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Category Archives: Legalism

Legalism is a Dead End

Legalism is a Dead End

We’re continuing through the Gospel of Luke. Jesus is talking to His disciples and the crowds about the kingdom of God.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

Luke 16:16 NIV

In the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus, a new focus has emerged. The Law and the Prophets were the main points of religious teaching until that time. Now there’s an emphasis on the kingdom of God.

The religious leaders are not too happy about this. They could get around some of the Law of Moses. They were experts in the loopholes allowing them to do as they pleased, all the while keeping the facade of holiness.

The kingdom of God is about relationship with God. It’s not about a set of rules made by men. The Law is a set of unchanging commands.

It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.”

Luke 16:17 NIV

The Law of Moses is unchanging and impersonal. It doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t make any exceptions because of your situations, weaknesses, or what you happen to be going through at the moment.

The Law doesn’t have the power to help you. It doesn’t give you any support to live an overcoming life. It’s just there to point out the sin that you’re wrestling with on a daily basis.

Jesus gives the Pharisees an example.

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Luke 16:18 NIV

This seems to be a random verse, stuck in here for no reason. But, there’s a truth that Jesus is trying to get across to the Pharisees. The Law doesn’t care about your situation.

At one point the Pharisees came to Jesus and questioned Him about the issue of divorce. I covered this a while back as we were going through the Gospel of Mark. The details are in Mark 10:1-12.

The religious leaders enjoyed this “divorce loophole”. The Law allowed for a husband to give his wife a certificate of divorce. That was the Law. What was God’s view?

That was clear throughout Scripture.

“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 2:16 NIV

That’s the difference between serving God by following the rules and life in the kingdom. We all want to know the rules. Rules are easier than maintaining a relationship.

There are Christians who live this way. They’ve boiled Christianity down to a set of man-made rules. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, go to church, give your tithes, etc. They follow the rules, then live for themselves the rest of the time.

A relationship with God is harder to maintain. In any relationship there’s shared responsibility. I have to find out what my partner likes or doesn’t like. My goal is to live in such a way that we grow together.

That’s what the kingdom of God is like. It’s not about rules. I must seek what pleases God and what displeases Him. I need to allow His Holy Spirit to work in me. I must hear Him, trust Him, and obey Him.

This is why many marriages break down. They don’t cultivate relationship. They think that as long as they’re doing what they’re supposed to do (following the rules), then the marriage is strong. They realize too late that when the relationship breaks down, the marriage soon follows.

Don’t turn your Christian walk into a set of rules. Legalism is a dead-end street full of frustration and guilt. Cultivate a strong relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. That’s the key to fulfillment.

Question: How strong is your relationship with Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2022 in Faith, Legalism, Relationships, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Violence

Spiritual Violence

In my last post, Jesus concluded with a comment about finances. He said that you couldn’t serve both God and a desire for riches. The Pharisees heard it and continued in a state of denial.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

Luke 16:14-15 NIV

This section of Scripture shows just how hardhearted the Pharisees had become. By their actions, they clearly loved riches and power. When Jesus talks about the love of money, they openly ridicule Him.

They’ve gotten to the point where they’ve rejected Him and His teaching. Now, their goal is to publicly discredit the Lord.

As usual, Jesus brings their hypocrisy to the surface. He exposes the fact that they’re always justifying themselves before men. They had a great way of twisting Scripture to make them sound holy while doing evil.

What they seem to forget is that God is not like any human judge. He doesn’t give any credence to a fine sounding argument. The Lord looks straight at what’s going on in their hearts. That’s what He bases His verdict on.

We would do well to remember this. Humanity places a high importance on the temporary. That’s especially true when it comes to personal pleasure. In God’s eyes, it’s the unseen – the eternal – which is the most valuable.

Just how bad are these temporary things that we run after? This translation uses the word detestable. This is one of those words that the translators had to be careful with, knowing that the Bible will be read in church with the Sunday morning crowd.

This Greek word comes from a root that means to pass gas silently. That’s why Jesus felt the need to expose where this foul spiritual smell was coming from! That’s what God thinks about us when we chase after the world and try to justify it by Scripture.

Jesus continues.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

Luke 16:16 NIV

Jesus warns the Pharisees that they’re out of step with what God is doing. Until John the Baptist came on the scene, the Law and the Prophets were the main emphasis.

The Pharisees enjoyed that. Any good lawyer could get around the teachings of the Law of Moses. They knew all the loopholes.

Now, since the beginning of John’s ministry, it’s the kingdom of God that’s being focused on in anointed preaching. The kingdom doesn’t deal with laws, rules and loopholes. It looks at the hearts and minds of individuals.

You don’t enter the kingdom of God by well thought out arguments. You have to force your way in by overcoming the natural inclinations of the flesh.

A fire has to ignite in your soul. Another way to say this is that you need the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Then, in response to this work, you must accept Christ in total opposition to the desires of your sinful nature.

We need to realize that making a decision to ignore the flesh is an act of spiritual violence. Throughout our whole lives to that point, our body and soul were in complete agreement. Then, suddenly, the Holy Spirit plants a seed of dissension in this relationship.

Now, body and soul don’t totally agree. Eventually you came to the place where your soul made the choice to bow its knee to Christ. The flesh lost its place on the throne of your life. That’s a spiritual rebellion against the established order of your very being.

Praise God for His life changing power in your life. That’s what gave you the strength you needed to see this change through to its completion.

Question: How did the power of God change your life?

©2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2022 in Faith, Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Holy Spirit – Life and Death

Holy Spirit – Life and Death

I’ve been looking at the principles found in the parable of the Prodigal Son. This is in Luke 15:11-32. Today, I want to talk about one last truth found in this story.

The father is speaking to the older brother, trying to get him to rejoice over the son’s return. He makes a statement that should speak to us as believers.

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Luke 15:32 NIV

According to the father, the younger son’s return was a change from death to life. That’s the same with us when we’re saved.

Your flesh cannot fellowship with God. Your spirit, because you’re now in Christ, can live in relationship with God.

We’ve seen from Paul’s writings in Romans, that the flesh can never please God. The apostle continues with this thought. However, even though I normally use the NIV, for this verse I believe that the NKJV is the more accurate translation.

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

Romans 8:9 NKJV

This verse simply states that everyone can access the Spirit of Christ if they’re saved. It’s not a special level of achievement only attained by a few highly spiritual people. If you are His, then you have the Spirit of Christ.

But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10 NIV

Here’s a statement of fact. There are two results of having the Spirit of Christ within you. The first is that if Christ is in you, then your body is dead through sin. Secondly, if Christ is in you, then your spirit is alive through righteousness.

What does Paul mean by saying that your spirit is alive? Furthermore, what does it mean to be spiritually dead? This is a concept that many people have no understanding of.

Remember back to the Garden of Eden. When God created Adam, He said that if you eat of this tree, you will surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17) Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, yet their bodies didn’t stop working at that point.

That’s because in God’s terminology, death is the loss of fellowship with Him. It has nothing to do with the condition of your body.

Because of sin, communication ceases between Adam and the Lord. Humanity lost the relationship that they were created for.

The fact is, I’m going to live eternally somewhere, so death doesn’t mean my body stops working. That’s why the parable of the Prodigal Son is such a good picture of this truth.

The younger of the two sons took his inheritance and left home. Father and son were no longer able to have fellowship. When the son came to his senses, he returned home. We can see the attitude of God in the response of the father.

“This brother of yours was dead and is alive again.”

That’s how it works in our lives when we come to Christ. Even though your spirit existed before salvation, it couldn’t commune with God. That’s why believers now need to learn to communicate with God.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Romans 8:11 NIV

Every Christian has the Spirit of Christ living in them. Because of that fact, communication and fellowship with God is now possible. This means that the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead in us, and He will give life to our dying flesh.

That’s the bottom line. It’s the Spirit that works on our flesh, not the mind and will-power.

Question: Why is it better to rely on the Holy Spirit rather than will-power?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2022 in Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Prodigal Sons

The Prodigal Sons

I’ve been posting about the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke’s Gospel. What most people don’t realize, is there are actually two prodigals in this story. Both sons disappointed the father. If I can understand the problem, then I can walk in a way that’s pleasing to God.

You’re probably wondering why I said that both of the sons disappointed the father. Most people teach that only the younger son was in the wrong. Actually, they both had the same problem, they just handled it differently.

Luke 15:11-32 shows that the two sons had an incorrect view of their relationship to the father. After spending all of his inheritance, the younger brother made this statement.

‘I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’
Luke 15:18-19 NIV

He had lived his life on the assumption that his father wanted him to be a servant. In his young, formative years, he hated having to be told what to do. As a result, when he felt he was ready, he broke free by demanding his inheritance and leaving home.

But what you don’t often hear, is that the older brother had the same view of his father. But instead of leaving, he lived under it his whole life. It all came out when the younger brother returned.

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in.”

Luke 15:25-28a NIV

The older brother was incensed that the father would throw a party in honor of the younger brother’s return. He refused to be a part of the celebration. So, the father went to him. He wanted to know why the older brother didn’t want to rejoice.

“But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.’”
Luke 15:29 NIV

Did you hear him?

“All these years I’ve been your servant.”

Both sons were under the assumption that the father wanted them as slaves. Nothing was further from the truth. The father was looking for faithful sons to whom he could one day entrust all of his possessions.

It’s the same in our walk with the Lord. How do you see yourself? Do you think that God wants you for a slave? If so, then you’re headed down the same road as the prodigal. You’ll get frustrated trying to keep a set of rules you can never hope to live up to.

You might turn out like the older brother and spend your life in frustration thinking that God’s treating you unfairly. Or you may respond like the younger, giving up on serving God altogether.

The truth is that God doesn’t want you to be His slave. He’s looking for mature sons and daughters who will carry out His will on the earth.

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:6-7 NIV

Our goal should be to learn how to mature in Christ. To be a faithful representative of the Lord on earth. The Father is looking for adult sons and daughters who will live according to the leading of His Spirit in us.

Question: How does laying aside the slave mentality help you in your walk with God?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2022 in Legalism, Revival, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Ex-Prodigal Son

The Ex-Prodigal Son

In my last post, I started looking at the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s Gospel. We saw how a legalistic mindset can drive new believers to give up on their Christian walk.

At some point, we begin to realize that trying to live for the Lord on our own terms doesn’t work. The things of the world lose their appeal. We begin to long for the blessing of God.

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.”

Luke 15:17-20 NIV

I want you to notice something important here. This young man misses the blessings of the father’s house. But, at the same time he still has the slave mentality.

We have to realize that thinking like a slave is a symptom of a childish mindset. Paul makes that clear in his writings.

What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.

Galatians 4:1 NIV

That’s a part of our spiritual growth. We all have to go through the “slave” stage. That’s when we learn the basics of growing in Christ.

Somebody disciples us in the foundational principles. They tell us we need to read the Scriptures and pray daily. We must meet together with other believers for teaching and fellowship. We need to realign our finances through the giving of tithes and offerings.

To a new believer, this seems like a list of rules. As we grow in Christ, however, we find that these disciplines actually free us to serve God at the highest level. We put the childish slave mentality behind us and begin to operate like a mature son or daughter.

Here’s an example. When I was young teen, living with my parents, one of my chores was to put out the trash each week. I did it because I was told to do it and there would be consequences if I didn’t.

I’m 65 years old now. I still put out the trash each week. Why? Because that’s what a mature person does. I want my house clean, even though there will be no punishment if I fail to do it.

That’s how we should progress in our walk with the Lord. Those things that seemed like rules at the start, should become a vital part of our mature Christian experience.

This seems to be the hardest part of our walk with God. For some reason we want to hang on to the rules of childhood.

I’m talking about the “if…then” mentality. “If I tithe, then God will bless my finances.” “If I encourage someone, then I will be encouraged.”

Think about it. That’s how we treat children. “If you clean your room, then I’ll take you out for ice cream.”

Maturity thinks in a whole new way. We understand that under the New Covenant, I receive the blessing of God simply because I’m His child and I trust Him. On the other hand, I do those things that I know to do simply because I love the Father and I want to please Him.

This is a truth that Paul had to forcefully proclaim to the Galatian church. They were very quickly falling into legalism.

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Galatians 3:2-3 NIV

We must always remember that we’re walking according to the spirit. Serving Christ is not a matter of following a bunch of rules (observing the law). It’s about listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and walking in harmony with that calling.

Question: How do you break the “rules mentality” in following Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2022 in Faith, Legalism, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Inconvenient Discipleship

Inconvenient Discipleship

I’ve been posting about Jesus’ experience at a banquet with some Pharisees. The Lord is trying to explain some kingdom principles to them. But, because of their superior attitudes, most of them are not receiving this teaching. You may want to read Luke 14:15-26 before continuing.

Jesus has just talked about not throwing parties simply to get invited to better ones. Suddenly, one of the Pharisees excitedly interrupts.

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 14:15 NIV

He’s talking about what we know as the Second Coming of Christ. He’s anticipating a good time in the presence of God. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to get there, and these religious leaders are in the process of rejecting Him.

The Lord answers by giving them a parable. He wants to get across to them that just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’ll attend. You have to answer the call of the Messiah to be a part of the kingdom.

The parable is about a rich man who invited many people to a great feast. They all replied that they were coming. On the day of the banquet, he sent his servant to call them all to come.

But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’”

Luke 14:18-20 NIV

Hmmm. It sounds a lot like God’s people today. Everyone is busy with their own petty concerns. No one has any time to do anything for the Lord.

We have to be very careful not to allow the distractions of life to squeeze out the things of the spirit. How long can we ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit before it starts to negatively affect our life?

In the parable, the rich man made it a point to fill up his house with everyone he could find. He made sure there was no room for the foolish friends who refused his call.

Jesus makes it clear that He has to be the priority in the lives of His disciples. At the end of this parable, the Lord turns to the crowds, and begins to make this point.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:26

Most people get tripped up by this verse because they don’t understand the usage of the word hate in the Scripture. This word has no emotional attachment to it. It’s just like the word agape, used to convey the idea of love. Hate is a choice rather than an emotion.

This word hate means a choice to not participate with. There are times when being a disciple of Christ means that you choose not to participate in every family event or social invitation. Maybe it’s a baby shower or a graduation party that’s held on a Sunday morning.

Christ is saying that if you choose to participate with your family or friends over the Lord, then it shows that you’re not truly a disciple. You might be a believer who loves God. But, you have yet to choose the high road of discipleship.

A disciple is more than just a student. You can miss a few classes and still graduate with an “A”. Discipleship is totally different.

Here’s why. A student wants to learn what the teacher knows. A disciple wants to become what the teacher is. That only happens as you walk the same road as Christ.

Following the Lord can be very inconvenient at times. However, if you want the same results as Christ, you must live as He does.

Question: How would you describe your discipleship toward Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Healing and Rules

Healing and Rules

We’re continuing through Luke’s Gospel. In today’s post, we’ll start chapter 14. Jesus has been invited to a dinner on the Sabbath day.

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.

Luke 14:1 NIV

The Lord had probably spoken at a local synagogue. After the meeting, he was invited to the home of the high-ranking Pharisee of the town. You would think that this was a nice gesture of hospitality. But you’d be wrong.

The Scripture makes it clear that those who attended – a group of religious leaders – were not there to socialize. The phrase, carefully watched, is a term that means to scrutinize. It’s like when you don’t trust someone and you tell them, “I’ll be watching you.”

The one thing about Jesus is that He doesn’t disappoint.

There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.

Luke 14:2-4 NIV

Knowing how they felt about healing on the Sabbath, Jesus sets up a little demonstration. It was time to challenge their small-minded view of God. They thought they could keep God in a little box made up of their ritualistic, religious rules.

There in front of Christ is a man with dropsy. We don’t use that word anymore. We call it edema or swelling of the joints. He probably had a heart condition that would eventually kill him.

The real question is; why was he there? I believe he was brought there by the Pharisees and lawyers for the purpose of setting Jesus up. They wanted a reason to accuse the Lord.

Then it happened. Jesus started by asking them a question. He wants their legal opinion. Is it lawful or right to heal on the Sabbath day.

There’s no mention of healing on the Sabbath in the Law of Moses. However, down through the years, famous Rabbis have penned a tradition of man-made laws surrounding the Sabbath. According to these rules, healing was forbidden.

These rules were very strict. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t drink wine on the Sabbath if you had a toothache. Because, if the alcohol numbed the pain, you were breaking the Sabbath by healing.

Jesus blatantly broke their rules right in front of them. He healed the man immediately. At least in my eyes, that proves to me that these rules were not of God. If they were, God would have never healed this man.

Look at how Jesus explains this principle to the Pharisees.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” And they had nothing to say.

Luke 14:5-6 NIV

Here Jesus shows them a truth. Sickness is like falling into a pit. It’s never a good thing. The goal is always to set them free.

The question is; when? The answer should be obvious – immediately! It’s religion that makes things complicated.

“Sorry! You have to stay in the pit until tomorrow. Today is the Sabbath.”

It doesn’t take a high intelligence to see the foolishness of that statement. They need to be rescued right now. That’s why none of these religious leaders had a comeback. They couldn’t refute the truth.

That’s God’s view of healing. We make the rules and the excuses. It’s time for God’s people seek His presence. The church needs to rise to the full maturity of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

I believe that this is where God is trying to lead His church in our generation.

Question: How strongly do you desire to see God’s power manifest in the church?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2022 in Healing, Legalism, Ministry, Power of God, Revival

 

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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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Nothing Hidden

Nothing Hidden

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus teaching His disciples. In my last post, I talked generally about not adding any of our own opinions to the Word of God. Today, I want to talk specifically about what the Lord is teaching.

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

Luke 12:1 NIV

The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who knew the Bible intimately. They had memorized the entire Torah (the first five books) as well as other huge sections. You would think that they, of all people, would agree with the teaching of Christ.

The problem was, they added their “yeast” to the Word. The yeast the Lord talks about is hypocrisy. Jesus saw that many of the Pharisees were hypocrites. That word in the Greek language is very specific. It’s the word they used for an actor in a play.

An actor studies his lines and gets into character. He does this so that he can convincingly portray a different person before an audience as he’s on the stage. That’s how the Pharisees viewed the Jewish religion.

For them, it was all about putting on a convincing performance before the people. They studied the traditions and laws. They practiced their roles, lines and actions. It was all a show with nothing coming from their heart.

The Lord doesn’t want His disciples to fall into this trap. Hypocrites actually get to the point where they’ve convinced themselves that they’re righteous and holy. Unfortunately, they’ve missed the whole foundation of the fear of the Lord.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

Luke 12:2-3 NIV

Jesus is giving His disciples an important truth here. We would do well to listen and apply it to ourselves.

The word for hypocrisy literally means to act under an assumed persona. Your real identity is hidden, covered, under the character you’re acting out.

In the above verse, Jesus says that there is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. The truth is that hypocrisy cannot stay hidden forever. No matter how well you act it out, at some point you will be discovered as a hypocrite.

The sad thing is, by that point, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re sincere. You’ll get offended and mad that someone would dare accuse you of this evil. Unless you come to the point of repentance, you’ll sink into bitterness and defeat.

Jesus had better hopes for those under His teaching. The second sentence of the above verse is for them. He wants the apostles to live in such a way that their private conversations can be proclaimed from the rooftops.

That needs to be our desire as well. Because I’m a pastor, I’ve been in meetings with various groups and denominations. There have been times where the discussion sounded more like a political strategy meeting than a ministry.

We have to be careful that we don’t lose sight of the fact that our goal is to serve Jesus Christ – the Head of the church. It’s not about power struggles and who gets the credit for what happens. Our goals and motives should be an open book before all men.

In this way, when a move of God takes place, He gets the glory. We need to reorient our thinking to a ministry mentality. Like Jesus said, “I’m not here to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45). This will keep us from the yeast of the Pharisees.

Question: What are some ways you can keep your life open before God and men?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Listen to God’s Messenger

Listen to God’s Messenger

I’ve been posting about the Lord’s rebuke of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. This is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 11. Both of these groups of religious leaders are steeped in tradition. They’ve lost their love for God or the people.

Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”

Luke 11:47-48 NIV

Jesus judges these leaders by their actions. He comes to them declaring the pure truth of God. But, these men hate Him for it. They try to silence and discredit the Lord’s message at every turn.

So Christ points out that they decorate elaborate tombs for the prophets merely as a show. They want people to be impressed by them. In actuality, they would have agreed to kill these very prophets because they spoke the same message that Jesus is preaching.

The truth is clear. If they hate the message of Christ, they would have hated the message of these holy prophets. However, the Lord shows them God’s mercy.

Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’”

Luke 11:49 NIV

It’s never God’s desire to leave people in their ignorance and sin. In spite of their obstinate behavior, He continues to send those who will speak out on behalf of God’s truth. The door is always open for repentance. But in His foreknowledge, the Lord knows that the message will go largely unheeded.

Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”

Luke 11:50-51 NIV

The Lord concludes this rebuke with a grim warning. Because the religious leadership rejects Christ and His apostles, a great calamity will come upon Israel. It comes upon the whole nation because, for the most part, all of the Jewish people followed the lead of their rulers.

In saying this, Jesus makes some interesting points. Most people don’t know that Abel was the first prophet. He was actually killed by Cain because Abel was the prophet – the only one designated to bring offerings before God. And, Cain refused to go through his brother in giving the offering.

The other thing you may find surprising, is that Zechariah is listed as the last prophet to be killed. That’s because the Bible that Jesus used was in a different order than our Old Testament.

The last book in the Lord’s Bible was 2 Chronicles. Zechariah was the last martyr in that Book. So Jesus was saying that this generation would be responsible for the first to the last martyr.

After this prophecy, the Lord makes one more point.

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

Luke 11:52 NIV

I believe that Jesus is speaking about Himself and His ministry in this verse. Scripture teaches that true knowledge is hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:2-3).

These leaders rejected Christ and the knowledge He preached. On top of that, they tried their best to hinder or stop the people from receiving this gift from the Lord.

We need to learn the lesson these religious leaders failed to grasp. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you in whatever way He chooses.

Whether you like the vessel or not is immaterial. Look for the truth of God’s Word and allow it to take root in your life. This will bring the growth and maturity you need to live out your faith.

Question: What wisdom and knowledge have you found in Christ?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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