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Planned Transformation

As we look at Paul’s teaching in Galatians, it’s obvious that living in righteousness can never be dictated from the outside.  It only flows from a life that cultivates the spiritual walk.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:7-8

From our studies in the book of Galatians, I believe that the road to receiving God’s power is through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I realize that this is a controversial teaching in the body of Christ.  There are many who don’t believe that it’s for all Christians.

Many say, “I don’t want it.”  They choose not to receive this gift of God.  The truth is that this gift is vitally important for the church to do its job.  That’s why the enemy would do anything to convince us that it’s not for the church today, or not for you personally.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Prayer in the Spirit is vitally important to our spiritual health.  I believe that this is how we receive the seed of God’s Word in us.  It’s also needed to conceive the seed God wants to place into our lives.

In the above verse, we see that your mind can’t conceive what God has planned for you.  That word is how the translators handled a two-word phrase in this passage.  They are words that mean placed upon and rise up.

Think about how seeds work in a field. The seeds are placed upon, or sprinkled, over the soil.  Then the water and sun work to activate them so that the new plant rises up from the dirt.  It happens the same way in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

Spending time in the Spirit allows God to plant His seed in us.  Things we could never even imagine that He has planned for us.  They enter into the good soil of our hearts.  Some of these seeds can only be activated by prayer in the Spirit.

We need to understand that there’s a sowing and reaping in the spirit.  Prayer in the Spirit is not just for the conception of the seed.  It must be continued so that the harvest may be brought forth in due time.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:8

That’s why I’m such a proponent of prayer in the Spirit.  I’ve seen what it’s done in my life and in others who practice it regularly.  There’s no substitution for this work of the Lord in us.  It’s the power of God actively working in us to bring about His plan for us.

As I pray in the spirit, I’m walking in God’s plan for the total transformation of my life.  I may not know where the road will lead, but God does.  If I want to walk in His power, then I need to incorporate His plan into my inner man.

I don’t know how anyone could fully serve God without it.  I couldn’t imagine my life without this gift.  Don’t neglect it.
Spend time praying in the Spirit and allow the seed of God to germinate and take root in your heart.  It will change everything.

Question: How has prayer in the Spirit transformed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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How to Turn Dirt into a Garden

Flower GardenIn my last post I started a “dirt” theme. I talked about a verse in James that tells us how to bring about the changes we need in our lives.

Today I want to ask a related question. How do you turn plain old dirt into a beautiful garden? James tells us the answer a few verses before the one we looked at last time.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:18

The answer to our question comes with the realization that the difference between dirt and a garden is the seed that’s planted. You put the seed into the dirt, water them, and all by themselves the flowers grow.

At some point a transformation takes place. There’s a change from a patch of dirt to a garden. Even though the dirt is still there, people will say, “Look at the wonderful flowers.” I’ve never walked by someone’s garden and said, “Hey, that’s really great dirt.”

In the last post we were told by James that in order to remove the evil in us, we need to humbly accept the Word planted in us. That’s what I’m talking about. Today’s verse tells us that the Lord gave us new birth through the Word. It’s the Word of God that breathes new life into us.

He wants us to be a kind of firstfruits for His glory. Farms go through the same transformation that a garden does. It starts out as dirt, but the emphasis changes to tomatoes, wheat or whatever was planted.

“Who cares about the dirt; look at all those watermelons!”

It’s the same way in our lives. As we allow the Word of God to take root in us, people no longer emphasize the “dirt” that we’re dealing with. It’s the fruit of the Spirit that catches their attention. As I accept the seed of the Word into my heart, it can transform my life. Instead of dirt, I’m now considered firstfruits to God.

This is actually a humbling experience. When the focus turns to the fruit, it no longer has anything to do with us. After all, the dirt has nothing to do with what kind of plant is grown. That’s determined by the seed.

When people see the fruit of the Spirit in us, it’s all the work of God. The humbling admission is that I’m nothing, just a patch of dirt, without His Word in me.

Allow the life transforming Word of God to change you into firstfruits for His glory.

Question: How has the Word of God transformed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Our New Clothes

ClothesIn my last post I started talking about the new man that God created us to be. We saw that it’s something that we must choose to do. But it’s a path that few believers seem to want to take.

I think it’s because of the ramifications of the action.

It’s a total transformation of our lifestyle. It will radically change what we do and how we look to the world. Paul puts it this way…

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:14

The new man is Christ, Himself. He’s the One we’re to put on. It’s His nature and character that will be seen manifesting in us. This means that we want Christ to be the only thing that the world sees in us.

Therein lies the problem. Is this true of the church in general? Is it what the average church member wants?

It doesn’t seem to be the case in practice. A look at how the church lives out its faith today proves my point that putting on Christ doesn’t just happen because we receive Christ as our Savior. There’s more to it.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27

If you’ve placed your faith in Christ Jesus, then you’re part of the family of God. In this series of posts, I’m not talking about whether you’re saved or not. If you’ve trusted Christ then you’re saved and going to Heaven. That’s beyond question.

What I am talking about, is the outward manifestation of that salvation. I want the world to see Christ in us. In the book of Acts we’re told that the Jewish religious leaders took note that the Apostles had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). They saw the same lifestyle and ministry that Jesus had when He walked the earth.

Look closely at what Paul says in the above verse. He starts with the group of all believers, those with faith in Christ. Then he moves on to a smaller group. He talks about those who were baptized into Christ. This group, according to Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, has clothed themselves with Christ.

We already know from previous verses that this doesn’t happen by accident. So we have to ask ourselves; what’s this baptism that Paul is referring to in this passage? The Bible talks about many baptisms. We can’t just assume that we know which is meant in this verse.

All of the people who I’ve heard preaching on this verse say that it refers to water baptism. Now that the Holy Spirit has had me study it deeper, I no longer see it that way. Whenever water baptism is mentioned, it says that the believer is baptized into the name of Christ. That’s a baptism into the family.

A baptism into Christ, Himself is a different thing. This baptism literally clothes you with Christ. The original Greek text of this verse reads, “For all of you who were immersed in Christ have sunk into Christ as into a garment.

When I was young, there was an iced tea commercial on TV. A man came home from a long tiring day at work. His wife hands him a nice tall glass of iced tea. As he tips his head back to drink it, the camera pulls away for a wider shot. As he continues to drink, he falls straight backward into a swimming pool.

That’s the kind of thing that Paul is talking about here. We must let everything else go and fall backward (by faith) into Christ. We need to be immersed in Christ. This is what the modern church needs to attain to.

Question: How would the church look if we were truly immersed in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The New Man

 

MirrorI’ve been posting about the teachings that Paul referred to in his letter to the Ephesian church.

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

I’ve talked about the putting off of the old self and the renewal of the mind. The final piece that these early believers were taught was how to put on the new man that was created to be like God.

This process can take place slowly or quickly, depending upon our obedience and understanding. In looking at the modern church, it seems like this is the step that we know the least about. We definitely have very little experience with it.

But, before I get into the “how” of putting on the new man, I need to warn you. What I found in Scripture, as I studied it, totally changed my perception of how God works in us. As I got deeper and deeper into the Word, I found that my definition of the words I was reading was inadequate and, in some cases, inaccurate.

As we go along, I will have to redefine some words that the church has watered down over time. It wasn’t done maliciously, but it’s had a negative effect on us none the less. Please keep an open mind as you prayerfully take in what the Word of God teaches us.

Keep in mind that this is what the early believers were taught, at least under Paul’s ministry. Through prayer in the spirit, they overcame and put off the old man. They won the war against the flesh and its misdeeds.

Also through prayer in the spirit they were able to grasp and retain the mind of the Lord. It caused their minds to be renewed in the process. They no longer thought the way they used to.

Now there’s a need to put on the new man. The old is gone, but we must replace it with something better. God wants to give a new nature that’s been manufactured, fabricated, to be like God.

What’s the sign of this transformation? According to the Scripture, it’s true righteousness and holiness in the lives of those who accept it. I’m not talking about positional righteousness and holiness. As important as these are, they don’t always manifest in the lives of believers. They must be laid hold of by faith.

I’m talking about the actual, physical walk of righteousness. It’s living out the holiness that God has for us. When this happens, the world sees something different in us.

Unfortunately, based upon this definition of the new man, much of modern Christianity has missed it. What we have is a church that can’t get out of its own way. God’s people are too busy chasing after the world and its pleasures. All the while we’re confessing Scripture and believing for the blessing of God. Any talk of commitment or devotion to God is seen as condemnation and we avoid it.

The simple truth is that we’ll never be like Jesus until we put on this new man. The phrase put on literally means to sink into like a robe. We must be immersed in it.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:12

It’s clear from this verse, and many others, that putting on the new man is a matter of our choice. It’s not automatic. Why would we be exhorted over and over again to do it if it would just happen by itself? It’s another step in our Christian growth.

For the next few posts I’m going to share what I learned as I looked deeply into the Scripture concerning this truth.

Question: How does the modern church compare to the life that Jesus Christ exemplified for us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Directing Your Thoughts

 

cross 2I’ve been posting about how our minds are renewed by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. This was also evident in the life of Christ.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Luke 24:45

The word understand in this verse literally means to put together. The Lord opened up the minds of these disciples to put together all that was happening. This included the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ, as well as the Scripture that foretold it. They had to walk in a supernatural understanding in order to grasp what was happening.

We need this ability of the Holy Spirit in us to put together – understand and apply – all that’s in the Scripture. If I don’t cultivate my spiritual prayer life, then where will all of this understanding come from? We can receive these blessing nowhere else but from the spirit.

Paul understood this and tried to make it clear to his readers. In the following verse, the apostle is taking an Old Testament verse and revamping it for a spiritual people.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16

What this verse actually says in the Greek is, “Who has known the mind of the Lord well enough to be knit together with Him.” But we hold, possess the mind of Christ.

What an incredible truth! In the spirit we have access to the mind of the eternal God. The big question is; will we lay claim to this gift by the spirit?

It’s clear that the Holy Spirit is needed in order to renew our minds. But this renewal is more than just accessing God’s knowledge. It’s much deeper than that.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…
Philippians 2:5

This means that the direction of our minds should be the same as Christ. This is evident in our current church experience. So many of our prayers seem to go unanswered. We think we’re praying “in the will of God.” But we don’t see anything happening.

Many times we don’t receive when we pray because we’re headed in a different direction than Christ. We want the blessings of God. We just want them for a different reason than He does.

We need to direct our mind like Christ. When the Lord walked the earth, His mind was directed by the Spirit. That’s what renewal is all about. It’s not just changing what we think about, but how we think.

This is a difficult thing to do in the natural. Actually it’s pretty close to impossible. Trying to get the mind to renew itself is a losing proposition. Instead, the best way is to activate our spirit in order to keep our mind Christ-centered.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2

This would be quite a challenge for us to do in our own power. I know I can accomplish this temporarily. I wanted to see how long during the day I could make myself think about the things of God. I found it to be a lost cause. The littlest things would distract me and refocus my attention on the things of earth.

Prayer in the spirit, however, allows you to zero in on things above for an increasingly longer time. Your mind will begin to follow the lead of your spirit. You will begin to understand the things of the spirit like never before.

In this way your mind will start to become reset and refreshed. When this is taking place it goes a long way to changing how the outward man reacts to life. If we’re going to win the battle of the mind, then we must pray in the spirit regularly.

Question: How have you noticed your prayer life affecting your thought life?

© 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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Transformed by the Spirit

GalaxyI’m posting about Christ as the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. In my last article I showed how Christ walked in the power of this baptism as our example.

“For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.”
John 3:34

This is what the Lord said about Himself. Jesus had unlimited access to the Spirit.

I’ve heard people use this verse as if it only applies to Christ. Think about what it means to have the Spirit without measure.

Maybe you’ve seen the example of the glass that’s full of water. That’s like us being filled with the Spirit. Then if you take that same glass and immerse it in a fish tank; that shows what the baptism in the Spirit is like. I’ve used this example many times.

How much water does the glass have in the fish tank? There’s no way to measure it. That’s what Christ is talking about. He was the first one to experience a life that was baptized in the Spirit.

In talking about this to the disciples, the Lord said…

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
John 7:38

This can happen because I live in two realms. In the spiritual world I live immersed in the Spirit – the living water Christ talked about. In the physical, this water gushes out and is evident to those around me.

It doesn’t matter how much power I have to put out in ministry, in the spiritual it’s without limit. The truth is that we have that same unlimited access – if we live an immersed life.

But that’s not the best part, in my opinion! At one point Jesus took the three closest disciples up on a mountain to pray.

As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
Luke 9:29

This verse literally says that He was changed as He prayed and His face became different. Jesus was transformed by the Spirit. He had no sinful flesh as we do. But as He prayed His flesh, His physical appearance, was changed. He was transformed to a higher, more glorious appearance.

We’re told in Scripture that God desires to take us from glory to glory. How will this happen? I believe it’s through prayer in the Spirit. It will be accomplished through living an immersed life.

That’s why an understanding of the gift of the Spirit is so vitally important to this generation. We need it. In order to transform the church we need a manifestation of the power of God. We need the Holy Spirit’s life changing work.

It will only come as God’s people press in and do what Jesus did. Live a lifestyle of prayer in the spirit – a life of immersion.

Question: What will it take for you to live a life of immersion in the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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