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God’s Kingdom is not Political

God’s Kingdom is not Political

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, I’m amazed at how consistent the Lord was, even though His death was imminent. He didn’t go into hiding. He kept on ministering front and center.

Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Luke 19:47-48 NIV

At this point, they couldn’t have Jesus arrested because of the people. However, that didn’t stop them from trying to discredit Him.

One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

Luke 20:1-2 NIV

This verse speaks volumes about the religious leaders of Israel. The people are drawn to the preaching and teaching of Jesus. They’re hearing the Good News of God’s kingdom. Their lives are changing.

Yet, for the leadership, that’s not the issue. It’s not about doctrine or theology. It has nothing to do with spiritual truth or growth and maturity. The main focus of this group is political power.

They knew very well that there was no school of the Pharisees or the Sadducees who certified Jesus to teach. As a matter of fact, there was no earthly group who authorized the Lord’s ministry. These leaders felt confident in the fact that Jesus could produce no proof of His authorization to teach.

The Lord’s authorization came from the Father. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. It was that very Spirit who confirmed Christ’s message with the power to heal, deliver, and perform many mighty miracles.

The Pharisees thought they had Jesus backed into a corner. He would have to admit that He had no recognized earthly authority. They quickly learned the error of their thinking.

He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?”

Luke 20:3-4 NIV

Jesus immediately brings the question of authority from earthly and temporary to heavenly and eternal. John the Baptist was obviously a highly anointed prophet of God. Everyone recognized it to the point where some people asked John if he was the Messiah.

Now the tables were turned. The leadership knew that how they answered this question would expose the attitudes of their hearts.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

Luke 20:5-6 NIV

Notice that there’s no discussion about truth or doctrine here. Was John teaching about the righteousness found in Scripture? Did he have a confirmed anointing from God? These questions were not a part of their thinking.

Instead, it was all politics. What will people think about us if we say, “from heaven”? How will people react if we say, “from men”?

And so, like true politicians, they take the coward’s way out.

So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Luke 20:7-8 NIV

I’m so glad that the kingdom of God is not about politics and perceptions. It rests upon the leadership and direction of the Holy Spirit based upon God’s Word. If I submit to God, then He will lift me to the position He has prepared for me. Praise God! – We have perfect freedom.

Question: How can church politics hinder the move of God?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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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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Paul and Denominations

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s rebuking them for using church politics instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:4

This is the sign that they’re acting just like the world.  In our self-serving society, we find the person who best represents our opinion.  Then we back them with our agreement and resources.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work in the body of Christ.  Paul and Apollos may have different types of ministry, but both are preaching the Word of God.

“I follow Paul.”  “I follow Apollos.”

To me, that sounds like the start of denominations.  It’s something that Paul didn’t want to happen in the church.  Our goal should be that everyone follows the example of Christ.

As a matter of fact, Jesus had to deal with this issue when teaching His disciples.  I posted about it at the beginning of last year, but it bears repeating.

At one point He was teaching them about welcoming people into the kingdom.  That brought up a question.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

The disciples remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  From reading the Gospels, we know that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

The Lord is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter who you follow – Luther, Wesley, the Pope, or any other Christian leader.  The goal is that our ultimate standard is Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Church Politics

As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Mark 11:27-28

On the surface, this may sound like a reasonable request.  After all, the leaders of Israel need to make sure that Jesus is the legitimate Messiah of the Jewish people.  But, as always, attitude is everything.

Authority is basically the permission to do something.  It must always be delegated from someone who has it.

In the Lord’s case, it should have been fairly obvious.  Who gave Him permission to heal the sick, open blind eyes, or raise the dead?  There’s only one place that authority could have come from – God the Father.

The Lord gets right to the heart of the matter.

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question.  Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?  Tell me!”
Mark 11:29-30

The leaders of Israel wanted to look like they were experts in judging spiritual matters.  So Jesus turns it around.

“If you want to investigate my spiritual credentials, then let’s see how well you’ve done in the past.”

The Lord used what should have been a real easy test.  John the Baptist led the nation back to God in repentance and a true change of heart.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’ . . . .” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Mark 11:31-33

This discussion cuts right to the bottom line of the problem.  Did they talk about John’s lifestyle or the message He preached?  No!!  Their only concern was the result of what they would answer.

This is politics in its purest form.  Truth takes a backseat to my image.  It’s about how people will perceive me based upon my answers.  That type of attitude gets no response from God.

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Mark 11:33

There are too many churches that fall into this category in our generation.  God’s will has nothing to do with their decisions.  It’s all about who’s in power, and what they personally want to accomplish.

We need to get back to our roots as believers.  Being a people of prayer who want to see God’s desire done in our lives.  It’s not how big I build my kingdom, or how many people think I’m the best.  I need to see God’s kingdom increase on the earth.

One thing is for certain, spirituality and politics don’t mix very well in the government of Christ.

Question: Why does the will of the majority not always equal the will of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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