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Ignoring the Cross

As I continue my series through First Corinthians, we’re looking at the wisdom of God manifest in the cross.  It’s something that God expects His church to understand.  It’s been revealed to us in His Word.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21-24

This is a problem we face even in our society today.  There’s a pressure on the church to cater our message to those we’re trying to win.

Religious people want to hear one thing, while the educational community wants to hear something else.  Many times we fall into the trap of trying to please our listeners with the message we think they want to hear.

Paul strips away all of these elements by boiling the message down to its vital component.  He preaches the same essential message to all who will listen.  That message is the Word of the cross – Christ crucified.

The reason is clear.  There’s a supernatural call in that Word.  It contains the power of God to draw men and women to the place of repentance.

We need to see this.  When we water down or ignore the Word of the cross, we lose the bulk of the power needed to win the lost.  Beyond that, those who do come to the Lord with little knowledge of the cross, have no desire to become radical disciples of Christ.

This is what the world desperately needs to see in the church.  It’s also what the church needs in order to be transformed into the victorious kingdom that was set forth by Christ.  We must hunger and thirst for the Word of the cross.

We’ve tried a whole host of other strategies only to be met with little or no results.  Isn’t it time to proclaim Christ the way they did it when the world was “turned upside-down” by the Gospel?  We need to renew our knowledge of what happened in and through the cross of Christ.  This is a message that the Lord can’t wait to reveal to us if we’ll just stop and listen.

This is one of the things that we’re missing in our churches these days.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:7

Paul explains to us that this message was destined for our glory.  That’s why it’s such a mystery.  From the outside, the cross looks like a place of pain, suffering, and weakness.   But in reality, it will bring glory to all who live by it.

It was the same for Christ.  The demonic kingdom had no idea what would be unleashed on the cross.  When the “Lord of Glory” was crucified, there was an explosion of power that rocked the universe.  It’s clear that Satan would never have allowed this to happen if he had known what the results would be.

It’s time for God’s people to once again unleash this power in the world.  We need to walk in the power of the cross.  The message of the cross is vital for our last-days testimony.

Question: What would change if we incorporated the teaching of the cross into our message?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Cross and our Rights

Cross SunsetI’ve been talking about giving yourself as a gift to God. In my last post I talked a little about carrying the cross.

“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:27

What did Jesus mean by that? I’ve heard people use this in a lot of different ways. Sometimes they’ll use this term in talking about an ongoing illness, or even their spouse.

“That’s my cross that I have to bear.”

Is that what it’s all about? I don’t think so. Carrying a cross is a sign that you’re about to die. Very soon you’re going to be laying down your life.

In the next few verses in Luke (verses 28-32), Jesus talks about counting the cost of becoming His disciple. He doesn’t make it sound easy.

It’s like a contractor determining the cost of a building before he starts the construction. You wouldn’t build the foundation only to realize that you don’t have the funds to complete it.

Jesus also said that it’s like a king who’s at war. He must come to a decision as to whether or not he can hold off the force that’s coming against him. If not, he must seek terms for peace before the fighting starts.

After giving these examples, the Lord comes to a conclusion.

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:33

That’s what carrying your cross means. It’s giving yourself as a gift to God. We have to realize that a gift gives up all of its rights.

That’s why Jesus went on to say…

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 14:34-35

Back when this was written, salt had a higher percentage of impurities than we have today. If it got wet, the actual salt would wash out and you were left with the dirt. You wouldn’t want to use that on your food.

In the same way, there are believers who want to serve God. But at the same time they want to retain their rights to determine what they want to do or not do. That doesn’t work out too well in the Kingdom of God. It’s like putting dirt on your sandwich.

As a matter of fact, most fights and disagreements start over a perceived violation of our personal rights. Living for Christ requires a whole different mindset.

We must give up our wants and desires, as good and noble as they may be. In their place we take on God’s great purpose for our lives. That’s how we will step into the destiny we were created for.

Question: What has God called you to accomplish for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Forgiveness and Restoration

JailIn my last post I started writing about what forgiveness is all about. We saw that it was God’s idea that culminated in Christ on the cross. Now the penalty of our sin is no longer demanded.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14

We were dead – the penalty of our sin was looming over us. But now, because of grace, if we’re in Christ and there’s no more penalty. I can look to becoming clean without worrying about the mistakes.

As good as this is, forgiveness is much deeper than that.

The second definition that I found in Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary reads, “To grant freedom from the penalty.”

That means that forgiveness cancels the penalty. But wait a minute. Isn’t ceasing to demand the penalty and freedom from the penalty the same thing?

NO!!! The first stops the demand. Freedom is needed when you’re reaping the penalty. Forgiveness stops the penalty in its tracks.

The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.
1 Timothy 5:24

The problem is that not all sin has the same effect on our lives. Sometimes you reap the penalty here. Other sins will not bring a penalty until the judgment seat.

For example, the penalties associated with alcoholism can destroy your life right here and right now. The way is open for anyone to come to Christ as an alcoholic. But if all we had was the first definition – they would be on their way to Heaven, but their life would remain in shambles.

Our God is bigger than that. Because He grants freedom from the penalty, their life can be restored by the power of God.

We need to lay hold of this. Many times we find ourselves walking in penalties that we think we deserve. The forgiveness of the Lord stops the penalty. We don’t have to walk in guilt anymore. The blood of Christ removes the guilt.

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

The writer makes a statement here that our hearts are sprinkled. Sprinkled with what? The blood of Christ that forgives us of our sin.

So the reality is that we’ve been forgiven by Christ on the cross. Now, in Christ, there’s no more penalty. We can have a clean conscience.

Unfortunately, as we look at the world around us, it seems that this forgiveness has very little effect in our society. That’s because there’s one more truth associated with forgiveness. It’s the part that makes all of the difference.

I’ll talk about that definition in my next post.

Question: In what ways has the forgiveness of God restored your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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The Cross – Past, Present, Future

cross 2In my last post I talked about the work Christ did for us on the cross. Because of it, repentance and forgiveness of sin can be proclaimed throughout the world. We simply cry out to the Lord, “I want my life to change. Please, Lord, I’m asking you to take the trash out of my life.”

This is the result of Christ going to the cross. It’s the pattern for how we submit to the salvation process at work in us. We like to focus on the resurrection, but the fact is that there can be no resurrection without the cross.

That’s why Jesus tried to explain to His disciples over and over that He needed to go to the cross. It was imperative that He suffers, dies, and then three days later, rises up from the grave. He did this so that all of the unneeded baggage could be removed from our lives.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…
Romans 6:6

This explains what exactly He removes. The Lord wants to get rid of your entire past. The “old you” is removed and nailed to the cross with Christ. It’s never to be heard from again. But it doesn’t end there.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Christ doesn’t only deal with our past. The work He did on the cross affects our present and future as well. This is because the cross means nothing without the resurrection. The two must go hand in hand.

It’s great that Jesus got rid of my past sins and the guilt and shame that came with it. But I’m living in the present. I’m concerned about the future. How does what He’s done speak to this?

The power that was released when Christ rose from the dead is available to me today. I now have the power of God present in me. I have a source of strength that will get me through today victoriously. It will carry me through until I reach my destiny in Christ Jesus. That’s the power of the resurrection.

It’s just like when we’re doing something on our computers. You can create a lot of great stuff. But until you click on the save button, everything can be lost. Christ did a powerful work on the cross. But it was when He rose up from the dead that He hit the save button.

The Lord’s death and resurrection opened up the saving work of God for all time and to all people. This is what the church should be proclaiming. Repentance and forgiveness is now available through Jesus Christ.

That’s why I’ve bowed my knee to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. No other god has ever done this for his people. All the other religions tell their followers that if they want acceptance, enlightenment, or paradise, then they need to work harder. Sweat for it, bleed for it, suffer for it. Only when you’ve put enough effort into your seeking, will you attain the prize.

My God understood my problem. As a human being, I’m incapable of living the perfect life He requires. I had no ability to approach God on my own merit.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Galatians 2:21

If there was a rule book or a set of laws that we could follow correctly, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. Because of the grace of God and the work of the cross it’s no longer about my ability. It’s now all about God’s work in me.

Question: How does Christ’s work continue to change your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Two Crosses

 

CrossesI’m posting about embracing the cross of Christ. We have to follow the same path Jesus followed. If I work at saving myself, I’ll find myself on the path of ruin and loss. If, instead, I lose my life for the Lord’s pattern, then my destination has changed to that of increase and growth. That’s the path of the cross.

We need to follow Christ to the cross even though it’s offensive to us and against our very nature.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
Matthew 27:39-40

“Save yourself – come down from the cross!”

This is the part of our human nature that we need to contradict. This is being an adversary of the cross of Christ.

Many believers try, by their valiant efforts, to save themselves and bring about God’s plan in their own power. The result is that many in the church today are floundering around in mediocrity.

Paul was having the same problem in his day. There were some who were teaching that you needed to come under the law in order to be saved. What they taught was that Christ forgives your sin, but the law makes you acceptable to God.

Paul had an answer for these people that we need to take to heart in this generation.

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Galatians 6:12

If our focus is on the outward, then we’ll avoid the cross at all cost. But we still want God’s grace to work in our lives. At that point our mind tells us that there must be something we can do to obtain God’s blessing. So we put ourselves under all kinds of rules and regulations in order to earn the grace of God.

Here’s why that approach doesn’t work. Under the law, you can live for yourself by invoking a string of technicalities. It’s the same thing the Pharisees of Jesus’ day would do. You simply tell yourself, “I’m okay. I go to church, read the Bible, and live a good life.”

In reality, these people want to avoid the fear of the cross. The word persecuted in the above verse comes from a root word that means to run away or retreat. That tells me that that these individuals are cowards who have decided not to embrace the cross. Instead of running from it, we must live in its shadow.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

Instead of trying to avoid being worldly by our own will power, we must embrace the cross. Think about what Paul is saying here. The world is nailed to a cross. I’m nail to another. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over to that other cross. Neither can the world get to me.

That’s what we do to our flesh by invoking the power of the cross in our lives. When we nail our flesh to the cross there’s a power that’s released to work God’s righteousness in us. It’s not a struggle to keep pure, but reliance upon the Holy Spirit in us.

This is the path to all that God has for you. I’m talking about healings, increase, miracles and the provision of God. It’s everything you need for life and godliness.

It will only come in its fullness as we embrace the pattern laid down by the Lord. We must follow the path of the cross. Allow the Lord to work His pattern of salvation in us. It’s the way to freedom in Him.

Question: What would the church look like if we all embraced the path of the cross?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Legalism, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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The Great Deception

TrophyIn my last post I talked about Paul’s rebuke of the Christians who live as enemies of the cross. There are many who replace Christ with worldly pursuits. I’ve heard a lot of holy sounding excuses.

“We need to be a witness to the world.”

“God understands that I need to do this.”

“I’ve been faithful for months. I can take a week off.”

Here’s the problem. We’ve begun to believe a lie. It sounds so good that even preachers will quote it. But, it’s destroying God’s people. What is this great deception?

“Jesus Christ needs to have first place in your life.”

It sounds so pure and holy, but it has the potential to destroy your walk with the Lord. Why is this the case? Because Jesus never wanted to be first in your life. It’s abundantly clear from the Scripture – Christ wants to be the only thing your life revolves around.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
Philippians 3:7-8

If Christ is in first place, then we can have a close second and feel good about it.

“I go to church most Sundays. I only missed one week this month. Of course Christ has first place over the amusement park.”

We need to get back to the pattern. That’s what will change our lives, and the world around us. This is what we were saved for. Not a one-time encounter with Christ, but an ongoing relationship of renewal and transformation.

In order to live this way we must move on into the walk of victory that Christ has destined us for. This will require us to get a new revelation of the cross of Christ.

First we must get over our fear of the cross. For too long God’s people have backed off from it because it sounds uncomfortable. It’s always been this way. Even from the first time Jesus mentioned it to His disciples. At one point the Lord described what He was going to do on the cross and Peter openly rebuked Him.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Matthew 16:23

Very few people understand the cross. The enemy’s kingdom didn’t. Neither did the disciples. But we see here that the very notion of rejecting the cross was offensive to Christ. Peter had no idea the significance of what would happen there. So at this point in time, Peter was an adversary of the cross. It’s the same place we find ourselves so often. Not enemies of Christ, but of His cross.

Even back then, the Lord didn’t let it end there. He went on with His teaching.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
Matthew 16:24-25

Christ tells His disciples, and us as well, that if we want to walk in step behind Him, then we need to go where He’s going. We have to be on the same path He’s taking. That means that we must deny ourselves – literally to contradict ourselves – in order to follow Him. That tells me that I must go in a direction that’s opposite of what I think is the logical course for my life.

Question: What does embracing the cross mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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