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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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Keeping Your Distance

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, is dealing with the matter of how carnal Christians are to be treated.  In many cases, we find ourselves off the track of God’s will in our generation.  There are times we either totally ignore sin in the church, or we kick people out of our fellowship.

As we’ve seen through these last few posts, Paul was not endorsing either of these options.  Instead, he tells mature believers to take authority over the situation in the spirit.

Now Paul shows us the way a carnal believer should be treated on a personal level.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Once someone has been identified as a carnal believer who has no desire for repentance, the work of restoration begins.  There must be intercession in the spirit for this person.  But that alone is not enough.

It’s the love shown to them that will draw them closer to God.  That’s why an understanding of this passage is so vital to church leadership.

The word, associate, in the passage literally means an intimate friendship.  It speaks of a mixing together of two lives.  It’s not referring to a casual acquaintance.

Paul is not telling us to cut all ties with this person.  Instead, we’re to love them back to the cross.  We can treat them in a friendly way without being best friends with them.  The goal is for them to desire a closer walk with God without their lifestyle or attitudes rubbing off on us.

The subject of eating together also needs to be addressed.  In our fast-paced society, meeting someone to discuss business over lunch has no intimate associations at all.  When Paul wrote this, eating together was a long process that usually meant a close, intimate friendship.

The key is that we’re not to develop an intimate friendship with carnal believers.  This goes right along with what Christ taught concerning those in unrepentant sin.  Look at what Christ says to do after repeatedly trying to restore this person.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:17

I’ve seen people who use this verse to kick members out of their church.  Let’s understand what Jesus is saying here.

I think that I can sum it up in two simple questions.  How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  Did He shun and exclude them or did He spend time with them in order to bring restoration?  I think the answers are obvious.

The Pharisees judged people for their sins and had them expelled from the synagogue.  Jesus loved people and spent time with them to bring them nearer to God.  Would you rather your life imitate Christ or a Pharisee?

It’s time that the church started to deal with sin in a scriptural, Christ-like way.  Our goal should be healing and restoration for the body of Christ.

Question: How have you seen scriptural restoration exemplified?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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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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Spiritual Intervention

In my last post, I started looking at Paul’s response to rebellious sin in the life of a believer.  The goal of leadership should be that of restoration rather than punishment.  Now Paul takes it a step further.

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit.  And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.  When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:3-5

This is another of those passages that we sometimes misunderstand.  The reason is that we don’t see who is being addressed.  We make the assumption that this is referring to the entire church.  That’s not the case.

In my last two posts, the tone of Paul’s writing should make it clear that he’s speaking to the leadership of the church.  He’s not talking about issues that brand new believers should be dealing with.

Paul was a seasoned prayer warrior in the spirit.  You can rest assured that powerful intercessory prayer was going up for this church.  In the spirit, Paul was standing with them.

By the wisdom of God, Paul knew what needed to be done.  He had already decided the outcome.  He didn’t need to be physically present in their meeting.

The controversial issue is what Paul describes next.  The very language should give us insight into what’s happening here.  “Assembled in the name of the Lord…with you in spirit…the power of the Lord Jesus is present.”

He’s not talking about a regular church meeting.  This is a private meeting, only for those who are spiritually mature enough to handle an issue like this.  New believers aren’t graced for this type of challenge.

There’s also an assumption we can make about all of this.  That is, that the man in question had been confronted by the true nature of his sin on more than one occasion.  We can also assume that he rejected all spiritual counsel, and made a decision to continue on in the pathway which was blatantly against the known will of God.

As a result, the mature leaders should have decided to take action that would keep him from totally destroying his life.  That’s what Paul is talking about here.

We need to understand that this is not a meeting to remove the offending Christian from the church organization.  It’s not an excommunication.

This is a group of believers, who are strong in the Lord, setting out on a spiritual intervention.  The goal is to place this person in spiritual rehab in order to straighten out their walk with the Lord.  The attitude during this whole process should be that of love and concern for a fellow member of the body of Christ.

The term, hand over to Satan, literally means to surrender to Satan.  This means that they lose all their blessings and privileges as a child of God.

This person was adamantly refusing to live by God’s standards.  Now he was going to get a first-hand view of what the enemy’s kingdom is really like.  The hope is that this person’s level of discomfort will bring him to the point of repentance.

As a side note, it looks to me as if the Corinthian leaders obeyed Paul’s directive.  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 sounds like the man in question repented and was restored to full fellowship with the Lord.

In Christ, restoration is always the goal in dealing with sin.

Question: What’s that level of concern in the modern church over the issue of sin in the lives of believers?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Power of God, 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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My Ministry

Every so often I take a post to talk about my ministry.  There are always new followers of this blog, so I want to let you know exactly who you’re following.  I hope that you’ll continue to stick around after you find out!

The Lord called me to be a pastor back in 1987.  My anointing, however, is that of a teacher.  When the Holy Spirit anoints someone to teach, He works in them to bring out the truths of Scripture; making them plain and understandable to the body of Christ at large.

But the thing you really need to know about me is my passion.  What is it that drives me to serve Christ and His church?

I’m absolutely passionate about seeing the Church of Jesus Christ get into position for the Last Days.  I believe that we’re on the cusp of the final move of God on the earth before the return of Christ.

The church has come a long way since its backslidden state in the Dark Ages.  God continued to move upon His people, restoring things that had been lost.  But as far as we’ve come, there’s still one more thing that God needs to restore in us.

I’ve found that there’s a theme throughout the New Testament that we’ve whitewashed over.  In spite of the fact that this truth saturates the Scripture, we seem to have missed it.

It’s the understanding that God’s people need to be hearing and obeying God’s voice – His Word.  Please understand that I’m not talking about reading the Bible – God’s Holy, Written Word.  I’m talking about hearing from Him directly.

I believe that the first book of the New Testament that was written down was the book of James.  Listen to what he says.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:22

Notice that he uses the word “listen” and not “read”.  This is the first of many verses that deals with this issue.

I love the Scripture.  I read it, meditate on it, memorize it and confess it.  It’s through the written Word of God that I know how to be saved and how to serve the Lord in a general way.

What it doesn’t tell me is exactly what I’m supposed to do.  Who am I supposed to reach out to?  What am I to say to them and how am I to say it?  Where do I fit into the body of Christ?

All of these questions and more can only be answered by the Holy Spirit, Himself.  Unfortunately, many Christians think that hearing from God is only for a few highly spiritual individuals.

My passion is to educate believers on where God wants to bring them to and how to get there.  Most of what I preach and write about in this blog fulfills a part of this mission.

By the way, I’m currently working on my speaking engagements for the Fall and Winter.  If you think that my ministry is something you want to see in your area, check out my Speaking Page on this website.  It will have all the information you need to contact me.

The return of the Lord is getting close.  We need to be intentional about preparing ourselves for the final harvest.

Question: How prepared are you for the return of Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2018 in Daily Thoughts

 

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Quick Repentance

I’ve been posting about the events surrounding the arrest of Jesus.  The focus now turns to Peter, who has been watching from a safe distance.  You may want to read Mark 14:66-72 before continuing in this article.

We find Peter in the courtyard, watching the Jews question the Lord.  Then, one of the servant girls notices him.

When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.  “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
But he denied it.  “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
Mark 14:67-68

What a response!  This is the same man who vehemently said that he would die before denying Christ.  Why would he do this?

I believe that Peter is no different than any of us.  As he sat there watching the proceedings, he began to go over all of the possible outcomes in his mind.  He saw that it was the Pharisees’ intention to put the Lord to death.

His whole focus now became; how to save himself.  That was what his mind was dwelling on.  What makes me say this?

If you look at Peter’s answer to the girl, you see what I’m talking about.  What he gave as a response was actually a legal phrase.  It was what a witness would say in a trial if they hadn’t seen what they were being asked about.  He gave a well-thought-out answer.

Later on, the servant girl asked Peter a second and a third time if he was one of the disciples of Jesus.

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Mark 14:71

Peter actually goes to the point of calling down a curse upon himself if he were lying.  Notice that he never mentions Jesus by name, but calls Him “this man”.  He had definitely been rehearsing what he was going to say.

Then, suddenly, the truth of what he had done hits him.

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”  And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72

I don’t know why this happens.  When it comes to sin, we don’t realize the weight of it until after we’ve fallen.  Then we feel upset and guilty about it.  That’s the time to take care of it.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Don’t wallow in guilt and regret.  As soon as you realize your sin, repent and be free of it.  God doesn’t need time to “cool off”.  The Holy Spirit is with you to bring forgiveness and restoration.  The quicker you repent, the quicker you can get back on your spiritual feet again.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about quick repentance?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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