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No Man-Made Gospel

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.  It’s a letter of correction because they were beginning to fall into legalism.  He had to warn them that a gospel of legalism was no gospel at all.

He begins by telling them of his personal walk with God.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11-12

Paul tells us that he did not preach a man-made gospel.  It was received from Jesus Christ by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

This is important for us to understand.  It’s the first time that Paul shares about his conversion to Christianity.  The book of Acts had not been written yet when Paul wrote this letter.  So he’s explaining the most important parts of his transformation.

Paul was a Pharisee.  He had to be trained for that role.  He went to a Jewish seminary.  He had huge portions of the Scripture memorized.

Yet, with all that training, he needed the revelation of Jesus Christ in order to preach the Gospel.  That tells me that the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus – has to be learned by the Spirit.  Paul makes it clear by describing what happened directly after his salvation.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Galatians 1:13-17

I think that in our efforts to read through the Bible, we sometimes miss the little, important details.  The fact is that Paul preached a revealed Gospel rather than a taught Gospel.   But we say, “That was the Apostle Paul.  He was a special case.  He was writing most of the New Testament.”

In reality, Paul was human, just like us.  The difference was that he had already gone through the process of getting his theology from other people.  Now he wanted to operate by grace.

In telling us that he got his Gospel by revelation, he was not saying that Jesus Christ personally appeared to him in his room.  Jesus didn’t show up and audibly teach Paul the Gospel for three years.  That’s not the method the Lord uses under the New Covenant.

The key phrase in the above passage is when Paul says that God was pleased to reveal his Son in me.  The Lord was not revealed TO Paul, but IN Paul.  That’s what we need to grab hold of.

An understanding of the Scriptures concerning our salvation is a plus.  But in all honesty, our post-Christian generation couldn’t care less about what the Bible says.  It’s all about Christ revealed in us.

The true Gospel is not a list of memorized Bible verses.  It’s the story of how Jesus Christ broke into my world.  How He revealed Himself in my circumstances and changed my life.  The Gospel is not hearsay, but a valid testimony of what I’ve experienced.

That’s why we need to rely on the Holy Spirit.  Praise God for the New Testament Scripture that can teach us about God’s grace.  But we need the Spirit to make it relevant to those around us.

They don’t want to know about the Book you’re reading, they need to know about the Savior you met.

Question: How did Christ first reveal Himself in your situation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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God’s Approval System

I’ve been posting from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In it we’ve been looking at the true Gospel. According to Paul, it comes with a demonstration of God’s power. In my last post I talked about the other methods people must use when they don’t walk in God’s power.

The question is; why is there so little of the whole Gospel of Christ being presented in our generation? It turns out that Paul understood the answer.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

We’ve seen that Paul understood the true Gospel as including power, the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction. That might have been surprising to some. But I believe his words in this verse would totally shock many preachers if they understood their significance.

According to Paul, you need to be approved by God to preach this Gospel. Actually it’s deeper than that. He said that you need God’s approval even to be entrusted with this Gospel.

Is this what’s taught in Bible schools? I don’t think so; at least I’ve never heard it taught. In my experience preaching the Gospel is simply coming up with a Scripture for an opening text. Then we apply it to the need for the hearers to “get saved.”

Where’s the power? Where’s the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and the deep conviction? I believe that there’s too much unapproved Gospel being preached these days. That’s why many have written off Christianity as a dead horse that needs to be removed from society.

How do you become approved to be entrusted with the true Gospel? The answer to this is why there’s so little of it in our generation. It’s not about college degrees or denominational accreditation. No, it’s much deeper than that.

Paul makes it clear that this approval can only come from God. Furthermore, the test takes place in your heart. Where’s your heart set? Who are you trying to please?

Your anointing (God’s approval of your ministry) is resting on that answer. It’s not about how much you want it; instead, it’s wrapped up in the direction your heart is taking you.

What we have to realize is that in our own power we can never be well pleasing to God. It only comes from time spent in His presence. It’s what Jesus talked about in the parable of the sower.

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop — thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:20

As I said, the test is in your heart – where you hear and plant the Word. This requires time in the presence of the Lord. It means that we have a listening ear toward the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Then, when Gods sees the quality of the crop produced by the Word planted in our heart, He grants His approval. We will see the manifestation of the Word of God when we present the Gospel. Then the lives of the hearers are changed by that powerful Word from God.

Question: How would churches be different if we sought the approval of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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What is the Gospel – Really?

In my last post we began looking at the second Word that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. It was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Today we’ll look at an important “first”.

It’s always good to note the first time a word is used in the Scripture. It helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit means when He uses it elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes preachers call it the “law of first use.”

Do you have any idea the first place in the New Testament when the word Gospel is used? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not in the Gospels. That’s because the Gospels weren’t the first books written. The Gospel of Mark was probably the fourth book written; which is close, but not the first to use that word.

Actually, the word Gospel is first used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This was the first of Paul’s epistles. He was writing to a young church he started with only a brief stay in the city of Thessalonica. Here’s what he wrote them in the opening verses of his letter.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

That’s a very interesting comment to make. The first time the word Gospel is used in the Scripture, it means more than just words. It’s a complete presentation of the power of Christ. Paul is very clear in saying that it’s not just words, but also includes power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.

It’s unfortunate that in our day there are those who think the Gospel is simply a cleverly crafted message designed to convince a sinner to get saved. When we believe that, we’re only working with a small part of the Gospel. For it to be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ there must also be a demonstration of power.

If I’m going to demonstrate something, then I need to know what it is. In natural terms, power is the ability of something to produce change. If nothing changes, then there’s no power.

Paul tells us here that when the true Gospel came forth – things changed. It’s not like many of our meetings today where we say, “That was a powerful message.” By we simply meant that we were stirred emotionally or felt goose bumps.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context. This teaching runs throughout the New Testament. The Good News must be demonstrated. That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom, because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.

There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle. As a result, the Good News, in many cases, has merely become an intellectual debate. Sometimes, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

The Gospel has to be a Word from God, not just a convincing argument. When I speak what God is saying, then the Holy Spirit is free to confirm the message. People are convicted by the Word and their lives are forever changed.

We need to get back to being a people who spend time listening to their God. Then, once we’ve heard His voice, we need to step out and speak what He’s saying to us. This is the true essence of the Gospel. This is what will change our society for Christ.

Question: What would church look like where the true Gospel was preached?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Have You Been Gospel Approved?

ApproveIn my last post I talked about the true Gospel. I said that it was more than just words, but included the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. Why is there so little of the whole Gospel of Christ being presented in our generation?

The same letter of Paul that we looked at last time gives us the answer to this question.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

In the last post we saw that Paul understood the true Gospel as including power, the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction. That might have been surprising to some. But I believe his words in this verse would totally shock many preachers if they understood their significance.

According to Paul, you need to be approved by God to preach this Gospel. Actually it’s deeper than that. He said that you need God’s approval even to be entrusted with this Gospel.

Is this what’s taught in Bible schools? I don’t think so; at least I’ve never heard it taught. In my experience preaching the Gospel is simply coming up with a Scripture for an opening text. Then we apply it to the need for the hearers to “get saved.”

Where’s the power? Where’s the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and the deep conviction? I believe that there’s too much unapproved Gospel being preached these days. That’s why many have written off Christianity as a dead horse that needs to be removed from society.

How do you become approved to be entrusted with the true Gospel? The answer to this is why there’s so little of it in our generation. It’s not about college degrees or denominational accreditation. No, it’s much deeper than that.

Paul makes it clear that this approval can only come from God. Furthermore, the test takes place in your heart. It’s what Jesus talked about in the parable of the sower.

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop — thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:20

The test is in your heart – where you hear and plant the Word. This requires time in the presence of the Lord. It means that we have a listening ear toward the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Then, when Gods sees the quality of the crop produced by the Word planted in our heart, He grants His approval. Then we see the manifestation of the Word of God when we present the Gospel. Then the lives of the hearers are changed by that powerful Word from God.

Question: How would churches be different if we sought the approval of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2014 in Anointing, Ministry, Power of God, Word of God

 

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Have You Heard the Good News?

SharingFor the last few posts I’ve been talking about the Good News of Jesus Christ.  What exactly is that Good News?  I think you’ll be surprised at how the modern church has turned the message around, making it empty of its power.

If I were to ask people “What is the Gospel?”, I would probably receive many answers.  There are a host of believers who are actively trying to “win the lost.”  They would most likely give me very Biblical answers.

What I want to know are the perceptions of those who hear the Gospel.  From talking with unbelievers who have been “witnessed to” I could boil it down to the following: “You’re an evil sinner going to hell, but if you repeat a special prayer you can go to Heaven.”

If that’s what they got out of an encounter with a Christian, then something’s wrong with our approach.  There is no way to demonstrate a statement like that.  That’s why so many unbelievers are bitter toward those who have tried and failed to convert them.

We need to return to a true understanding of what the Good News is all about.

Here is an example of Jesus’ ministry.

“The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

Jesus made two statements.  The kingdom of God is near was the Good News.  The Lord then told the people how to respond to this Good News.

Repent and believe is not the Good News, it’s the response that’s needed.  We must learn that the power is in the Good News, not in the response to the Good News.  In many cases, we have started calling the response, the Gospel.  You cannot go out preaching “repent and believe” and assume you’re bringing the Gospel to the world.

When it comes to the Good News, one size doesn’t fit all.  There are gang members and single moms, Wall St. executives and the homeless.  Is the Good News the same for all of them?

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the response to the Good News must be the same for all people.  But the message itself will be different depending upon who you’re talking to.  This is how God established it in His Word.

God, Himself, gave us four Gospels.  Matthew was written for the Jews and Mark for the Romans.  Luke was for the Greeks and John contained Good News for the Christian.

It’s a fact that religious people need to hear something different than the unchurched.  The Bible itself describes the Good News in many ways.  It’s called the Gospel of the Kingdom, of God, of Christ, of God’s grace, of your salvation, and the Gospel of peace.

Of course, no matter how the Gospel message is tailored to an audience, Jesus Christ is central.  Furthermore, it all must be demonstrated by the power of the Holy Spirit in order for the world to see the full picture.

Question: How can you bring the Good News to those in you sphere of influence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in The Church, The Gospel

 

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The Place of Signs and Miracles

One WayI believe that signs and miracles are a part of the true Gospel.  Without them, it’s difficult to impact the unbeliever.

The Apostle Paul refers to this truth throughout his writings.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 15:18-19

Paul tells us how he led the Gentiles to obey God by announcing the Gospel and making disciples.  Notice, that he accomplished this by what he SAID and DID.  It was through the power of signs and miracles.  The difference between a sign and a miracle is that a sign is a miracle that confirms what you say about God.

The key issue is that by operating in this way, Paul fully proclaimed the gospel.  I believe that just talking about Christ is not the whole Gospel.  The Bible is clear that the kingdom of God is “not a matter of talk but of power.” (I Corinthians 4:20)

Last week I asked, what is it about the Gospel that we’re ashamed of ?  I used some illustrations.  If I won a new car I would call you over to look at it.  If I got a promotion at work, I would immediately show you my new business cards.  How is that different from the spiritual Good News?

I believe it’s because we have reduced the Gospel to clichés.  “Jesus loves you.”  “Jesus wants to bless you.”  “God loves you and I do too.”

The problem is that there’s no demonstration.  It’s not like the new car or the promotion at work because I offer you no proof of what I’m saying.

Based upon Scripture, if there’s no demonstration, then there’s no Gospel.  Many are ashamed because all they can do is tell about Jesus.  Some can’t even see the proof in their own lives because of the lack of power.  It makes many believers feel like charlatans when they share the Good News.

It seems we’ve lost the original Good News.  We don’t understand the power of God and we don’t understand the Gospel. The two go hand in hand.

Without the Good News, there’s no need for the demonstration of power.  Some American Christians want the power without proclaiming the Good News.  The fact is, that without the message of the Gospel there’s no need to demonstrate healing, prosperity, joy, freedom from depression, or anything else the Lord has provided for us through the cross.  I’m striving to spur the church on to get hungry to experience the full Gospel.

That’s why Paul could say that he had fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ.  Not only did he tell about Christ, but he also demonstrated the love and power of the Lord.

Question: How can we return to the true Gospel?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Power of God, Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Why Are We Ashamed of the Gospel?

Good NewsDo you find yourself hesitant to share your faith with the people around you?  Do you get flustered when asked about what you believe or your opinion on religious matters?  Many Christians find themselves in this condition.  I believe that the answer is found in Scripture.

In the past I posted about the power of God.  I defined it as the ability to produce change in the life of the believer.  This access to the life-changing power of God is vital to see the move of the Spirit in our lives and churches.

There is, however, an important ingredient that we very often trip over.  I am talking about the Gospel.  This is something that’s very misunderstood among Christians.  It’s extremely important to see the Gospel for what it is because it directly relates to the power of God.  I want to take a few posts to look at these factors.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Romans 1:16

We probably all know by now that the word Gospel in the Bible is a Greek word that literally means the Good News.  What is this Good News?  According to the verse above, it’s the power of God to save everyone.  That’s the Good News in a nutshell.  God is powerful enough to save all who come to Him.

Because of this truth, Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed” of this Good News.  But that statement leads us to a thought provoking question.  If I am ashamed of it, is it really the Gospel?

Think about this illustration for a moment.  You were just promoted to Vice President of your company and your salary was doubled.  Would you be too ashamed to tell anyone about that good news?  If you had just won a new car, would you be too ashamed to speak about that?

When it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have to ask, what is it that we’re ashamed of and why?  Is it even the Good News that we’re talking about?  These are the issues I want to deal with over the next few posts.

My goal is to make you hungry for the true Gospel.  It really is the power of God to save those who believe it.  It carries with it the life-changing ability of God.  If we could only understand the truth about this Good News it would change the way we approach the world.

Question: Why do you think we get uneasy sharing our faith with others?

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Power of God, The Gospel

 

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