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The Mystery of the Cross

Question MarkDo I want to be a disciple – a student – of Christ? Do I want to learn the path of life from His example? If not, then the cross is a word I push off to the corners of my Christian walk.

How do you turn all this around and get the victory? The Word of the cross is what makes the difference. There’s just one problem with this kind of thinking. We don’t like the cross. It makes us nervous. It sounds too much like sacrifice.

This isn’t the first time the church has had to deal with this issue. Paul wrote about it 2000 years ago.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2

This is a totally different approach to ministry than what we see today. Paul said that he didn’t arrive on the scene with great, persuasive words of wisdom. Instead, he preached a simple message – Christ crucified.

That was it. Not the risen Lord, not the King of Heaven, not Christ the Healer, or seated at the right hand of the Father. Only the crucified Savior, which he calls the testimony about God.

The Greek word for testimony in this verse literally means mystery. Scripturally, a mystery is something that wasn’t understood until God actually accomplished it.

That’s what Christ did on the cross. The Old Testament saints had no concept of how God would use the cross to provide our salvation.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8

It was a secret that God kept hidden away from before our age began. Even Satan, as intelligent as he is, couldn’t conceive of how God would save us. If he even had a hint of the power of the cross, Satan would never have crucified the Lord. The working of the cross was the greatest mystery of all time.

But wait! Does this mean that it’s a mystery to us? Of course not.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

This is a mystery that God wants to reveal to us. If we can grasp what happened on the cross, then it will have the power to totally transform our lives. This is the message for those who want to participate with the work of God’s ongoing salvation in their lives. It’s for those who desire to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is how we’ve gotten so far astray in this nation. We spend most of our time seeking God for things. We follow Him for healings, joy, and prosperity. Yet, we don’t realize that all of these things are available in the person of the crucified Savior. We need to seek a relationship with the One who has the power to completely save us from the effects of sin.

Question: Why does this generation seem to avoid teaching about Christ crucified?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Power of God, The Church

 

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The Cross and Discipleship

ClassIn my last post I started talking about our view of the cross. Paul said that we need to preach the Good News without emptying the cross of its power. Jesus gave some pretty clear instructions to His disciples about it.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

The key assignment was to preach and make disciples. Disciples are those who have chosen to participate with God’s ongoing work of salvation in their lives. Then, they are to baptize those who believe this message.

The baptism is secondary to preaching and making disciples. What are we to preach? The Word of the cross. That’s what makes disciples.

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27

It’s clear that discipleship and the cross go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Unfortunately, we have a lack of disciples these days. Maybe it’s because we don’t preach the cross as we should.

I Corinthians 1:18 says that the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing – literally, those who are being destroyed. There are many believers who are being destroyed because of our de-emphasis of the cross.

They are downtrodden, overcome by the world, and bound up by all kinds of sin and addictions. Our lives, homes, and marriages seem to have the same sicknesses as the world without Christ. The world no longer looks to the church for answers, because we don’t look much different than they do.

We wonder why we can’t get the victory. These verses make it obvious that without the life changing power of the cross, we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s time to turn this around and bring the victory in this area. We need to get back to the Biblical foundation for our lives.

We need to restore the Word of the cross. But, for some reason, we resist this work. We seem to have come to the conclusion that the cross is only for the unsaved. Why does Paul tell us that it’s foolishness to those who are being destroyed? Because the cross is for those who want to move on to maturity.

Literally, this verse tells us that the word of the cross is a manifestation of God’s power in His people. But it’s not for all. It’s the power of God to those of us who are continuing in the ongoing work of salvation in our lives. This is why we shrink from it. We don’t like the sound of the cross. When we think of the cross we think of humility, weakness and pain. Could this really be the road to power?

Jesus’ command to carry the cross is not a call for unbelievers to come to Him. It’s a radical command to follow Christ by giving up all other desires. To pick up the cross means to lay everything else down. To follow Christ means to ignore all other paths. This is a message that gets lost in our generation’s search to experience the best that the world has to offer.

I’m not talking about whether you’re saved or not. You can be saved and on your way to Heaven, yet ignore the call to the cross. It all comes down to discipleship.

Question: How do you define being a disciple of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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Christian – Why the Word Gets Bad Press #Christian

Dry2It used to be that if you were known as a Christian, it was considered a good thing in our society.  Now, if you use that term, you’re labeled everything from a loser, to a hypocrite, to emotionally disturbed.  Why is that?

It has a lot to do with how we portray ourselves to the world.  We say things about ourselves that give hope to the world only to let them down when they find out the real story.  I’m not talking about Christ, but about us.

I believe that if we truly portrayed Christ to the world, they’d have a different opinion of us.  It’s obvious, even today, that those churches and individuals who walk as Jesus did are drawing many to the cross.  What makes the difference?

A few months ago I wrote a post about what it means to be a disciple.  You can click here to read it.  In that post I said that disciples are more than just students learning what someone taught.  They want to become what the teacher is.

This requires us to follow, come near to, experience, and live in Christ and His Word.  It’s a deeper walk than many want to attain to in our generation.  The reason I bring this up, is a statement I read in the book of Acts.

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Acts 11:26b

It’s a very simple declaration.  The first time the disciples were called Christianslittle christs – was in a town named Antioch.

This was at a time when the church was walking in the power of God.  Even though they were small and suffering some persecution, they were turning their world upside-down with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Notice what Luke doesn’t say.  He doesn’t record that the believers were called Christians.  It wasn’t all those who attended church.  The disciples – those who were striving to live like Christ – were called little christs by the world.

This is why the world largely rejects our witness.  They look at how we live versus what we say.  They don’t see the same thing in modern Christianity that was evident in the early church.

I know, it’s too late to change our language now but, we can let God change us.  If I’m going to wear the name of Christ, then I need to let Him work His plan in me.  I want the world to see me in Him.

When we lift up Christ by our lives, the world will gain a different perspective of who we are.  It will be easier for them to hear the Gospel.  We need to follow the path of true discipleship.

If that’s already your heart’s desire – continue on and let nothing sway you.  If the Lord is convicting you about it, then repent and move forward right now.  Let the world see Christ through His church.

Question: How would Jesus minister to people in our generation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Do You have Room for the Word? #discipleship

WeedsIn my last post I talked about what Jesus said that it means to be His disciple in John, chapter 8.  It requires us to remain in His Word.  Our response to this truth is an issue today.

Even though Jesus was speaking to those who believed in Him, their response was surprising.  They were offended that He said they needed to be set free.

“We’ve never been a slave to anything or anyone.”

“You’ve gone too far, Jesus.”

“I know you are Abraham’s descendants.  Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.”
John 8:37

Jesus knew that they were believers.  The problem was that they had no admittance, pass, designated space for His Word.  Because they wanted to justify themselves, their minds rejected what Christ was telling them.  Later in His teaching, Jesus explained why this happened.

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
John 8:43

He literally said that it was because they did not have the power to hear my logos.  In order to let the Word of God work its change in our lives, we need to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul even wrote about it.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

It’s the Holy Spirit who helps us to hear God’s Word.  But don’t get the idea that it’s an easy thing.  The state of the modern church, pastors included – proves just the opposite.  Think about what Christ taught concerning the difficulties involved in discipleship.

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27

That doesn’t sound very convenient.  Picking up something that points to the death of my flesh.  Then, as if that’s not enough, I have to watch closely to where Christ is moving, and follow in His footsteps.

It’s no wonder that in the current version of Christianity, we use the word “disciple” to mean anyone who has received salvation.  We need to get back to the radical discipleship that Jesus taught.

In my next post I’ll talk about just how inconvenient this is.

Question: How far are you willing to be inconvenienced for Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Ministry, Revival, Word of God

 

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What does it take to be a Disciple? #discipleship

ClassGod wants us to walk in the full rights of sonship as His children.  This means that we’re walking in the authority and responsibility that comes with it.  To get to that point, we must undergo the process of discipleship.  What does that mean?

At one point in His ministry, Jesus was speaking to a crowd about why He came to the earth.

Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.
John 8:30

This was a good response.  There were believers sprinkled through the crowd, listening to His every word.  They were the ones that the Lord was focusing on as He continued.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32

Talking specifically to those that believed, He explained that faith is not the goal.  It’s merely the beginning of the journey.

Here in America we’ve gone through the “Faith Movement”.  Regardless of how you feel about it, this movement changed the entire face of the church.  But there’s still more that God wants to do in us.

What comes next is that little word that changes everything. IF!  Its conditional – “If you live, remain, dwell in my Word…”

The next step after faith is to live in God’s Word.  Its living in the Word that makes you a disciple.  There’s a difference in Scripture between believers and disciples.

When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you become a believer.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in you and you’re on your way to heaven.  Becoming a disciple is a whole other choice.

“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.”
John 15:1-3

This is the result of discipleship.  Once we know the truth – by remaining in His Word – we are set free from sin by that Word.

This is the foundation for all that we do in Christ.  It’s by the Word that the power of God is manifest in us.  What I’m talking about is the Word you hear as you’re intimate with Christ.

That’s how Jesus operated.  By remaining in the Father’s Word, He had 100% results.  The Lord could heal, walk on water, calm a storm, raise the dead, or feed five thousand.  All this because He remained in the Word He heard from the Father.

Question: What will it take for us to walk in this level of discipleship?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Faith, Revival, Word of God

 

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Are You a Disciple of Christ, Really? #discipleofChrist

ClassWe use the term disciple very casually these days.  Many are of the opinion that just being a Christian automatically makes you a disciple.  It that the truth?  Let’s see how it worked for the first disciples who came to Christ.

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” 

They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
John 1:35-39

There are some things that this passage can teach us about what it means to be a disciple.  We see two men who were following John the Baptist.  Then they were pointed to the Messiah.  That’s when their lives were changed.

A disciple follows Christ.  There’s no way around that.  The word follow implies that they took the same road as Christ. Many teach that a disciple is a student.  I’ve attended enough classes to know that not all students aspire to be like their teachers.  A student wants to learn what’s being taught.  A disciple wants to become what the teacher is.

A disciple comes near to Christ.  Jesus asked these men, “What are you seeking?”  Their response, in the original Greek, was amazing.  They replied, “Where is your dwelling place?”  Being a disciple is all about what you’re seeking.  Many say that they’re pursuing God.  But in reality they’re only after the things God can give them.  A disciple simply wants to be near Christ.

A disciple wants to experience Christ.  These men went to the Lord’s house and spent time with Him.  Hearing about Him isn’t enough.  What are you seeking?  Facts and figures about what God has done?  Or do you want to meet with Him and experience His home?

A disciple lives in Christ.  This is what truly defines a disciple.  Do you want to live in Him?  Jesus made this point very clear.  When most Christians are asked about it, they usually reply, “Of course I’m a disciple.”  The real issue is; what are you seeking?  Anything other than His dwelling place and you’re not a disciple.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
John 8:31-32 NKJV

Abide in Him.  Let His word abide in you.

Question: What steps are you taking to be a disciple of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Encouragement, Revival

 

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