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Making Christ Central

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re now in chapter 12 where he begins to talk about our spiritual life.

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 12:1

The first thing we need to realize is that the word “gift” is not in the original. What Paul literally says is that he doesn’t want the church to be uninformed about the spiritual.  To do that, he’ll talk about more than just gifts.

He begins by addressing their spiritual heritage.

You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
1 Corinthians 12:2

Because they were a mainly Gentile church, their background included the worship of idols.  They had a history of serving gods that couldn’t speak.  That’s very different from where they are now.

We serve a God who wants to speak to and through His people.  That requires a different kind of lifestyle.  We need to be in a position where we’re ready to hear and obey His voice.  Along with that, we need to discern between the other voices trying to get our attention.

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3

I have a problem with the way this verse is usually explained.  Why would any Christian need to be told that someone saying, “Jesus be cursed” is not speaking by the Holy Spirit?  There’s a deeper issue here.

In the context of this chapter, Paul is speaking to former idol worshippers.  The word for cursed is the Greek word anathema.  It’s a word that has a specific meaning in regards to the worship of the Greek and Roman gods.

In these pagan temples, if you wanted to appease a god that you needed a blessing from, you would give an animal sacrifice.  Once it was consecrated to that god, it was hung on a wall or a column of that god’s temple.  Now you could go your way and never have to think about it anymore.

In reality, Paul is explaining to these former pagan worshippers, that Jesus was not merely some offering made to appease an angry god.  Christ was, is, and always will be Lord of all.  Not only that, but He now wants to be on speaking terms with His people.

When you’re in a relationship with the true God, He wants a constant interaction with you.  He wants to have power over what you say and do.  He wants to set the direction of your life.

I hate to say it, but sometimes we get this “anathema Jesus” attitude in the modern church.  There are many who have accepted Christ as merely a payment for their sin.  They’re not looking for a relationship with a Lord who wants to direct their lives.

Being a Christian means that Christ has a central role in all that you do.  We live to please Him.  That means we need to spend time in His presence, listening for the voice of His Spirit.

This is where Paul starts with the Corinthian church.  He’s going to explain to them the earmarks of a spiritual life.  What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

Hopefully, as we continue on in this study, we’ll receive insight that will help us in our daily spiritual walk.

Question: How do you make your relationship with Christ central in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Out of the Comfort Zone

How far are you willing to go out of your comfort zone in order to share the Gospel?  The Apostle Paul made some tough choices so that he could win the lost.  What about us?

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
1 Corinthians 9:19-20

It all springs from having a servant’s attitude.  The Word of God is clear that we’re to walk in freedom.  But it’s how we handle that freedom that makes all the difference.

Paul chose to be a servant of the Gospel to everyone he meets.  In that way, he hopes to bring the message of salvation to those who are ready to accept it.  It’s a very hard road to walk.

Look at how the apostle describes it.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
1 Corinthians 9:20

He starts by talking about his relationship to the religious folk.  These are the people who believe that God will only bless you if you maintain strict adherence to a code of conduct.

Paul admits that these religious rules and regulations have no power to bring you closer to God.  But in order to open up communication with this group, he must honor their customs while he’s with them.

I’ve seen those who have destroyed their witness because they’ve ridiculed the beliefs of others.  You may not agree with them, but everyone should be treated respectfully.

There’s another group that Paul reached that we have problems with.

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1 Corinthians 9:21

I believe that the word Paul used to describe this group is closer to our word, outlaw.  He tells us that to the outlaws he became like an outlaw in order to win them to Christ.  All the while he knew that he mustn’t break God’s law in Christ.

This is a tough group to reach.  I’m thinking bikers, gang members, and street people.  We’re not going to reach them dressed like we’re going to church.

I had a friend that I would see once in a while when I took the subway into Boston.  His hair was matted and uncombed.  His beard was long and straggly.  His clothes looked like they had been slept in for weeks.  He looked homeless.  Of course, the reason was that he had a ministry to the homeless in Boston.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23

I think sometimes that we’re just too stubborn to try identifying with those around us.  We want everyone to see how spiritually strong we are.  I’m glad that Christ identified with us in our weakness.

If we truly want to be a participant in the work of the Gospel, then we need to get uncomfortable sometimes.  We need to forget who we are and see the need in those around us.  Only then will we see the power of God at work bringing people to Christ.

Question: How do you identify with those who are not like you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Ministry, Relationships, The Gospel

 

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The Spiritual Believer

I’ve been posting about the Apostle Paul’s description of how prayer in the spirit brings God’s wisdom to us.  If we want God’s best, then we need to develop a rich spiritual prayer life.  Unfortunately, in this generation, there aren’t many examples to follow.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

The phrase, man without the Spirit, is literally the soulish man in Greek.  The New Testament actually speaks of three different kinds of Christians.  This is one of those described.

First, there’s the carnal or fleshly Christian.  This is the type of believer who serves God according to the way he or she feels.

“If I feel like going to church, I’ll go. If not I’ll stay home.”

Their flesh is in control of every decision they make.  Carnal Christians are very nominal at best.

Next, there’s the soulish or natural Christian, depending upon the translation of the Bible you use.  This kind of Believer serves God because he or she has made a conscious decision to serve Him.  They’ve decided that the Lord’s way is best no matter what they feel like.

They’ll give their best for the Lord because they believe it’s the right thing to do.  They serve the Lord with all of their soul. They’re very strong in their faith, and they can accomplish a lot for the kingdom of heaven.

There is, however, another class of believer spoken of in the Word of God.  That’s the spiritual Christian. He or she is the believer who lives their life by using their spirit to its fullest extent in their interaction with God.

This is the one that we either hear very little about or we mistake it for a soulish Christian who’s doing great works for Christ.  Over the years we’ve redefined many of the terms used in the Scripture.  It’s time to straighten out the rough spots.  In the above passage, Paul makes a clear distinction between a spiritual and soulish Christian.

According to Paul, the soulish person cannot understand life in the spirit.  The Greek literally says that he does not have the power to accept them.  The apostle actually uses the Greek word dunamis in this verse.

A soulish believer does not have the dunamis – the power – to receive the things that can only come by the Spirit.  This person is left to rely upon earthly means of communication to receive what he needs from the Lord.  This is because, as Paul writes, these things are spiritually investigated.

Without question, a soulish believer can receive from God.  The problem is that it’s a longer process.  As I said in the illustration in my last post – I’d much rather send an e-mail, than write out a letter to send from the Post Office.

Over the next few posts, we’ll see how Paul describes this spiritual Christian.

Question: How far do you venture into your spiritual life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2019 in Daily Thoughts

 

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Fasting and Preparation

In my last post, I talked about Jesus’ view of fasting.  There was a change from the Old to the New Testament fast.  The Lord explained it in parable form.

Last time, we looked at the parable of the patches.  Christ also gave another parable concerning the difference between the Old and New Covenant fast.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
Mark 2:22

The Old Covenant is the old wineskins that the Lord is referring to.  It’s empty, used up, dry, and unyielding.  It has nothing on the inside to give life.

New wine is unfermented grape juice.  During the fermentation process, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins.  A dry and unyielding wineskin will burst under the pressure of this reaction.  You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin; unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable, is ready to receive the new wine.  We get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us when we’re saved.

As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, it starts to ferment; it creates a pressure on the inside, and we start to grow.  That’s the second part of this process.

Fasting increases the inner man.  There’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.  Because you’re quieting your flesh, you begin hearing from God.  Then, as you spend time with the Holy Spirit, something is being poured into you.

The pressure is building.  Now you have something to give that will cause God’s grace to flow through you.  Now you can pour out into someone else.

When you walk in your calling, the pressure released – for a little while.  Now you have something on the inside that stretches the outside.  I don’t know what God wants to do in the months and years ahead, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

We find that just before Jesus started His public ministry He went through a time of tempting and testing.  What did He do to prepare for it?  He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested in the coming year?  What are you going to do?  How will you enter the test?  Prepared or unprepared?  How will you answer the enemy?

The fact is, fasting prepares us for the battle.  We don’t know what’s coming.  But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it.  We have to rely on what we hear from God.  Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation?  That’s what’s needed.  I want to be prepared to face whatever lies ahead.  The blessings, the callings, the tests – everything.  So I’ll fast in order to hear from God more clearly.  I hope you will too.

Question: What are the things that God’s preparing you for in 2018?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Fasting, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Does Your Tongue Lead a Double Life?

Are you living a double life? That’s the question James asks us in his small book. I’ve been posting about how our tongue shows publically what’s going on in our heart.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:9-12

There’s a self-deception sometimes, over how far along we are in our spiritual maturity. We like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true when we find ourselves in a Christian meeting, praising God along with everyone else.

James gives us a more accurate picture. He starts with what it looks like by observation. Praise and cursing coming from the same mouth. “Lord I love you” with one breath, and telling someone “you’re no good” with the next. It looks like you can do both – unless you see God’s perspective.

That’s why James asks these questions. He knows the answer. Jesus answered them with His disciples. I’m sure that James heard Jesus say it on more than one occasion.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:43-45

It’s obvious that James hasn’t changed the subject. He’s still talking about controlling the tongue by what you put in your heart.

More than that, he’s saying what sounds like praise to us, is not always praise to God. If your heart is overflowing with things other than the Word, then your so-called praise is not acceptable to God. It may look like fresh water to all those around, but to God it’s a salt spring.

A life that’s consistently producing bad fruit is a sign of a heart without much of the Word of God. What about the praise that’s going up to God? Isn’t that a sign of a good heart?

I wish it were. Unfortunately, praising God is not a fruit of the spirit. I’ve even heard some ungodly people exclaim, “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” at times. That’s not the sign of maturity.

The fruit of the spirit and maturity are things that can’t be forced or pretended. They have to be grown into. That’s why there must be a consistent walk with the Lord. The more of the Word we receive – both the written and spoken Word of God – the more our hearts overflow with the right things.

Take love, for an example. The world looks at the emotion. As the fruit of a mature spiritual life, love is a choice we make. It goes against our human nature to choose to love people we don’t even like. That’s why we need the power of the spirit working in us.

The sign of our maturity is not a random act of kindness once in a long while. It’s the consistent production of mature fruit on a daily basis. That’s the sign of a life spent in the presence of the Lord.

Question: What fruit of the spirit have been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Are You Religious?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word religious? Do you think about someone who goes to church, reads the Bible, and prays a lot? The Bible has a very different definition of what religious should be.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:26-27

The word religious in this passage comes from a Greek word that means ceremonial observances. That means that you do things out of tradition. So to understand it, we need to realize that this doesn’t apply to our spiritual walk with Christ.

Being spiritual is all about relationship, not religion. I come to Christ in prayer, in the church, and in the Scripture, not because it’s tradition or ceremony. I come to Him because I want to know Him better as a person.

The better I relate to Christ, the more growth I experience in my Christian walk. I do know that there are many Christians who treat their walk with God in a religious way. However, in my opinion, it’s much better to cultivate a relationship with Christ, then to simply follow religious observances.

What, then, does this Scripture want us to be religious about? I can see three things that we need to observe as a tradition in our lives.

First of all, we need to religiously control our tongues. James goes so far as to say that if you don’t control your tongue, you’re deceiving yourself as to your maturity. It doesn’t matter what else you do, it’s all worthless without bringing the tongue under control.

That’s because our mouth doesn’t speak on its own.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Control of the tongue is about controlling what you put into your heart. So if you’re not constantly filling your heart with the Word, your tongue will declare it publically.

The next part of good religion is to help those in distress. We don’t just live for ourselves. There’s a world of hurting people around us. Orphans, widows, single parents, and those in prison all need encouragement and help. There are many more than just those groups.

If we truly want to start a tradition, it should be one of helping others in their need. More than any other group, Christians should be the ones that help those no one else cares about. After all, that’s what Jesus did in His ministry.

The final part is to keep yourself from being polluted by the world. That’s a tough assignment. The Scripture literally says to keep from becoming spotted or stained by the world.

Every day, as we work and interact with those around us, the dirt from society is coming at us. If we’re not careful, we can start picking up some of the same attitudes. This will greatly hinder our walk with God.

We need to be in the pattern, the tradition, of going to God daily for repentance. As the Holy Spirit prompts us that we need to be cleaned of something, we need to be quick to respond. In that way we’ll be free of the stains of the world.

If you want to be religious about something, these are the things you should major on; and keep your walk with Christ as a growing relationship.

Question: What are the religious traditions in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Called to be Mighty

strongTough times call for tough people. That’s especially true in the body of Christ. More than ever we need to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about God’s plan in our nation.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Ephesians 6:10

I am prompted to meditate on David and the men who were drawn to him as he was being hunted by King Saul. It was quite a group who joined him.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2

According to the Bible, the men who came to David were basically fed up with the way things were. They were distressed, in debt, and discontent.

The fact is that God is still looking for some angry people. He needs people with attitude.

“This is not the way it should be.”

That’s what God is doing in the church right now. He’s cultivating this attitude. This nation needs to change. The church needs to change. I need to change.

I want to take a couple of posts to look at some of the men who came to David. The ones termed his mighty men.

Of course, that was for a physical battle. Right now we’re in a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of those around us. It goes without saying that the Lord needs mighty women as well.

By the way, maybe you disagree with that statement – and don’t believe that it’s a woman’s place to be mighty. If that’s you, then please note that in Proverbs 31, the word usually translated virtuous, is the exact word mighty used with David’s men.

Out of the 600 or so men who eventually joined with David, only 30 were called mighty. Think about it; 600 people knew what God was doing in Israel. 600 aligned themselves with God’s plan. These men joined David’s fight, and committed themselves to see God’s will carried out.

But of all those men, only 5% were termed mighty. When it comes to God’s kingdom, I want to be on the cutting edge. I want to be in the mighty category. It’s my hope that you want that distinction as well.

Most of Israel was clueless as to what was happening around them at that time. It’s the same in our generation. Much of the church has no idea about the spiritual climate, or what God is planning on doing.

Then again, many are like the 600. They’re onboard with what God is doing, but they’re just following orders. Then there were the 30 mighty men; but even with them we mostly only know their names.

We’re only told the details about five of these men. That’s less than 1%. That’s where we should desire to be. We should strive to be in the upper echelon of God’s warriors.

When my time on earth is done, I want my angels to talk about me. I want them to have some exciting war stories to share with their friends.

“Let me tell you about the guy we were watching. More than once we had a fight on our hands. It was always exciting being with him.”

In my next post I’m going to begin talking about what it takes to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Who are these mighty men, and what did it take for them to accomplish great things?

Question: How far are you willing to go to advance the cause of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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