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Grey Areas

How do you handle issues that the Bible doesn’t speak about?  Usually, these activities create controversy in the church.  Many believers argue about things like gambling, tattoos, drinking alcohol, or buying lottery tickets.

In Paul’s day, the issue was about buying meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  It was the best meat in the marketplace.  But there were many who said that it was a sin to eat it.

In chapters 8 through 10 of his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle gives some guiding principles.

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 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 8:4-6

I find this to be an amazing passage of Scripture.  Here you have a former Pharisee looking at the issue and not immediately saying, “It’s a sin, don’t do it.”

Instead, Paul takes a step back and looks at it in logical terms.  What’s an idol?  It’s nothing at all.  A statue made of metal or wood.  It has no power or ability to do anything.

I think that our problem in dealing with these “hot button” activities is that we get emotionally invested in our conclusions.  We have a definite opinion about whether something is sin or not.  Usually, that’s the case even though the Bible is silent about it.

There are many activities that God clearly defines as sin.  There are lists in the Bible that tell us what God hates and instructs us not to participate.  There’s no question – these things are not God’s will for us.

The problem comes about in these grey areas.  Many of these activities existed since the times of the Patriarchs.  Yet the Lord chose not to speak about them.  If that’s the case, then why do we get so worked up about them?

We need to take a lesson from Paul.  Step back, get rid of the emotional attachments, and look at it from a purely Biblical perspective.  He starts at the bottom line.  Idols are nothing, God is everything.

In all areas of life, we have to look at our relationship with God as the overriding factor.  Everything that I do should revolve around Christ.  We seem to forget that sometimes.

With Paul, that’s the starting point.  We begin with a desire to please Christ.  It’s not about proving that I’m right.

So often, when it comes to these grey areas, it’s a matter of checking our motives.  In many cases, I’ve been approached by Christian teens asking if a certain activity was a sin.  They were trying to get me to override their parents.

“Pastor Nick says that it’s not a sin, so why won’t you let me do it?”

In those cases, I bring it around to the true issue.  It’s always a sin to disrespect your parents.  As long as you’re under their authority, you need to abide by their decisions, even if you think that they’re wrong.

Usually, it’s not as simple as asking if something is a sin.  There are many things in life that are not a sin, but they are also not God’s will for me to take part in.  I have to consider that as well.

Our walk with God is the top priority.  We should be trying, with all of our heart, to please the Lord in all that we do.  That’s the start of a pure walk with God.

Question: What are some special limits that God has placed upon your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2019 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Relationship Over Rules

RulesIn my last post I talked about the fact that the Bible isn’t meant to be a rule book. The Old Testament law teaches us that a set of rules could never bring us closer to God.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:13-15

This verse makes it abundantly clear that on the cross, Christ cancelled – obliterated, blotted out – the rule book. God no longer wants us to follow Him by rule, but by the Spirit.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1 Corinthians 15:56

This verse tells me that all of Satan’s so called power comes from the law. His only mode of attack is to enforce the law. That’s the power of his weaponry.

This verse also shows the basis of how Christ could disarm the demonic forces. On the cross, Christ obliterated the power source of the enemy. Satan’s kingdom is now an army of unloaded guns.

The only power they have is the power we give them, by subjecting ourselves, once again, to the law. That’s the trouble with our human nature. We all want rules. We’d rather someone tell us, “do this”, than to spend time with the Father and seek His will.

The verse we looked at in my last post showed us that following the apostles teaching as a rule opens us up to the sin of pride. Paul said that’s why they were talking arrogantly against one another. Pride is the sin that caused the devil to fall from the place he was created for.

Don’t let subjection to the law ruin your walk with God. The tendency of using the Bible as a rule-book causes many divisions and problems in the Body of Christ.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17

Using the Bible as a rule book causes most of the arguments we see between believers. We get so passionate about our own pet rules. It’s all talked about in this verse.

Believers argue about what Christians can or cannot eat and drink. There are controversies over whether or not to celebrate Christmas; or whether to worship God on Saturday or Sunday. None of these issues have any place under the New Covenant.

The reality is that God wants a relationship with His children. He’s not looking for robots. The Lord wants us to seek time with Him so that He can teach us to follow Him.

I realize that I’ve had to deal with this subject very quickly here. But I’m sure I’ll get back to it again in future posts.

Question: What divisions have you seen in the church over what the “rules” are?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2016 in Legalism, Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Relationship – But on Whose Terms?

AloneWe understand from Scripture that even though Adam started out well, he soon fell from grace into sin. Along with him, the whole human race was plunged into darkness. This required a change in the way God related to His creation. It was only restored through the work of Christ on the cross.

At this point in history it’s up to us to understand how God wants us to relate to Him. Then, we must attain to the walk with God that He desires. I want to talk about the heart of the matter. A good example is found in the book of Genesis. There we see two brothers, Cain and Abel.

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.
Genesis 4:3-4a

What we see here, are two young men who both want a relationship with God. Both wanted to worship God, and both brought an offering.

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Genesis 4:4b-5

Not many people know the significance of this statement. They think that the issue was as simple as God wanting a blood sacrifice. That would be true if this were a sacrifice of atonement. It’s clear from the verse that this was a firstfruits sacrifice, more like a tithe.

The Law of Moses tells us that offerings of fruits, vegetables and grain were always acceptable to God. There was more going on in this passage. The truth is that it’s all about ministry.

God taught Adam how to cover their nakedness, and their sin, through animal sacrifice (Genesis 3:21). At this point in history God had not allowed man to eat meat yet, that only happened after the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 9:3).

That means that the only reason for Abel to raise livestock was for clothing and sacrifice. According to Jesus, Abel was the first prophet (Luke 11:50-51).

This gives us great insight into the truth of these verses. Abel was the prophet-priest of his day. It wasn’t about the type of sacrifice, but who was offering it. For Cain to have been accepted, he would have had to go to Abel, for him to offer it on Cain’s behalf. That would have brought about the relationship with God that Cain desired.

What Cain needed to learn was that our relationship with God is on His terms, not ours. I don’t get to dictate to God how the relationship will progress or how it will be cultivated.

The above verse says that Cain was very angry and his face was downcast. How many Christians find themselves in this position? Their emotions all stirred up. There face is sad and angry. All because God is not responding as they think that He should.

I believe the answer is simple. The problem is not with God, it’s with us. We are the ones who need a greater understanding of who God is and how we are to relate to Him.

I want to take a few posts to talk about this issue – how we are to relate to God on His terms.

Question: What do you do to approach God on His terms?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Revival – Clearing the Stones

RockyIn my last post I talked about spending time with God. Allowing Him to be both the Architect and the Builder of our future.

There used to be a bumper sticker that I saw very frequently. Even though I understood the spirit behind it, I could never agree with it. Whenever I saw the words, “God is my Co-Pilot,” my immediate thought was, “Then you’ve got a fool for a pilot.”

I want God in control of my life. I don’t want to relegate Him to simply be my consultant. I want Him to set the course for my life.

With God in control, there’s always a preparation that He puts you through. The Lord does this to get you ready for what He wants to do through you. Israel was an example of this.

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.
Isaiah 5:1-2

In order to bring out the best in us, the Lord does a lot of work. He chooses us, defends us, and prepares us for a great harvest. But even after He does all that work, the Lord still has to wait for us. We must produce the fruit.

That’s the key. Where is our heart at? Are we in agreement with what the Holy Spirit is doing in us? We must choose to cooperate with Him.

God is preparing for something great from us. But there’s one simple truth. The best wine doesn’t come from supermarket grapes. It comes from a field that’s prepared for that purpose.

It’s the same with us. Are we willing to go through that preparation process? The first thing that the Lord does is to dig it up and clear it of stones. In Scripture, that speaks of repentance.

If we want to experience revival – both personal and corporate – this is where we start. We must be ready to clear the stones.

Prayer is relationship with God. We need to clear the relationship of anything that hinders our walk with the Lord. That’s where revival starts.

Why is this so important? Jesus told us about it in the parable of the sower. Too often we plant the seed of the Word on soil that’s too rocky.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
Matthew 13:20-21

That’s what happens when we receive the Word without letting it change us. No repentance. We let the hindrances in our relationship stop the Word from taking root in us.

It’s time for true repentance. That’s the first step in revival.

Question: How often do you take a self-inventory of your walk with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Are You Walking with God?

BeamOne of the most important concepts for any believer to grasp is walking with God. The fact is that God wants relationship. Do we respond to the Lord on that level?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

We see this all through the Bible – in both the Old and New Testaments. God wants to walk and converse with His people.

We see it in the life of Adam; the first man. God would meet with him and they would walk together in the garden. Even after all these years, God is still looking for someone who’s willing to walk with Him.

I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
Leviticus 26:12

This is the cry of God’s heart. It’s one of the greatest privileges that we have as Christians. To be able to relate to the Creator of the universe.

And yet, only a small percentage of people avail themselves to this great offer. It’s probably because in our human nature we want things our way. Oh, yes, I want the blessing of God on my life. But I want them on my terms.

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?
Amos 3:3

This is the big problem of walking with God. It happens over and over in our Christian experience. Walking together requires agreement.

It doesn’t matter whether I’m walking with other believers or the Lord Jesus. The two of us have to be in agreement. The thing about God is; He’s not going to change His attitude about anything. I’m the one who’ll have to change in order for us to agree.

That’s why it’s all about relationship. It’s a growing process. There has to be a level of trust that’s only built up over time.

I don’t learn to trust God by hearing one sermon and making a decision. It only comes through quality time spent with Him in His presence. It’s developed as we do life together – the Lord and me.

There’s a lot we need to understand about relationships. They’re always a learning experience. Relationships grow and mature over time. When it comes to relating with God, there are aspects to it that only He can teach us.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Psalms 86:11

The more we allow Him to show us, the closer our walk with Him becomes. But for this to take place we have to give Him our undivided attention. Time spent in the Spirit is never wasted. It reaps eternal dividends.

I want to talk about this important concept for a couple of posts.

Question: What are some things that you’ve learned in your walk with Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2016 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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Cain – Offerings and Relationship

Fake MoneyI’m looking at the life of Cain and how he speaks to our modern worship of God. In my last post we saw that he loved God and brought Him an offering. Unfortunately, God didn’t accept the offering.

…but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Genesis 4:5

As a result, Cain’s emotions were stirred up and he became upset. But do we really understand him or what he was going through?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Genesis 4:6-7

I believe that these verses are the key to understanding Cain. I see some things that are happening here that sometimes get overlooked because we’re so familiar with the story.

First, I see that God loved Cain. The Lord wanted the best for him. I see it by the way God talks to Cain. God speaks to him as a father would speak to a son.

I also see that Cain had a great deal of respect for God. He didn’t have an angry outburst or talk back to Him. I think that speaks volumes especially since some of the Old Testament prophets – Moses and Elijah, just to name a couple – talked back to God in their anger.

The fact is that in all our dealings with God, He knows what’s in our hearts. There’s no way around that. It was the same in this encounter with Cain. God spoke to the real issue.

God told Cain that if you do right, you’ll be accepted – which literally means promoted or exalted. So what was Cain really looking for? He wanted acceptance from God.

That surprised me more than anything. Cain’s goal was a relationship with God.

Even more than that – Cain talked with God, and God talked with him. They had conversations together. Think about it. Wouldn’t you want a relationship like this with God?

I came to the conclusion that Cain was a great guy! If he showed up at our church, we would love him. He would worship and sing right along with us. He would look and act no different than anyone else attending our service. And that’s what concerns me.

It’s also why Cain was so upset. He wanted to show his love to God through an offering, yet it wasn’t accepted. In effect God was saying, “I love you, Cain, but I cannot accept your offering.”

But God’s statement implies something else. Cain knew the right way to bring an acceptable offering to God. Because if there’s an offering God doesn’t accept – then there must be one that He does accept.

In my next post I’ll talk about exactly why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted. We’ll need to understand it if we’re going to keep off of his path.

Question: Have you ever been upset at God for something?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Spiritual Walk, The Church, Worship

 

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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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