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No Condemnation!

No Condemnation!

We’re continuing our study through Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this post we’re starting chapter 8.

Remember, in the last chapter we saw that there’s a battle going on between my mind and my flesh. Each of them is submitting to a different law. But, we can get victory through Christ.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2

Here’s another one of those passages that people like to take out of context. It’s one of the favorite verses for people who hate correction. The least bit of constructive criticism causes them to respond, “Stop speaking condemnation over me!”

That statement shows a total misunderstanding of what this verse means. It literally reads that there’s no guilty verdict in Christ Jesus. We’ve been declared “Not Guilty” in Christ. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t miss the mark sometimes.

Jesus made a statement to a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. He couldn’t have made it any clearer.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:11b

We need to take this to heart. Telling someone to stop sinning is NOT the same as condemning them. It’s part of the assignment of Christian leaders to lovingly warn believers of the outcome of their actions.

Condemnation is the final verdict. That’s why the phrase, in Christ, is so important. It’s because we’re found in Christ that the law of the Spirit of Life liberates us from law of sin and death.

What, exactly, is this law that liberates us? It’s in Christ.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

John 15:7-8

Actually, what Jesus said here was for us to remain in His Word. His Word remains in me if I remain in Him. James talked about this as well.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 1:21

He went on to say that we can’t just look into the Word, then forget it. We must continue in the Word. He concluded with an important statement of truth.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:25

Please understand that James is not simply talking about reading the Bible. He’s talking about remaining in Christ and allowing His Word to be planted in us. Notice that James equates the implanted Word as the perfect law that gives freedom.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom…

James 2:12

The truth is that we’re not going to be judged on the ten commandments. We’re going to be judged by the Word planted in us. This is the law of the Spirit of life that sets me free as I allow it to take root in my life.

Question: What’s the difference between condemnation and warning against sin?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Purpose of God-Given Authority

With this post, I’ll complete our walk through 2 Corinthians.  Paul summarizes some of his thoughts at the end.

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.  For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection.
2 Corinthians 13:7-9

Paul reiterates the fact that he wants to see the church strong and thriving.  That should be the goal of any minister of the Gospel.  We’re not here to nitpick or find fault in everything that’s done.

A true leader wants to see God’s will accomplished through the lives of every believer.  So, through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we should seek the advancement of all.

This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority — the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
2 Corinthians 13:10

Paul makes it clear that there’s a purpose to his God-given authority.  The reason the Lord has put Paul in this position is for the building up of the church.

I think there are Christian leaders who’ve forgotten this in our generation.  We have no authority for the tearing down of people.  Then we wonder why there’s no one following.

We need to walk in the grace of encouragement.  Then we’ll see the authority of Christ at work in us.

Paul gives this church some important advice.  It’s always easier for change to take place by being obedient to the Word of God.  The last thing we want is to have to endure a public rebuke.

It should be the same for us.  We need to be living a repentant lifestyle.  We should go to the Lord as soon as we feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Too many times we sweep things under the carpet.  We wait until things get totally out of control.  Only then do we finally humble ourselves before the Lord.  Instead, we should be quick to repent.

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:11-14

In the end, Paul gives them some final pieces of encouragement.  He wants the best for them.  It’s obvious that he can’t wait to see them and worship with them in person.

Question: In what ways do you use the authority that God has given you?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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6 Marks of a Spiritual Parent

Through Paul’s ministry, he gave birth to and established the church at Corinth.  In his second letter to them, he’s continuing his role as a spiritual parent.  We can gain some insight from this section of Scripture.

You may want to read 2 Corinthians 12:14-13:4 before you continue with this post.

Spiritual parents are not after your possessions.  They want your love and trust.

Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you.
2 Corinthians 12:14a

Don’t get me wrong.  They may need your support of their ministry.  But, they’ll never use guilt or shame to strong-arm you into giving.  They want to allow the Holy Spirit to direct your support.

Spiritual parents give up their lives for you.  They’re willing to go the distance.  They seek God’s will and will obediently follow His direction.  Many times that means doing things that are difficult or inconvenient.

Spiritual parents don’t exploit you.  This is a key point.  It’s all about attitude.  Why is that person in the ministry?  Some see it as an easy way to make a living.  Others see it as an opportunity to bring people up to a new level in Christ.

Spiritual parents want you strong and growing.  As a spiritual parent, there should be no sense of competition with those you’re leading.  The desire is that all should grow to their highest potential.  It doesn’t matter if you surpass me in some areas.

We’re all in this together.  We’re all working toward the same goal – to lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual parents grieve over your sin.  This is something that many believers don’t understand.  They think that church leaders are in the clouds somewhere.  They don’t realize that true ministers are hurting because of the problems they see in their people.

Remember how Paul expressed it earlier in this letter.

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:28-29

Spiritual parents correct you.  This is one of those areas that we try to avoid.  How do you handle correction from a church leader?  It’s actually harder for the leader.  We don’t want to have to bring correction to someone we love.

The problem is that our love for you compels us to want you to get back on course.  We know what’s ahead if you continue in your error.  A true spiritual parent wants your highest and best.

All of these things are at work in true leaders.  That’s why it’s so important that we continue to pray for them daily.  We want their ministry to be a joyful experience and not a burden.

Question: In what ways is God leading you to be a spiritual parent?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, Relationships, The Church

 

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Burden of Ministry

As we continue through Second Corinthians, we see Paul beginning to do some boasting.  He felt the need to undermine the boasting of those who were simply masquerading as apostles of Christ.

This is a long section, so I don’t have the space to quote it all here.  You may want to read 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:6 before continuing.  Remember, this epistle was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  He must have wanted Paul to record these events for our encouragement in our struggles.

It’s amazing when you see all the difficulties that Paul had to endure.  That’s especially true when we realize that his imprisonment and shipwreck (in the book of Acts) is still ahead of him.

In spite of all these challenges, there’s something that sets him apart from the false ministers.  It’s his care for the churches under him.

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:28-29

This is the mark of a true minister.  It’s also something that the normal church member will never understand.  That’s the burden of ministry.

Most people look at the daily life of a pastor and say, “That’s a pretty easy job.  You get to study or visit people all day.  Then you make a speech on Sunday.  No problems.”

People think like that and never see the other side.  When a true pastor – a shepherd – sees his or her congregation, there’s an unseen burden that comes with it.

They see individuals that need to be cared for, healed, fed spiritually, and protected.  Many times those that are hurting are fighting against the very thing that will help them the most.  A true pastor is burdened by things that a large percentage of people will never know.

So often when a member is struggling with sickness or tragedy, the pastor feels helpless.  I sometimes feel inferior only being able to listen to them and say, “I’m praying for you.”  I could sometimes wish that God would give us a super-power that could miraculously wipe away every problem our people face.

Then there’s the sin problem.  It happens when our people are led into the wrong areas.  The word Paul uses here means to be trapped, like an animal in a snare.

So often I could see the choices one of my people was making.  I knew exactly where it would lead them.  I’ve even tried to lovingly warn them about it.

Too often I’ve heard the words, “I know what you’re saying, Pastor, but that won’t happen to me.  I know what I’m doing.”  Then, months or years later, they need help and spiritual counsel to put their lives back together.

No, I’m not complaining about it.  These things come with the territory of being a minister of Christ.  I tell you about them so that you’ll be faithful in praying for your leaders.  In that way, we’ll all benefit from a strong healthy ministry.

Question: How often do you pray specifically for your pastor and church leadership?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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The In Crowd

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul begins to talk about some of the “super-apostles” that were traveling around at that time.  There were a number of them who associated together.  They looked down on ministers like Paul who was not a trained speaker.

This is like the associational or denominational groups of our day.  They have the temptation of thinking their group is the best.  Paul gives us some insight into these people.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:12

The first word I want to look at in this verse is “classify.”  That’s an interesting word.  It literally means to judge in or to count among.

There’s a modern word that I think, best describes what Paul is saying here.  That’s the word, label.  Paul tells us that he doesn’t label himself as one of them.

We live in a society of labels.  We label people in regards to everything from appearance (race) to gender identification to religion, and politics, just to name a few.

I believe that labels have no place in the body of Christ.  As soon as you place a label on yourself, a barrier goes up that can begin to exclude people.

The next thing he says is that he doesn’t use that group as a standard of comparison.  What these other ministries do or don’t do has no bearing on what Paul is called to accomplish.

This should apply to us as well.  We have no business judging ourselves based upon what others are doing.  Each of us has a unique set of gifts and callings in Christ Jesus.

One of the biggest problems with the “super-apostles” that Paul’s talking about is that they commend themselves.  This means that they put themselves forward or display themselves.  That’s never a good idea.

In the church, we need to let our praise come from the Lord or others.  What I say about myself is immaterial.  Only those who have been affected can say what they have received from my ministry.

According to Paul, the problem with these other ministries is that they’ve come up with their own method of comparison.  It’s also a problem among church leaders today.  It’s all wrapped up in the word, measure.

That word is all about size.  How big is your church?  How many people are on your e-mail list?  How many subscribers to your blog?

Since when do these factors translate to your anointing?  It’s more about maturity, obedience to God, and the eternal effects of your ministry.

We need to stay focused on what really matters.  Don’t be looking at and comparing yourself to what others are doing.  Walk your own path with Christ.

Question: What is the number one calling upon your life right now?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2020 in Anointing, Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Using Authority

Some people use their authority as a weapon.  They try and force others to do their will.  Paul talks about what he sees as the correct use of the authority God gives to church leaders.

For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.
2 Corinthians 10:8

Apparently, there were those who vilified Paul’s ministry.  They looked at the fact that he didn’t force his authority on others as a weakness.  They falsely claimed that this was proof that he had no authority.

Of course, Paul was not the type of person who cared what others said about him.  He continued to walk in his calling before God.

He explained to the church that the reason God has given him authority was to build them up and not to tear them down.  Paul boldly declares that he won’t be ashamed of not being a spiritual bully.

I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters.  For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
2 Corinthians 10:9-11

Even in his writings, Paul is not trying to force anyone to do his bidding.  But there is a greater ministry at work here.

There are obviously people who are jealous of Paul’s ministry.  So in order to feel better about themselves, they have to discredit Paul.

In their critique of Paul, they admit that his letters are powerful.  The words they use show that they see the weightiness and the force behind what he’s saying.

There’s a reason for this.  I don’t think that anyone knew it at the time, but God had anointed Paul to write New Covenant Scripture.  Of course, these critics could see that Paul’s letters were important.

The letters had to be powerful.  The Holy Spirit was empowering them to speak to the church for another couple of thousands of years.  Without question, they had a force behind them.

But in person, Paul was speaking to a congregation that he had given birth to in the spirit.  He wanted to nurture and love on them.  That’s why some despised Paul, saying that his in-person ministry was of no comparison to his letters.

What these people didn’t realize is that Paul had the authority of God to “clean house”.  He just preferred to use a gentler method.  He wanted those under his ministry to desire the changes that were necessary.

This should speak to us.  As church leaders, it should never be our goal to force those under us into submission.  We should be seeking to lead by example.  In that way, we’re portraying the true picture of Christ to those around us.

Question: What are your thoughts on leadership by example?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2020 in Anointing, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Chosen for Service

We’re continuing to look at the offering that Paul is collecting for the needy churches of Judea.  He’s now informing the Corinthian church, who exactly will be taking this gift to Jerusalem.

This is found in 2 Corinthians 8:16-24.  You may want to read that passage before continuing with this post.

In this section of Scripture, we see three men.  One of them we know well, the other two are anonymous.  But they all possess a high degree of integrity.

I want to look at the way Paul describes them.  It should be something that we all strive to be like.  They definitely exemplify those who church leaders look for to advance in their calling.

The first of these men is Titus.  He was probably the leader of the group.  He was saved and trained up under Paul’s ministry.  It’s obvious that Paul treated him as a son.

One of the major parts of Titus’ attitude was a willingness to do anything Paul asked of him.

For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.
2 Corinthians 8:17

As I read through Paul’s Corinthian letters, it seems to me that this church was not an easy one to work with.  In many regards, they seemed pretty arrogant about themselves.

“We don’t need your help.  We know what we’re doing.”

Yet, in spite of all that, Titus was enthusiastic to go to them as Paul’s representative.  This earnest willingness to do whatever it takes is a great asset in any ministry.

Next, we have an unknown brother.

And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.
2 Corinthians 8:18

This is someone who most people praised for his service.  This means that his service to the Gospel was an obvious thing.  He could always be counted on to help out.  It goes on to say that all the churches wanted him in particular to be a part of this “offering detail”.

Finally, there was a third man that was a part of this team.  Look at Paul’s description.

In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.
2 Corinthians 8:22

He has a big plus; he’s passionate.  That’s what the word, zealous means.  The church needs people of passion.

We need to get emotional about those things that stir the heart of God.  When this man thought about the need in Judea, he was moved with compassion.  Then he heard about the fact that there were Greek churches who wanted to help out financially.  This moved him to action.

It’s leaders like this who should be examples to us of how to live our best for Christ.

Question: What leaders have affected you the most in your walk with Christ?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Excel In Grace

In my last post, we saw how the churches in Macedonia walked in the miraculous grace of giving.  Now Paul wants to use them as an example to the Corinthian church (and us).

So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
2 Corinthians 8:6

The last time Paul visited Corinth, the church promised a big offering for the churches in Judea.  They were going through a time of great famine and Paul wanted the Gentile churches to be a blessing to them.

Apparently, Titus, Paul’s son in the faith, was charged with the arrangements.  He was to make sure the money was collected and brought to the needy churches.

It’s continually made clear that giving is an act of grace.  God works through us to help others.

But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:7

The Corinthian church had many things going for it.  They were one of the largest churches of their day.  They also had a powerful ministry.

The apostle acknowledges the incredible work they were doing.  He said that they excelled in everything.  That word means to super-abound in quality or quantity.  They were a church doing a great work.

The first thing Paul lists is faith.  That’s where it all starts.  A church with no faith has no vision.  It doesn’t take faith to make sure you have a service every week.

You have to see where God wants to take you to.  What’s the next level in your ministry?

Another thing they excelled in was their speaking.  They must have had a great preaching and teaching ministry.  That’s a big part of church growth.

People need to be trained.  New believers need mentoring.  Mature believers need to learn the art of leadership.  We never stop growing.  A church without a teaching ministry is bound to stagnate.

Along with this, they also excelled in knowledge.  They wanted to learn.  That’s probably why they followed the corrections in Paul’s first letter.

A teachable spirit is very important.  The more we learn, the more we must be open to change.

A great pastor friend of mine says quite frequently, “Growth means change, and change is uncomfortable.”  So we have the choice; we can be comfortable and stay the same or uncomfortable and grow.

Finally, the apostle commends them for excelling in earnestness.  That’s an important component.  It’s the Greek word from which we get the English word, speed.

It’s one thing to know what you need to do.  Many churches know the changes that need to take place to bring them to the next level.  The hard part is taking that first step and doing what needs to be done.

The Corinthian church was graced in all of these areas.  Now Paul wanted them to launch full speed into the grace of giving.  We need to learn from their example.

Question: How quick are you to obey a new instruction from God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Hard Truth of Ministry

I’m now getting back to my view of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s continuing his description of how he’s affected by the call to minister the Gospel.

…through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:8-10

This is the side of ministry that not many people want to talk about.  It’s the price that you pay for obeying the call to preach the Good News.  At times it can be tough, but it’s definitely worth it.

The apostle talks about glory and dishonor.  That’s hard to deal with.  Most Christians don’t ever see it.  They sometimes view ministers as some sort of celebrity.

When I’m out in the world, interacting with society, it’s a different story.  When meeting new people, they usually ask what you do for a living.  They have a normal response to a doctor, teacher, or plumber.

When you tell them you’re a pastor or minister you get mixed reactions.  Sometimes they’re positive about it.  There are other times when they react as if I told them I was an illegal arms dealer.

The whole dynamic of the conversation changes.  They begin to apologize if they think they said something inappropriate.  If someone new joins the group, they’re warned, “He’s a pastor.  Watch what you say.”

Paul also understands about good and bad reports.  As a minister, you and your family live under a microscope.  Everyone watches everything you do; expecting you to live perfectly like Jesus did at all times.

Then, when they find out you’re human like everyone else, they write you off as an imposter.  In one sense you need to grow a “thick skin” to people’s attitudes.  While at the same time, you must keep an open heart to love everyone you meet.

That’s all a part of what Jesus talked about with His disciples.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 10:11

Many people expect a lot from their ministers.  They look for encouragement, hope, healing, and counsel.  What they don’t realize is that ministers need those same things.  Usually, it means that they need to be very proactive or they’ll end up burning out and leaving the ministry.

Please don’t think that I have a bad view of ministering for the Lord.  I wouldn’t choose anything else.  The rewards are overwhelming.

My point is this: never cease praying for your pastors, ministers, and church leaders.  They need encouragement and support just like anyone else.  Seek to bring them joy in the ministry.

Question: What do you see as the rewards and challenges of the ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Ministry Qualities Part 3

This is the third in a series about the earmarks of a godly ministry according to the Apostle Paul.  He wrote about them in his second letter to the Corinthian church.

…in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…
2 Corinthians 6:6-7

My last post ended with patience.  Now we’ll continue on…

Kindness – This is a quality that most believers don’t understand properly.  For a detailed explanation, click here.

Simply put, kindness is not just a matter of doing nice things for people.  In God’s eyes, the definition of kindness is; doing good to those who absolutely don’t deserve it.

Our problem is, when someone is doing wrong, we want to see them punished.  Of course, when we do something wrong, we want to be forgiven.

We need to spend time with the Lord so that we can pick up the same heart that he has.  In that way we can show the love of Christ to all people – even those we label as “undeserving”.  We must see others as the Father sees them.  They all have great potential in Christ.

In the Holy Spirit – This is probably the most important one.  Many of the qualities we’ve looked at so far are impossible to maintain in our own strength.  We need the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

That’s how the fruit are produced.  We must remain in the vine – Christ Jesus.  Time spent praying in the Holy Spirit is never wasted.  It changes us more and more into the image of Christ.

Sincere Love – This is a big one!  The literal Greek reads love without hypocrisy.  How can we do that?

This verse is talking about agape-love.  This love is a choice; there’s no emotional involvement.

So if I show love – doing something good – for someone I really don’t like, isn’t that hypocritical?  Good question.

Actually, that’s not being hypocritical; it’s being obedient to the Lord.  Hypocrisy would be to do something nice for them now, then gossip about them when they’re not around.  We’re to show people love and respect whether we like them or not.  This also includes whether they’re physically present or not.

This is another reason why we need the power of the Holy Spirit active in our lives.  Without His influence, we could never hope to live up to these godly qualities.

Question: How have others treated you with kindness and love in the past?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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