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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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Authority and Sonship (Repost)

I’m taking a couple of weeks to do some hiking and praying off in the woods.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost my Top 10 most read articles.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

One of the most important truths in Scripture is the principle of Sonship. We’ve been given this position by adoption into the family of God.

“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 11:9-10

I’ve heard many people preach on this verse. For the most part, we take it out of context and miss what it’s really saying. Indeed, we’re told that we have the power to receive answered prayers, to find that which is hidden, and to open doors that seem impenetrable.

But we must ask; what is this authority based upon? If we would just read the next few verses, we’d see that Jesus gives us the guidelines for this type of power.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:11-13

It’s obvious that Jesus is talking about the authority of Sonship in this passage. He tells us that we’re asking for the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that then confers upon us the Spirit of Sonship. Once that’s in place, and I’m walking as a mature son, then I’m free to ask, seek, and knock as led by the Spirit of God.

In many cases, our trouble is that we don’t ask for the Spirit. We want to do it our way. We want what our earthly desires are prompting us to seek for. Then we end up begging God for a snake or a scorpion. It’s no wonder why we don’t get most of what we pray for.

The simple fact is that true authority resides in the correct use of mature sonship. There was another time in Jesus’ ministry when He was talking about being a disciple. He said that if you were truly His disciple, then the truth would set you free.

The religious community – those who continued to rely upon the power of the law – were outraged. “We are sons of Abraham, and have never been a slave to anyone,” they replied.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:34-36

I’m sure that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law had no clue what the Lord was talking about when He said this. To us, however, it should be rich in meaning. The words of Christ tell me that Sonship is a position of freedom.

We’ve been set free because of the authority of Christ. We are no longer under the bondage of sin, the world or the devil. What we need is the maturity to walk in it.

Question: What does it mean to be free in Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2018 in Power of God, Prayer, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Church Politics

As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Mark 11:27-28

On the surface, this may sound like a reasonable request.  After all, the leaders of Israel need to make sure that Jesus is the legitimate Messiah of the Jewish people.  But, as always, attitude is everything.

Authority is basically the permission to do something.  It must always be delegated from someone who has it.

In the Lord’s case, it should have been fairly obvious.  Who gave Him permission to heal the sick, open blind eyes, or raise the dead?  There’s only one place that authority could have come from – God the Father.

The Lord gets right to the heart of the matter.

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question.  Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?  Tell me!”
Mark 11:29-30

The leaders of Israel wanted to look like they were experts in judging spiritual matters.  So Jesus turns it around.

“If you want to investigate my spiritual credentials, then let’s see how well you’ve done in the past.”

The Lord used what should have been a real easy test.  John the Baptist led the nation back to God in repentance and a true change of heart.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’ . . . .” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Mark 11:31-33

This discussion cuts right to the bottom line of the problem.  Did they talk about John’s lifestyle or the message He preached?  No!!  Their only concern was the result of what they would answer.

This is politics in its purest form.  Truth takes a backseat to my image.  It’s about how people will perceive me based upon my answers.  That type of attitude gets no response from God.

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Mark 11:33

There are too many churches that fall into this category in our generation.  God’s will has nothing to do with their decisions.  It’s all about who’s in power, and what they personally want to accomplish.

We need to get back to our roots as believers.  Being a people of prayer who want to see God’s desire done in our lives.  It’s not how big I build my kingdom, or how many people think I’m the best.  I need to see God’s kingdom increase on the earth.

One thing is for certain, spirituality and politics don’t mix very well in the government of Christ.

Question: Why does the will of the majority not always equal the will of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Step by Step

In my last post, I talked about a rich young man who came to Jesus.  He wanted a deeper walk with God.  In order for him to reach the next level in his spiritual life, the Lord instructed him to sell his estate, give the money to the poor, and then become a disciple.

The young man was saddened by this call.  His desire to keep the influence and position that his family wealth provided was too great.

Jesus then turns and comments to His disciples.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
Mark 10:23

To understand this we must first recognize what Jesus is NOT saying.  The Lord is not saying that it’s hard for a rich man to be saved.  We need to realize that entering the kingdom and salvation are two different issues in the Scripture.

Look at what Paul said to the faithful disciples at a church he was visiting.

…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.  “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Acts 14:22

Notice that Paul was including himself in this encouragement.  I believe that entering the kingdom of God is about walking in the power and authority of that kingdom.  There are some spiritual mountains that must be climbed in order to live at that level.

Jesus continued explaining it to His disciples.

The disciples were amazed at his words.  But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Mark 10:24-26

Jesus had a way of using ridiculous exaggerations to make a point.  Camel’s hair was a common item used in sewing.  The thought of pulling the camel’s hair through a needle, while it was still on the animal, was an amazing word picture.

This caused the disciples to be even more incredulous.  They obviously didn’t understand the reference to the kingdom of God.  The problem of riches is that once saved, it’s very easy to rely on wealth to accomplish God’s work in you.

It takes the power of God to break that stronghold.  It’s not that a Christian has to be poor.  But we can’t rely on wealth to do what only the Lord can do.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:27

In our weak humanity, we look for something to rely on that we can see.  Money is very deceptive that way.  It seems that with enough wealth, you don’t need anything else.  That is until you’re sick…or depressed…or unfulfilled in your walk with God.

We need to seek God on His terms, not ours.  Only He knows what will give us increase in the spirit.

Question: What’s the next step in your spiritual journey?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Our Declaration of Independence

I’m now going to begin posting from the third of the foundational books of the New Testament – Galatians.  It was written by Paul at the same time and place that he wrote 1 Thessalonians (Click here for review).

Just to remind you; James was written as a Christian primer for new believers and 1 Thessalonians was an encouragement to a new church.  Now, with Galatians, we’ll see how Paul handles a long-standing church that was beginning to fall into legalism.

Many call the book of Galatians our spiritual Declaration of Independence.  In it, Paul lays out the true relationship between the Law of Moses and God’s will for the church.  There are many believers who fail to recognize the total package that Christ purchased for us on the cross.

It’s the principles in this letter that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  We’re not just a sect of Judaism.  Christ is doing a whole new thing in the church.

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia…
Galatians 1:1-2

This opening line is the key to understanding Paul’s mission and authority.  Becoming an apostle was not his idea.  It wasn’t something he studied and trained for.  He had no MDiv.  He never stood before a denominational ordination committee.

Think about how far we’ve fallen from those days.  In many circles, becoming a pastor or preacher is simply a career choice based on personal preference.  You go to school, get a degree, and then get ordained.  Next, you candidate at a church for the position of pastor, they vote, and you’re elected.

Yes, I realize that a great number of ministers are there because of the clear call of God on their lives and I’m one of them.  But for too many, it’s just a choice they made to pursue a career that they liked the sound of.

Please understand that the ministry to the body of Christ is not something to enter into lightly.  It’s a spiritual battleground that can destroy you if you’re not prepared.  Each year, hundreds of pastors and leaders drop out of the ministry because of this fact.  I personally have had many minister friends who are now selling cars or insurance because they couldn’t handle the pressures or demands.

When we read Paul’s letters, we’re not just reading the suggestions of an intelligent teacher.  We’re hearing God’s heartbeat for the church.  This is something Paul learned by spending years at the feet of the Holy Spirit – listening and obeying what he heard.

The book of Galatians is saturated with the Word of freedom to the church.  Serving Christ was never meant to be about following a set of rules.  God never intended us to figure it out on our own.  The Holy Spirit is our Guide to lead us into His truth.

Hopefully, as we go through this study of Galatians you’ll find a spiritual freedom that you never knew existed.  It’s my prayer that it will cause you to rise to a new level of faith and power in Christ.

Question: What does spiritual freedom mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Picking Up the Sword of the Spirit

FireI’m posting about the Sword of the Spirit – the rhema of God. In my last post we saw that using this sword means to hear a Word from God and then act upon it.

Paul talked about our speech in the book of Romans. He tells us what righteousness does and doesn’t say. This is what it says if you take out all of the “don’ts”.

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “…The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming…
Romans 10:6-8

“It” is the righteousness by faith. Scripture makes it clear that the rhema is near you – in your heart and in your mouth. He also calls it the rhema of faith.

We know that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. That’s why we must spend quality time with God – praying in the spirit.

As I do that, He puts His rhema in my heart, and then it overflows from my mouth at the right time. The modern church has yet to learn to use this powerful weapon. The early church used it to turn the world upside down.

Before they had any Scripture. Before MP3’s, Bluerays, TV, Radio, or the Internet. They evangelized their world with only the rhema of God. I believe the next great revival will spring from the church laying hold of this truth.

The rhema of God is a necessity. We can’t fulfill God’s plan without it.

In Romans chapter 13, Paul talks about the authorities established by God. In context it’s talking about the government as our authority.

But since he used the general word authority, it can be applied to anyone with God given authority delegated to them. That means it applies to the church since we’ve been given authority to trample the enemy’s kingdom. We’ve been commanded to set the captives free.

Listen to what Paul says about those who walk in God’s authority.

For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:4

This is something that every believer needs to hear. He does not bear the sword for nothing. We weren’t given the sword to take it out and wave it around on Sunday mornings. It’s not merely an ornamental piece to be put up on display.

It’s the power of God given to the church to break the enemy’s hold over the souls around us. Unfortunately much of the church has been ignoring the sword. It’s time to pull it out and use it to drive the enemy back.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
John 15:7-8

This is how God gets glory from our lives. This is how we see the supernatural on a daily basis. It all springs from time spent in the spirit. We hear the voice of the Spirit, and then let the rhema of God do its job – destroying the works of the evil one.

Question: How would evangelism change if the church used the sword of the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Are You Listening? #returnofChrist

ListenIn my last post I started talking about the end-time generation.  We looked at the Scripture which told us that if a man cleansed himself from wrong purposes, he would be ready and equipped for good works.

This is where we are in time.  I believe that this is the final generation before the return of Christ.  We are the “John the Baptist generation.”

He was one man sent to a nation.  Now there’s a small group sent to a sleeping church.  Either you’re the one calling, or the one needing to wake up.

We must respond to God’s call for equipping.  God is now equipping a people for the end-time ministry.

But there was another part to John’s ministry.

During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.  He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 3:2-3

He heard and he went.  Our generation must hear a Word from God.  God is speaking the same message throughout the body of Christ today.

“Listen to Me!!!”

God is trying to get our attention.  He wants to speak to a church that is largely enamored with what the world has to offer.  We don’t want to take the time to hear from the Holy Spirit.

The enemy knows this.  Never have there been more distractions.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

We seem to have lost sight of this truth.  That verse literally says, “Faith comes out of hearing and hearing through the rhema of Christ.”  Rhema is the Greek word that speaks of the word we hear in our spirit.

That’s one of our biggest failings.  Not listening, and therefore not hearing God’s voice speaking to us.

We want to just go out and minister with the power of the spirit.  We want to go to work, watch TV, play basketball, and heal the sick.  We want formulas – quick, easy ways to walk in the spirit.

The spiritual authority that we’re looking for starts in hearing from God.  John went out into the desert and didn’t minister until he heard a word from God.  People actually flocked to him in the desert.  Today, we find it hard getting people to our meetings in the middle of a city.

What’s wrong?  I believe that the answer is clear – we have no word from God.  If we want to be the end-time church, prepared for Christ’s return, then we need to be listening to the Holy Spirit.

Question: Are you willing to take the time to hear a word from God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Prayer, Return of Christ, Revival

 

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