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Judging Ourselves?

What comes to mind when you hear the words judge and judgment?  When reading Scripture, these definitions may not be adequate to help us in our understanding.  We need to know what type of judgment is being referred to.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was writing to a church that was beginning to question his apostolic authority.  They thought that their way was better than the Word Paul was bringing them on God’s behalf.  Many of them were resisting his teaching.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4

It’s very important that we understand what Paul is saying here.  Many have taken it out of context in order to choose their own path rather than God’s plan.  It all comes down to what’s meant by judging.

It turns out that in the Greek language there are many words that are all translated by judge or judgment in English.  That makes for some confusion when reading certain parts of the Bible.

The word, judged, in this section means to interrogate or investigate in order to make a determination.  It’s a critical viewing of all the evidence with the purpose of coming up with a verdict.  That makes this an important concept for believers to grasp.

Paul is saying that what they’re determining about his ministry is not important.  They can do their surface investigation and observe all that he says and does.  But that’s not the end of the story.  God, Himself has the final say as to Paul’s faithfulness.

There were some people in Corinth who didn’t like the fact that Paul was bringing correction to the church.  It was uncomfortable.

“Paul should be more loving.  Why does he always tell us what we’re doing wrong?  He can’t be doing God’s work with that kind of attitude.”

There were certain parts of Paul’s ministry that they didn’t like.  So they were majoring on other teachers that they liked better.  Paul is clear that this type of judging is wrong.

As a matter of fact, it’s just as wrong to judge ourselves by these standards.  You can’t simply look at surface circumstances and events to determine if you’re in God’s will.

Paul states that even though he can’t think of anything he’s done wrong, that’s not what justifies him.  He has already been declared innocent by the blood of Christ.  What he does has no effect on that.

But, when it comes to a final determination of his ministry, there’s only One qualified Judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

There will be a final judgment for believers.  This judgment will not be a Heaven or hell decision.  That was already decided when I bowed my knee to Christ.  The judgment for believers is all about their rewards…or lack thereof.

The Lord’s judgment won’t be based upon what it looked like on the surface.  He’ll take into account the thoughts and intents of the heart.  God knows our motivations and our faithfulness even if they weren’t apparent to all those who were watching us.

Be careful not to make a determination about yourself based upon your apparent failures.  Let God have the final say.  Keep staying faithful to the Lord’s call upon your life.

Question: How have your motives not always lined up with the outcomes of your actions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2019 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Blood of Covenant

In this post, I’m going to continue looking at the Last Supper as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  Last time I talked about the bread, in this article we’ll see the cup of the covenant.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
Mark 14:23-25

It should be clear from this verse that the communion cup causes us to remember the covenant.  We’re in covenant with God.  Unfortunately, many Christians don’t understand what that means.

In our society, we understand contracts.  There’s a big difference between contracts and covenants.  Contracts have an ending date, covenants are in effect forever.  A contract will usually cover a specific item or job.  A covenant covers every area of our lives.

But the biggest difference is that a contract simply requires a signature for it to be valid.  A covenant requires the shedding of blood from both parties.

Communion remembers the blood of the covenant between God and us.  Hebrews, chapter 12, talks about where we’ve come by faith.

…to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:24

Jesus is the Mediator, or literally the go-between of this covenant.  On the cross, the blood of God and man was shed by one person – Jesus Christ.  He offered it for us so that we could have a part in the New Covenant.

But, more than that, we need to understand that the blood SPEAKS.  Jesus was killed just like Abel.  But Abel’s blood spoke of revenge and justice.  Jesus’ blood speaks of forgiveness.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Matthew 26:28

Now that we’re in covenant with God, there’s a responsibility upon us to remember it and keep it.  In a covenant, everything that either person has is available to all parties.  In the natural, it would usually be two powerful people who would covenant together.

But, in our case, an all-powerful, holy God cut a covenant with us.  For our part, we were unrighteous, sinful, imperfect, weak, and poor.  I can’t list everything He provides for us.  On His part, He simply asks for 10% of our wealth, some time, fellowship, and some of our strength.

This is the part of the covenant we fail to think about sometimes.

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant– not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:6

In our churchy way of speaking, minister means to have authority over something.  In Scripture, it actually means to be a servant to something.  This verse really means that God has qualified us to serve the covenant.  The good news is that we don’t serve by the letter, but by the spirit.

When we come to the Lord’s Table we’re remembering this covenant.

“I’m in covenant with God.  It’s my whole life I’m giving over for Him.”

Question: What should our attitudes be when receiving the Communion elements?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Forgiveness is a Process

CrossSometimes we need to be reminded about the simplest concepts. Something as common as forgiveness should be reviewed again and again so that it stays fresh in our hearts. I want to take a couple of posts to talk about the mechanics of forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34a

In the past I’ve shared about what forgiveness is. It started out as God’s idea. In the Old Testament, God is the only one who ever forgave. Forgiveness is the end of the penalty for our actions. It cancels the demand for retribution. It also frees us from the guilt.

If you want to read the original series in more detail, click here.

Today I want to talk about the process involved in forgiveness. If we can understand it, then it will be easier for us to accomplish. Let’s start with King David in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12.

It all began when he stayed home from battle when he should have been with his army. He ended up on his porch watching neighbor’s wife as she bathed. David ended up being involved in adultery, murder, and a cover-up.

God sends the prophet, Nathan, to confront David with these sins. David is convicted, repents, and writes a song about his experience. (Psalm 51)

In the first 4 verses of Psalm 51 he used 5 different words for sin. He wanted to make sure he covered everything. That’s how forgiveness starts.

The first step – Sin is committed. There is a failure, a hurt against someone. But the truth is that no matter who gets hurt, there’s one important truth we need to recognize.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Psalm 51:4

Think about all that were hurt by David’s actions. There was Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, Nathan, David’s family, as well as Israel as a whole. In spite of all that hurt, David recognized that the sin was against God only.

This is the key. We have such a high opinion of ourselves. The fact is that we were created to be perfect. Anything less offends God. There is no sin we could possibly commit that’s not against God.

There is good news, however. That’s not the end of the story. The next step is that once sin is committed, forgiveness is purchased.

We know from Scripture that without blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Under the Old Testament Law there had to be a sacrifice. The Good News is that we live after the cross.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Matthew 26:27-28

The blood of Christ paid for our forgiveness once and for all. It was the one perfect payment needed.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Ephesians 1:7

This verse says that we have been loosed off by His blood and our sins are forgiven. Forgiveness is available to all.

But that’s also a problem. It’s available to all, but it’s not yet manifest. That’s what the Good News of Christ is all about.  It’s communicating the forgiveness of God.

In my next post I’ll talk about the last two steps in the process. They change everything.

Question: How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Good News for You

Good NewsI’ve been posting for a while about the importance of Scripture. This will be my last article in this series.

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Acts 8:35

The final installment about the place of Scripture in our lives is one of my favorite subjects. It should bring great joy into our Christian walk. That’s the fact that the Bible delivers to us the Good News.

This is the basis for the New Covenant – the fact that there’s good news. The rules of the Old Covenant were canceled by the blood of Christ. There’s now no testimony against me. I can now walk as a son of the living God. This is great news!

It’s good news for the world as well. No longer do you have to become a member of the nation of Israel to join God’s family. No longer do you have to observe the religious rituals performed again and again with no permanent change. Now you can come as you are to the cross of Christ and find forgiveness – once and for all.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Romans 1:16

This verse shares even more good news. Every other religion on earth shows their adherents how to strive for perfection or acceptance from their god. That’s what separates all other world religions from Christianity.

The Bible starts from the assumption that nothing we do can make us acceptable to God. He took it upon Himself to provide the way to His presence. That’s the way of Christ. He’s the One responsible to perfect me, if I’ll just trust Him to do the work.

Because of what Christ did on the cross, I now have access to the Spirit of God in a way only dreamed of in the Old Testament. The power of God is now active in my life because of the resurrection of the Lord. I can have fellowship with Him. I can talk to Him and He talks to me. That’s the abundant life Jesus came to bring us.

The Scripture is my guidebook to this new life in Christ. It shows me how to walk by the spirit. That’s why I need to study it daily. I need the insight of the Holy Spirit as to how my walk with God is to develop.

Over the last ten posts, we’ve seen that the Bible shows us how to walk in the power of God. It also teaches us the things that hinder us. We learn what strengthens our walk as well as receiving encouragement in the hard times. Truly this is good news!

Question: What new insights have you gained through this series?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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The Truth About Forgiveness

presentsI’ve been posting about forgiveness and how God has provided it in the work of Christ on the cross. In my last article I said that it’s not always evident in society around us. That’s because of the last truth concerning forgiveness.

”All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 10:43

The Apostle Peter spoke these words as he testified to a Roman Centurion and his family. The simple truth is that God gives forgiveness. So it should be obvious that forgiveness is something that’s given.

But there’s one more step in the process. Just because God forgives, doesn’t mean that you’ve been forgiven. WHAT!? What could I possibly mean by a statement like that?

The next truth that’s just as important is that in order to be effective – to manifest itself – forgiveness must be both given and received. It’s a gift. It’s not something that just gets spread out. (Although there are some cults that teach this.)

God has forgiven everybody. But not everybody has received that forgiveness.

The Lord is a gentleman. If you are dead-set on being His enemy, then He will allow you to walk in that decision. Christ will never force anyone to accept His offer of forgiveness and freedom. But He constantly holds out the invitation of a clean life.

You may remember the past. But thanks to the grace and mercy of God, the guilt and the penalties are wiped clean. Your future is now filled with hope. We are no longer bound by the fear of impending judgment.

That’s God’s idea of forgiveness. But truly, the best part of the work of God’s forgiveness in us is that under the New Covenant, we get to forgive others. That’s something no one but God could do in the Old Testament. But I’ll save that for some future posts.

Right now we’re called to walk in the forgiveness of God. If there are areas of your life that you keep looking back on with shame and guilt, then now is the time to receive the freedom from the penalty. It’s what God provided through the blood of Christ. Don’t let the enemy steal your joy.

If you’ve never received God’s forgiveness for your past, you can do that right now. Take the time to pray to the Lord. Ask Christ to forgive all your sin. Thank Him for His gift of forgiveness. Tell Jesus Christ that you want Him to be the Lord of your life and that you desire to follow after Him forever. Then thank Him for the Holy Spirit that He places on the inside of you. Pray this prayer in the name of Jesus.

That’s all it takes. The work of your restoration has already been accomplished on the cross. Now walk in the freedom that God has provided for you. If it was your first time praying this, then find a church near you where the Bible is preached, so that you can grow in your faith.

Question: What was your experience in receiving God’s forgiveness?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Forgiveness and Restoration

JailIn my last post I started writing about what forgiveness is all about. We saw that it was God’s idea that culminated in Christ on the cross. Now the penalty of our sin is no longer demanded.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14

We were dead – the penalty of our sin was looming over us. But now, because of grace, if we’re in Christ and there’s no more penalty. I can look to becoming clean without worrying about the mistakes.

As good as this is, forgiveness is much deeper than that.

The second definition that I found in Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary reads, “To grant freedom from the penalty.”

That means that forgiveness cancels the penalty. But wait a minute. Isn’t ceasing to demand the penalty and freedom from the penalty the same thing?

NO!!! The first stops the demand. Freedom is needed when you’re reaping the penalty. Forgiveness stops the penalty in its tracks.

The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.
1 Timothy 5:24

The problem is that not all sin has the same effect on our lives. Sometimes you reap the penalty here. Other sins will not bring a penalty until the judgment seat.

For example, the penalties associated with alcoholism can destroy your life right here and right now. The way is open for anyone to come to Christ as an alcoholic. But if all we had was the first definition – they would be on their way to Heaven, but their life would remain in shambles.

Our God is bigger than that. Because He grants freedom from the penalty, their life can be restored by the power of God.

We need to lay hold of this. Many times we find ourselves walking in penalties that we think we deserve. The forgiveness of the Lord stops the penalty. We don’t have to walk in guilt anymore. The blood of Christ removes the guilt.

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

The writer makes a statement here that our hearts are sprinkled. Sprinkled with what? The blood of Christ that forgives us of our sin.

So the reality is that we’ve been forgiven by Christ on the cross. Now, in Christ, there’s no more penalty. We can have a clean conscience.

Unfortunately, as we look at the world around us, it seems that this forgiveness has very little effect in our society. That’s because there’s one more truth associated with forgiveness. It’s the part that makes all of the difference.

I’ll talk about that definition in my next post.

Question: In what ways has the forgiveness of God restored your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Life in the Blood

heart CrossIn my last post I talked about the relationship between the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and the blood of Christ. This is important to us because we are told from Scripture that we are cleansed from sin by the blood.

The big question is; how do we access the blood? Listen to what Jesus said about the blood.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
John 6:53

Clearly the Lord says that our spiritual life is tied to His blood. What exactly is this blood that He’s talking about? I believe it’s about more than just taking the communion elements.

This goes along with teaching found in the Old Testament. The ancient Israelites were prohibited from eating an animal’s blood.

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.
Deuteronomy 12:23

As Jesus was teaching this to His followers, He brought out the meaning of what He was saying. In the same context as the above verse, the Lord said…

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
John 6:63

According to Jesus, the Spirit gives life. But the life is in the blood. It’s through the blood of Christ that we receive life.

Can you see it? Right now, the Holy Spirit is the life blood of the body of Christ. That’s what’s flowing through us. The Spirit of God is cleansing us and giving us His life.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
Romans 8:13

It’s by the Spirit that we’re made clean from the sin nature. As a matter of fact, everything that blood does in a body, the Holy Spirit does in the body of Christ. He flows through us touching every part with His presence.

The impurities are removed and the life giving nutrients are brought to us. To remain in the Spirit is to remain under the blood. What an awesome truth!

I don’t have to “plead the blood” over my life. If I’m praying in the spirit, communing with the Holy Spirit, then I’m accessing the blood of Christ and all that it does for me.

Don’t neglect this marvelous provision that Christ bought for us on the cross. Remain in Him. Spend time in the Spirit. And watch the life-changing power of God work on your behalf.

Question: How has the blood of Christ changed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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The Holy Spirit, the Word, and the Blood

cross 2Very often we like to talk about the Holy Spirit. But there’s a work of the Spirit that we don’t usually look forward to. But whether we like it or not, it’s important to let the Spirit have His way in us.

Look at what Jesus said in the section of the Gospel of John where He was talking about sending the Holy Spirit.

“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

So when Christ talks about remaining in Him, He means that we continue to commune with the Holy Spirit. If that’s the case, then who’s doing the life-changing work in us? It must be the Holy Spirit’s job.

We may not like it, but the Spirit of God was sent to prune us to greater fruitfulness. Even the Apostle Paul understood this.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

In the original Greek language this verse reads, God did not call us to be unpruned. No one in the kingdom of God should be unpruned. If we reject this work, then we’re rejecting the Holy Spirit. That’s probably why He gets grieved over us sometimes.

So it’s clear from the Gospel of John that the Spirit prunes every branch.

The Lord told the Disciples that they were already pruned because of the Word He spoke to them. How can that be the case? Jesus explained it to the disciples.

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
John 6:63

They were pruned because Words Jesus spoke were Spirit and Life. So what exactly is it that prunes us? I want to look at one more verse to help us see an incredible truth.

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

Here we see the Holy Spirit working together with the blood of Christ to cleanse us. This is a powerful work of God in us. It all works together for our righteousness.

We need to understand the interactions of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the blood of Christ. In my next post we’ll look deeper into this life-changing aspect of God’s grace.

Question: How has your life changed since you let the Holy Spirit work in you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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It’s My Private Business

DoorI’m posting about the fellowship we share as believers. In my last article I asked if we saw ourselves as a part of something much bigger than ourselves. This is an important issue.

In dealing with the problem of idolatry in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul made an important statement.

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17

The first part of our fellowship that we need to understand is our fellowship with Christ. The words translated participation in this verse, are the same that are translated fellowship in the verses I looked at last time. We have a fellowship in the body and blood of the Lord.

In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper we’re showing a visible representation of our fellowship. It’s because of our connection to Christ that we are connected with each other. We all have a share in His body and in His blood.

It’s this concept of participation that should guide some of our actions. There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter what I do outside of the church. What I do in my private time is my own business. But is it?

Remember, it’s all about participation. Am I participating with the world in things I shouldn’t be involved in? That’s the issue Paul’s dealing with here.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:21

Those are strong words. In context he’s talking about idolatry in a pagan temple. But this could apply to us as well. There are many things in society that could be seen as modern idolatry. Gaming, the internet, the entertainment industry, and a whole host of other things can steal our devotion.

Actually, anything that we participate in that causes us to reject time with Christ is idolatry. No, I don’t think we should be worshipping 24/7. But only serving God two hours a week on Sunday morning is a symptom of a spiritual sickness.

Paul tells us the bottom line.

“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Even things that are permissible, with no evil aspects, can be detrimental to your Christian walk. The fact is, being a Christian is not all about me. I’m a part of something bigger than myself. The fellowship I share is on a spiritual level. The things I do in the natural can have a spiritual effect.

This is key to understanding the fellowship we share. What I do as an individual affects the whole. That’s life in a body. When I stub my toe, my whole body is affected. This is a lesson the current generation of believers needs to learn.

Question: How does a person’s private life affect the whole church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Fellowship, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Ownership – The Foundation of Worship

 

SealI’m posting about the atmosphere surrounding the true worship of God. I’m looking at the worship scene around God’s throne as an example to us. Specifically – the gems talked about in Revelation, chapter 4.

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
Revelation 4:3

In my last post I talked about jasper stones. The second mentioned is carnelian. This stone is a silicate with iron-oxide mixed in. That gives it the color of orange to a deep blood-like red.

One of the most important properties of carnelian is that hot wax will not stick to it. Because of this the ancient Romans made their signet or sealing rings from it.

When important scrolls or letters were written, hot wax was dripped on it to seal it. While the wax was still soft, the owner would make an impression in it using this ring. Only the one with the proper authority could then open the letter – usually under the penalty of death for unauthorized breaking of the seal.

These rings carried with them the power of authority and ownership. Worship understands God’s ownership of us. So many problems arise from not acknowledging God’s ownership.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22

The Bible is clear – we were bought at a price. The price was the precious blood of Christ. That’s why it’s so meaningful that the carnelian can be a blood red stone.

Knowing that I belong to Christ makes it easier for me to worship Him. When I’m under the impression that I own myself, worship then becomes optional. I worship the Lord when and if I feel like it.

When Satan tested Christ in the wilderness, at one point he showed the Lord all the kingdoms of the world. The devil then said that he would give it all to Christ free and clear if He bowed down and worshipped him. That would have been an easy way out. Jesus would never have had to go to the cross and suffer.

What was the Lord’s response?

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4:10

It’s clear from Scripture that worship and service go hand in hand. Unfortunately, many believers worship themselves. I need to come to grips with the understanding that I’m not my own. I’m here at Christ’s good pleasure. That will lead me to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.

Question: How does your life show that it’s owned by Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Worship

 

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