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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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What Are You Known For?

In my last post I talked about the way the Thessalonian believers imitated Paul’s lifestyle. They were commended for it.

But as we read further in Paul’s letter to them, we find out even more. This lifestyle, living for God, wasn’t a private thing. They weren’t just “closet Christians”. Here’s what Paul said about them.

And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

All over the region, people were talking about how the Thessalonians had received the Gospel. Of course, it was a Gospel that included a demonstration of God’s power. They allowed it to get into their hearts and change their lives.

The first thing that we see is that they were turned around. They had formerly been worshipping idols, but now they are servants of God. It takes the power of God to make that kind of change.

Serving idols is easy. As a matter of fact, our culture is full of idolatry. No, not the carved images, but we serve man-made idols. There are those who worship the gods of education, finance, entertainment, or sports.

The thing about idolatry is that it makes you feel good about what you can do. You can compare yourself to those around you.

“Look at me! I’m smarter than you.” “I’m more athletic than you.” “I’ve got more money than you.”

The reason it’s hard to turn to God from this is because it requires a whole new mindset. Once I turn to Christ, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. It’s not about what I can do, but what the Lord is doing in me.

When we serve idols, we’re actually serving ourselves. In the kingdom of God we serve Him. God sets the agenda for us.

The secret to their faithfulness was that they kept their eyes on Jesus. Part of Paul’s testimony about them was that they were actively waiting for Jesus. With their focus on Him, they were able to serve with joy.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

The word zeal means to be very eager to serve the Lord. I think that’s what’s missing in the lives of many believers. They have no eagerness to serve God. Why is that?

According to this verse, it requires spiritual fervor. The word translated as fervor literally means to be boiling over. It requires power to heat water to the boiling point. Left to itself it remains at room temperature – lukewarm.

If we will spend time with the Holy Spirit, then His power will be at work in our spirit. He can give us that spiritual fervor that we need to serve God with true zeal.

Then, just like the Thessalonian believers that Paul commended, our faith will become known to all those around us.

Question: How “hot” is your spiritual life right now? What can you do to increase it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Faith, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Whose Temple are You?

TempleI’m taking a few posts to talk about the jealousy of the Holy Spirit. It’s clear from Scripture that we serve a jealous God. We need to understand that if we continue to ignore and reject His attempts to cultivate a relationship with us, we start to arouse this jealousy.

What does this look like?

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I am a temple to the Holy Spirit. Think about it like the ancient Greek temples. My temple says Holy Spirit on the front.

What would you expect if you came to that temple? What if you entered it and saw a Star Trek Convention going on inside? You may question the priest about it.

“It’s only for this week.”

What if for the next few weeks you visited this temple and saw a beauty pageant, a chili cook-off, and a real estate seminar.

You’d ask; is this a temple to the Holy Spirit or is it something else? With that thought in mind, consider what happened when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple.

To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:16-17

Notice the righteous anger that Christ displayed. What was it that aroused such an attitude? The disciples realized that Jesus was consumed by a zeal for the house of God.

When Christ told His disciples about the Holy Spirit, He said that He was sending “another counsellor just like Me.” (John 14:26 – My paraphrase!) The difference is that the Holy Spirit lives in us. He lives permanently in His temple; our body.

The first verse we looked at in this series of posts said He was intensely jealous (James 4:5). Do we really get the point? We’re living in the Last Days. The Holy Spirit is starting to cleanse His temple. We need to submit to His program or face the loss.

Remember – the Holy Spirit will not hurt His temple. But He will start to ruin that which would try and steal our affection. In my experience, I’d rather willingly give up something, than have the Lord remove it from my life.

What do we do?

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

If you really want what the Holy Spirit’s desire, then sow to please the Spirit. He doesn’t say to summon up all your will power and live right. No! Simply submit to His plan and sow the Word and prayer. Spend time with the Spirit.

Question: What do you need to do to sow to please the Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in Power of God, Prayer, Revival, The Church

 

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Get Your Zeal On!

 

Fire DangerWe’ve all heard of the armor of God in Ephesians, chapter 6. Many people talk about the need to put on this holy armor. But do you know that there’s one more piece of clothing available to us that covers it all?

Paul the Apostle was a Bible scholar. He knew the Scripture better than most others of his day. What we fail to realize, is that he didn’t come up with the teaching of the armor of God on his own. It was actually from the book of Isaiah.

In Isaiah, chapter 59, we see God Himself putting on the armor – at least the helmet and breastplate. This is His personal armor – it was made to fit Him. That’s why I need to abide in Christ for it to fit me. But that’s another teaching…

I want to talk about something else that Isaiah saw as the Lord was preparing for the spiritual battle.

He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
Isaiah 59:17

The reason that Isaiah could only see the breastplate and helmet was because God put on some clothes over the suit of armor. Did you know that one of these is available to us today?

It’s not the garments of vengeance. We know from Scripture that vengeance is His alone.

I believe that part of our problems stem from the fact that we want the armor but still fail to fully clothe ourselves. It’s the zeal of the Lord that covers it all. That’s one of the things that the church is lacking in this generation. Paul puts it this way…

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

When should we be seen without the cloak? NEVER!! But what is zeal?

Zeal itself is a very strong emotion. It’s when you desire to possess some quality or possession of the one you’re zealous for. It’s actually the same as jealousy – only the positive side of that quality.

But I’m talking about being zealous toward Christ. This is a passionate, consuming zeal that’s focused on the Lord. It drives us toward the accomplishment of His will and the maintaining of His honor.

All of this is done in the face of whatever is happening in the world around us. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in the middle of good or bad circumstances.

Christ must be the focus of our zeal. We need to get emotional about our God. We need to stir it up.

That’s what warriors do before a battle. They would hold council the night before they met the enemy. They’d tell stories of former victories, sing, chant victory slogans, and raise the war cry. All of this was to stir up the emotion of zeal.

In the spiritual struggles we face, there’s no difference in the way we achieve victory. God wants us to put on His zeal before we enter the heat of battle. We must take up this attitude: “I live for the honor of Christ!”

Question: How often do you get emotional about the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Spiritual Warfare, The Church

 

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