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Category Archives: Legalism

My Neighbor

My Neighbor

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we’re coming to a familiar parable of Jesus. You may want to read Luke 10:25-37 before reading this post.

In this section of Scripture, we see an expert in the Law approaching the Lord with some questions. His goal was probably to test Jesus, to find a basis for accusation against Him.

His first question was a simple one. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” At that point, under the Old Covenant, Jesus answered with a question of His own.

“What is written in the Law?” he [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Luke 10:26-27 NIV

This expert in the Law gave the expected answer. This is what was commonly accepted as the summation of all the Law and the prophets. However, this lawyer couldn’t just stop there.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:28-29 NIV

Here’s where it starts to get interesting. You usually don’t feel the need to justify yourself unless you’re feeling guilty about something. In talking with Jesus, there must have been some conviction about how he had treated people in the past. He wanted to clarify that he was okay.

According to Old Testament thinking, a neighbor was a fellow countryman. Any Jewish person would qualify. Someone who was not a Jew would not be treated as a neighbor in terms of the Scripture.

Jesus went on to tell this man a parable. Someone was on a trip and was attacked by bandits along the road. He was robbed, beaten, and left for dead.

Soon, a priest came by that way. But, he ignored the man in need. A Levite also came by, but ignored him as well. These were both men who knew the Law and would have given Jesus the same answer to His question.

Then, a Samaritan came along the same road. These people were considered outsiders by the Jews. They had no dealings with each other and made sure that they kept their distance.

But, when the Samaritan saw the man in need, it didn’t matter to him whether or not the man was a Jew. He stopped and helped. He treated the man’s wounds and carried him on his donkey.

He was then taken to an inn where he could stay for the night. In the morning, the Samaritan prepaid so that the injured man could stay long enough to heal. He also promised that if there were any further expenses, he would come back and cover them.

Now it was time for the most important question.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Luke 10:36 NIV

In the literal Greek, Jesus asks, “Which of these three became a neighbor to the man…?” The two who were neighbors according to Jewish tradition, failed to help. The one who was not expected to help, did what was needed even though he was not a fellow countryman.

The answer was clear.

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:37 NIV

Who is my neighbor? It’s anyone that I have opportunity and ability to help. It’s not necessarily someone who lives next door. It could be anyone I meet during my day.

That’s why I need to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. He can show me who to bring a blessing to. Then, as a result, I’ll reap a blessing from what I’ve planted in someone’s life.

Question: How have you been a neighbor lately?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Two Debts – Part 2

The Two Debts – Part 2

In my last post, I started talking about the Pharisee who had a dinner in honor of Jesus. I talked about the background of that event. This Pharisee was healed of leprosy by Jesus, earlier in His ministry. That’s an important point as we look at what happens at the dinner.

As I already said, during the dinner, a “sinful” woman came in, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and anointed them with an expensive perfume. The Pharisee became judgmental.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.”

Luke 7:39

This Pharisee is assuming some things. The first is that Jesus thinks the same way he does about people. This is a trap many fall into.

We think that God is like us. We spend so much time trying to get God to agree with us. We want to get God on our side.

This approach never works. Our focus should be to get into agreement with God and to join with Him on His side.

The fact is that Jesus had no problem with this woman worshiping Him. He spent a lot of His time ministering to those that the Pharisees rejected as unworthy people.

I like the way Jesus turned things around. He asked this Pharisee a very leading question.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Luke 7:41-42

He gives this Pharisee a parable of two people in a hopeless, helpless situation. Knowing the whole story, we understand that this religious leader was healed of an incurable disease. He owed a great debt to the Lord that he could never repay.

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Luke 7:43

Unfortunately, he still doesn’t get the point. The Lord has to tell him plainly what He’s talking about.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Luke 7:44-47

Here’s the bottom line. Jesus explains the real foundation for walking in love. This woman could show love in a real way, because she understood the depth of her condition. She received a forgiveness she could have never earned on her own.

The Pharisee saw himself as a good person. He didn’t need much from God. That’s the pitfall of self-righteousness.

If I see myself as better that anyone else, I don’t show much love. It’s only when I come to realize that no matter how good I am, I could never repay the forgiveness I needed from the Lord. The “filthy rags” of my own righteous works could never bring God’s blessing.

Forgiven much or forgiven a little is all a matter of perspective. No matter how good we think we are, we’re helpless and hopeless without the Lord’s grace. Understanding this allows us to love others the way Christ does.

Question: What is God’s forgiveness worth to you?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2022 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Deserving God’s Best

Deserving God’s Best

We’re continuing our study in the Gospel of Luke. We’re now in Luke, chapter 7.

In my last post I started talking about a Roman centurion who wanted Jesus to come and heal his servant. I wanted to look at this event in detail because it deals with some important principles we need to understand.

Many Christians don’t have a grasp on what makes us worthy of walking in the power of God. The centurion in this chapter said that he wasn’t worthy and used two Greek words, axios and hikanos, to describe how he felt.

In this post, I want to start by looking at the word axiosdeserving.

Think about the prodigal son of the parable I talked about in my last post. He spent a large portion of his life away from the power, yet all that time he was still a son. One of the statements that he made to his Father was, “I am not worthy – axios – to be called your son.” The first concept we must understand is that you can be a son and still feel not deserving.

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”
Acts 13:46

When Paul and Barnabas first started out on their missionary journeys, they would always preach the Gospel first to the Jewish community. Many times they were met with resistance by this group.

At this point in their journeys they were beginning to get frustrated by this trend among the Jewish people. The literal Greek of what Paul says here is that you have judged yourselves undeserving (axios) of eternal life.

This tells us that, concerning the power of God, if you consider yourself undeserving, you could find yourself rejecting God’s Word. There’s no true power outside the Word of God. Of course, if you reject the Word of Salvation, then you’re lost.

Our salvation experience is the first touch of God’s power which we experience. All believers, therefore, qualify for the power on that requirement.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
Revelation 3:4

This verse brings up an interesting dilemma. How do you keep your clothes white while living in a cesspool? Of course, I’m talking about our spiritual clothes as we live in this society. How do we keep clean with so much sin around us?

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews 9:14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9

As we live a repentant lifestyle, the Holy Spirit keeps us clean through the blood of Christ. Repentance should be a daily walk before God. These verses tell me that power is for those who can keep themselves clean in Christ. Therefore, your conscience is accusing you of not deserving of the power if you ignore repentance.

This was the lesson that the Prodigal Son had to learn. As soon as he returned home and repented, he was restored to the full rights and privileges of a son. It’s through this same process of repentance that our consciences can be wiped clean. Then it will stop accusing us of being undeserving.

Question: How does your conscience keep you from enjoying God’s best for you?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Am I Worthy or Not?

Am I Worthy or Not?

In my blog I talk a lot about the concept of sonship. This is how God views us all (male and female) through the blood of Christ. There needs to be an understanding of the relationship of sonship to walk in the power of the Lord. Sometimes, the tension between the two creates a problem for some Christians.

In going through the Gospel of Luke, chapter 7, verses 1-10, contain an incident that highlights this issue. It happened when Jesus was in Capernaum.

When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.

Luke 7:1-3

In that town, there was a Roman officer whose servant was sick. He was a part of the occupation force in Israel. He knew that not many people were happy with the Romans being there, but he had the town elders on his side.

Listen carefully to what the elders said to Jesus about this man.

When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
Luke 7:4-5

The elders literally said, “this man is worthy because…” They based his worthiness upon good works. We now know from Scripture that this is wrong thinking. It’s foolish to think that my good works somehow improves my standing with God.

Jesus, however, understood their heart.

Later on in this Gospel, we’ll look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. For now, I want you to see something that he said, because he put it in just the right words.

The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
Luke 15:21

It’s the same question that most of us wrestle with as believers. Am I worthy? This is usually what drives us to the law (or to the pigpen). I need to understand what makes me worthy of having God’s power manifest through my life.

Look at the Lord’s response to these elders.

So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Luke 7:6-7

By the centurion’s own words he said, “I am not worthy.” The elders said what they thought Jesus wanted to hear. These friends said what the centurion wanted them to say.

This centurion said that he wasn’t worthy of two things. First he was not worthy for Jesus to come to him. He also said that he was not worthy to go to Jesus himself.

The question arises, was he worthy or not worthy? We know that his faith was ready by his statement, “But say the word…”

It turns out that there are two different Greek words that are used in this passage. They are the two that trip up believers every day. When the centurion said, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof,” the Greek word hikanos is used. The word hikanos means far enough along or good enough in English.

When the man said, “I do not even consider myself worthy to come to you,” the Greek word axios was used. Axios means deserving in English. In other words, many times we feel that we’re not worthy because we either don’t deserve it or we’re not far enough along in our walk with God yet. The big question is, what does the Word of God say?

Over the next couple of posts, I’m going to look at this incident in detail. We need to understand the Biblical concept of what makes us worthy.

Question: How do feelings of unworthiness affect your Christian walk?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2022 in Encouragement, Faith, Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Jesus and the Sabbath

Jesus and the Sabbath

We’re now starting chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke. You may want to read Luke 6:1-11 before continuing with this post.

Because they followed the Covenant of Moses, Judaism had many traditions. Of these, the keeping of the Sabbath stirred up the most controversy in the ministry of Jesus.

The law of the Sabbath was very simple. Exodus 20:8-11 plainly states that the seventh day of the week was to be set apart to the Lord. No work was to be done by any person or animal on that day.

You may think that the Scripture was clear enough for anyone to follow. But…religion likes to make things complicated. So religion asks the question; exactly what is work?

So, over time, the religious leaders of Israel took it upon themselves to define what work was. They drew up a lengthy list of what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. It’s in these man-made Sabbath rules that we can see how foolish religion can get.

For instance: On the Sabbath, you could pick a chair up and carry it across the room. You could not drag the chair across your room, because by making a line in the dirt floor, you were “plowing”.

Normally, you were allowed to drink wine on the Sabbath…unless you had a toothache. Then you couldn’t, because the wine might hit your tooth, deaden the pain, and healing was forbidden on the Sabbath.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Luke 6:1-2

The Lord and His disciples were really in trouble here. They broke three rules. Not only did they pick some grain (reaping), they rubbed them (winnowing), and ate them (grinding). Of course the only law they were breaking was the traditions passed down by the Rabbi’s.

Jesus explained to the Pharisees the foolishness of their traditions.

Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Luke 6:2

It’s important to note that Jesus called himself the Son of Man in this instance. He was emphasizing His humanity. The Sabbath was created by God for the good of mankind.

Our human bodies would break down if we had to work seven days a week. It’s not healthy. So God instituted the concept of Sabbath for our good. It was never meant to be a burden.

I’m amazed at how often we fail to realize how our religious traditions cause people to get the wrong view of God. By our speech and actions, the world sometimes gets the idea that we serve a vindictive, angry, and judgmental God. I’m sure it grieves His heart.

On another Sabbath, Jesus was in a synagogue. He saw a man whose right hand was unusable. He called the man forward. Of course, the Pharisees were upset, wondering what Jesus would do.

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Luke 6:9

Good question! The Lord gets to the heart of what the Sabbath was all about. Sabbath should be rest and restoration for the whole person.

He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Luke 6:10-11

This is proof that sometimes religion can be so illogical. They just witnessed a miracle, clearly performed by God, Himself. That means God approves of healing on the Sabbath. Yet, instead of re-examining their beliefs, they want to do away with Christ.

We need to learn to show people the love of God and not the traditions of religion.

Question: How have you seen religious traditions hurt people?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2022 in Encouragement, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Jesus and Fasting

Jesus and Fasting

We’re continuing our walk through the Gospel of Luke. Today’s post will talk about Luke 5:27-38. You may want to read that passage before continuing with this article.

The Pharisees were starting to get annoyed by Jesus’ style of teaching. He was reaching out to the members of society that they felt were not worth their time. These self-righteous leaders didn’t want to associate with tax-collectors, prostitutes, or drunks.

Jesus, on the other hand, saw them as people who God loved and wanted to restore. In trying to find fault with this, the Pharisees questioned Jesus about fasting. They asked why the Lord’s disciples didn’t fast on the religious fasting days.

In His answer, Jesus basically told them that there was going to be a transition from Old Testament fasting to that which would take place in the New Testament. Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form.

He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.”

Luke 5:36

First, the Lord talks about the outside – a garment. The old way was to take an old cloth and patch an old garment. Fasting in the Old Testament was only a patch. At that time, fasting was all about getting God to listen to me. I needed to patch things up between God and me.

If I try to patch the garment in the New Testament it only makes things worse. Then how do I get God to hear me? I DON’T!!! In Christ we now have access to God 24/7.

Now we are a new garment and we don’t need a patch. But a new garment (back then) would shrink with usage. Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment. That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease. We want the voice of the flesh to get quieter.

Fasting forcefully puts down the flesh. This is because now it’s about me hearing from God. God hears me in Christ. But I need to hear Him when He speaks. And that’s where fasting comes in. Fasting helps me drown out the noise of my flesh.

But Jesus gave another parable…

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.”

Luke 5:37-38

In this parable the old wineskins stand for those who walk in legalism. Once wineskins were used, they became empty, used up, dry, and unyielding. That’s a good description of many of the Pharisees. They had nothing on the inside to give that would bless others.

In the natural, new wine is unfermented grape juice. As it becomes wine, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins. Old, dry and unyielding wineskins would burst under that internal pressure.

A New wineskin – one that’s unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable – is ready to be used in this process.

As we get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us, it starts to ferment. There’s a spiritual pressure that builds up. That’s what brings growth.

Now you’re hearing from God and something is being poured into you. The pressure is building. You have something to give and pour out into someone else.

Listen to Jesus’ next statement.

And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Luke 5:39

Once you get a taste for legalism, you don’t want the new work of the Spirit. Why is that? Simply put, legalism is intoxicating and addictive.

Legalism strokes my ego. “Look at what I’m doing for God. I read my Bible and pray every day. I go to church every week. I’m better than most.”

This “intoxication” with self-righteousness will put us to sleep, spiritually speaking. We don’t feel the need to hear from God. We can live the way we want as we perform our minimal church obligations.

Basically, we can live for God without being changed by the Spirit. That’s the deception of legalism.

I want to be prepared to hear His voice. This requires that I allow the Holy Spirit to work His change in me – to sometimes shrink my flesh, and stretch my inner man at other times. It may feel uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to see the Lord working through me.

Question: How often, and for how, long do you fast?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2022 in Fasting, Legalism, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Faith and Conscience

Faith and Conscience

We’re continuing through the book of Romans. In this section, Paul is talking about how we should treat those of weaker faith than ourselves. It’s important that we don’t cause them to fall away by our actions.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:5-6

This is a very important concept for us to understand. That’s because this type of difference will always be the case in the body of Christ.

Someone believes that he cannot please God and buy a scratch ticket. Someone else believes that it’s okay. The fact is that neither of these conditions matter to God.

The key is that what you do is because in your mind you are fully persuaded by faith. Based upon your knowledge of the Word, you believe that what you’re doing is right before God. It cannot be simply because someone else told you to do it or not do it.

I looked at this next verse in my last post.

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

1 Corinthians 8:7

The catch is that when you were involved in something questionable before you came to Christ, it weakened your conscience in that area. Now that you’re in Christ, there’s a pain in your conscience until it heals. However, in some people it never heals.

For us to look down on someone in this condition, is wrong. I’ve also seen some militant believers try to push these weaker ones to do what their hurting conscience is telling them not to do. This is equally wrong, and maybe even worse.

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8

If you’re fully persuaded by your faith, then what you do, you do for your love of God. You do what you do in thankfulness and under submission to God. We don’t live for ourselves – our lives belong to the Lord.

If, on the other hand, I’m doing things for selfish reasons, or because someone told me to do it, that’s wrong. I need to live under the attitude that I belong to God. I need to be fully persuaded that what I’m doing brings glory to God.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Romans 14:9

This is why Christ died and rose from the dead. It was so that He’s Lord over the living and the dead. We need to get a handle on this.

When a person dies, they don’t cease to exist. We mourn because we lose the ability to fellowship with them for a little while. The fact is that when I die all that happens is I change my address.

That’s what we need to see. Jesus Christ is Lord over all. It’s His world. We don’t make the rules, He does.

I can’t judge you by my own definition of right and wrong. Neither can you judge me. That’s not our assignment. We all submit to the One, true God.

Question: How have you experienced the judgment of others in the past?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Differences

Differences

In my last post we started talking about our relationship with young believers. We looked at the first verse in Romans chapter 14.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Romans 14:1

Those who are young in Christ, also called weak in the faith, don’t have the experience of maturity. We shouldn’t be passing judgment on them because of their limited faith.

Paul had a similar teaching for the Corinthian church. He explains to them that idols are nothing. So, food sacrificed to them is nothing bad.

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

1 Corinthians 8:7-8

That’s one of the problems that weak believers have. They feel that in order to please God, there are certain rules they must adhere to. Sometimes they get down on themselves, thinking that they failed God by breaking one of these rules.

Please understand that I’m not talking about self-righteous, Pharisaical believers. These are people who come up with a list of man-made rules which they try to impose on all those around them.

These legalistic Christians are still categorized as weak believers. The difference is that they should be further along, yet choose to be stuck in legalism.

The verse in Romans, above tells us to receive the weak, young believers to ourselves. Literally, we are to show them hospitality and share fellowship with them.

But, the purpose of this fellowship is not for judgmental debating over things that are not black and white in Scripture. In Paul’s day, this included food sacrificed to idols, observing special days, washings, ceremonies, etc.

To us, this might include, drinking alcohol (not drunkenness), dancing, gambling, and other things not covered by the Scripture. This does not include things that Scripture clearly calls out as sinful, such as murder, porn, racism, etc.

One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

Romans 14:2-4

To Paul, it’s all a matter of faith. No matter what your choice in things not covered by Scripture, we don’t look down on those who choose differently. The apostle is actually talking to both groups in this section.

It literally says that if you eat everything, don’t despise or consider him worthless if your brother or sister takes a different viewpoint. If you have placed yourself under a set of rules, don’t judge or condemn those who haven’t.

The reason for this is clear. It’s God who receives people into His kingdom. He hasn’t placed you as the gatekeeper to allow or deny entrance into the family of Christ.

Because we’re all in the same body, it’s not up to you to reject those whom God has accepted in Christ. This is the key; you’re not the judge. It’s God who makes the final decision. And, it’s God who’s able to establish all believers.

The bottom line is that on black and white issues of sin, there’s a proper way to handle it outlined in Scripture. But, on debatable things, let the Holy Spirit do His work in the hearts of individuals.

Question: What’s your attitude towards those who think differently than you do?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2021 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

The Living Sacrifice

The Living Sacrifice

As we go through the book of Romans, we’re beginning chapter 12. This is where Paul starts his concluding remarks.

What we have to realize is that you can’t understand this section properly, without a grasp of what he taught in chapters 4-8. We need to walk by the spirit to receive the power to fulfill what he’s about to bring to us.

The last chapters of Romans can never be accomplished in our own strength. But, first, Paul summarizes what he’s talked about so far.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

This is one of those verses that we wished wasn’t in the Bible. But it is, so we have to follow it. It says that there’s something we can do that’s holy and well pleasing to God.

The word offer means to stand beside your body. Paul is talking about something that can only be done in the spirit.

In the spirit I can stand next to myself and look at my flesh as the enemy – my greatest weakness. Only then can I offer it to God on His altar.

The original Greek says that it’s a burnt offering, living, holy, and to God – well pleasing. Wait a minute; we are to be a living burnt offering? Yes! There’s really no other way to say it.

Pleasing God requires sacrifice. But what exactly does that mean to us? Most people use the word sacrifice to mean they’ll try harder. They think it tells them to fast on holidays, eat according to the Old Testament food laws, dress like the 1940’s, and talk King James English.

That’s not what God is looking for. If you read the epistle to the Romans, you find that Paul writes about the walk of the spirit. If that’s in place, then you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. But how do we get there?

We need the fire of God to consume the sacrifice. In the book of Acts we see tongues of fire on the heads of those praying in the upper room. We’re also told (I Thessalonians 5:19) not to quench the Holy Spirit’s fire. Paul told his spiritual son, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift that was within him (II Timothy 1:6).

Paul was a man who had a rich experience of prayer in the spirit. He assumed that those he was writing to also knew how to pray in the spirit. When you pray in the spirit, you’re standing beside your body as a burnt offering.

The last part of the verse in Romans could be modernized as, logically – this is what you signed up for. We’re living out a spiritual walk. You can try harder, stumbling around in the flesh without Christ. But if I’m to be well pleasing, it will require a spiritual work.

In the first part of Romans, Paul showed us that righteousness could only be achieved by a walk in the spirit. That’s accomplished through a rich prayer life of praying in the spirit. As I pray in the spirit, I stand beside the burnt offering.

Remember, I’m not talking about whether or not you’re saved, or even acceptable to God. You’re all those things, and more, in Christ. I’m talking about going beyond acceptable and into the realm of well-pleasing to God.

This should be our desire if we want to see a move of God in our lifetime.

Question: Why do some believers find this sacrifice so difficult?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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A Call to Remain

A Call to Remain

In my last post we looked at Paul’s illustration of the root and branches. We’re told that as Gentiles, we’ve been grafted into the holy root.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

Romans 11:19-20

Sometimes we get the wrong perspective, as believers. We concentrate on the fact that they were broken off so that we would have a place in God’s kingdom.

The problem is that when I take that view, it makes me the center. In actuality, they were broken off because of their unbelief. It had nothing to do with whether or not I would be grafted in.

On the other hand, we as Gentile believers, remain by faith. So Paul tells us not to have a lofty mind. We’re no better, just because we trusted God. Instead, there should be some holy fear mixed in.

This is how Jesus put it.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

John 15:1-4

The simple fact is that we remain in Christ – the holy Root – by faith. Otherwise we wither and die, spiritually. That’s where this fear comes in. We need to understand that fear is not always a bad thing. The right kind of fear is essential to our Christian walk.

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

Scripture is clear that by faith, Noah…feared. This fear came when he was warned about unseen things. Yet by his faith – fearing to miss out on God’s best for him and his family – he obtained righteousness.

In Romans we see the kingdom of God as a living olive tree. That testimony brings condemnation on the withering branches lying on the ground. It’s a sobering call to remain in Him. Please understand, we don’t fear Him, but we fear the possibility of losing out on this life-giving Root.

For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Romans 11:21

The question is whether I trust Him or not. It’s not about doing or saying the right things. It’s understanding the character of the God we serve.

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Romans 11:22

Throughout the pages of Scripture we see the twofold character of God. One part is His kindness. If you remember, this is one of the fruit of the Spirit. It speaks of the fact that God is good to the undeserving.

The other side of the coin is God’s sternness, or literally, sharp decisiveness. God has the ability to make the hard choices immediately.

Those without faith fell immediately. But, those who trusted in Christ were immediately shown kindness. That’s why there’s a warning for us to continue to remain in Him. This is especially true in these last days.

Question: What does it take to remain in Christ?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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