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Save Yourself?

Save Yourself?

We’re continuing through the Gospel of Luke. We’re now seeing Christ on the cross and all that means to us. Listen as the crowd mocks Him.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Luke 23:35-39 NIV

As emotionally charged as this scene is, there’s something for us to take note of. There’s an overall theme of what’s being said to the Lord. “Save yourself!”

I think that we lose sight of this truth sometimes. The will of God often goes against the natural tendencies of our humanity.

The world and even our own flesh will cry out for us to save ourselves. Surely there must be something we can do to get out of the mess we find ourselves in. However, that’s carnal thinking.

Jesus prepared the disciples for what His attitude would be on the cross.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 NIV

There was a work that needed to be done. The only possible way was by means of the cross. There was no accomplishing our salvation and at the same time saving Himself. Jesus totally surrendered to the will of the Father.

We are not called to anything less. The road that we walk, many times, requires us to deny ourselves for the sake of others. Our flesh may be insisting that we save ourselves. But that’s not the example that was laid down for us.

Even in His pain and suffering, there was a work that Christ needed to be doing for those around Him. There was one more act of compassion that had to be done before His death.

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:40-43 NIV

I can’t even fathom the love of the Lord at this point. My attitude would have been a lot different.

“Really, Father? I’m dying here. Do you really expect me to minister to this man in my condition?”

I’m so glad that Christ lived above our petty self-centeredness. His life was never about Himself, but always for the betterment of others.

That’s the key to a fulfilled life in Christ. We must accurately portray who He is through our daily lives.

But we’ll never be able to live up to this in our own strength and ability. The only way to accomplish such a lifestyle is through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence. It’s only as He imparts His love, boldness, and strength, that we can hope to minister as Jesus did. Let the Lord’s example motivate you to seek His face for the days ahead.

Question: How much of the Lord’s compassion do you see in your life?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2023 in Faith, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Forgiveness Begins

Forgiveness Begins

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we’re now at the crucifixion of Christ. There’s so much for us to see in this section of Scripture.

Sometimes 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. Christ is our greatest example of forgiveness, even while hanging on the cross.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals — one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:32-34 NIV

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.

Jesus started the process of our forgiveness even while being humiliated and ignored on the cross. But, how does this process work? 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 his 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 NIV

Think about all that were hurt by David’s actions. There was Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, Nathan, David’s family, as well as the whole nation of Israel. In spite of all this 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 NIV

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 NIV

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 to the world.

Each one of us, as believers, should be proclaiming this great Gospel.

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

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2023 in Encouragement, Faith, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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The Burdens of Christ

The Burdens of Christ

We’re continuing through the Gospel of Luke. As we do, we’re now at the crucifixion of the Lord. This is one of the most important events in all of history.

But, before He ever went to His cross, Jesus told us that we each need to carry our own cross. What does that mean to us? I believe that the events surrounding His crucifixion, give us some insights.

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:26 NIV

The first thing we see is that in His weakened state, the Lord was physically unable to carry the full weight of His cross. So, a man named Simon was made to carry it.

Nobody volunteers to carry a cross. He had to be forced to do it, and it wasn’t even Simon’s cross.

We may not want to do it, but carrying our cross is a choice every believer has to make. It’s a daily decision. It’s not some situation that we find ourselves in.

I’ve heard some women say about their husband, “You’re my cross that I have to bear.” That’s absolutely not what’s meant by carrying the cross. It’s all about a daily choice to deny the flesh and follow the leading of the Spirit.

However, there’s more to the story that we need to see.

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ‘

For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Luke 23:27-31 NIV

This section of Scripture shows the compassion of Jesus Christ in a powerful way. The Lord is too weak, physically, to carry His cross. Someone else has to bear the weight for Him.

Yet, at the same time, we see Him spiritually strong enough to bear the burdens of others. There are crowds of people following Christ to the place of His execution. Jesus looks at them and shows His concern for them.

Any other person in that place would be worried about themselves.

“I’ve got my own problems. Yes, weep for me. Show me your support of what I’ve done. Encourage me to do what I have to do.”

But, through all of this, Jesus shows that His focus is not on Himself. He’s doing this for others. For the crowd watching, as well as for you and me. He showed in this instance that there was no self-centeredness in His makeup.

He looked at these women and had compassion on them. He saw their future. Israel was going to be attacked and destroyed. All of its people would be scattered across the world. He was bearing the burden of that knowledge.

We need to follow his example. Yes, there are things we’re going through and battles that we’re fighting. But that doesn’t excuse us from ministering to the needs of others.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 NIV

We’re not told to help others only when everything’s going great for us. That’s not the example Christ laid down for us. We’re to help one another even when it’s not convenient.

Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you. Let Him strengthen you, not only for your trials, but in order to be an encouragement to others.

Question: How have you helped others while going through your own trials?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2023 in Ministry, Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Setup

We’re continuing to look at the crucifixion of Christ as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  In my last post, Jesus breathed His last and the curtain in the Temple was torn in two.  Now we see the witnesses around the cross.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.  Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Mark 15:39-41

This was not something that was done in secret.  There were many people surrounding the cross.  They watched as He gave His life.

Many of these people had placed their hopes in Christ.  Now that dream was gone.

Maybe they were all praying for a miracle as they watched everything taking place.  They could have hoped that at the last moment, angels would swoop down and take Jesus off the cross.  They watched and waited, but the Messiah stayed on the cross.

Now it was over.  There was nothing left to do but to take care of the body.  A member of the Sanhedrin stepped up and came out of the shadows.

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath).  So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead.  Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.  When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
Mark 15:42-45

Joseph was a man who was highly respected.  He could have remained as a secret follower of Christ.  Instead, he summoned his inner strength and received the body of Jesus.

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark 15:46-47

Joseph did what he could to prepare the body for burial.  He even gave the Lord his own tomb that had never been used.  Once the body was laid to rest, the tomb was sealed.  It was finished.

At least that’s what everybody thought.  What went through their minds as they tried to sleep that night?  It seemed like God had failed them.

It’s like us sometimes.  We give God a time limit.  We think He needs to answer us by this time.  Then, when nothing happens, we get upset with God.

“Lord, I trusted You.  Why didn’t You answer my prayer?”

What we miss sometimes, is that God isn’t bound by our limits and weaknesses.  He can bring about His plan even after we think it’s too late.

The people of Scripture thought the same way as us.  Jesus is dead and buried in the ground.  There’s no way that He can save Israel now.

Understand this.  God always has a bigger plan than we can see.  It’s never too late for the Lord to turn things around.  Put your trust in Him and never waver in your faith.

We know how the story will finish!

Question: When has God answered your prayer even when you thought it was too late?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

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The Pain of the Cross

Before He ever went to His cross, Jesus told us that we each need to carry our own cross.  What does that mean to us?  I believe that the events surrounding His crucifixion, give us some insights.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Mark 15:21

The first thing we see is that in His weakened state, the Lord was physically unable to carry the full weight of His cross.  So a man named Simon was made to carry it.

Nobody volunteers to carry a cross.  He had to be forced to do it, and it wasn’t even Simon’s cross.

We may not want to do it, but carrying our cross is a choice every believer has to make.  It’s a daily decision.  It’s not some situation that we find ourselves in.

I’ve heard some women say about their husband, “You’re my cross that I have to bear.”  That’s absolutely not what’s meant by carrying the cross.  It’s all about a daily choice to deny the flesh and follow the leading of the Spirit.

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.
Mark 15:22-23

The next thing I see is that the cross involves pain.  Besides its other uses, myrrh was a painkiller.  Condemned criminals were given it to take the edge off of the pain they were about to endure.  Jesus refused it, taking the full pain of punishment for us.

The fact is that when we deny the flesh, there’s pain involved.  Maybe not physical pain, but there is a great discomfort in refusing the way of the “old man”.  A large part of that is the knowledge that at any point we could choose to stop the discomfort and give in to the temptation of sin.

To my knowledge, there’s no painkiller available to stop the discomfort of denying the flesh.  I wish that there was.  I believe that Christ refused the myrrh to identify with our suffering.

And they crucified him.  Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
Mark 15:24

Finally, the cross involves loss.  Jesus had to watch while others took things that belonged to Him.  That’s also a part of what happens when we deny the flesh.

Our present generation has recently coined a new term – FOMO.  It stands for a Fear Of Missing Out.  In our age of everyone being connected to each other – we constantly know what all our friends are doing.  We know where they are, what they’re eating, and what they’re feeling.

When we decide to deny the flesh and follow the Spirit, it always comes with the fear that we’re going to miss out on the enjoyment of the world.  If I follow Jesus, then I’m not going to have as much fun as my friends.

That’s a choice you have to make.  It depends on whether you want fun or fulfillment.  Do you want a life you can look back on and say, “That was worth living!”?

Please understand; I’m not saying that there’s no fun as a believer.  My life is full of good times.  But the good times in Christ come without the baggage of regret.  Sometimes the hardest choices bring the greatest rewards.

Carrying your cross – it goes against human nature – but you’ll find that it’s worth the pain.

Question: What does carrying your cross mean to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2018 in Encouragement, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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