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Rules Don’t Work

Legalism causes many problems in the Body of Christ.  As I continue looking at the book of Galatians, Paul has finished with his examples and now begins his teaching in great detail.  He starts with the bottom line so that there’s no mistaking what he believes.

We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:15-16

Paul is making an important point here.  But it’s not one that everyone can identify with.  In order to explain it, I need to give you a bit of my personal testimony.

Simply put; I am a “Timothy”.  My grandparents, on both sides, were godly Christians, baptized in the Spirit.  My parents were brought up in the church – as a matter of fact, that’s where they met.

When I came along, I had no choice but to attend church whenever the doors were open.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful.

As wonderful as it was to be brought up in a Christian home with Biblical training, it did present me with a very unique set of challenges.  This is because I learned the “rules” of the Christian lifestyle before I learned about grace.

I started out thinking that simply by “being good” I could please God.  It wasn’t until I was able to grasp the deeper issues of life that I understood the truth of God’s righteousness.  This is what Paul is talking about.

People who are brought up with no Scriptural background – the Gentiles – have lived their whole life by trying to be the best they could.  They wanted to be a functioning part of society.

“Be kind to others and continue to better yourself.”

In my growth, I had a different training.  I learned what pleases God as well as the things He hates.  Let me tell you that I can give a hearty “Amen,” to what Paul is saying.  By my experience, I know that following the rules makes absolutely no points with God.

I was brought up in the church.  I spent my formative years sheltered from the worldly society.  I never fell into any great sin or even hung around with “bad people”.  Yet, in spite of all that, I needed a Savior as much as any drug-dealing, murdering, alcoholic.

All of my good works meant nothing in bringing me into God’s kingdom.  I had to repent, bow my knees to Christ, and ask Him to place His Spirit within me.  Unless and until I did that, I could never be right in the eyes of God.

If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.
Galatians 2:17-18

What Paul is saying here is that there’s no going back.  Now that I’m justified in Christ, trying to live by the Law is a dead-end.  I’m back to being a lawbreaker again because I can never live up to God’s standard on my own.  I started in grace and I must continue in God’s grace.

For the rest of this letter, Paul is going to explain to the Galatian church why this truth is so important and how to apply it to their lives.

Question: How have you experienced that following a set of rules doesn’t work?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Indonesian Testimony – Part 1

img_1935As many of you know, I just made a Vision Trip to the nation of Indonesia. A group of us were looking to partner with some church planters in that region. I’m going to take a few posts to talk about what we saw, did, and learned as we were on the island of Sumatra.

It was a very tiring trip. It took about 24 hours of travel time on three different planes. I found that it’s more exhausting sitting on a plane for six hours, than working at a job.

As I relate to you the stories about our trip, you’ll probably notice that I don’t mention any of the names of the people involved in the ministry there. That’s because Indonesia is a Moslem nation. Therefore, I don’t want the lives or ministries of these native workers to be in jeopardy. So they must remain anonymous.

Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world. We arrived at the city of Medan. It’s the largest on the island with 13.5 million people.

What first hit me was the “lostness” of the area. It’s a very dark place, spiritually. There are many Moslem, Buddhist, and Hindu influences in their culture. Of course, that doesn’t include the native tribal religions.

As I looked into the eyes of the crowds of people bustling by me, I was hit by the look of resignation in them. The average salary there would only translate to a few hundred dollars a year in US currency. It’s as if they know that their situation is not ideal, but they don’t see any way out of it.

But there’s more to the people of Indonesia than that simple snapshot. They are very warm and hospitable to visitors. Whenever they shake hands in greeting, they lightly brush their chest with their right hand. This means, “welcome; meeting you brings joy to my heart”.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
1 John 5:19

It was a strange experience being in a country with a people who so obviously need to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. What’s so unfortunate is that we don’t view the USA in the same way.

I realized that the same zeal that I expressed to reach the Indonesians must be carried over to the US. We may be more affluent financially, but spiritually we need an awakening. My prayer is that my time away helped to magnify my commitment to make Christ known in my field of ministry.

Because of the freedoms we enjoy in America, it’s so much easier to share the Gospel with those around us. Unfortunately, it’s also easier to put it off and wait for someone else to do the job.

It’s time for us to wake up to the fact that we’re no longer in a Christian nation. If we don’t proclaim Christ, then no one else will.

I invite you to pray for the people of Sumatra. Pray for the workers who are bringing Christ to that area in spite of great challenges. Over the next couple of posts I’m going to share some of their stories. My hope is that it will be an encouragement to you as you serve the Lord wherever you are.

Question: What short-term missions have you been involved with?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2017 in Missions, 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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Choosing the Right Path

TrailIt seems that the more I study about the cross, the more I’m drawn to it. It was on the cross that Christ became our Savior. It was there that the saving power of the Messiah was released to transform our lives forever.

Salvation is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing process. It’s a process that all focuses on the work of the cross.

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 1:18

It all hinges on the Word of the cross. What we find in the body of Christ is two kinds of believers. One group is composed of those who are being saved. They have decided to submit to God’s renovation plan in their lives.

They want to see the whole package of God’s provision accomplished in them. They want not only healing, joy and prosperity, but they’re willing to see righteousness, holiness, and obedience developed as well. They want to see all the losses of the curse turned around. To this group, the Word of the cross is the power of God that transforms them into the image of Christ.

There’s another group as well. These are people who have accepted God’s forgiveness, but haven’t progressed any further. They’ll be in God’s kingdom when they die, but for now they’re content to live for themselves.

The word perishing in the verse above simply means decay or loss. There are those in the church who have chosen the path of decay and loss.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

There’s a pattern that we can follow. Literally this verse says that there is a die that has been struck. A die, in this sense, is a mold for shaping something according to an original pattern. Christ was the original.

On the cross He became a pattern for us to follow in the spiritual realm. There’s a work the Holy Spirit wants to do in us if we will only let Him.

As he went around to all the churches, Paul would give them a pattern of living. This is what we’re missing in our generation. We need a pattern to focus our lifestyles around. Following Christ is not a hobby. It’s not just one of many pursuits in our daily schedules. If we serve Christ, then that’s all there is – everything else revolves around that truth.

That’s the goal of these posts. I want us, as the people of God, to get back to the pattern. We have made serving God into formulas. Each one has their own little bubble. Nothing affects anything else.

We’ll teach about the “Ten Steps to Prosperity” or the “Five Steps to Receive your Healing.” We’ll talk about how to walk in the power of God or what to do to overcome depression. Once in a while we might even hear that we need to become a disciple. Each teaching comes in its own separate parcel. Little do we realize that our life in Christ is a package deal.

Everything we do affects all the areas of our life. My righteousness affects my prosperity. My holiness affects my relationships. Everything is intertwined. That’s why I need the pattern, if I’m going to live the abundant life that Christ talked about.

Question: Where do we find the pattern for how we are to live?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in Power of God, Revival

 

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What are we Fighting For?

JailI’m posting about the spiritual battle we’re in. I think that the church gets in trouble when it loses sight of this. If we don’t understand the battle, then we’ll never walk in victory.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

The Scripture is clear. The battle takes place in the unseen world. My fight is not against people or even the issues that I can see with my eyes.

The people around me are the casualties – prisoners of war held captive in unseen detention centers. Sometimes they don’t even want to be set free because the deception feels so good at the moment. My job is not to try and convince them to join with me.

The role of the church is to fight the unseen enemy. Tear down the invisible walls. Then turn the light on in the prison cells so that the captives can see the truth of their situation. Only then will they run to Christ the Savior.

But this seems to be the hardest thing to get believers to understand. Our struggle is not in the physical world, but the spiritual. It’s not us vs. the world. I’m not trying to get them to change sides. That will never bring about the desired results.

I want the same mindset that Jesus had when He walked the earth.

…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8b

We need to know that there’s a spiritual world, and that’s where our battle is being fought right now. But how many of us really understand what that means? While many believers can quote 2 Cor. 2:4 – the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world – we don’t get the whole picture.

We don’t use physical weapons, but does that mean that the war itself is any different than a natural war? The enemy’s kingdom is very organized. The verse I started with talks about many levels of authority in their ranks. It’s time that the church gets organized for battle as well.

Do you realize that Satan has never personally attacked you? He has probably never even planned anything to come against you. We only face the lower levels of the dark forces; the rulers and authorities.

That’s why when you step up in ministry there’s a shift to a more intense battle. You find yourself moving up the ranks and facing tougher opponents in the spirit.

This is also why I started this series. In the first post – The Truth About Spiritual Warfare – I said that there’s been no spiritual warfare for hundreds of years. Here’s what I meant. In all that time there’s been no organized attack by the church on the territory of the enemy, especially in the USA.

It’s time for the church to wake up. Not just a few local congregations here and there who are making a little headway.

We need a revival.

Question: What needs to take place for the church as a whole to wake up?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 

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Asking, Seeking, and Knocking…For Others

DoorI’ve been posting about how we go to God for the needs of others.  Let’s continue looking at the parable in Luke, chapter 11.

“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:8-10

Listen carefully to the reasoning as to why the man was given bread.  It was NOT because of friendship or need.  It was because of boldness.  It was because the friend was willing to go to the neighbor’s house in the dead of night and pound on his door.

Other people who lived around started to wake up when they heard the commotion.  They looked out their windows to see how this man would respond.  It was only when it became a matter of his reputation in the community, that this man responded by supplying bread.

Our God is not going to be pressured because you’re begging Him for provision.  You can’t gain His sympathy by magnifying the need.  These things don’t affect God.

What He’s looking for is someone who’s willing to publicly declare the Word of God before men.  He’s looking for boldness.

The important part is found in verses 9 and 10.  This is the section that tells us that if we ask, it will be given, if we seek, we will find, and if we knock, the door will be opened.  Our normal thoughts are that this is all about me getting what I want from God.

In this context, Christ is speaking about going before God on behalf of the needs of others.  It’s about meeting the needs of those around us.  People we meet everyday – at our jobs, in our schools, and in the stores.

They all have problems they’re facing each day.  Most of them have no access to God except through us.  We must throw out this idea that the blessings of God are only for me and a chosen few.  It’s God’s desire to bless the world through His people.

You don’t have to convince me that God wants to bless believers; that’s beyond question.  What I want to open our eyes to is the world around us that’s in need.  They need a Savior, a Healer and a Provider.  All of these things are found in Christ.

It’s up to us to take this message to the world.  Not just by saying, “God loves you.”  But by actually bringing the power of Christ into the lives of the hurting people around us.

Take the time to go before the throne room of God with the needs of others.  Trust God to perform miracles in those you pray for.  If you hear a Word from God for them, then act on it.

We must be God’s hands extended to the world.

Question: What are the specific needs you know about the people around you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in God's Provision, Ministry, Prayer

 

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