoming, surrendering the offender over to the enemy’s kingdom, for discipline.

Why did Paul find it so important to deal with unrepentant sin in the body of believers?  Why not ignore what people do in their private lives?  The problem is that we’re not just members of an organization, but parts of a body that need to function together.

Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 5:6-7

To explain this, Paul uses the illustration of the Passover celebration.  During that feast, the Jewish people must remove all yeast from their homes.  Any bread baked during that time must be unleavened.

Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, bore our sin to the cross.  In that sense, the final Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.  We are now in a continual celebration of that feast.

What the apostle is telling us is that sin is like yeast.  It needs to be handled in the same way.

I love bread.  I love baking bread.  There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh loaf when it’s in the oven.

I can tell you about yeast.  Once you add it to the dough, there’s no going back.  It’s not like picking carrots out of your soup because you don’t like them.

In God’s kingdom, He wants us to deal with the sin before it infects the whole body.  As we’ve seen, this involves a work that can only be done in the spirit.

We’re not talking about kicking a member out of the organization.  But, in the spirit, taking authority over the sin.

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:8

Paul is clear that the person is not the yeast.  It’s the sin that infects the church that needs to be dealt with.

I’ve heard the saying that, “we need to hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  That’s a Scriptural attitude, but it very hard to implement.  All too often we end up hating the sinner and ignoring the sin.

I apologize beforehand for my sarcasm, but the following two statements are how some people act.

“It was easy under the Old Covenant.  Kill the sinner and the sin is removed.”

Fortunately, we’re under grace now.  We’ve been given spiritual weapons with which we can deal with the sin without harming the person bound by the sin.  We’re commissioned to “set the captives free.”

It’s time for mature believers to take a stand in the spirit.  Through prayer and intercession, we can start the process of cleansing the bride of Christ.

Question: How does not dealing with sin allow it to spread through the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Discipline or Restoration

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  I have to warn you!  As we start chapter 5, Paul gets very practical about subjects many believers would rather not talk about.  These were real issues that the churches of his day were dealing with.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
1 Corinthians 5:1-2

This verse creates a lot of problems for church leadership.  How are we to apply it in our generation?

When it was written, there were no denominations.  There was only one church in the town of Corinth.  People didn’t pick and choose churches based upon personal preference.

Today, in our sexually permissive society, there are believers who are following the ways of the world.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is common.  In many cases, if a Christian was approached by an elder in Christ who lovingly explains the error of such a lifestyle, they would be offended.

“How dare you condemn me?  What I do is none of your business.  I’m going to find a church that will accept me the way I want to live.”

That thought scares a lot of Christian leaders.  They don’t want to lose any of their members.  But there is a response that brings about God’s will.

First, we need to understand that the word proud is the same word translated as arrogance in chapter 4.  The leaders in this church were confident in their own ways.  They were blind to anything else going on around them.

According to Paul, there should have been a spiritual response.  We get the wrong idea because of the English words used to translate this verse.  “Put out of your fellowship” is actually “lift away”.  So the keywords of our response are to mourn and lift away.

This type of mourning is a sorrow that inspires action.  The action is to lift away the one living a life that’s inappropriate for a Christian.  This word lift is used in a number of ways.  I believe in this instance it means lifting up to God.

The apostles were commanded by the Jewish rulers not to heal or preach in the name of Jesus.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign Lord” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
Acts 4:24

Too many leaders think that the response to sin in the life of believers is a knee jerk reaction to throw them out of the church.  Instead, it should be mourning and a desire to see God’s power at work to restore this person.

If I burn my finger by touching something hot, my reaction is to pull it away from danger.  I put it to my mouth or under cold water.  My response is not to cut it off because it touched something it shouldn’t have.  My goal is that it be healed and restored to its normal function.

When we lift the offending person to God, we pray for their restoration.  We also pray for wisdom in dealing with them.  It’s very likely that the Holy Spirit will send one of us to talk to them.

However, the goal of the talk is restoration, not discipline.  We’re not going to spank them, but to heal them.  Attitude is everything.  Of course, even done in love, not all help is accepted – especially in regards to sin.

I believe that the body of Christ needs to relearn how to handle sinful lifestyles.  Not ignoring, yet not condemning.  That combination requires leaders who spend quality time in the presence of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen problems like this handled in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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To Be Continued…

In my last post, we saw how Paul encouraged the Thessalonian church to remember the way the Gospel was passed down to them.  He now wants them to think about others in need of the truth of Christ.

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
2 Thessalonians 3:1

The apostle asks the church to pray for a couple of things.  The first is that the Word of Christ may advance quickly.  He not only wants it to run forward, but to be honored by those who hear it.

That should be our prayer as well.  It’s wonderful that I heard and honored the Word.  I’m saved because of it.  But for me, it shouldn’t end there.  Others need to hear that same life-changing Word.

Paul goes on with his request.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-5

These two prayers must go hand in hand.  The spreading of the Gospel message, and the protection of those who are bringing it.

Whenever the Word of Christ is preached, there are always two responses.  Some will have faith to believe it.  But there may also be those who oppose it – sometimes violently.

Of course, in our generation, there are those who have gone in a different direction.  There are some who have watered down the message so there will be little chance of persecution.

In Paul’s mind, the number one goal was the spreading and advancement of the Gospel.  Then he would trust God for his personal safety.

In our society it’s different.  Many have set their first goal as the advancement of their own comfort, entertainment, and wealth.  Then, if they have any free time, they can do something for Christ – as long as it doesn’t negatively affect their status in the world.

We need to change our thinking.  We must get back to the original message of the Gospel.  We don’t go out of our way to offend others, but the truth of God’s Word must be our priority.

Then, we’ll find out the truth of Paul’s prayer request.  We pray that the Word of Christ will spread and increase.  We pray that many will accept it.  And we pray that those who deliver it will have God’s divine protection.

Question: Do you see any differences between the way the Gospel spread in the early church and how it spreads in our present experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Prayer and Testing

In my last post, I talked about the way Jesus taught, by example, how to pray in times of distress.  How well did the disciples learn this lesson?

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Enough!  The hour has come.  Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Mark 14:37-41

Unfortunately, this prayer session was a little past the disciples’ bedtime.  They didn’t last very long before they dropped off to sleep.

The fact that Mark records some of what Jesus prayed shows that they were awake for a little while.  The Lord probably knew what they could take and prayed accordingly.  I personally believe that He spent most of the time praying in the spirit.

In this whole incident, there’s a statement that Christ makes that should really speak to us.  He said to His disciples, watch and pray so that you will not enter temptation.  This is an important truth.

First of all, we must understand what temptation is.  It’s a test of whether or not our faith is genuine.  This same Greek word is translated by both temptation and testing throughout the New Testament.  The translators use one or the other word based upon the context of the verse.  It’s this testing that proves if we really believe the Word.

Jesus tells us that some testing can be avoided by prayer.  I only wish that all testing could be avoided.  But that’s just not the case.

If anyone could have avoided all testing, it would have been the Lord.  Yet, even He was tempted while He was fasting in the wilderness.

From my study of the Scriptures, I believe that there are at least 4 different kinds of testing.  The first is the trials that are common to all humans.  These cannot be stopped.  They’re used by God to show His power working in us.

Next are the ones that come as a result of what we desire.  These desires are not necessarily bad things.  Paul talks about those who desire monetary wealth having more tests than the normal person (1Timothy 6:9-10).  That’s because wealth comes with a trap, such that if your character isn’t strong enough, it could destroy you.

Another kind of testing comes from the sinful desires of our flesh.  When we allow ourselves to focus on them, we are pulled down the road of temptation.  Through watching and praying, this is one type of testing we can avoid.  As we renew our minds, it protects us from falling into these traps.

The fourth kind is the tests that we blindly walk into because we’re not being watchful.  Again, through prayer and having a listening ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit, these tests can be sidestepped.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the same test again and again because we don’t learn the lessons that only come through time spent with the Lord.

That’s why a deep prayer life is so important to the believer.  While it can’t stop all testing, it will give you a straighter and clearer path into the place God has called you to be.

Question: When have you found that prayer helped you to avoid a problem in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Prayer Under Pressure

How do you pray when you’re facing a severe trial?  Is it any different than when everything seems to be going your way?  If you’re like most people, those two prayers are vastly different.

In my last post, I talked about the fact that Jesus only took His three closest disciples with Him into the garden of prayer.  It was only hours before His trial, and He wanted them to watch how He prayed.  The Lord wanted them to see a prayer under deep emotional distress.

We know that Jesus felt the same pressure that we do while being tested.  The difference is that He knew how to walk in victory over these trials.  It was His goal to train His disciples to walk the same way.

He started by explaining what He was going through.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Jesus was deeply distressed because he was about to face something that he never experienced before.  He has existed since eternity past, but the Lord had never been touched by sin or death.  Now it was all going to come upon Him.

He told His disciples that His soul felt like it was totally surrounded by grief because of what He was about to face.  He knew that His humanity had to be dealt with.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mark 14:35-36

This passage causes many people to question whether or not Jesus wanted to go to the cross.  It sounds like, just before the end, the Lord was trying to get out of it.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We know from Jesus’ conversations with His disciples that He was focused on what He needed to do on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said when James and John asked to sit on His right and left hand in the kingdom.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.  “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
Matthew 20:22a

There was no question in the Lord’s mind that He was going to drink the cup of death for us.  And there are many more places in the Gospels where He confirmed this thought.  Then why did He pray for the Father to remove this cup?

Simply put; this prayer was a teaching time for the disciples.  There were many times that Jesus prayed for the benefit of those who were listening.  This happened when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
John 11:41-42

What Jesus prayed in that garden was for the disciples’ benefit.  He wanted them to know how to pray when they felt overwhelmed.

Sometimes the pressure on us is so great that we lose sight of where God is bringing us to.  In those times it is very appropriate to ask God to bring an end to our trial.  But, we must always remember to finish the prayer by confirming our desire for God’s will to be done and not ours.

Question: When was a time that you had to pray while under great pressure?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Calling to Pray

As believers, we’re all called to pray.  However, the question often arises; are we all called to a warfare or intercessory type of ministry?

It’s clear from Scripture that we need to be a praying people.  We should be praying daily for ourselves and our family.  Also, we need to pray for others in the body of Christ.  Then, we should be praying for our friends, neighbors, community, and nation.

In order to fulfill this, Jesus gave His disciples a teaching on prayer.  As a part of this lesson, the Lord showed them an outline of what a prayer to God should include.  (Mark 6:9-13)  We call this the Lord’s Prayer.

We all should be praying – that’s beyond question.  But there’s a deeper level of prayer that needs to be addressed.  This is a powerful type of prayer that involves our whole being – body, soul, and spirit.  It could express itself in warfare, intercession, or a combination of both.

I believe that this is the kind of prayer that Jesus entered into, while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Look at how the Gospel of Mark describes it.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Mark 14:32

I think it’s interesting that this place of prayer Jesus chose was called Gethsemane.  That was an Aramaic word that meant olive-press.  It was going to be a place of great pressure for Christ.

What I want you to notice is that most of the disciples simply got the instruction to sit here.  Jesus told them that He was going to pray.  But He didn’t ask them to do anything in particular during that time.

There were, however, three disciples who got a different set of instructions.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Peter, James, and John – the three leaders of the group – were told to go with the Lord.  As they approached the place, Jesus began to be overwhelmed by the weight of what He was about to endure.  He expressed this to the three and told them to remain with Him and watch.

The Lord obviously wanted these particular disciples to watch and learn from what was happening in that garden of prayer.  They needed to learn the deeper issues of intense, Spirit-led prayer.

Most of the disciples would have had no understanding of what was going on in that garden.  It was these three that had a grasp of some of the things that take place in the spiritual realm.  After all, they were with Him when the Lord raised a dead girl back to life (Mark 5:37-43) and they witnessed His transfiguration (Mark 9:2).

We need to see that intense, intercessory prayer is not for everyone.  It’s only for those who have obtained to a mature level of spiritual understanding.  Even then, this kind of prayer is only learned by watching those who are already walking in it.

Are you called to this type of prayer?  The only way of knowing is for you to continue to pursue Christ.  Make it your goal to walk in everything that the Lord has for you.

Question: Why is intercessory prayer so important in the body of Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Faith, Prayer, and Forgiveness

In my last post, we saw that true faith is based upon a Word from God, with God as the object of that faith.  As the Lord was explaining this to His disciples, He makes a very interesting statement.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:25

This statement confuses a lot of people.  They don’t know what this has to do with believing and receiving from God.  It also causes some people to ask, “If I don’t forgive someone, does that mean that I’ll not be saved?”

There’s a big reason for all this confusion.  It stems from our modern concept of the word, forgive.  Our generation has no idea what the scriptural word means.

When we say that you need to forgive someone, it’s a watered down version.  We mean that you need to tell the person that you’re not mad at them anymore.  Everything’s okay now and our relationship can move on from whatever caused the problem.

The biblical word for forgive has nothing to do with the above.  It literally means to pick up and throw away.  It’s like what you do with your trash.  You throw it out to the curb.  Then it’s removed, never to be seen again…ever.

With that understanding, now we can look at what Jesus is saying to His disciples.  Remember, the Lord is talking about standing in prayer.  This is about believing God for the desires that He’s placed in our hearts.

When you’re in that place of prayer, you’re having an intimate time with the Lord.  At this time, the Holy Spirit brings to your attention that you’ve placed a roadblock between you and another person.  It could be for any reason, but usually, it’s for a perceived hurt against us.

At that point, the Lord simply wants us to remove that wall that we’ve erected.  I realize that this is not an easy thing to do.

“Lord, I remove the issue that I have been holding against him or her right now.  From here on out, with your power, I’ll treat them like it never happened.”

This goes against our human nature.  That’s especially true because it has nothing to do with the other party’s desire (or lack of desire) for forgiveness.  It’s all on my part.

But understand, there’s a blessing that comes from this.  It paves the way for God to remove anything blocking His blessing from getting to me.

The word translated as sin, in the above verse, is the word side-step.  You’re on the right path following Christ.  But you made a misstep.  You haven’t lost your salvation.  You don’t have to “get saved” all over again.

However, there is something that could be keeping you from receiving all that God has for you.  In Christ, God dealt with all of your sin before you were ever born.  Now He’s asking you to do the same thing for a fellow human being.

If you’ll remove the thing that’s blocking you from blessing them, then He will remove the thing blocking your blessing.  I think that it’s well worth the trade.  Of course, in our flesh, we might not agree with that.

This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.  It’s also why the Lord said that it needed to be done while we were standing in the place of prayer.

So, if there’s anything the Lord’s dealing with you about, take care of it quickly, and let the blessings flow freely again!

Question: How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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