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Have You Seen the Red Flag?

There’s something interesting that happens when you’re watching football.  Have you ever noticed that everything stops when the announcer says, “There’s a flag on the field.”

That means that something happened that shouldn’t have.  Now we’re waiting to find out what happened…and what needs to be done about it.  Did you know that we have that same type of experience in our Christian walk?

Listen to how Paul explains it to the Galatian church.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

Paul has just told the Galatians that if they cultivate their walk in the spirit, then the flesh will not be an issue.  Now he goes on to tell them that the work of the flesh shines its light through the following list.

Some of these things we classify as really bad.  Things like sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, and orgies.  But the interesting thing is the list of sins that we barely even think about as sin.  Paul sandwiches them right in the middle of all the “big” ones.  In God’s eyes, they’re all the same.

First of all, I want to talk about what this list is NOT.  This isn’t a checklist for judging whether someone’s a Christian or not.  The phrase, those who live like this, literally means those who perform these things repeatedly or habitually.  He’s not talking about a one-time failure.

Also, he’s not saying that Christians who live like this are not saved.  There’s a difference between our salvation and our inheritance.  We do not inherit salvation.  Salvation is our supernatural birth into God’s family.

Our inheritance is our reward for being a contributing member of the family.  As a matter of fact, if you believe he’s talking about losing your salvation here, then according to this list, most churches in America are unsaved.

If you’re habitually involved in one or more of these activities, then there’s something you’re not doing that you could receive a reward for.  The things on this list can rob you of your inheritance in Christ.  Paul makes it clear that you can be saved and yet have absolutely no rewards (1 Corinthians 2:10-15).

We need to understand what this list is really all about.  Paul says that it’s the shining light of the flesh.  These things are warning signals to us.  It should be like a flag the referee throws down on the field of our life.

These were not given so that I could judge you.  I have this list so that I can assess my own walk with the Lord.

My goal is to cultivate my walk in the spirit.  These behaviors are a sign that some area of my life is off track.  In my relationship with God, I need more interaction with the Holy Spirit.

So the bottom line is that Paul isn’t telling the Galatians a list of activities to keep away from.  He’s giving them a group of signals that will point them back to Christ.  They show our need for a deeper walk in the spirit.

Don’t get caught up in guilt and condemnation.  If you see these things appear, there’s a simple solution.  Go immediately before God and admit your fault in humility and repentance.  Receive His forgiveness.  Then use this experience to propel you forward into a deeper fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Question: How have you seen your life change as your relationship with the Lord grows?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Heed the Warning

How easy is it to take criticism?  We don’t like being told that we’re going down the wrong path.  But it’s necessary sometimes to keep us from bigger problems later on.

As we continue looking at the book of Galatians, the church has come to the point where they need to deal with Paul’s correction.  They’re being drawn down the slippery slope of legalism.  The Apostle is trying to warn them before it’s too late.

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Galatians 4:16

We would much prefer to be told how wonderful we are.  By pointing out their error, Paul risks their anger.  The word enemy in this verse actually means hateful.  They’re getting to the point where they don’t want Paul participating in their growth anymore.

That’s what happens when you start listening to the wrong people.

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you [from us], so that you may be zealous for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
Galatians 4:17-18

Paul is well acquainted with the methods used by false teachers.  They don’t have the Word of God to back them up, so they have to rely on other things.

According to this verse, they’re very loving and passionate towards you.  They show what seems to be a genuine concern for your welfare and growth.  But all the while, they’re really looking for your passion towards them.

It’s amazing how gullible we can be when someone starts by telling us what we want to hear.  That’s why false teaching usually begins with flattery.  Paul was clear that he never used this method to win people over.

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Romans 16:17-18

That’s the danger of listening to these false teachers.  After all, would you rather listen to someone telling you how great you are; or that you’re headed in the wrong direction?  The Galatian people were being tempted to end their relationship with Paul in order to serve these deceivers.

Paul is clear that zeal is really a good thing, as long as what we’re zealous for is the truth.  We must always ask ourselves if our zeal is for the Word of God for the goals of man.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Galatians 4:19-20

Because of their wavering, Paul has begun a campaign of intercessory prayer for them.  He was there when they were birthed into God’s kingdom.  But now, through self-righteous legalism, they’re trying to win God’s favor by their works.

Paul knows that this course will end in spiritual disaster for them.  He also knows that only the power of the Spirit of God can change the hearts of people.  So just like he interceded for their salvation, he’s now diligent in praying for their freedom from this deception.

Don’t be fooled.  Good works, in and of themselves will never bring you closer to the Lord.  It only comes through intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Question: What has been your experience, if any, with deceptive teachers?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Legalism, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Leaders Care

I’m posting about First Thessalonians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament.  At the end of the letter, Paul is giving some final principles that will help their growth.

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

It’s obvious that Paul is talking to the church leadership in this section.  The word, warn, in this verse is the same word admonish, that was used in the previous verse.  (I talked about it in my last post.)

These are things that true leaders should be watchful over.  The problem is that in our generation, so many people don’t want their leaders to be looking out for them.  We want to live however we choose with no accountability for our choices.

Then, if a leader truly cares about us, and warns us of the dangers of our lifestyle, we get upset and leave the church.  If God’s people are going to become a great spiritual force, then we need to listen to the exhortation of our leaders.

The first thing Paul says that a leader must do is to warn the idle.  This literally means to warn those who are out of order or unruly.

We know that the Lord we serve is a God of order.  The church, as well as our private lives, needs to be arranged according to His plan.  When we start deviating from His order, then we need to be warned of the trouble we’re getting ourselves into.

The next thing Paul tells us is to encourage the timid.  This is actually a very important part of being a leader.  The phrase literally means to relate near to the weak-souled.  The Greek word for relating near to someone implies telling your story to them.

A lot of times those who are weak in the faith think that those in leadership were born into it.  They don’t know the struggles, challenges, failures, or insecurities of those who lead.  When we share our stories with them, they begin to see what God can do through anyone who’s willing to follow the leading of the Spirit.

Another part of leadership is to help the weak.  This means to stand next to, and hold up the unestablished.  There are those in the body of Christ who haven’t put their roots down deep yet.  We need to be there to help those people to stand strong.

In a garden, there are times when you have to tie a young plant to a pole, to keep it stable, until its roots are deep enough to sustain it.  It’s the same with God’s people.  Many need the support and encouragement of a stable believer until they can stand firm on their own.  Too often we’re guilty of letting young believers fall away because we assume they know how to live for Christ right from the start.

The final part of leadership is to be patient with everyone.  Now that’s the tough one.  I’ve heard people say that they’re praying for patience.  That’s actually not the best way to become patient.

The reason for this is because patience is not a commodity you can receive; it’s a choice you have to make.  Patience is a choice to be willing to wait for God’s perfect timing in a matter.  It involves seeing things from God’s perspective and knowing that the final chapter of someone’s life hasn’t been written yet.

These are all important goals in the ministry of church leadership.  We, as leaders in the body of Christ, need to realize the truth that the Lord is looking for these qualities in us.  We aren’t judged on their response, only on our willingness to care for and encourage those under us.

Question: What growth have you seen in the lives of people who you’ve encouraged?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Warning!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMany times I’ve been asked, as a Pastor, why the Old Testament is even important to us. Many believers don’t ever read it. They say it’s too bloody and violent. Grace hadn’t been fully accomplished yet, so there are many instances where we see God’s wrath. Why read that kind of stuff anyway?

In today’s post, I want to continue talking about the importance of Scripture in our walk with the Lord. We must let the Bible take its rightful place in our daily lives.

At one point in his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul used ancient Israel as an example of how not to serve God. In telling them about how God dealt with the Jews, he mentioned some of their rebellions as well as the judgments they received.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 Corinthians 10:11

This verse makes it clear that the things that happened under the old covenant, especially the negative things, are a warning to us. The Greek word for warning in this verse means to place in our minds – in other words, the Lord is trying to grab our attention.

This is because we’re quickly approaching a time in history when all things will be fulfilled. The goal line is before us. We’re about to witness the final days of this entire age.

Because of that, we’re at a point in time that requires a different kind of walk from God’s people. We can’t live the way they did in ages past – that will not work for us.

Israel saw and heard incredible things – yet they fell away. We need to take this to heart. Even though we’re under grace, the message of the Old Testament is still important to us. No, we won’t come under judgment as Israel did. But the fact remains, God still hates the same lazy attitudes that He hated back then. He still loves the mindset that’s passionate for His will.

Israel didn’t know the great lengths that the Father would go to in order to save us and bring us into His family. They didn’t know about Christ dying on the cross. We do.

How much more should we embrace all that God has for us – both the responsibilities and the glories? The examples of Scripture warn us to be careful.

Even though we will not come under the judgment of the world, we may still lose some of our rewards if we live for ourselves. Salvation is based on grace; rewards are based upon obedience. Scripture is a warning to us that disobedience will always be dealt with. If you want all the rewards the Lord has set aside for you, then heed the warnings of Scripture.

Question: How have the warnings of Scripture kept you out of trouble?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Listen to God’s Warning

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m posting a series about Noah’s faith as recorded in Hebrews 11. In my last post I talked about how faith causes you to build upon the foundation of Christ.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Hebrews 11:7

The verse says that Noah was warned. But here’s the challenge. The things that God warned him about had not yet been seen.

It’s easy to prepare for the things that we see coming. A snow storm, a tax bill, or a new car purchase. The problem is that there are things we have yet to experience that the Lord warns us about.

In those times we build simply because of God’s warning. God’s Word warns us of many things. Some of them are good, and some are bad. Many of them are things we have not seen yet.

We don’t know God’s whole plan for us. On the other side, the effects of sin, living for self or chasing after the world aren’t always seen immediately. The problems start only after we’ve been off track for a while.

There are also other issues. Many times we start building on God’s Word, and then we go back to our old ways. We get impatient looking for the return on our spiritual investment.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”
Luke 14:28-30

Many believers are in this condition – unfinished, yet the project is abandoned. The work has stopped. They seem to be comfortable where they are and don’t want any more growth.

That’s a sad position to be in. I want to see growth in my life. I want to change and become more like Christ. That’s the only way that the world will be drawn to the Spirit of Christ in me.

How do you persevere? How do you keep allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life even when there’s not a lot of obvious evidence of anything going on?

We need to go back to the example of Noah in the above verse. It says that he moved in holy fear because of the warning he received. Because he believed God’s warning, it instilled a fear of the Lord in him.

It’s this fear of the Lord gives us perseverance. That’s where the ability to keep going in the hard times – or even the daily grind – comes from.

One of the problems is that so many people don’t have a correct understanding of the fear of the Lord. We must have this understanding if we’re going to continue the building process in our lives.

For now, I’ll simply say that fearing God has nothing to do with being afraid of Him. That’s not a holy fear. In my next post I’ll deal with what the fear of the Lord actually means.

Question: In what ways does your life show the fear of the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Faith, Word of God

 

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The Five Warning Signs of Ungodliness

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAUngodly.  The word usually makes us think of the unsaved.  The problem is that there are many ungodly Christians that are totally unaware of their condition.  Are you one of them?  Check out what the Bible says about it.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?
2 Corinthians 13:5

Paul tells us that we are to examine our lives.  This word literally means to scrutinize how we live.

Do you know Christ is in you?  Most Christians understand this concept.  They realize that Christ is in them.  When they asked Him to be the Lord of their lives, Christ made their heart His home.  Most believers will pass this test.

Does it matter to you?  This is where the test starts to get tough.  It’s surprising that many who belong to Christ really don’t give Him a second thought.  They go throughout the day without ever acknowledging Him.

It seems that they’re oblivious to the fact that Jesus is accompanying them wherever they go.  He’s a silent listener of every conversation.  If this was a reality to us, we would probably behave much differently.

Do you want to know God’s will?  Not only is Christ with us at all times, but He has a plan for our lives.  The question really comes down to; whose will is more important – mine or the Lord’s?  Many don’t want to know God’s will for their lives because they’re afraid it will interfere with their plans.

Do you want to accomplish God’s will?  Knowing God’s will is not the end of it.  What we really need to do is accomplish it.  Not only is Christ with us wherever we go, He expects us to represent him and His kingdom to the world.  What many don’t realize is that unless we answer “yes” to this question, God will not reveal His will to us.

Are you seeking God’s approval?  This is the final and greatest test of godliness.  Who are we seeking to please?  Are we after our own pleasure?  That of our friends or family?  The Bible is clear that unless we’re “God-pleasers” our lives will be worthless – there will be no reward at the end.

How do these questions play out in your life?  A “no” to any of the highlighted questions should be a warning that you’re in danger of ungodliness.  If so, then repent of it and move on with the Lord.

It’s time for God’s people to live like they truly understand the Lord’s presence in their lives.

Question: What signs of godliness do you see in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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