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The Narrow Gate

The Narrow Gate

As we go through Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus teaching the crowds. As they listen to Him, questions arise in their minds. Sometimes they’re the same questions we wrestle with.

You may want to read Luke 13:22-30 before continuing.

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

Luke 13:22-23a NIV

This is an interesting question. Especially so, since we’re talking about ancient Israel.

Right now, we have many words in our religious vocabulary that have changed over the years. The word “saved” is one of them. That word has picked up a lot of spiritual baggage since this verse was written.

When we hear the word “saved”, it has a special meaning to us. We think of someone who’s prayed the sinner’s prayer. They’ve accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They have become a Christian.

When that question was first asked, this word had no such connotation. It was not a religious word in those days. It meant to be rescued from danger or destruction. It also meant to be kept safe and sound. As well as to save someone from suffering, as with a disease.

When this person questioned Jesus, he was speaking about the natural world. Israel was under slavery to the oppressive Roman Empire. There was a lot of fear over how that would turn out.

There were groups known as Zealots. These were anti-Roman terrorists who were making bold attacks against Roman holdings.

The Roman emperors were well know for making rash decisions to wipe out nations that rebelled against their rule. This was one of the very things that caused the religious leaders to put Jesus to death (John 11:47-50).

Throughout the Old Testament, there were prophecies about times of persecution where only a remnant of Israel survived. I believe that this was the thinking behind that question. This man wanted to plan ahead for his survival.

Jesus seems to ignore the question and begins to tell the crowd a more important remnant to be a part of. He starts to talk about the final judgment.

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”

Luke 13:23b-25 NIV

Jesus tells the crowd that the way to the abundant life is through a narrow, tight gate. He puts it in a way that our English translations don’t do justice to.

The phrase, make every effort, means to contend. It’s what athletes put themselves through in order to win an Olympic gold medal. It means that there’s a struggle that has to take place.

You might think that in the Olympics, the struggle is against the other athletes. That’s simply not the case. The greatest struggle is having to contend with your own body. It needs to be disciplined in order to win the event.

That’s why Jesus said that many will try to enter. This phrase means to seek or desire. The narrow entrance looks too hard to manage. They’re looking for an easier way in.

There are other places in the Scripture where the word, contend, is used.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 NIV

Faith is a battle. It requires us to overcome the desires of our flesh. It means yielding to the Holy Spirit. There’s no easy way. Spend the time necessary to see God’s will accomplished in your life.

Question: What are some of the struggles you contend with in your faith walk?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2022 in Revival, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Rule and Yeast

God’s Rule and Yeast

In my last post, we saw Jesus teaching the crowd through parables. He talked about the kingdom of God being like a mustard tree. It’s a tree that once it starts growing, it will be impossible to remove.

Now the Lord gives another illustration of the kingdom.

Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Luke 13:20-21 NIV

Here we see that the kingdom of God is like yeast. It was used in making bread.

Personally, I love making my own bread. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread while it’s baking. Then, putting butter on it while it’s still hot from the oven. It’s wonderful!

This verse, however, talks about it in a way that’s well beyond my capabilities. According to the words that Jesus used, this woman put yeast into about a half bushel of flour. I’ve never made that much bread at one time.

There are some things that we need to understand if we want to learn from this parable. First of all, yeast is a living organism. Even though it appears dry and lifeless, as soon as it comes into contact with water, it springs to life.

At that point it begins to grow and multiply. As it grows, it consumes sugars and produces carbon dioxide gas. That’s the tiny bubbles that cause the bread to rise. Without yeast, you just get crackers.

This is important because the church is a living organism. We’re the body of Christ on earth. We’re not just some sort of social organization. Because of this, the whole is greater than just the sum of its parts.

But there’s another important aspect of yeast. Once incorporated into the dough, it vanishes. There’s absolutely no way to remove it, once you add it into the flour. Just like the mustard tree, once it starts, there’s no stopping it.

The thing about yeast is that it does its work in secret. You can’t see how it works, but the dough begins to change. It starts to grow and take on that delicious fluffy texture.

We might think that the church operating outside of society. After all, we’re in the world, but not of the world. Although it’s true that we’re not the flour – the world is the flour – we should be having an effect on all those around us.

I know that a lot of the Scripture talks about yeast as if it’s a bad thing. At Passover, the Jews were to clean all of the yeast out of their homes. Then they were only to eat bread made without yeast; those were the matzoh crackers.

However, that’s not the whole story. The next feast after Passover was Pentecost. It happened fifty days after Passover. It was on this feast that the Holy Spirit came upon the church in power (Acts, chapter 2).

Look at God’s command for celebrating the feast of Pentecost.

From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord.

Leviticus 23:17 NIV

Pentecost was celebrated with a yeast bread. In the New Testament, the day of Pentecost was when the church was commissioned to be a witness to the world. You could say that that was the day the yeast was put into the flour and watered by the Holy Spirit.

Now the dough is rising. There’s nothing that can be done to stop the process. Our goal should be to have that positive effect on the world around us.

As we spend time with the Holy Spirit, He can activate us to be what we’re called to be. We will then see the power of God at work in our homes, schools, workplaces, and social environments. That’s who we’re meant to be as the body of Christ.

Question: What kind of effect are you having on those around you?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

God’s Rule and Mustard Trees

God’s Rule and Mustard Trees

We’re studying through the Gospel of Luke. In my last post, we saw Jesus getting into trouble because He healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath day. As a result, the Lord made a point of exposing the hypocrisy of religious thinking.

Now, to reinforce what He said, Jesus gives the crowd a couple of parables to think about. He wants to give them an understanding of the kingdom of God. This should also help us to understand how the kingdom of God should be growing.

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

Luke 13:18-19 NIV

First, let me say that unless you know the region, this parable can’t be understood properly. There are a few different species of “mustard” that are common around the world. The one that can grow into a tree is not the one where we get the yellow goop for our hot dogs.

Jesus wants to let us know some attributes of the kingdom – God’s rule on earth. We know that the kingdom of God isn’t visible right now. It’s established in the hearts of God’s people.

The word, compare, in the above verse means to be similar in character and appearance. So, when we look at this parable, we’re getting a pretty good description of God’s kingdom at work in the world.

You need to understand that the seed for the mustard tree is tiny. This speaks of the small origin of the church. Jesus Christ was one man. But He wasn’t just a man. He was God made flesh.

When He was planted; the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection birthed an eternal kingdom. But that’s only one of the keys. For this plant to grow, it has to be planted under just the right conditions. That’s why Jesus had to emphasize over and over that in His ministry, everything had to be fulfilled according to the Father’s plan.

Another thing about this plant – it germinates quickly, but grows very slowly, but steadily. God’s kingdom is unstoppable. Many have tried to put an end to it, without success. That’s because it’s a kingdom born and nourished in the spirit. God is at work in the lives of His people.

As I said earlier, this isn’t the mustard we think of in talking about condiments and seasonings. However, the leaves and fruit of this tree are edible and have a slight, mustardy flavor. So animals and people can derive nourishment from it.

That brings me to my last point. This mustard-tree plant is very hardy. Once it takes root, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Because of this fact, the mustard tree is used throughout the Middle East and Africa for land reclamation.

Because it thrives in hot, arid climates; it can turn deserts into habitable places again. And, isn’t that one of the mandates of God’s plan? We are to bring life to the dead places around us.

Of course, not everybody sees it that way. Because it’s so hard to remove, people either view the mustard plant as a beneficial tree or a troublesome weed. Some people spend a lot of time and resources to remove it.

That’s how the church is described sometimes. Paul had this to say about it.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NIV

That’s the kingdom of God – some people hate it, while others couldn’t live without it. There are those who have dedicated their lives to extinguish the work of God on earth. Talk about a wasted life.

As for me, I’m grateful to be found in the kingdom of God. As I continue in the Lord’s way; I look forward to seeing His grace, power, and blessing that he desires to manifest through His people.

Question: How have you experienced the unstoppable growth of God’s kingdom?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Healing and Water

Healing and Water

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, we see the religious leaders becoming more and more agitated by the Lord’s exposure of their hypocrisy. In today’s post, Jesus steps on their self-righteous view of the Sabbath.

You may want to read Luke 13:10-17 before continuing.

This incident occurred in a local synagogue where Jesus was teaching one Sabbath. He saw a woman in the crowd that was so crippled, she couldn’t stand up straight.

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Luke 13:12-13 NIV

The leader in charge of the synagogue became angry at this. Not only was she healed on the Sabbath, but she was praising God. After all, women were not allowed to speak in the synagogue.

This leader doesn’t take into account the fact that only God, Himself, could have accomplished this miracle. Instead, he tells the crowd that the Sabbath is not the day for healing. This is another example of worship being reduced to laws made by men.

This flagrant misrepresentation of our Father-God made Jesus upset.

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

Luke 13:15-16 NIV

These are good questions. They’re the kind that self-righteous hypocrites don’t want answered. They’re also questions that should speak to us even in our generation.

We live in a time when miracles are not everyday occurrences. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that most Christians have never seen a true miracle. I’m talking about miracles that are clearly something that only God could do.

At this point, we have become very used to praying for people and nothing happens. Because of this experience, we don’t expect anything to happen and make all kinds of excuses for it.

“It’s just not God’s will for you to be healed.”

“Maybe you don’t have enough faith.”

“God is trying to teach me something through this sickness.”

I only have one thing to say about all this…

Let God be true, and every man a liar.

Romans 3:4b NIV

In this passage, Jesus equates healing to giving your animals their daily water. That’s a requirement. Animals need water to survive. This is how God’s provision of healing is talked about throughout the Scriptures.

In Matthew 15:26, Jesus calls healing the children’s bread. Again, it’s a daily requirement. As a parent, I can say without any hesitation, that I never prayed to see if it was God’s will to feed my children that day.

I can also say, I never let them go hungry because I wanted to teach them something. That is known as child abuse. God is not an abusive Father.

If there’s any problem with us receiving that healing, it’s on our part. I believe that it’s our understanding of how healing works that’s faulty. As the church matures, so will our experience in the miraculous.

That’s why I’ve spent so much time trying to teach on this subject. In the Search bar on this site, you should look for the series Healing 101 and Healing 201 if you want more information. I believe that this is something God is trying to restore to the church in our generation.

Press into the Lord and let Him restore His power in the church.

Questions: Have you witnessed the miraculous power of God? How?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2022 in Healing, Legalism, Power of God, Revival

 

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Fruit is not Optional

Fruit is not Optional

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives the crowd a parable.

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

Luke 13:6-9 NIV

I believe that the direct application of this is that Jesus was giving Israel a time-limit to accept Him as the Messiah. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and temporarily lost their place in the Holy Land.

There is, however, a more important application to the lives of God’s people. Beyond any question, God is looking for fruit in the lives of believers.

When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, He begins to transform us into Christ’s image. He wants us to live like Jesus did. This means that we bear spiritual fruit.

This fruit does not simply mean that we’re being nice people. You can be nice without the Holy Spirit’s help. The fruit that God is looking for is on a whole different level. The list of these characteristics is given in Galatians 5:22-23.

Back in 2017, I did a detailed series on each of these fruits. To read that series of posts, click here.

It should be clear from an understanding of the Fruit of the Spirit, that we need the power of God to fulfill them. The fruit are an outgrowth of a deepening walk with the Lord. The more time we spend with Him, the more we become like Him.

Unfortunately, there are those who read about this fruit, and feel that it would be nice to live like that, but I can’t work on that right now. We need to understand that bearing fruit is not optional. As a matter of fact, they’re not even something we can do by trial and error.

They’re called the fruit OF THE SPIRIT for a reason. They don’t come to us by disciplining our flesh. It’s not even a result of making up our mind to accomplish them. They can only spring from our spirit being led by the Holy Spirit.

You may think that Jesus is being judgmental with Israel in the above passage. You might feel that the Lord will look the other way as you do your own thing. What does the New Testament teach about this?

The writer of the book of Hebrews was speaking to a people who were under persecution. They were thinking about going back to Judaism. Listen to what he tells them.

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Hebrews 6:7-8 NIV

You may think this sounds hash. But, in reality, by rejecting the Fruit of the Spirit, you’re actually rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit in you. In that case, you’re in danger of losing the blessings of God in your life.

Jesus said that if we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit (John 15:1-8). He said that He was the vine, and we are the branches. If that’s the case, then you could say that the Holy Spirit is the life-giving sap running through every part.

If we block the work of the sap, then our branch will begin to wither. There will be no fruit, and it will be worthless as a part of the vineyard. No one want to be in that position.

Spend quality time in your relationship with the Spirit of God. Allow Him to continue His work in you. Then watch as your life produces the fruit that speaks to the glory of God.

Question: How fruitful is your life right now?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2022 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Why, God?

Why, God?

As we go through the Gospel of Luke, today we start chapter 13. Jesus is ministering to a crowd when He’s asked a question. It’s the type of question still asked today when tragedy strikes.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 13:1-3 NIV

This is one of those timeless questions. When some kind of catastrophe strikes, we want to know why. Why were all these people killed or injured? Were they bad people? Was God sending His judgment upon them?

I’m glad that Jesus dealt with this the way He did. He makes it clear that they didn’t die because they were bad people. It just happened because Pilate, the governor, was evil.

That’s something that we have a hard time dealing with. There are evil people in power, right now, all over the earth. They cause wars, oppress people groups, and terrorize the innocent. The question many people ask is; why didn’t God stop them?

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. On one hand, God loves all people with an unfathomable Love that we could never understand. On the other side, He created humanity with the ability of self-choice.

When someone in power chooses to start a war that kills thousands of innocent people, that was their choice. For God to stop them from making that choice, would be taking away that choice. In his perfection, God can’t do that.

Let me put it into perspective. Most people would have wanted God to stop Hitler from starting WWII. However, most people involved in adultery would not want God stopping them, even though it could destroy their family. Most people would not want God to stop them from getting drunk on the weekend.

If God took away free choice from Hitler, then He would have to take it away from everybody. We don’t want that. We only want God to intervene on what we think are important matters. There are other wrongs that we want the Lord to keep His hands off.

The fact is that God has given humanity free choice. We have to live with that, even if some of the choices we make cause deep suffering. Our response should be to reach out to Christ for the cure to this dilemma.

There was another question that was on their hearts.

Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 13:4-5 NIV

Another problem we have is the matter of natural disasters. Many people call them “acts of God”. Let me tell you straight up, God has nothing to do with tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, or even COVID.

Yes, I know there are Christians who say that God sent these disasters to a certain region because He was judging them. That’s totally unscriptural. We’re now living in a time of grace. Judgment is being reserved for the end.

We have to realize that we’re in a spiritual war right now. Satan, the enemy, is becoming more and more desperate as he sees the end approaching. In his hatred of humanity, he’s shooting out volleys of his “flaming arrows” (Ephesians 6:16).

During ancient warfare, the archers weren’t aiming at any particular person. They would simply send up a cloud of arrows knowing that most of them would hit somebody. That’s what the enemy is doing now with these natural disasters.

That’s why it’s so important to keep our faith up and healthy in these last days. Remember, faith is a shield against the effects of these attacks. Our faith will allow us to continue to stand in Christ in spite of a direct hit from one of these arrows.

Question: How do you keep your faith strong during these days?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Judging Ourselves Rightly

Judging Ourselves Rightly

In my last post, I talked about discerning the times we live in. Jesus rebuked the people of His day for not seeing that it was the time for Messiah to arrive. Then, by knowing this, they would see that He was the long-expected Christ.

The Lord continues this thought a little further.

Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”

Luke 12:57 NIV

This is an important principle for us to understand. We need to be able to look at our situation in relationship to God’s Word – and decide what’s right. The Jewish people failed the test and paid the price for it.

Jesus warned them about what was coming.

As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Luke 12:58-59 NIV

Jesus talks here, about someone you’re in disagreement with. You think that you’re right and he’s wrong. That’s how the leadership of Israel was viewing their Messiah.

They didn’t like what He was teaching them. They were upset over the fact that the Lord pointed out their inconsistencies. They were at odds with Him on many levels.

Jesus tells them that it will take hard work, but they need to be reconciled with Him. This involves changing the way they think about their lives and ministries.

Now was the time for them to repent and change. There will come a day when it’s too late. Jesus Christ, Himself, will change from being their Advocate and will become their Judge.

I don’t believe that the Lord is talking about the final judgment here. That’s because there will be a payment the person in prison can make in order to be released.

There are those who have a point of contention with Christ and His ways. They like the fact that Jesus is Savior, but they don’t want to acknowledge Him as Lord.

That was the problem in ancient Israel. They wanted a Messiah who would free them from bondage to the Roman Empire. They weren’t looking for a spiritual leader to free them from the bondage of sin.

We’re much the same in our generation. We want to be freed from sickness, depression, fear, and poverty. At the same time, we don’t want the Lord to mess with our internet time, TV binge-watching, or social calendar.

In the above verse, the phrase, try hard literally means to work at it. This means that changing our attitudes to the Lordship of Christ is hard work. In our humanity, we want to set the agenda for our lives.

The Lord warns us that there’s a price to pay for doing it our own way. We find ourselves “locked up.” We can’t seem to enter the abundant life spoken of in the Scripture. Many times, there are hard decisions and actions we have to take to get back on track with God’s will for our lives.

Many times, people have asked me why they keep having to deal with the same problems over and over again. Sometimes, it’s because God is trying to get your attention. He wants you to see that you’re heading in a wrong direction.

James tells us that problems are trials of our faith (James 1:2-3). If you fail a trial, you may have to go through it again. Your best solution is to learn the lesson and pass the test. That’s why we’re told to test ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Learn the lesson of Israel. Follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Wholeheartedly listen to and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit working in you. That’s the best route to a fulfilled life.

Question: How do you view the Lordship of Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2022 in Faith, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Discerning This Time

Discerning This Time

Continuing through Luke’s Gospel, we see Jesus speaking to His disciples with the crowds listening. Now He directly addresses the people following.

He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Luke 12:54-56 NIV

It’s interesting to see Jesus talking about the weather. In a society where most of the activity took place outdoors, everyone could predict the weather. Most people could look at the sky, feel the direction of the wind, and could guess pretty accurately what was coming.

We like to know the weather as well. There are whole cable channels dedicated to forecasting the weather.

In this verse, the Lord rebukes the people because they can tell the weather by looking at the signs. On the other hand, they could see everything happening around them in Israel, and not discern that Messiah had come.

They should have been looking to Him as the leader of a new movement. They should have been changing their lifestyles to conform to His Word.

Instead, they treated Christ as if He were a religious entertainer. He was someone they were excited to see come to their town. But when He left, it was back to business as usual.

But that begs the question, are we able to discern the times we’re living in? Do we know what’s coming and how we should prepare ourselves?

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV

This is one of many verses that gives us the “weather report” for the last days. I don’t think you need a seminary degree to understand what it’s saying. I also think that you would have to have your head buried in the sand to not see it as a description of the society we live in, at least in the USA.

Over the last few posts, I’ve been going through Luke, chapter 12. Jesus has been teaching about what it means to have a last day’s mindset. We need to be preparing our hearts and minds for the days ahead.

I don’t know everything that’s ahead of us, but I do know this…Jesus said we need to be spiritually awake and alert. We must have our spiritual lamps burning. We should be building our faith in God’s Word. Along with that, we must be fulfilling our calling in Christ.

That being said, I look around me in the body of Christ. In many areas I see business as usual. I see believers on social media with the same attitudes as the world. I see Christians afraid of the same things the world is afraid of.

I just want to yell out, “Hey people, read God’s weather report! The storm is coming. We need to be building on the rock. It’s time to stop building on the sand.”

A few days ago, in my post, The Last Days Mindset 3, I talked about the need to beware of dissipation, spiritual drunkenness, and anxieties. That’s the trap the world is falling into. We have no business falling victim to the loss these things bring.

We need to be watching and prepared for the Lord’s return. If needed, wake up, turn around, and get back on track with the Lord. Spend time in the Holy Spirit, strengthening your life for the days ahead.

Question: How prepared are you for the living in the Last Days?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Holy Spirit and Fire

The Holy Spirit and Fire

We’re continuing in our study through Luke’s Gospel. The Lord is teaching about the future ministry of His disciples and the church. At that point, the disciples probably didn’t understand most of what Christ was saying. But, looking back, we can take it to heart.

I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

Luke 12:49-50 NIV

The Lord begins to talk about the results of His ministry on the earth. There’s a fire He wants to start, but He has to undergo His immersion first. Jesus is talking about His death, burial, and resurrection.

The fire is to be an important part of what He starts at His resurrection. He mentioned it at another place in His ministry.

Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Mark 9:49-50 NIV

In this section, the Lord is not talking about us being the salt of the earth. He’s speaking about the salt of fire being placed within us. I believe that He’s talking about the Holy Spirit, who we receive when we become a Christian.

Throughout the Bible, God is referred to as a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Elsewhere, we’re told not to put out the Holy Spirit’s fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19). It’s through this purifying work of the Holy Spirit that we’re made clean before God.

There is a consequence of this, however. Not everybody wants to be changed by the Spirit of God. There are those who will refuse to accept this free gift of salvation.

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Luke 12:51-53 NIV

Peace is a big subject when you talk about Christ. At Christmas time we sing about “Peace on Earth.” That’s what Christ is talking about here, but that won’t come about until His return. At that time the Lord will reign over the earth and there will be peace.

Until then, the earth will be in turmoil. Part of that will be the tension between darkness and light. The kingdom of God vs the enemy’s rule on earth. Many times this war will erupt right inside our homes. This happens when some family members are Christians and some are not.

We experience this on many occasions. We need to be going to the Lord to receive grace to win over our families. Sometimes that’s the hardest place to minister. I’ve heard so many stories where a family member comes to Christ through a friend, even though they had rejected that same witness from their family.

But there’s another peace that’s available to us, as believers. That’s God’s peace. It’s the peace that should be active in His people. Jesus said that He was going to give it to us (John 14:27).

I believe this is the peace that Jesus was referring to in the verse in Mark, above. If we let God salt us with His purifying fire, then we’ll be clean from all the things that cause conflict. By submitting to the Holy Spirit’s work, the church can be a place that shows forth the peace of God. This should be an example to the world around us.

Of course, we want our loved ones to enter into this peace. We need to be praying for them. And praying for the grace to reach them.

But, if we find that they refuse to listen to our testimony, there’s another prayer that we must use. We should be praying that God would send someone to them that they will listen to. We can’t be so stubborn to think that we’re the only person God will use to reach them. Pray for a Christian friend to bring the Word they need to hear.

Question: Who are you praying for to receive the Gospel of Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Rewards From God

Rewards From God

In my last few posts, I’ve been looking at a teaching that Jesus gave His disciples about a Last Days mindset. He finishes, by talking about rewards and punishments. Our best bet is to live in such a way as to receive rewards.

Did you know that your eternal rewards are based upon how well you live up to the Lord’s teaching? The Bible does speak over and over again about the different levels of rewards based upon the work we perform throughout our lives.

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Luke 12:47-48 NIV

The fact is that we’re responsible for what we’ve received. A young Christian is not responsible for the truths that have not yet been made real to him. Someone who’s been walking with the Lord for years, and ignoring the Lord’s call, will receive less in the kingdom.

It’s clear from Scripture that we’re going to be responsible for the grace that we’ve been given. With a greater anointing and calling comes greater responsibility.

I’ve found that many believers, ministers especially, want the miracles and the big churches without the character it takes to walk uprightly before God in that kind of work. The Lord wants us to grow from the inside out. An increase in power, without a corresponding increase in character, will destroy our spiritual walk.

As a matter of fact, it’s probably too late for you now. You’ve read too much. If you’ve been reading my blogs regularly, then God is going to require excellence from you and your ministry. Now that you know He’s a God of excellence, and that He requires excellence in His followers, you must begin to walk in it. Read on!

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

The Lord talked to His disciples about the narrow road. We like to interpret this verse as if it’s merely talking about the road of salvation. Salvation is indeed the first step. When we choose to follow Christ, we choose a better path than that of the world.

I believe, however, that this Scripture has a broader meaning in application to the body of Christ. Very few find the walk of excellence to which we’ve been called. “The few;” that sounds like the definition of excellence to me – “that which goes beyond the expected or the normal.”

The Lord expects us to find the narrow gate of excellence. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. That’s why we need to be living up to the revelation we’ve received.

This is especially true as we live out the last few years before the Lord’s return. The world is not going to get any better. The challenges of society will continue to grow. Our only response should be to deepen our walk with God, if we want to live victoriously.

I know there are those who get upset when I talk about striving to receive a reward from the Lord. They say that we should serve God without any thought of rewards.

That is partly true. If I received nothing from the Lord except for this great salvation, it would be worth it all. I would serve Christ wholeheartedly no matter what.

However, God knows how human beings think. He makes it clear to us that He has rewards in store for those who overcome in life. If the Lord didn’t want this knowledge to motivate us, then He should never have told us about it.

So, since He places the hope of rewards before me, I’ll strive to receive everything that God has prepared for me and wants me to have. I hope you have that same desire.

Question: How well are you living up to your knowledge of God’s Word?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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