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Fasting and Victory over the Flesh

I’m posting about how to win the war against the flesh.  There’s one more battleground that we need to talk about.  It’s illustrated in something that happened with Christ and His disciples.

The disciples had tried and failed, to cast a demon out of a young man.  After Jesus was able to do it, the disciples asked Him privately why they were unable to.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:20-21, NKJV

The disciples’ problem was unbelief.  Jesus explains to them that faith as small as a mustard seed, working all by itself, can move a mountain.  Nothing would be impossible for us if faith was the only issue.

If it were only about faith, then America should have the most miracles of any country on earth.  We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  In America, we have access to more of the Word than in any other country.

The problem is that we have unbelief alongside that faith.  The U.S. is also one of the most flesh-driven countries on earth.

Just driving down the street I can see a billboard that feeds my flesh.  Standing in a checkout counter, listening to the news on the radio, almost everything I do causes me to access food for my flesh.  Even though I try to filter it by “taking every thought captive,” some of this trash still gets through.

So the stronger my spirit is built up by the Word of God, the more my flesh is built up just by living in this society.  It’s the presence of these two powerful forces in my life – faith and unbelief – side-by-side, that’s watering down my spiritual strength.  What can I do about it?

The key is the statement made by the boy’s father.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

We have plenty of faith, but how do we overcome our unbelief?  There is a solution.  Jesus tells the disciples, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting.”

The question is; this kind of what?  Most people say He was talking about the demon.  I don’t believe it.  A demon couldn’t care less whether you’ve fasted or not.  Look at the emphasis of the verse.  It’s the disciples who were talking about the demon.

Jesus never once mentioned the demon.  He spent the whole time talking about the problem – unbelief.  What Jesus wants you to get rid of is unbelief.  It’s this kind of unbelief that blocks the working of your faith to the point where nothing happens, even though you believe the Word of God.

Where does fasting come into the picture?  Fasting is a way to forcefully and supernaturally win a major victory against your flesh.  You’re telling it, “I don’t care what you say – I’m not listening to you today.”

When you fast, it’s as if you’re turning down the volume control to the voice of your flesh.  This allows the faith that you have to effectively become stronger.  Without the voice of your flesh talking so loud, you will be better able to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to your spirit.

This is why I often tell believers that if they want to see a great change in their lives, they need to fast regularly and consistently.

Question: How well do you hear from God presently?  Would you like to increase your spiritual sensitivity?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Victory over the Old Self

In my last post, I talked about the spiritual, surgical attack 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 o’clock 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 on our own.  They had learned that the spiritual battle against the flesh could only be won in the spirit.

I also see the same thing happening in our generation. 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?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Attacking the Flesh in Water Baptism

I’m posting about our spiritual battle against the flesh – our old man.  In my last article, I talked about defending your mind against the attacks of the sin nature.  Now we want to go on the offensive.

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

We can’t live our whole life playing defense against sin.  According to Paul, the first thing we should be taught is how to put off the old self. Take the war to him.  We need to start seeing some forward momentum.

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 sins.

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 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.

By faith, we see our old self dead and buried under that waters of baptism.  That’s got to be our attitude.  When we rise out of the water, by faith we assume that our old flesh stays under.

This is the first battle in a major campaign against the flesh.  It’s also a major victory.  By your act of obedience, you’ve placed a demand on God, and He completed the work.

Romans chapter 6 continues this thought. 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: Were you baptized in water?  How was your faith released during your water baptism?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2020 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Spiritual Battle #1 – The Flesh

The spiritual war that we find ourselves in has many fronts.  Over the next few posts, I want to talk about them.  The first, and probably the fiercest, is the battle against our own flesh.

The truth is that our flesh puts a ceiling on what we can do for God.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to do God’s will.  Your flesh is your greatest hindrance.

Too many Christians want to take on the devil before they even have a victory on their home turf.  I believe that the enemy gets blamed for some things that we bring on ourselves.  This is the first struggle that we need to face.

Look at how the Apostle Peter describes it.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11

This is actually a verse that’s rich in description.  We miss it in the English translation.  It literally reads, hold yourself away from the longings of the flesh which is on a military campaign against your soul.

This verse says a lot.  The first thing I see is that my flesh has a will, with desires and longings.  As a matter of fact all the parts of my being – body, soul, and spirit – have a will of their own.

“But I’m not a bad person.  I don’t have any evil intentions.”

Please understand that evil is not the big problem.  That’s not all there is to this struggle.

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:17

Your spirit wants to serve and please God.  It wants the Lord’s best for you.  Your spirit desires to see you do great things in the name of Christ.

Your flesh wants just the opposite.  It doesn’t necessarily want you to do evil.  It only wants you to keep from fulfilling God’s plan for your life.  Distraction is one of its chief weapons.

Another thing I learn from Peter’s letter is that my flesh is actually on a military campaign.  Why exactly do you go to war?  Simply put, to win a victory; to dominate and crush your enemy.  That’s the goal of our flesh in regard to our spirit.

But even more than that, a military campaign speaks of something bigger than just a simple “hit and run” exchange.  My flesh is in it for the long haul.  I have to realize that this war is not going away until I receive my resurrected body at the return of Christ.

Too often we get complacent because we see a momentary victory over the flesh.  We think we have everything under control so we get a little lazy.  We stop doing the things that brought us to this level.  We quickly find out that the flesh wasn’t gone, just waiting for a better opportunity to rise up.

How do we overcome in this struggle?  First, I can tell you from experience what doesn’t work.  I’ve tried will-power, New Year’s resolutions, guilt, and self-discipline to tame the flesh.  These are all wasted efforts.

If we’re going to truly walk in victory over our sinful, human nature, then we have to understand the strategy.  Scripture is clear about how this is accomplished.  If we’re going to walk in freedom, then we have to do it God’s way.

Beginning in my next post, I’ll outline the scriptural way to attack and overcome the flesh.  But don’t expect a one-time, do it and forget it solution.  This battle must be fought with consistency for your whole life.

Question: What methods have you tried to overcome the desires of your flesh?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Spirit-Led Life

In my last post, we saw that our freedom in Christ was not a license for our flesh to have its own way.  Our liberty is actually freedom FROM the old man, not freedom for it.  In today’s post, I want to talk about how to access this freedom that Christ won for us.

When we walk in the liberty of Christ, it’s easier to see the positive changes in our life.  The Holy Spirit will bring change from the inside out. This truth is also brought out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

Many times, when people quote this verse, they’re using it as a weapon.  I’ve heard people say things like, “Look at how that person lives, and they call themselves a Christian. They’re walking in their flesh so they must not have the Holy Spirit in them. They can’t really be saved.”

This isn’t a verse that Paul gave us to test whether a person is saved or not. This is a passage of Scripture to tell us how to receive the power we need to walk in victory over the flesh. The only way you’ll have the power you need to not gratify the flesh, is to live your life in the spirit.

You can’t do it by exercising the will power of your soul or even disciplining your body. This means that you spend time praying in the spirit, communing with God in the realm of the spirit. That’s where we access the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.

I know that there are those who would disagree with me on this point.  They don’t believe that praying in the spirit, using our prayer language, is for today.  I’ve even been told by some that they believe they can “pray in the spirit” in English (their native language).

One thing you have to remember is that the Apostle Paul wrote this.  He was adamant that he had a rich prayer life in the spirit through praying in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).  I believe that when he says to live by the spirit, he means a daily activation of the spirit through the use of this gift.

Please understand that this isn’t the only place in Scripture where we’re told to use the spirit to change our behavior.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

This is another piece of that same puzzle. Our outside will never change unless we have a change of heart. The problem is that our heart itself is very deceptive. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling.

That’s why true change can never be imposed upon it from the outside, by the written code. It must come from the inside, by the power of the spirit.

I don’t believe that a prayer you craft from your own mind and then speak from your mouth (part of your flesh), is ever going to be powerful enough to change your heart and actions.  It’s only when your spirit gets involved that true change will take place.

It’s only through daily prayer in the spirit that we see the fruit of what Paul is talking about here.  It’s through this gift that our spirit lines up with the Holy Spirit to put our mind and flesh on the right path.

I need make the choice to follow the Spirit’s leading. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today – while the Holy Spirit is seeking my attention. Don’t ignore His gentle voice calling for your fellowship.

Isn’t it great to know that your spirit, submitted to the Holy Spirit, can change your heart and walk?

Question: Is there something in your life that’s been hindering you from fully submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Legalism, Prayer, Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spirit Overcomes Flesh

FlyingIn my last post we saw how the spiritual walk, specifically prayer in the spirit, will bring change from the inside out. This truth is also brought out in other parts of the Scripture.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

This is another piece of that same puzzle. Our outside will never change unless we have a change of heart. The problem is that our heart itself is very deceptive. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling.

That’s why true change can never be imposed upon it from the outside, by the written code. It must come from the inside, by the power of the spirit. Isn’t it great to know that your spirit can change your heart?

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

Our new knowledge of the power of prayer in the spirit should give us a whole new insight into what this verse is actually saying. Many times, when people quote this verse, they’re using it as a weapon.

I’ve heard people say things like, “Look at how that person lives, and they call themselves a Christian. They’re walking in their flesh so they must not have the Holy Spirit in them. They can’t really be saved.”

This isn’t a verse that Paul gave us to test whether a person is saved or not. This is a passage of Scripture to tell us how to receive the power we need to walk in victory over the flesh. The only way you’ll have the power you need to not gratify the flesh, is to live your life in the spirit.

You cannot do it by exercising the will power of your soul, or even disciplining your body. This means that you spend time praying in the spirit, communing with God in the realm of the spirit. That’s where we access the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit are a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunshine).

This is something that most Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.

They will not even come by will power or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT. Why would we then think they would be the product of our works, will power, or trial and error?

The fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be from our strength.

In my next post, I’ll give some examples of how this works.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Fasting and Victory over the Flesh #spiritualfast

TrophyI’m posting about how fasting will revolutionize your spiritual walk.  The disciples had tried, and failed, to cast a demon out of a young man.  After Jesus was able to do it, the disciples asked Him privately why they were unable to.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:20-21, NKJV

The disciples’ problem was unbelief.  Jesus explains to them that faith as small as a mustard seed, working all by itself, can move a mountain.  Nothing would be impossible for us if faith was the only issue.

If it were only about faith, then America should have the most miracles of any country on earth.  We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  In America we have access to more of the Word than in any other country.

The problem is that we have unbelief alongside of that faith.  The U.S. is also one of the most flesh-driven countries on earth.  Just driving down the street I can see a billboard that feeds my flesh.  Standing in a checkout counter, listening to the news on the radio, almost everything I do causes me to access food for my flesh.  Even though I try to filter it by “taking every thought captive,” some of this trash still gets through.

So the stronger my spirit is built up on the Word of God, the more my flesh is built up just by living in this society.  It’s the presence of these two powerful forces in my life, faith and unbelief, side-by-side, that’s watering down my spiritual strength.  What can I do about it?

Again, the key is the statement made by the boy’s father.  We have plenty of faith, but how do we overcome our unbelief?  There is a solution.  Jesus tells the disciples, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting.”

The question is, this kind of what?  Most people say He was talking about the demon.  I don’t believe it.  A demon couldn’t care less whether you’ve fasted or not.  Look at the emphasis of the verse.  It’s the disciples who were talking about the demon.

Jesus never once mentioned the demon.  He spent the whole time talking about the problem – unbelief.  What Jesus wants you to get rid of is unbelief.  It’s this kind of unbelief that blocks the working of your faith to the point where nothing happens, even though you believe the Word of God.

Where does fasting come into the picture?  Fasting is a way to forcefully and supernaturally put down your flesh.  You’re telling it, “I don’t care what you say – I’m not listening to you today.”

When you fast, it’s as if you’re turning down the volume control to the voice of your flesh.  This allows the faith that you have to effectively become stronger.  Without the voice of your flesh talking so loud, you will be better able to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to your spirit.

Question: How well do you hear from God presently?  Would you like to increase your spiritual sensitivity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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