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The Body and the Flesh

Do you know the difference between your body and your flesh?  Scripturally speaking, they’re not the same thing.  Knowing what those two Biblical words mean will help you in living for Christ.

We’re looking at the Last Supper as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is revealing a new concept to the disciples as they celebrate the Passover meal.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Mark 14:22

This is the foundation for the Communion observances in our churches.  It was a small but important part of the Passover meal.  The bread, which was a hard, dry, matzo cracker, was broken and passed to each one around the table.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to know what the Lord was speaking about.  In the Greek language, there are two different words that we sometimes take for granted.  In English, they’re translated flesh and body.

In the natural seem to be speaking about the same thing – our physical body.  But when you look at how they’re used in Scripture, you get a new perspective.

The word, body, refers to our outward, physical vessel that holds who we are.  It can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.  The body is what we use to interact in the natural world.

The flesh, on the other hand, speaks of the old sin nature that’s been passed down to us from our ancestor, Adam.  It’s the desire within us to make the experience of our body the center of our life.  It wants our body to have everything it needs to feel good.

So usually, when we see the body spoken of in Scripture, we’re referring to the deeds that are being done and the outward appearance.  In this verse, Christ is speaking of imparting His body to us.  Paul talked about the importance of this.

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Romans 7:4

This is an incredible truth.  By taking on Christ’s body, our physical bodies are now counted as dead to the Law.  Not only is that true, but now the resurrection of Christ is credited to my account.

This means that my body is no longer bound to do what my flesh (my sin nature) wants it to do.  The control of the flesh is broken.  This is the foundation of our freedom in Christ.

Look at what Paul goes on to say.

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6

Not only have we been released from slavery to our flesh and the Law; now our bodies can come under the direct influence of our spirit.  We don’t have to serve God by obeying a list of do’s and don’ts.  I can follow the lead of the Holy Spirit who’s taken up residence in me.

In the future, when you receive the Communion elements, meditate on this truth.  Because you’re receiving His body, you’re receiving the whole work that was done on the cross.  All the power that was released for your life and godliness is available to you right now.

Question: How does your knowing that we died and rose with Christ affect your daily walk with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Disciples and Fasting

As we continue to look at the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, one thing we have to realize is that the Lord lived under the Old Covenant.  So there were times He had to make it clear that something new was coming.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Mark 2:18

That was an interesting question for the Lord.  It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus fasted.  In Jesus’ ministry, He taught what to do “when you fast.”  Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.  Why didn’t He make His disciples practice this discipline?

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
Mark 2:19-20

The Lord was basically telling them that fasting would change from Old Testament to New Testament.  He wanted them to start the New Covenant fast after the resurrection.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was a way to humble yourself in repentance.  Now, in Christ, we fast in order to put down the flesh so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly.  For a more detailed teaching on this subject…click here.

At this point, Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form.  Those listening to His explanation probably didn’t understand what the Lord was talking about, but looking back, we can.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
Mark 2:21

The first thing He talks about is the outside – a garment.  In the ancient world, the way to repair your clothing was to take an old piece of cloth and use it to patch an old garment.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was only a patch.  It was all about doing something to get God to listen to me.  I needed to patch things up.  So I humbled myself by fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering my head with ashes.  I had to show how sorrowful I was for my sin.

There were times that people fasted just for show.  They wanted to look “holy”.  That’s when God would say things like, “Will I listen to you if you fast like that?”

According to Jesus, we don’t fast like the Pharisees or other Old Testament people.  Much of what they did was to impress people with their outward displays of religion.

If I try to patch things up with God under the New Covenant, I only make things worse.  It’s all about me being able to hear God’s voice clearly.

How, then, do I get God to hear me?  The truth is that I don’t.  In Christ, we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God.  There’s no condemnation; we can enter boldly into His presence.

Now, under grace, we’re a new garment and don’t need a patch.  But a new garment (back then) would always shrink with use.  Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment.

That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease.  As I fast, the voice of my flesh gets quieter.  So fasting forcefully puts down the flesh.

This is because under the New Covenant it’s about me hearing from God.  God hears me in Christ.  But I need to hear Him with my spirit when He speaks.

I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening.  Fasting helps drown out the noise of my flesh.  That’s why I believe that fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life.

Questions:  Do you fast?  How often?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Fasting, Spiritual Walk

 

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Freedom and the Flesh

We’ve been given perfect freedom in Christ.  But just how far does that freedom allow us to go?  There are many who preach the Law so that Christians won’t live for themselves.  What’s the Biblical view?

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

In order to understand our freedom, we need to see the greater context of Scripture.  There’s a flow to how the Holy Spirit revealed the Word to the church.  Knowing this will give us added insight.

The first mention of our liberty in Christ was when the Holy Spirit revealed it to James.  In his book, he simply referred to the Word of God as the perfect law that gives liberty (James 1:25).  But it’s in the letter to the Galatians that we see the first explanation of that freedom.

Actually, in this verse, we see the first revelation of how freedom and the flesh relate together.  So this gives us the foundational truth we need to understand.

The first thing I see is that we are called to be free.  That’s important.  Our freedom in Christ is a positional freedom.  That means I have to respond to it if I want to see the manifestation in my life.

If I want to walk in freedom, I need to cultivate my relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He’s the One that will turn my position of freedom into something I can experience on a daily basis.

Now we can go to Paul’s next statement.  He says that we must not use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  When I read this verse in the Greek language, I see an important truth.  Paul says; don’t start off in your liberty with the flesh as your goal.

Motivation is everything.  What’s your first thought when you hear the word, freedom.  Do you think, “Great! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and God won’t care!”?  If that’s your thinking, then you’re too immature to walk in God’s freedom.

The point of this liberty is that I’m free to serve God while He’s cleaning me up.  I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect.  I can listen for His call and obey Him.  As I’m serving the Lord, if I make a mistake I can repent and move on.

Freedom is knowing that I please God just as I am, right now.  As I grow and mature in Christ, I’ll continue to please God.  It’s not based on my performance, but on His work in me.

That brings me to Paul’s third point.  When I’m walking in freedom, I can serve God by serving others.  I’m not worried about how God sees me.  I can do what I’m called to do without any hindrance.

Because I know that I’m loved by God, I’m free to love others.  I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll accept me or not.  I’m already acceptable to the Lord.  That’s true liberty.

Trying to follow the law is just the opposite.

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5:14-15

When I’m performing for acceptance from God, everything becomes a competition.  I have to prove that I’m better than you.  That means I have to pick on your faults and emphasize my strengths.  A group of people with those attitudes will never do anything great for God.

Choose freedom.  Cultivate your walk with the Spirit and let Him do His work in you.  And always remember that God loves who you are right now.

Question: How has God’s love changed your view of yourself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Death of the Old Self

 

GravesIn my last post I talked about the circumcision of the heart that puts off the old man. We saw from Scripture that this is accomplished through prayer in the spirit.

This is one of the reasons why prayer in the spirit is so important. It’s also the reason why so few believers win the battle over their flesh. They don’t realize that it can only be won in the spirit by the power of the Word of God released in us. That’s why Paul could say…

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
Romans 8:13

This work is only accomplished in the spirit. The misdeeds of my body will never be put to death by any decision that I make – no matter how much I desire it. I can try and try in my own strength. The work is a spiritual breakthrough and only comes as I yield my spirit to the Holy Spirit.

The reality of this is apparent as I look back over recent history. I think about my grandparents’ generation. When I hear the testimonies of how they came to the Lord, I used to get frustrated. Their lives were totally turned around. Before Christ, their lives were characterized by drunkenness, gambling, and foul language.

When I came along, I only knew them as strong believers who told everyone they met about the power of Christ. They were humble examples of the life-changing work of God. Why did this frustrate me? Because I wanted my life to line up with the Word the way theirs did.

When I asked how I could become more like Christ, I was told that I needed to be more committed.

“When those old saints of God were saved, they really submitted themselves to God’s law.”

But it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t live like them. I was angry that God would change them so radically, while I was left trying on my own to overcome the flesh.

Now that I understand the work of the spirit, I can see what really happened in my grandparents’ lives. It was a spiritual work that changed them. Remembering back to what I saw in them, I now realize what made the difference. The main characteristic of their lives was prayer in the spirit.

They went to church meetings three days a week just to pray in the spirit. I remember hearing my grandmother (I lived with her) get up at 5 in the morning and begin praying in the spirit for hours. This was her daily routine.

I remember hearing people laughing at their commitment to this practice.

“That old Italian prayer meeting went on until midnight yesterday.”

Little did we know that it was the secret to the walk in the spirit that we could never attain to on our own.

I also see the same thing happening today. At one point our church began having a weekly meeting for the sole purpose of prayer in the spirit. This went on for about a year. During that year I remember commenting that those who came out and participated in the prayer were being radically changed.

At that time I didn’t know that they were putting off the old nature through prayer in the spirit. All I understood was that they were undergoing a rapid change in their spiritual walk.

The church needs to once again learn this truth. We need to submit to the Holy Spirit to perform the change in our hearts. Only then will the world see the difference that will draw them to the cross of Christ. Only then will we experience the revival that we so desperately hunger for.

Question: How committed are you to prayer in the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Baptism and Our Old Self

FlyingIn my last post I started talking about how other generations of believers experienced the transforming power of God. I said that we needed to be retaught what they had learned. I quoted a verse from Ephesians.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

According to Paul, the first thing we should be taught is how to put off the old self. This is talking about our flesh – the dwelling place of our evil desires. It’s the gift given to us by our ancestor, Adam.

According to James, this is where all of our temptation comes from.

…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James 1:14

Contrary to what we see in the cartoons, it’s not the devil sitting on our shoulder that tempts us. It’s our own flesh that sees something it wants, and tries to get our soul to agree with it. The desires of our flesh – that’s where the battle starts.

Paul wrote a lot about this subject. It’s from his writings that we can learn how to overcome the flesh. It’s in Romans, chapter 6, that he begins dealing with the subject of sin. He tells us that it’s the grace of God that covers our sin.

Paul goes on to ask a question that may sound a little foolish, but it’s one we deal with all the time. Should we sin more in order to get more grace? Obviously not. But he uses the following argument.

By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Romans 6:2-3

Here is a truth – in Christ we’ve died to sin. In the waters of baptism we’ve identified ourselves with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. So, we shouldn’t want to live according to our old life. But by the very question he asks, he implies that it’s possible to live in sin even though we died to it. How can we get the victory over this sin?

It all starts with our water baptism. This is where we identify with Christ. This is where we begin the process of removing the old man. Peter agrees with Paul’s assessment.

…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…
1 Peter 3:21

The word pledge in the above verse means the asking, desire or demand. When we allow ourselves to be baptized in water, we are placing a demand on God for a good conscience. Because we desire to live rightly before Him, we take this step. It’s how we start down the road to remove the old sin nature.

That’s also how Romans chapter 6 starts. The first 10 verses describe our identification with Christ through water baptism. Then, in verse 11, Paul brings out the next step in the process.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:11

The words in the same way let us know that this is a new truth. You were baptized, and by faith identified with the death of Christ. In the same way that you trusted God for this, now go on to the next step of faith. I’ll talk about that step in my next post.

Questions: How was your faith released during your water baptism? Were you baptized in water?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Faith, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Worship and Spirit

PowerlessI’m posting a series about true worship. It’s amazing to me how many things we call “worship” that really don’t qualify.

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.
Revelation 4:2

This verse shows us an aspect of worship that few teachers ever emphasize. Worship is a function of the spirit. This is an import truth that God’s people need to understand.

We label a lot of things as worship. When we go to church on Sunday morning, we call it a worship service. Then when it’s time to sing we call it praise and worship. Somehow we’ve redefined it in such a way that the fast songs are praise and the slower ones are worship.

Actually they are simply fast and slow praise songs. When you understand true worship from Scripture, you see that all the functions of our flesh and our mind are a part of our praise to God.

When Jesus talked with the woman at the well, He explained it to her this way…

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:24

That’s the underlying truth – God is spirit. This word, worship, speaks of intimate relationship. How do you have intimacy with a spirit? There’s only one level of interaction, and that’s in the spirit.

That’s why daily prayer in the spirit is so important. It’s the vehicle by which we have intimacy with the Father.

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh
Philippians 3:3

Do we really put no confidence in our flesh? Especially when it comes to our relationship with God, many believers are driven by their flesh. We’re proud of our trained voices and our professional sound. We want to be moved emotionally by our corporate experiences.

Please understand me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things – if you’re talking about praise. But this post is about true, scriptural worship.

In worship, we put no confidence in our praise, our singing, how long we practiced or even our obedience. The only confidence we have is in Him. That’s why most of what we do in church is actually praise.

Praise can be done loudly and in a group. As a matter of fact, the bigger the group, the more stirring the praise – usually.

Worship is different. It’s intimate. It’s personal – one on one, just me and God. Even if I’m with a crowd of believers, I have to zone them all out and just focus in on the Lord.

The easiest way to do this is to begin praying in the spirit. That’s how our relationship with God is built, spirit to Spirit. It’s time for God’s people to stir up the spirit of worship within them. Let’s stop calling everything we do in church “worship”. It’s time to simply bask in the presence of a holy God and spend some quality, intimate time with Him.

Question: How often do you worship God in the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in Prayer in the Spirit, Worship

 

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