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Which Road?

As believers, we should want to live a righteous life before God.  The question is; how do we get there?  I’ve been posting through Galatians and talking about legalism vs. faith.  Aren’t they simply two different roads that get you to the same place?

There are those who teach that they are.  They tell you that the way to a righteous life is hard work, tears, and a lot of self-control.  After all, it’s a hard road to keep yourself holy.

In reality, that’s not the teaching of Scripture.  Look at what Paul writes to the Galatian believers.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
Galatians 3:21

The word, opposed, in the above verse is a common word with many meanings depending on the context.  I believe that Paul is asking if the Law is opposite – or the other side of the coin – to the promises.

In other words, you can follow the Law or you can trust the promises, but you can’t do both.  They’re opposite paths.  So what Paul is asking is, are they different paths to the same goal of righteousness?

I believe that this interpretation is correct because of the way Paul answers his rhetorical question.  He clearly tells us that there is absolutely no way that righteousness can be obtained through following the Law.

As a matter of fact, Paul goes on to tell us that there is only one road that brings you to this destination.

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Galatians 3:22

Scripture is clear on this subject.  Every human being on earth is under the cloud of sin.  The only way out is through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.  There’s nothing else I can do to take me from sin to righteousness.

This means that apart from faith in Christ, the Law is needed simply to keep things in order.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 3:23-25

That’s why society needs laws.  Without the Holy Spirit at work in us, there’s nothing to maintain peace and order.  The more godless the society; the more laws that are needed.

This verse goes so far as to tell us that the law is like a prison.  It locks people up until they come to faith in Christ.  Think about how true this is.

If a car thief gets sent to prison, does that mean he’s no longer a thief?  No!  He just doesn’t have the opportunity to steal any cars.

In the same way, I might get mad at someone, and feel like beating them up.  But because I know that the law says it’s illegal, and I could go to jail if I act on it, I keep myself in check.  Does that make me any less of a criminal in God’s eyes?

So we have a society of people who are prisoners of the law.  They want to do things that the law says they shouldn’t.  So they act correctly, at least while others are watching.

The only answer to this dilemma is faith in Jesus Christ.  By submitting to Him, we allow the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.  This is the promise of God.  That His Spirit would be in control of us, leaving us free to serve God with all of our heart.

Question: Why do so many believers choose to serve the Law after accepting Christ’s salvation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Choice is Yours – Faith or the Law

“What harm is there in trying to follow the Ten Commandment to the best of your ability?  Isn’t that how you please God?”

Actually, it doesn’t please God and could be hindering your walk with Him.  This is one of those teachings of Scripture that seem to be opposite of our logical thinking.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”
Galatians 3:10-12

This verse is clear, God does not consider us righteous because we do the right works.  True righteousness is only obtained through faith in Christ.  By trying to live by the so-called rules of Christianity, you’re actually placing yourself back under the curse.

Here’s the problem.  Every human being on earth, apart from Christ, is under the curse.  That’s because all of humanity is trying to follow one code of conduct or another.

That’s what sets true Christianity apart from all other world religions.  Every religion on earth has a code of conduct that must be adhered to if you want to reach perfection, Paradise, Nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever the goal is that they strive for.  It takes discipline, will power, and a lot of hard work to follow through on these goals.

If you think that being a Christian means that you’re trying your best to follow the teachings of the Bible; then you’re no different from all the other religions.  In that case, you’ve totally missed the Good News of Christ.

What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the fact that our God declares that it’s totally impossible for us to ever please Him on our own.  Therefore, He took it upon Himself to provide the way for us to reach His presence.

By trusting in the finished work of Christ, we receive everything needed to please God.  We have obtained His grace and are under His blessing.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13

The curse that Jesus experienced on the cross wasn’t His.  He was perfect and lived a sinless life.  That was our curse that was put upon Him.  He carried the entire weight of all sinful mankind.

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Galatians 3:14

In my last post, I talked about the joy we have of receiving Abraham’s blessing.  Here Paul repeats himself.  The whole purpose of the cross was to bring that very blessing to the Gentiles.  All it requires is for us to accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Question: What can you expect as a part of this blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Blessed with Abraham

Do you expect the same blessing that was on Abraham’s life?  You should.  In the book of Galatians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament, Paul explains it with great clarity.

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Galatians 3:6

He starts by explaining the basis of Abraham’s blessing.  It had nothing to do with Abraham’s good works, and everything to do with faith.  Abraham was declared righteous simply because he believed God.  That’s why God could bless his life abundantly – he was walking in God’s righteousness and not his own.

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7

This is one of the greatest promises of Scripture.  If I believe God – just like Abraham – I can receive his family blessing.  Please understand that on our side of the cross, trusting God means that we believe and act on the fact that salvation is only through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, once I’ve acted on this faith, I’ve been miraculously placed into Abraham’s family.

“Wait a minute, Nick, I’m not Jewish.  How could I possibly get in on the blessing of Abraham?”

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:8-9

This is the Good News.  Way back, in Abraham’s day, God announced to him that the Gentiles would be able to receive the same righteousness that was available to the Jews.  What at one time could only be given to Abraham’s bloodline was now open to all nations.

That’s something I’m particularly glad about.  My ancestors are from Italy, not Israel.  But because of Christ and His work on the cross, God treats me as a son of Abraham.

It’s hard for us to see just how powerful this promise is because of the translations.  If you look at what was promised to Abraham, in both the Old and New Testaments, it puts it in a whole new light.  The promise literally reads; all nations will be blessed in you.

When this was given to Abraham, the entire DNA that would make up Jesus’ earthly body was in Abraham.  Since it’s in Christ that we receive this blessing, God could tell Abraham that we would be blessed in him.

That’s an important truth.  When I bowed my knee to Christ, God didn’t give me a separate blessing that was not quite the same as Abraham’s.  Because I’m blessed in Abraham, it’s the exact same blessing that he received.

That thought is repeated in the next sentence of the verse above.  The Holy Spirit clearly reveals to us that those of the same faith are blessed with Abraham.  It’s not a different blessing.  It’s the same one that God bestowed upon the first man of faith.

Please don’t get the idea that all God wanted to do was to save you and get you on the road to heaven.  He has much more planned for you.  You need to live each day with the expectation that God is at work in you, the same way He worked with Abraham.

And just to give you a “heads up,” as we continue through the book of Galatians, Paul will present this truth in even greater detail.

Question: What is your expectation for God’s grace in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Armed and Ready

I’ve been posting about the last days as described by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. My last post was about how we need to live as we see the end in view. Paul continues to share about it.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

He tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

In this verse Paul is clearly referring to our spiritual armor. He even makes mention of the helmet of salvation. But instead of assigning righteousness as the breastplate, he says that faith and love are used in that role. Paul is telling us that it’s the combination of our faith and our love working together that completes our righteousness.

According to Scripture, without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and without love your faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Shining Like Stars

GalaxyI’m posting about how we show the light of Christ to the world around us. The enemy would try to blind their spiritual eyes to the truth. But he can’t stop the power of God.

That’s because the light takes many forms. The prophet Malachi foresaw this day.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
Malachi 4:2

He saw righteousness rising like the sun. Have you ever seen sunbeams breaking through the clouds? In the ancient Hebrew culture, they called them the “wings” of the sun. So Malachi saw healing beaming out from righteousness.

That’s a part of the light that we shine. That’s why we pray for the sick, especially for an unsaved person. When God brings healing, that’s the light of Christ breaking through to them.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

But we always have to remember, it’s not our light but His. Peter talked about having the Word in you and allowing it to grow and produce fruit in your life. In speaking about this fruitfulness…

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
2 Peter 1:9

Peter calls unfruitful Christians blind and nearsighted. He says that you’ve forgotten about your past being cleansed by the blood of Christ.

That’s because this person is blind to what God is doing. They’re also nearsighted; they can only see what’s right in front of them. They major on the temporary things of this world.

We need 20/20 vision in the spirit.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:12

It’s interesting to see the contrast here between deeds of darkness vs. armor of light. That’s because the armor is all about action.

Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith – all of these things must be visible. It’s up to us to make the light accessible to the world.

We’re the ones looking into the light. We should be walking in it, letting it change us.

…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…
Philippians 2:15-16

How do we shine like stars? As we hold out the Word. The Word is the light. We hold it out. Not everybody wants it; but some people are touched and changed by it. We need to live in such a way that the light is seen.

Question: How have people seen the light of Christ in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Healing, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Eternal Attitudes

Jet Plane to NowhereAttitudes play an important role in our walk with the Lord. It’s the determining factor in how well you receive from Him.

Abraham understood this fact. Especially as he looked at the promises of God in contrast to his circumstances.

And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Hebrews 11:12

That phrase; as good as dead, means to deaden. In the natural, Abraham saw himself as becoming deader and deader.

We all must acknowledge that the power of God will change us. Our walk, attitudes, habits, likes & dislikes, friends, etc. are all affected. This is all a part of the deadening process.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5

When we read this verse, the key word is therefore. That word means that the reason we do what’s in this verse is because of what he just wrote. What was that?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3

We desire to put to death the things of the flesh because we now have a higher calling. We kill off the desires of the world in order to seek the eternal.

This is a very important truth. We receive from God when we seek the eternal. The writer of the book of Hebrews understood this.

People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.
Hebrews 11:14-15

Eternally minded people search for, crave, demand a home town. That’s why Jesus told us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. We’re not looking for the temporary high that the world offers us.

Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:16

The final result of this attitude is that God is not ashamed to be called their God. That’s interesting. Are there times when God is ashamed to be called someone’s God? I think this verse implies that He could be.

Before we pick up this eternally minded attitude, we’re only accomplishing what a man can do. Is God satisfied with what is merely possible – even without His help? Of course not. He expects us to do a God sized work.

When that happens; the world can see His glory. God’s people need to stop chasing the temporary pleasures of the world, and focus in on the eternal glory of God. Let Him accomplish what He desires in you.

Question: What is a way that the glory of God is seen in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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How’s Your Love-Walk?

Question MarkIn my last post I talked about how love is one of the non-optional ingredients to a powerful ministry. I defined it as treating people as if you like them – whether you do or not, whether you know them or not and whether you are in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround God’s people. When you’re ministering to others, all these aspects should be evident in your work.

Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect. This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing. But it’s still a thing. Things can never be more important than people. Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love the ministry to the extent that you do not care for the people.

You are not their Lord, Jesus is. Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives. If you’re walking in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family. Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord. It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry. I never let him preach at our church again. God has never accepted child sacrifice. The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends. Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies. If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”

We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love. Christ’s example stops us from doing this. He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples. When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
1Thessalonians 5:8

Faith and love – they’re the two non-negotiable items with God. Scripture makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. But just as true is the verse we looked at in the last post that clearly states that if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. You cannot please Him unless both are in operation.

Paul wasn’t forgetful either. He didn’t call the breastplate one thing here and then forget about it and call it righteousness somewhere else. The combination of faith expressing itself through love is the completion of our righteousness.

Without them both in balance and harmony, our works are not complete before God. That’s why you must be sensitive to the Lord and seek to develop both. Without them, you have no chance of developing the kind of ministry that will change the world around you.

Question: How has God’s love been evident through you lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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