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God’s Love at the Right Time

God’s Love at the Right Time

We’re going through the book of Romans together.  Here in chapter 5, Paul is still getting us acquainted with his teaching on the Christian walk.

We’ve seen the progression of how God wants to bring us into the manifestation of His love.  The Lord wants this love to empower us in our work for Him.

Now Paul is getting to the heart of the matter.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

This Scripture is clear.  God did His greatest work while we were still without strength.

But that brings us to an important point.  God brought this about at just the right time.  That literally means Christ died at the appointed time.

This is something that we frequently get hung up on.  I have a problem differentiating between God’s appointed time vs. when I think God should have answered.  I assume God is late or ignoring my problem.  Of course, that’s foolish thinking.

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2

I’ve learned that God is always on time.  In my limited understanding, I think that there’s no way out.  God, however, shows up at the right time and the right place to show Himself strong in my life.

The fact is that Jesus Christ gave His life for us.  He’s not going to ignore us now.  He wants the best for us.

According to the first passage above, He died for the irreverent.  That means those with no spiritual aptitude.

It’s hard enough, difficult enough, to die for someone we consider good.  I’m glad to say that this isn’t how God demonstrates His love.

That word, demonstrates, is a Greek word that means to introduce.  This is how God introduces His love.  While we were still actively missing the mark, Christ died for us.

In writing this letter to the Romans, Paul was addressing a people to whom this was very true.  When Christ died, the people of Rome were totally clueless to what was happening in Jerusalem.

Their salvation was being purchased at a great cost.  Yet, it would be years before they would hear the Good News.  It’s good to know that I didn’t need to see this work being done in order to receive the benefits of it.

As a Pharisee living in Jerusalem, Paul may have met Jesus or heard Him speak.  Paul might have even been one of those at the foot of the cross, ridiculing the Lord.  But at Paul’s worse, Jesus was dying for this Pharisee’s salvation.

How could we ever think that God would abandon us now?  Put your trust and hope in the love of God.  Never let the cares and problems of life overwhelm your knowledge of His great love, concern, and care for you.

Question: How have you experienced God’s loving concern for you?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2021 in Encouragement, Faith, The Gospel

 

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God’s View of a Sinful World

God’s View of a Sinful World

I’m continuing to go through Paul’s letter to the Roman church.  We’re now about to enter one of the most controversial sections.  I have to be careful in how I explain it.

This passage of Scripture is not controversial because we argue over what it means.  On the contrary, the meaning of the words is very clear.  We argue over whether or not to believe it as God’s Word.

Personally, I choose to believe everything in the Bible as written.  That being said, I also believe that there’s no place in the Christian life for self-righteous hatred, bigotry, or condemnation.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Romans 1:26-27

The first thing to note is what this passage is and is not saying.  Too many Christians grab this verse and run with it to attack others. That’s not the purpose.

We have to remember that everything in Scripture is based in God’s unfailing love.  There’s no one outside of God’s love.

Even in this section I see the grace and patience of the Lord.  There’s a phrase that’s repeated three times – here, in verse 24 (which we looked at in the last post), and in verse 28.  It reads, God gave them over.

That literally means that God surrendered or yielded to their desires.  In other words, God allows us to do what we want to do.  He doesn’t stop us, even if we head in a wrong direction.  He gives us the freedom to choose our own path.

Another issue we need to understand is that sin is about actions and not desire.  In my flesh, I may want to do wrong, but the spiritual battle isn’t over until a final decision is made.

Of course, that brings me to an important point…what exactly is sin?  When people hear that word they immediately think, “Evil”.  But the truth is that sin isn’t always evil or bad.

The literal definition of sin in both the Old and New Testaments is to miss the mark.  God holds up the ideal of the perfect life.  We strive to reach it.  But, when we miss God’s best, even by a little, that’s sin.

The Bible is clear that all sin is the same in God’s eyes.  It all comes with the spiritual death penalty.  There’s no grading on a curve.  A white lie and murder are equal before the Lord.  That’s why we need a Savior who carried all of our sin to the cross.

As human beings we like to assign different values of severity to sin.  We think some are worse than others.  Because of this, we’ll vocally attack some lifestyle choices, while we nurture others.

Case in point – before the pandemic you would have to stand in line to get in a buffet restaurant on a Sunday after church services conclude.  We would happily join someone with a gluttonous lifestyle, as they satisfy that craving.  (I can say that because this is one of my personal battles I’m trying to overcome in my life.)

Finally, we have to realize that we’re all under God’s grace.  There’s no condemnation until the final judgment when Christ returns.

STD’s are not God’s judgment on alternate lifestyles.  Just as heart disease and cancer aren’t God’s judgments on overeaters and smokers.

Yes, as Christians we need to know what actions the Bible labels as sin.  But we also need to walk in the love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s what our dark society needs right now.

Question: How do you show Christ’s love to those who are not living by God’s standards?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2020 in Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Heart

Continuing in our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we can understand Paul’s motives.  The church had some challenges.  Paul wrote to them with instructions.  Titus went to check on their progress and reported back to Paul.

So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.  By all this we are encouraged.  In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.
2 Corinthians 7:12-13

Paul’s letter to them (1 Corinthians) was a test.  God was challenging them to step up to a new level.

Paul was following God’s heart when he wrote to this church.  You can see it in his comments.

He didn’t write the letter because someone was sinning.  He didn’t even write it because someone was hurt or offended.  He sent it because he wanted the church to see how they had grown and matured in the Lord.

We have to understand that this is why the Lord allows tests and trials into our lives.  God isn’t wondering how we’ll respond, or if we’ve grown or not.  He already knows what’s in our hearts.  He knows how we’ll react.

God allows these challenges so that we’ll see just how far we’ve come.  Many times I’ve gone through a problem only to say something like, “Five years ago I would have never made it through that.  I must be maturing.”

God wants us to see how far we’ve progressed in Him.  But it’s not just for our sakes.

I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me.  But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well.  And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.  I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
2 Corinthians 7:14-16

That is an example of God’s heart as well.  He wants to “show us off” to the world and to the enemy’s kingdom.

The Holy Spirit is working in us.  He’s changing and maturing us into the image of Christ.  More than that, the Lord wants everyone to know it.

This is the wisdom of God.  He’s doing this so that we can walk in His glory (1 Corinthians 2:7).

We need to stop looking at our challenges as a bad thing.  God allows them into our lives for our benefit.  They’re producing His goals in our lives.  They’re paving the way to our destiny in Him.

Question: What is a past trial that you can see how a positive result came from it?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2020 in Encouragement, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Our Example

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s teaching on how to handle the grey areas of sin – things that the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about.  We’re finding that it’s more about spiritual principles than a black and white list of do’s and don’ts.

He now begins talking about Israel under the Old Testament.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Paul is now talking about the spiritual walk of the ancient Israelites.  Specifically, he tells us about those who were saved and walking with God, the same as we are.  The only difference is that their salvation was “on credit”.

They were looking forward to what God was going to do in Christ.  They didn’t know how or when it would happen.  We look back on the completed work of Christ and know all the details.

Just like us, in order for them to be saved, they had to walk by faith.  It wasn’t the observing of the law that saved them.  The sacrificial system was simply an ongoing observance to which they could attach their faith.

Paul shows us that they went through the same type of ongoing process that we have in our walk with Christ.  They had to undergo two baptisms – representing water baptism and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

They were also provided with food (manna) and water through the wilderness.  It was only obtained through a daily act of faith in God.  Paul goes as far as to say that the rock from which the water flowed was an Old Testament manifestation of Christ.

Why is it important for us to know this?

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
1 Corinthians 10:5-6

Here are the facts.  Even though they were saved and in God’s kingdom by observing the law by faith, God wasn’t pleased with most of them.  Many of them ended up dying before seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Paul tells us clearly that this was recorded in Scripture as an example to us.  We need to understand how this applies to our walk with the Lord.

I think that in the modern church, we’ve mixed up the concepts of God’s love and God’s pleasure.  God can love us unconditionally, yet at the same time be displeased with us.  We need to take this truth to heart.

I have three children.  There have been times that I was absolutely displeased with them.  But even at their worst, I loved them and would give my life to defend and protect them.

We have to understand that the law of sowing and reaping is a definite part of the New Covenant experience.  The Bible tells us that we can either sow to please our flesh or our spirit.  What we set our hearts on will determine the outcome.

There are many Christians that are in bad situations.  It’s not because God doesn’t love them or because He’s judging them.  Instead, they’re simply reaping the bad seed that they’ve planted.

This is Paul’s warning to us.  Don’t follow the bad example of Israel.  Set your heart on the good things of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen the results of sowing and reaping in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Cain – Offerings and Relationship

Fake MoneyI’m looking at the life of Cain and how he speaks to our modern worship of God. In my last post we saw that he loved God and brought Him an offering. Unfortunately, God didn’t accept the offering.

…but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Genesis 4:5

As a result, Cain’s emotions were stirred up and he became upset. But do we really understand him or what he was going through?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Genesis 4:6-7

I believe that these verses are the key to understanding Cain. I see some things that are happening here that sometimes get overlooked because we’re so familiar with the story.

First, I see that God loved Cain. The Lord wanted the best for him. I see it by the way God talks to Cain. God speaks to him as a father would speak to a son.

I also see that Cain had a great deal of respect for God. He didn’t have an angry outburst or talk back to Him. I think that speaks volumes especially since some of the Old Testament prophets – Moses and Elijah, just to name a couple – talked back to God in their anger.

The fact is that in all our dealings with God, He knows what’s in our hearts. There’s no way around that. It was the same in this encounter with Cain. God spoke to the real issue.

God told Cain that if you do right, you’ll be accepted – which literally means promoted or exalted. So what was Cain really looking for? He wanted acceptance from God.

That surprised me more than anything. Cain’s goal was a relationship with God.

Even more than that – Cain talked with God, and God talked with him. They had conversations together. Think about it. Wouldn’t you want a relationship like this with God?

I came to the conclusion that Cain was a great guy! If he showed up at our church, we would love him. He would worship and sing right along with us. He would look and act no different than anyone else attending our service. And that’s what concerns me.

It’s also why Cain was so upset. He wanted to show his love to God through an offering, yet it wasn’t accepted. In effect God was saying, “I love you, Cain, but I cannot accept your offering.”

But God’s statement implies something else. Cain knew the right way to bring an acceptable offering to God. Because if there’s an offering God doesn’t accept – then there must be one that He does accept.

In my next post I’ll talk about exactly why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted. We’ll need to understand it if we’re going to keep off of his path.

Question: Have you ever been upset at God for something?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Spiritual Walk, The Church, Worship

 

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How’s Your Love-Walk?

Question MarkIn my last post I talked about how love is one of the non-optional ingredients to a powerful ministry. I defined it as treating people as if you like them – whether you do or not, whether you know them or not and whether you are in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround God’s people. When you’re ministering to others, all these aspects should be evident in your work.

Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect. This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing. But it’s still a thing. Things can never be more important than people. Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love the ministry to the extent that you do not care for the people.

You are not their Lord, Jesus is. Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives. If you’re walking in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family. Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord. It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry. I never let him preach at our church again. God has never accepted child sacrifice. The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends. Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies. If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”

We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love. Christ’s example stops us from doing this. He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples. When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
1Thessalonians 5:8

Faith and love – they’re the two non-negotiable items with God. Scripture makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. But just as true is the verse we looked at in the last post that clearly states that if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. You cannot please Him unless both are in operation.

Paul wasn’t forgetful either. He didn’t call the breastplate one thing here and then forget about it and call it righteousness somewhere else. The combination of faith expressing itself through love is the completion of our righteousness.

Without them both in balance and harmony, our works are not complete before God. That’s why you must be sensitive to the Lord and seek to develop both. Without them, you have no chance of developing the kind of ministry that will change the world around you.

Question: How has God’s love been evident through you lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Defining Love

Snow HeartWe talk a lot about desiring to see God’s power working through us. But I think there’s something that we overlook sometimes. Without increasing our love-walk, we’ll never experience all that God has for us.

You can understand all the concepts of vision, calling, and the power of God, but love is the attitude that ties them all together. If you want to develop a Spirit of Excellence, then it can’t be attained without developing love. The Scripture makes it abundantly clear that apart from love, you’ve missed the way of excellence altogether.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
I Corinthians 13:1a-3

It’s clear that as far as God is concerned, it doesn’t matter what you do or how great you build your ministry apart from love. If love isn’t the main ingredient, you’re only spinning your wheels.

It doesn’t matter what the size of your congregation is or how many churches call you Bishop. God is looking for the evidence of love flowing through you. Faith and love are the two non-optional requirements for ministry in the Word of God.

But let’s start at the beginning. Do you really understand what love is? People have so many ideas. Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
I Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered. Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural? Of course, this happens when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends. I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

We must first understand that this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment. It’s purely based on decision and will. Over and over again in the Scriptures we’re commanded to love.

If it were based on emotions, it wouldn’t work any more effectively than commanding someone to laugh. You can only command something that’s an act of my will. True love cannot be based upon emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way. Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them. This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not. Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you are in their presence or not.

Question: How does this definition compare to what the world thinks about love?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
 

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The Truth about Repentance and Restoration

WeedingThere are times when we pick up a bad attitude towards God. This usually happens when we feel that God isn’t listening to us. We think He’s ignoring us. There was a time in Israel that the people felt the same way.

After they returned from captivity in Babylon, the prophet Malachi was sent with a message from God. Listen to the exchange.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’”
Malachi 1:2a

God gets right down to the basics. It’s all about His love for us. He loves us with an everlasting love.

That love is also a tough love. It’s like a parent who will not let their child touch a hot stove. The Bible clearly teaches that discipline flows out of the Father’s love. That’s usually when we get upset.

In the face of God’s love, the people respond with, “How have you loved us?” It’s a slap in God’s face. They’re saying, “Prove it, God.” It implies that they see no evidence of God’s love.

Why this attitude. It could be because they had just returned from Babylon. Their fields were overgrown. They were surrounded by their enemies. The temple they worshipped in was vastly inferior to the one Solomon built.

“Look at what’s happening to me, God. How can You possibly say that you love me.”

The thing is, we do this all the time in our attitudes. Here’s what they didn’t understand. The condition they found themselves in was because of their sin. It got so bad that they were captured and taken from their homeland.

Now they’ve repented. They’ve turned away from the false gods and were brought back to the land of promise. This is where the attitude springs up.

“Lord I repented, why aren’t things like they were before?”

This is what we need to learn as well. Repentance does not equal restoration. How do you get restoration?

Look at it this way. Spiritually speaking, you spent years planting weeds. Now your life is growing nothing but dandelions and chicory. You see the error of your ways and you repent. Immediately you want God to turn all your weeds into porterhouse steaks! I can tell you from the Word of God, and my own experience – it rarely ever happens that way.

What do you need to do? You dig up the weeds, plant new seed, and wait for the new harvest. Yes, you can trust God for an abundant harvest; and even a quick harvest. But there will still be a period of waiting for the blessings to appear.

Repentance and restoration. They go hand in hand. It’s just that restoration sometimes takes a little longer than we want it to. I repent and replant. Then I remember to keep my attitudes pure as I wait on the Lord to restore what was lost.

Question: What has the Lord restored in your life? How long did it take?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Faith, Revival

 

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Saved in our Past, Present, & Future

Cross SunsetI’m posting about the salvation we share in Christ. How Christ took us from where we were and made us new in Him. Our past had no bearing on His love for us.

…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:13

This work that Christ has done in us is totally His doing. It didn’t matter how good I was. I’m just as guilty before God. It wouldn’t matter if I was a drug dealer, rapist, or terrorist. The blood of Christ is sufficient to cover all of my sins.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

The salvation of the Lord is all encompassing. But, as incredible as all this is, it’s not the end of it. Even though in one sense I have been saved, God’s work continues to have an effect upon my life. Salvation doesn’t end with the sinner’s prayer.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:2

It should be clear from the context of this verse that being saved is an ongoing process. The word for saved in this verse implies a continual work. That’s why there’s an “if” in this section. The process of salvation can only continue if you hold firmly to the Word.

I think that part of our problem in the modern church is our stubborn refusal to allow God to continue His work of change in our lives. We’re happy that our sins were forgiven. We look forward with joy to our home in Heaven. But right now there’s so many things that we want to do and experience in the world. The thought of God disrupting those plans for His purpose doesn’t sit well with us.

We need to see change as the natural outgrowth of our walk with God. His ongoing plan of salvation in us should never stagnate. There’s always something new to look forward to. That even applies to the return of Christ.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
Romans 5:9

Not only is the saving work of the Lord active in me today, it gives me a future hope. I know that on the Day of Judgment I have nothing to fear. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, I will be saved from the wrath of God. Death holds no fear for the Christian, only the promise of a new address in the presence of God.

Question: How is God’s ongoing work of salvation continuing to change your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Faith, The Gospel

 

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Where is Your Heart Pointing? #theanointing

Snow HeartIn my last post I used Christ as our example for preparing ourselves for the anointing.  I talked about being driven in the spirit.  How far are we willing to go to see God work through us?

…and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:22

Think about the Father’s testimony of the Son.  We’re all sons and daughters of God.  We’ve been adopted into His family.  Beyond that, we’re all loved.

I believe that the key term here is well pleased.  We have to come to this understanding.  We don’t just want God to be pleased, but well pleased.

Sometimes we learn more by negative examples.  Israel had a problem in this area.

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.  Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
1 Corinthians 10:5-6

They did not make it their goal to be pleasing to God.  If we’re going to go beyond their failure, then we must set our hearts on securing the anointing.  Whatever you set your heart on is what you are driven to do.

Have you set your heart on things?  Some people are driven to make money.  What’s the driving force of your life?  Some want position or fame.  Have you set your heart on power with God?

What you’ve set your heart upon determines what you’re driven to do.  Your heart is the driving force in your life.

Paul was driven.

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Paul literally says that I will give my body a black eye, if I have to, in order to obtain the prize.  The prize is the anointing of power.

Peter understood the power of being driven.

Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and forever!  Amen.
2 Peter 3:17-18

All around us are those who are driven for self.  It looks very tempting.  Their rewards are instantaneous.

The blessings of a heart after God are long-term.

Drive yourself to grow in grace.  Increase your knowledge of the Lord.  That’s the road to the anointing of power.  Drive yourself down that path.

Question: How do you seek to be well pleasing to God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Anointing

 

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