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Believer’s Court

Judging by what’s on TV, court cases are very entertaining.  Each side tries to prove its claims.  Who’s doing the best job at convincing the judge or jury?  You never know until the final verdict.

But how does this play out when a believer takes another believer to court?  In Paul’s day, society found it just as entertaining as we do.  In Corinth, there was an epidemic of Christians suing Christians.  The Apostle had some things to say about it.

Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!  I say this to shame you.  Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!
1 Corinthians 6:4-6

The problem is that many view the church as an organization rather than an organism.  We are a body.  We’re to function as a unit.

There have been times when I’ve accidentally stuck my own finger into my eye.  In that instance, should my eye take my hand to court to sue for damages?  It may sound foolish to even ask that question.  Taking a fellow believer to court is just as foolish in God’s eyes.

According to Paul, even the least esteemed person in the church is probably qualified to act as an arbitrator between two parties.  In that way, internal differences can stay within the church.

But I believe that there’s a deeper issue here.  It’s about taking into account the fact that the world is watching us.  They’re always looking for a reason to accuse the church of hypocrisy.  We shouldn’t be giving ammunition to the enemy.

I have a deep problem when I feel the need to publically and decisively prove that I’m right.  I need to check my motives.  Is it stemming from bitterness, revenge, low self-esteem, or any of a hundred other faults in my sin nature?

Paul clearly gets to the heart of the matter.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
1 Corinthians 6:7-8

Paul says that a public lawsuit between believers is proof that you’ve been defeated by the enemy.  The actual word he used implies that you’re acting like a failure in your Christian walk.

He tells us that it’s better to be wronged or cheated rather than to bring public shame upon the body of Christ.  But if the hurt was great enough, he suggests private, Christian arbitration.

The problem is that we don’t want a Christian to arbitrate between us.  There’s too great a chance that they might use Biblical principles to judge the case.  In our greed, we want to exact revenge for the hurt we suffered.

Instead, we should always look for the restoration and healing of relationships.  I know that might sound idealistic, but in Christ, the Holy Spirit can do great things through those who submit to Him.  As far as it depends on us – whenever possible – we should take the high road of forgiveness and unity.

Question: When have you chosen to forgive instead of seeking retribution?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Boasting

We’re continuing our study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s dealing with the factions that are dividing their fellowship.  He now asks some questions that are particularly important.

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7

The first question he asks could be asked in our generation.  It literally says, who or what is it that makes you different and causes you to separate or withdraw from everyone else?  This is a question that should be asked of most denominational leaders.

Think about the thousands of Christian denominations around the world.  What is it that makes them so different from each other that they have to remain separate?

I like the study of church history.  I read stories of the great men and women of faith who have done mighty things for the Lord.  Many times, a following arose around their teachings.  Eventually, it formed a new group or denomination.

I wonder sometimes, what these ministers of the Gospel think about the direction those who followed them took.  Would they even recognize the organization that evolved into what we see on today’s church landscape?

“My denomination is better than yours.  We’re closer to God.”

Are you?  Is it the organization that brings you closer to God?  Or is it about a relationship?  Paul’s next questions bring that to light.  What do you have that you didn’t receive?  And if you received it, why do you boast as if it was you that did it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

We have received an absolutely, over-the-top salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was something that we could have never accomplished on our own.  That’s the bottom line of Christianity.

Human beings are the ones who have added the denominational distinctives.  These are the things that divide and separate us.  Most of these things are spiritual insights that a minister received and taught.  Then, an organization was built around it.

Actually, if you read the history of denominations, you’ll find that many groups separated over some of the most foolish things.  Many of these have nothing to do with God but are simply preferences in the style of worship or who they’re comfortable worshipping with.

Having said that, I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with being a part of an organization.  My church is a member of a denomination.  What I am saying is that it’s not the organization that brings you closer to God.

Your personal relationship with Christ is the most important thing.  This needs to be cultivated through your walk with the Holy Spirit.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Whatever your particular brand of Christianity is, let your walk with God be the most important part.

Question: What do we have in common as believers in Jesus Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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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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Family or Slavery?

When it comes to serving Christ, why do some choose rules over a relationship?  I believe that, just like in a family, good relationships are harder to maintain.  This is the very thing that Paul talks about in his letter to the Galatian church.

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?
Galatians 4:21

Many people are under the assumption that following a set of rules is the best way to serve God.  They think that as long as they try to do good things and keep away from the evil things, then they’ll be okay.  Unfortunately, this kind of thinking shows a basic misunderstanding of how God operates through His people.

The Apostle Paul, an expert in the law, explains this important truth to the church.

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.  His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
Galatians 4:22-23

When we talk about a relationship, especially in the spirit, it has nothing to do with the works you’ve done.  The important thing is how you entered the relationship.  How do you begin to relate to God?

Paul says that there are two ways.  He uses the example of Abraham’s two children.  He tells us that one was born according to the flesh, the other by an announcement from God.  So the two ways of relating to God are by natural means; or by the Word of God.

Many people try the natural method.  They look at their lives and say, “It’s about time that I grow up.  I need to start taking more responsibility and act in a more mature way.”  They say that they’ve “turned over a new leaf.”

They start to read the Bible and think about how they can live like the good people described in its pages.  There’s no spiritual change, it’s all done in the flesh.  They use self-discipline and drive to accomplish their goal to live better.

Please understand – the desire to walk in maturity is a commendable thing.  The problem is that it’s nearly impossible in the natural.  Ask anyone who attends an AA meeting.  It only takes one weak moment to knock you back to the start of the whole process.

That’s what Paul’s talking about here.

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants.  One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.  Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.
Galatians 4:24-25

Paul talks about two covenants.  But if you remember, he already told the Galatian church that the law was not really a covenant, but an addendum to the true covenant.  (Click here to review it.)

What he’s saying is that if you want to view the Law as another covenant, then you’re headed for slavery.  And I can tell you plainly that this is not God’s will for you.  The Lord wants a family, not slaves.

Christ went to the cross so that His people could walk in total freedom.  As we continue to go through Galatians in future posts, we’ll see how this freedom is supposed to work in us.

Question: What are the similarities and differences between the family and slavery relationships?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2017 in Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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The Pattern of Jesus

heart CrossI’m continuing to talk about the pattern of life handed down to us from Scripture. The Apostles learned it from Jesus. They lived with Him. They saw the Lord, and how He walked, for months at a time.

So I guess that the real question is; what was the pattern of Jesus’ life? If I can understand how He lived and ministered, then I can start to implement that into my walk. What is it about Jesus that made the difference?

Without a doubt, the defining characteristic of Jesus’ life on earth was His relationship with the Father.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Luke 10:22

That’s the key – relationship with the Father. It’s not knowing about the Father. Jesus knew who the Father is. He had an intimate relationship with the Father. It’s from this relationship that everything else flowed.

Jesus described the power of this relationship on many occasions.

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

It wasn’t a matter of deciding what to do at the moment. The Lord didn’t see a sick person and, at that point, pray and hope that the Father would heal them. Jesus knew what He was going to do BEFORE He got into the situation.

This was because He had already seen the Father doing the work. He spent time with the Father in the Spirit so that He was prepared for what was to come. But it wasn’t just the work that needed to be done.

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
John 12:49-50

This is an amazing statement. Not only did His words come from the Father. But the very way in which He presented those words was orchestrated by the Father.

He didn’t attend seminary (although there’s nothing wrong with studying). He didn’t sit down and craft a good sounding sermon. The content and the delivery were learned in the presence of God. That’s why it was acknowledged that no one ever spoke like Jesus did.

It’s clear from the Gospels that the pattern of Jesus’ life was first of all, be in an intimate relationship with the Father. Then, watch what the Father is doing and listen to what He is saying. Finally, do and say exactly what you saw and heard.

This is the pattern that was handed down to the Apostles.

Question: How would the church look if we all followed this pattern?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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