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Making Christ Central

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re now in chapter 12 where he begins to talk about our spiritual life.

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 12:1

The first thing we need to realize is that the word “gift” is not in the original. What Paul literally says is that he doesn’t want the church to be uninformed about the spiritual.  To do that, he’ll talk about more than just gifts.

He begins by addressing their spiritual heritage.

You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
1 Corinthians 12:2

Because they were a mainly Gentile church, their background included the worship of idols.  They had a history of serving gods that couldn’t speak.  That’s very different from where they are now.

We serve a God who wants to speak to and through His people.  That requires a different kind of lifestyle.  We need to be in a position where we’re ready to hear and obey His voice.  Along with that, we need to discern between the other voices trying to get our attention.

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3

I have a problem with the way this verse is usually explained.  Why would any Christian need to be told that someone saying, “Jesus be cursed” is not speaking by the Holy Spirit?  There’s a deeper issue here.

In the context of this chapter, Paul is speaking to former idol worshippers.  The word for cursed is the Greek word anathema.  It’s a word that has a specific meaning in regards to the worship of the Greek and Roman gods.

In these pagan temples, if you wanted to appease a god that you needed a blessing from, you would give an animal sacrifice.  Once it was consecrated to that god, it was hung on a wall or a column of that god’s temple.  Now you could go your way and never have to think about it anymore.

In reality, Paul is explaining to these former pagan worshippers, that Jesus was not merely some offering made to appease an angry god.  Christ was, is, and always will be Lord of all.  Not only that, but He now wants to be on speaking terms with His people.

When you’re in a relationship with the true God, He wants a constant interaction with you.  He wants to have power over what you say and do.  He wants to set the direction of your life.

I hate to say it, but sometimes we get this “anathema Jesus” attitude in the modern church.  There are many who have accepted Christ as merely a payment for their sin.  They’re not looking for a relationship with a Lord who wants to direct their lives.

Being a Christian means that Christ has a central role in all that you do.  We live to please Him.  That means we need to spend time in His presence, listening for the voice of His Spirit.

This is where Paul starts with the Corinthian church.  He’s going to explain to them the earmarks of a spiritual life.  What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

Hopefully, as we continue on in this study, we’ll receive insight that will help us in our daily spiritual walk.

Question: How do you make your relationship with Christ central in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Growing Up

Did you know that just because a person or a church walks in the gifts of the Spirit, it has no relationship to their maturity?  A baby Christian can pray for someone and see them healed.  Paul observed that in the Corinthian church as he sought to help them to grow up in Christ.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4

The church in Corinth gave Paul a lot of headaches over the years, but he continued to thank God for them.  In spite of their immaturity, Paul saw the working of God’s grace in their fellowship.

For in him you have been enriched in every way — in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Even though they had many problems, Paul was able to see the obvious working of the Holy Spirit in them.  He says that they had been made wealthy in every way – in Christ.  This was a wealth of spiritual gifts.

This was a result of Paul’s ministry to them.  He spent years teaching them the truths of the kingdom of God.  Because of this, they were spiritually wealthy in their Word and in their knowledge.  Spiritual gifts were operating in Corinth like nowhere else.

But is that a sign of maturity in a Christian walk?  Obviously not.  As we’ll see in future posts, the believers at Corinth were spiritual babies.

The problem is that they weren’t immature because of a lack of teaching.  Paul made sure of that.  They had chosen to live that way.

In the natural, there are people who don’t want to grow up.  I experienced this first hand.  I graduated from high school in 1975.  I went to the first few high school reunions until I realized that I had grown up, but many of my classmates were still trying to be teenagers.

That may be okay in the world, but it’s self-destructive in the body of Christ.  There are things that God needs mature men and women to accomplish.  But for that to happen, our eyes need to be focused on the eternal.

That’s why Paul is reminding them of their hope in Christ’s return.  At that time we’ll face our ultimate performance review.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9

These are the things that need to be constantly before us if we are to progress in our spiritual maturity.  We should all want to be blameless in our walk with God.  According to Paul, this will take the strength of the Lord working in us.

We have to constantly be looking at our relationship with Christ.  We are not alone in our walk.  What I say and do has an effect on the body of Christ around me.

God is faithful to uphold His part of the relationship.  But it’s up to me to understand and cultivate my connection to Him.  That’s why He’s placed the Holy Spirit within us.

I know that there are those who simply seek the gifts of the Spirit with no desire for growth.  My hope is that I can encourage all of us to lay hold of everything that the Lord desires for us.

Question: What’s the next step in your spiritual growth process?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion – Keeping Up Appearances

I’ve come to the conclusion that God hates religion.  What do I mean by that?  To most people, when they think about the word religion, they mean a set of rules by which you live your spiritual life.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion.  God wants a personal relationship with His people through Jesus Christ.  We see a great example of this in the life of Christ as recorded by Mark.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Mark 2:23-24

In order to understand what’s happening in this verse, I first have to explain some Old Testament facts.  The Law of Moses provided for the needs of travelers as they were going from place to place.  It allowed them to pick grain from any nearby field and eat it as they walked along.

So Jesus and the disciples weren’t stealing anybody’s grain.  God’s Word made it clear that the edges of a field were for the travelers, widows, and orphans.  It was a part of God’s provision for those in need.

Then why did the Pharisees have such a problem with what they were doing?  It all revolved around their religious interpretation of the Law.  According to the Ten Commandments, no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day.  It was to be a day of rest and worship.

Here’s where religion becomes an evil tyrant.  The Law of Moses said to not work on the Sabbath, but it never defined what exactly constituted work.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law took it upon themselves to help God out.  Since the Lord obviously forgot to explain it, they went ahead and detailed out what exactly was forbidden on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees had lists of “illegal activities” for the Sabbath.  For instance: you could pick up a chair and move it across the room.  But you couldn’t drag it because that would make a line in the dirt (furrowing) which was work.

The fact that the disciples were picking grain – harvesting – was not allowed on the Sabbath.  That wasn’t God’s law, but man’s religious interpretation of it.

It’s interesting that the word they use, unlawful, is a word that means not right.  However, this word implies that what they were doing was not right by appearance.  It didn’t look right.  With religion, it’s all about appearance.  It’s how you look on the outside.

Jesus had an answer for them.

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:25-28

The Lord uses the example of David.  The Law said that the bread in the Holy Place belonged to the priest.  He could do what he wanted with it.  It just didn’t look right for David and his men to eat it.  But the priest was ministering to someone in need.

The underlying principle is that the Sabbath was created for us to enjoy.  It was to give us a time of rest and refreshment in the presence of God.  It wasn’t made so that we could have one more religious rule.

Our God is a God of relationship.  A good relationship can never be based on a list of do’s and don’ts.  Religion is a form of slavery.  A relationship with Jesus Christ brings freedom and abundant life.

Question: How have you experienced the tyranny of religion?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Are You Religious?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word religious? Do you think about someone who goes to church, reads the Bible, and prays a lot? The Bible has a very different definition of what religious should be.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:26-27

The word religious in this passage comes from a Greek word that means ceremonial observances. That means that you do things out of tradition. So to understand it, we need to realize that this doesn’t apply to our spiritual walk with Christ.

Being spiritual is all about relationship, not religion. I come to Christ in prayer, in the church, and in the Scripture, not because it’s tradition or ceremony. I come to Him because I want to know Him better as a person.

The better I relate to Christ, the more growth I experience in my Christian walk. I do know that there are many Christians who treat their walk with God in a religious way. However, in my opinion, it’s much better to cultivate a relationship with Christ, then to simply follow religious observances.

What, then, does this Scripture want us to be religious about? I can see three things that we need to observe as a tradition in our lives.

First of all, we need to religiously control our tongues. James goes so far as to say that if you don’t control your tongue, you’re deceiving yourself as to your maturity. It doesn’t matter what else you do, it’s all worthless without bringing the tongue under control.

That’s because our mouth doesn’t speak on its own.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Control of the tongue is about controlling what you put into your heart. So if you’re not constantly filling your heart with the Word, your tongue will declare it publically.

The next part of good religion is to help those in distress. We don’t just live for ourselves. There’s a world of hurting people around us. Orphans, widows, single parents, and those in prison all need encouragement and help. There are many more than just those groups.

If we truly want to start a tradition, it should be one of helping others in their need. More than any other group, Christians should be the ones that help those no one else cares about. After all, that’s what Jesus did in His ministry.

The final part is to keep yourself from being polluted by the world. That’s a tough assignment. The Scripture literally says to keep from becoming spotted or stained by the world.

Every day, as we work and interact with those around us, the dirt from society is coming at us. If we’re not careful, we can start picking up some of the same attitudes. This will greatly hinder our walk with God.

We need to be in the pattern, the tradition, of going to God daily for repentance. As the Holy Spirit prompts us that we need to be cleaned of something, we need to be quick to respond. In that way we’ll be free of the stains of the world.

If you want to be religious about something, these are the things you should major on; and keep your walk with Christ as a growing relationship.

Question: What are the religious traditions in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Why so Downcast?

heart CrossIn my last post I talked about how worshiping God on our own terms is actually a form of idolatry. It’s through our arrogance that we think that we can approach God however we want.

One of the problems of our humanity is our tendency is to make a god in our image.

“If I were God, then this is what I would do.”

We say things like that and think that somehow this makes our foolishness theologically correct. It doesn’t. God is God and I’m not!

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he spent a portion of his letter talking about idolatry. He explained that in the world there are many so-called gods.

…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
1 Corinthians 8:6

For us there is only one true God. It’s for Him, only, that we live. I can’t relegate Him to the spot of one among many. I live for Him and for His pleasure. I have to come to the point of realizing that my relationship with Christ is all that matters.

It’s when the church in America comes to this realization that revival will break out. The timing and outcome are all on us. We need to respond to the call.

“Why so downcast?” The sons of Korah asked this of themselves. Cain was asked it as well. The answer was the same then and now.

“You know what to do.”

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

This has always been the key to revival. I’ve heard this verse preached over and over since I was a child. We need to put our relationship with God back on His terms.

“Why so downcast?”

“Look at the condition of the world and its people. The economy is in rough shape. I don’t have the time to do anything for God. There’s no power in the church.”

Let’s put away all of the excuses. It’s time to return to our first love. We need to put our hope back in God where it rightly belongs. It’s time to let all else fall away.

It may mean that some things have to change. We might need to stop doing some things – even good things – that are eating into our time with the Lord. There might be priorities that have to be rearranged. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it to see the glory of God once again manifested in His church.

Question: What’s the next step in your progress to get closer to the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Our All-Powerful God

LightningI’ve been posting about our need to walk in the power of God. It’s beyond question that we serve a God of power. He doesn’t have to merely talk about it. In the Old Testament He’s called God Almighty – the all-powerful God.

In referring to Him we say that He’s omnipotent. That means that He has unlimited and universal power. There’s nothing that God can’t accomplish through the working of His power.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Hebrews 1:3

This verse literally says that Christ is the beaming out of God’s glory. The Son manifests everything that God is. Part of the glory of God is His power. That tells me that true power is found only in Christ. That’s why it’s so important that we spend time with Him. Paul understood this concept intimately.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

How badly do you want to walk in the resurrection power of Christ? Do you know Christ in the power of His resurrection? This is the unbridled power of God that raised Christ from the dead.

The good news is that you can know Christ in this way. If it was possible for Paul, then it’s within your reach, if you’re willing to put forth the effort that an intimate relationship with Christ requires.

I’ve found that if you talk about power enough, then people will send you money just to hear your words. Sadly, there are many others who’ve made this same discovery. Most of them have found a lucrative place on Christian TV. They’re getting rich, while God’s people remain sick, poor, weak, and bound by sin.

My goal is to help the church to once again walk in spiritual power. Simply put, I’m not satisfied with the talk of power that’s prevalent in the church today. It’s time for the church to accurately portray who Christ is.

Jesus is Savior, Healer, Redeemer, Provider, and Life-Giver. I want to be a catalyst for change. I want to see lives changed by the power of the Spirit of God. I want to be able to understand both the Scripture and the power of God.

Only as we are willing to spend time with the Lord, will we see the power we desperately need. That’s why the Holy Spirit is always trying to draw us into His presence. That’s the place of power.

Question: What will it take for us to walk this road?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2016 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Eating From the Tree of Life

Fruit TreeI’ve been posting about our relationship with the Lord. I’ve looked at how Adam portrayed that relationship before the fall. Because he listened to God and obeyed, he walked in the authority of the Spirit.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 2:23-24

When Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib and brought to him, he immediately spoke under the authority of God. Why will a man leave his father and mother? Why will a husband and wife become one flesh?

It’s because Adam said, under the authority of God, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” This intimate relationship between husband and wife was given birth through Adam’s word under divine inspiration.

We need to get back to the authority that springs from the tree of life. But what does that mean? I’m not talking about the wood or the leaves. Eating from the tree of life is all about the fruit.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.
Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of this tree produces righteousness. It’s all a part of the righteous lifestyle. It’s when we’re worshipping, hearing and obeying God – just like Adam did in his perfect state.

A good example of this, in Christ, is contained in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. This was a church full of mature believers. It was one of Paul’s favorite places to minister. They supported him in his work when no one else did.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Paul’s prayer for them was that they abound in love. Love is relationship. He wanted the depth of their relationship with the Lord to grow in a big way. Then, he wanted them to discern what is best. That’s not the difference between good and evil, but God’s direction and plan for their lives.

That in itself is great, but what I consider the best part of what the Apostle wanted for them is that they be filled to overflowing with the fruit of righteousness. Where could they obtain this fruit? It only comes through Christ.

Because of our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, we now have access to the tree of life. Do we really understand the power of that statement? We can have unbroken fellowship with the God of the universe – Creator of Heaven and earth! He will allow His power to work through us. What greater gift could we ever ask for?

Paul went on to say…

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:8

This is what the abundant life is all about. Knowing Christ Jesus. That’s our access to the tree of life. That’s the source of all we need for life and godliness. We have a beautiful relationship with God.

Question: Why is it so important to cultivate our relationship with Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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