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The Work of the Cross

As believers, most of us know that the goal is to walk in maturity.  What I’ve found is that in order to understand the road to maturity, we must first understand the significance of the cross.

Usually when we think about Christ, and all that He accomplished for us, we mention the cross but immediately focus on the resurrection.  Don’t get me wrong, the resurrection of Christ was the most important event in all of history.  It sealed our redemption.  Without the risen Lord, we would still be dead in our sins.

Our problem is that we usually don’t give the cross a second glance.  We sometimes downplay the cross.  We’ve become too familiar with it.  We see crosses everywhere.  It’s become the most recognized symbol of Christianity.

But do we really understand its significance in our growth process?  As Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he’s trying to get across to them its importance.  I think that our generation of the church needs this same understanding.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18

In my last post, I talked about this a little.  When I meditate upon what Paul is saying in this passage, it causes me to take a step back.  Paul said that Christ did not make me an apostle to baptize.  This statement should capture our attention.

The apostle was not sent out to make converts.  That wasn’t his goal and it shouldn’t be ours.  In some circles, this needs to be emphasized.

We’re not in the Kingdom of God to “get people saved.”  We’re simply here to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.  How people respond to the message is up to them.  The only thing I’ll be judged on is how accurately I gave that message, not on how many believed it.  I think this distinction is lost on many believers.

However, there’s a deeper truth here than just to preach the Gospel.  We must preach this Good News without emptying the cross of its power.  By expressing the Gospel through my human wisdom and reasoning, I lose the power that’s resident in the cross.  That’s why I need to hear a Word from God and preach that Word.

The Word of the cross has the power to save.  But it’s how we understand this statement that makes all the difference.  Remember, being saved is not a one-time thing.  It’s an on-going process.  That’s why the Word of the cross is for those who are being saved.

I need the saving power of God on a daily basis. This is the power that saves me from my sinful actions, sickness, poverty, depression, and a whole host of other issues I have to deal with in my old nature.  The message of the cross speaks to all of these and brings victory.  It’s because we’ve watered down the message of the cross, that we have such a battered down church in our generation.

When we give the Word of the cross a back seat, we miss out on the victory that God has made available to us.  We need to understand what Paul is saying to us about the cross.  My hope is that it will help us in becoming more like the Lord.

Question: What do you see as significant about the cross?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Have You Seen the Red Flag?

There’s something interesting that happens when you’re watching football.  Have you ever noticed that everything stops when the announcer says, “There’s a flag on the field.”

That means that something happened that shouldn’t have.  Now we’re waiting to find out what happened…and what needs to be done about it.  Did you know that we have that same type of experience in our Christian walk?

Listen to how Paul explains it to the Galatian church.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

Paul has just told the Galatians that if they cultivate their walk in the spirit, then the flesh will not be an issue.  Now he goes on to tell them that the work of the flesh shines its light through the following list.

Some of these things we classify as really bad.  Things like sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, and orgies.  But the interesting thing is the list of sins that we barely even think about as sin.  Paul sandwiches them right in the middle of all the “big” ones.  In God’s eyes, they’re all the same.

First of all, I want to talk about what this list is NOT.  This isn’t a checklist for judging whether someone’s a Christian or not.  The phrase, those who live like this, literally means those who perform these things repeatedly or habitually.  He’s not talking about a one-time failure.

Also, he’s not saying that Christians who live like this are not saved.  There’s a difference between our salvation and our inheritance.  We do not inherit salvation.  Salvation is our supernatural birth into God’s family.

Our inheritance is our reward for being a contributing member of the family.  As a matter of fact, if you believe he’s talking about losing your salvation here, then according to this list, most churches in America are unsaved.

If you’re habitually involved in one or more of these activities, then there’s something you’re not doing that you could receive a reward for.  The things on this list can rob you of your inheritance in Christ.  Paul makes it clear that you can be saved and yet have absolutely no rewards (1 Corinthians 2:10-15).

We need to understand what this list is really all about.  Paul says that it’s the shining light of the flesh.  These things are warning signals to us.  It should be like a flag the referee throws down on the field of our life.

These were not given so that I could judge you.  I have this list so that I can assess my own walk with the Lord.

My goal is to cultivate my walk in the spirit.  These behaviors are a sign that some area of my life is off track.  In my relationship with God, I need more interaction with the Holy Spirit.

So the bottom line is that Paul isn’t telling the Galatians a list of activities to keep away from.  He’s giving them a group of signals that will point them back to Christ.  They show our need for a deeper walk in the spirit.

Don’t get caught up in guilt and condemnation.  If you see these things appear, there’s a simple solution.  Go immediately before God and admit your fault in humility and repentance.  Receive His forgiveness.  Then use this experience to propel you forward into a deeper fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Question: How have you seen your life change as your relationship with the Lord grows?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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A New Kingdom

NightI’ve been posting about the change that takes place when we receive the salvation of Jesus Christ. Our whole reality changes. The Apostle Peter understood this.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…
1 Peter 1:1

In the opening statement of his letter, he describes the believers that he’s writing to. He tells us that we’re strangers in this world. The word he used literally means aliens alongside, resident foreigners. We may live here, but we’re no longer a part of this system.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
Hebrews 11:13

We know that Hebrews, chapter 11, is the faith chapter. Towards the end of this chapter, the writer makes a comment about all these Old Testament saints. They were all still living by faith when they died.

But more than that, they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. We need this mindset. I do not belong to this world. This truth is emphasized over and over again in the Scripture.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:4

I live in the world, but I don’t belong to this world. I live by a different set of rules. I live on a different level.

There are a lot of things that are going on in the world – who’s in power, the economy, the weather, etc. These things are important, and I need to understand what’s happening, but they don’t determine what I do.

That’s because I’m a part of a different kingdom. We are a part of the kingdom of God.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:13-14

This is the key to most of our Christian walk. We were under the authority of darkness. The word authority basically means permission to act. Now we have been brought over into the King-dom of Christ. That’s the dominion of the King – the area of His rulership.

When I was saved, I placed myself under His authority – in His kingdom. That’s why we can do things, and trust God for things that the world can’t.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

Because of our position, in this world but not of this world, we have diplomatic immunity. We operate as diplomats – where I am, my kingdom is. Wherever I am, the rules of my government are in operation. That’s why every believer should strive to understand how God’s Kingdom operates.

Question: What are some things that we should be doing as ambassadors of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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A New Reality

ButterflyIn my last post I started talking about what happens when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It all started with a simple prayer and our trust in Him.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10

In that moment when you accepted the work of Christ, a supernatural, miraculous work took place in you. In my last post I said that all of us were born onto a path that led to death. There were no exits and no way for us to turn around.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

But when you received the life-changing work of Christ, something you had no access to was suddenly opened up to you. There’s a second path; one that leads directly to life.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
John 5:24

In the Spirit, the Lord picked you up from the path leading to death and He placed your feet firmly on the path leading to life. It’s just like a computer game that my children used to play years ago. It was called Rollercoaster Tycoon.

In that game they would build an amusement park with rides that the virtual gusts would be excited about. But as my children watched the people in the park, it became clear that there were sections of it that nobody went to. In order to remedy the situation, the game had a claw that would pick up a guest at one end of the park, and place them in another section.

That’s what happened to us in the spirit. God picked us up from the path of death and placed us on the path of life.

In Christ, you didn’t just “turn over a new leaf.” You’re not just trying harder. You’re in a whole new reality. You’re in a new place on a new path with a new direction. You’re not the same person you were only a moment ago. Everything has changed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Now we’ve been given a totally new way of life. That’s why the world should see something different in us. We’re no longer headed in the same direction as everybody else.

Question: How is living in God’s Kingdom different than living for the world?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Salvation – The Whole Truth

Cross SunsetPraise God for our salvation in Christ Jesus! But have you ever stopped to think about exactly what happened when you were saved?

There are many believers who don’t really understand what happened to them when they bowed their knees to Christ. I want to take a few posts to look at our salvation in detail.

What is our salvation all about? To some it simply means that they decided to be good. To others it means that they’re going to try and follow the teachings of Jesus. That is NOT Christianity.

It all starts with an understanding of our condition without Christ.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Romans 3:23

Our problem is sin. You probably already know that the word sin, in both the Greek and Hebrew, means to miss the mark. That means that we’re all deficient, inferior to, God’s glory. Even though we were created in the image of God, in Adam we’ve fallen from that high position.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you were born, or how good you are. In Adam, the whole human race is guilty of sin – missing the mark. But as bad as that is, it gets worse.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…
Romans 5:12

It turns out that sin brought a friend with him – death – separation from God. Who is under the penalty of death? EVERYONE! Death is the penalty for not living up to the glory of God.

You can look at it this way; every human being ever born was born onto the path that leads to death. There’s no reversing it, no exits, do not pass go, and it leads straight to hell. But, praise God, that’s not the end of the story.

Christ came to the earth as a man, God made flesh. He took on humanity, but lived a life totally without sin.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

Because it was He who created us, we came from Him, only He had the power to take our place. That’s the concept of substitution. He took our place on the cross in the penalty for our sin.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus Christ took our sin to the cross and paid the price for it. Then He sealed it by rising from the dead.

Now we come along, thousands of years later, on this path that leads to death. We can’t leave it or even turn around. We hear the Gospel of Christ. We decide to accept what Christ did for us by faith.

That’s when everything changed. In my next post I’ll talk about exactly what happened in the spirit on the day you trusted Christ.

Question: What were the events that led to your salvation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Do You Know the Two Resurrections

GravesWe’ve been discussing Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection as the key to understanding the Second Coming. In talking about this, the Lord describes two kinds. Here is the first.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
John 5:24-25

It’s obvious that Jesus is talking about a spiritual resurrection here, because He uses the phrase, has now come. It was not future, but was being fulfilled in the days that Jesus walked the earth.

The Pharisees were the dead people (spiritually) that Jesus was talking about. He was telling them, “Wake up! You’re dead and if you want life, you must believe and obey my words.”

It was time for them to hear and live. Jesus loved them and desired that they would pass over from death into life.

They could have experienced the life-giving power of God. Unfortunately, their pride kept them from accepting Christ for who He was. Even today pride is one of the biggest hindrances to the move of God in the church.

Jesus makes an important point here. It’s the basis of our belief in His return. Christ is the Life-Giver. This is the foundation for everything else. He uses it as the platform from which to speak of His future ministry of raising the dead (physically) to life.

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:26-30

This is the first recorded incident in Jesus’ ministry where He mentions the end-times. No, He doesn’t say a lot about it, but what He does say is at the very core of our belief in the Second Coming.

Jesus explains that there’s a day coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out – those who have done good will rise to live; those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Unfortunately, we usually miss this key. Yet it’s the foundation stone for everything else that you’ll learn about when you study the Second Coming of Christ. The entire message that Jesus teaches builds on this.

Question: Have you experienced spiritual resurrection? How did it change your outlook on life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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The Truth About Forgiveness

presentsI’ve been posting about forgiveness and how God has provided it in the work of Christ on the cross. In my last article I said that it’s not always evident in society around us. That’s because of the last truth concerning forgiveness.

”All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 10:43

The Apostle Peter spoke these words as he testified to a Roman Centurion and his family. The simple truth is that God gives forgiveness. So it should be obvious that forgiveness is something that’s given.

But there’s one more step in the process. Just because God forgives, doesn’t mean that you’ve been forgiven. WHAT!? What could I possibly mean by a statement like that?

The next truth that’s just as important is that in order to be effective – to manifest itself – forgiveness must be both given and received. It’s a gift. It’s not something that just gets spread out. (Although there are some cults that teach this.)

God has forgiven everybody. But not everybody has received that forgiveness.

The Lord is a gentleman. If you are dead-set on being His enemy, then He will allow you to walk in that decision. Christ will never force anyone to accept His offer of forgiveness and freedom. But He constantly holds out the invitation of a clean life.

You may remember the past. But thanks to the grace and mercy of God, the guilt and the penalties are wiped clean. Your future is now filled with hope. We are no longer bound by the fear of impending judgment.

That’s God’s idea of forgiveness. But truly, the best part of the work of God’s forgiveness in us is that under the New Covenant, we get to forgive others. That’s something no one but God could do in the Old Testament. But I’ll save that for some future posts.

Right now we’re called to walk in the forgiveness of God. If there are areas of your life that you keep looking back on with shame and guilt, then now is the time to receive the freedom from the penalty. It’s what God provided through the blood of Christ. Don’t let the enemy steal your joy.

If you’ve never received God’s forgiveness for your past, you can do that right now. Take the time to pray to the Lord. Ask Christ to forgive all your sin. Thank Him for His gift of forgiveness. Tell Jesus Christ that you want Him to be the Lord of your life and that you desire to follow after Him forever. Then thank Him for the Holy Spirit that He places on the inside of you. Pray this prayer in the name of Jesus.

That’s all it takes. The work of your restoration has already been accomplished on the cross. Now walk in the freedom that God has provided for you. If it was your first time praying this, then find a church near you where the Bible is preached, so that you can grow in your faith.

Question: What was your experience in receiving God’s forgiveness?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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