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Abraham’s Example

Abraham’s Example

We’re continuing to go through Paul’s letter to the Roman church.  He’s laid a foundation by explaining the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ.  He now gives us an example of how this works.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God.

Romans 4:1-2

Paul brings us back to the start of a legacy of faith.  Even though people like Noah believed and obeyed God, Abraham was considered the father of God’s family on earth.

It seems clear that Abraham was the first to trust God and walk that faith out in a way to bring others along with him.  In that sense you could say that Abraham discovered the faith-walk.  Each new day seemed to bring him a new discovery about walking with God as a friend.

So, in his walk with the Lord, how was Abraham justified before God?  Was it because he worked hard at being good?  Not according to Scripture.

He did have some incredible works.  By faith, he left his ancestral home.  He even offered up his firstborn son.  But, even in all of that, he would have only been able to boast about it to other human beings.  God would not have been impressed.

What was it about Abraham that got God’s attention?

What does the Scripture say?  “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:3

To explain it, Paul quotes a verse from Genesis 15:6.  This should be the foundation for all that we understand about walking with the Lord.  Everything else is further along the path.

In Genesis, the Hebrew word used for credited means to think about or regard.  Immediately, when Abraham decided to trust what God spoke to him, God regarded that as righteousness.  That happened even before Abraham did anything to walk in it.

I like the way Paul translates that word (credited) for us in the Greek.  He uses a word that means to estimate or take an inventory.

I see it like this.  When we have faith, it’s directed towards God.  So Abraham sent his faith off in God’s direction.  When He received it, God listed it, in Abraham’s heavenly inventory, as righteousness.

This is an awesome truth.  When we have faith towards the Lord, He takes it and converts it into righteousness which He then places in our account.

Too many believers spend their lives trying very hard to purchase righteousness to send to God.  The unfortunate thing is that God will never accept that kind of righteousness.  We’re only spinning our wheels trying to please God in that way.

The only righteousness that God accepts is that which is found in Him.  The only way to purchase this righteousness is to direct our faith toward Jesus Christ.  There’s no other way.

Our good works are only a basis for boasting toward each other.  They hold no attraction with God.  We need the righteousness that can only come by faith.

Don’t spend all of your time chasing a losing cause.  Place your hope fully in the completed work of Christ on the cross.

Question: Why is righteousness by faith the best road to change in your life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2020 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Gift of Righteousness

The Gift of Righteousness

As we continue through the book of Romans, we’ve seen the frustration of trying to be righteous by following a set of religious rules.  It should be clear that our own self-righteousness is not enough to please God.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

Romans 3:21

This verse makes it clear that it cannot be by my works.  It’s apart, separate from the law.  This means that I have to access the power of God in order to live righteously.  Anything else is trying to put the cart before the horse.  If my goal is to live righteously in order to walk in the power of God, then I’ve chosen a path of weakness and frustration.

And yet, so many people are trying to walk this very way.  The Bible is clear on the outcome.  So let me ask, what if I try to obtain righteousness through obedience to the law?  What if I try my hardest to live up to what I’m told is right?

I can read my Bible daily, go to church on time every week, pray every day, and tithe.  On top of that, I can make sure that I don’t lie, cheat, steal, walk in anger, gossip, or envy.  What’s wrong with trying to live up to a godly standard with my own strength?

The problem is that self-righteousness will never gain access to the blessings found only in Christ.  For that, I’ll need a righteousness that’s far greater than I could ever accomplish on my own.  It could only be provided by God Himself.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:22-24

The righteousness that pleases the Lord can only be obtained by faith.  I know that this goes against what many people assume.  They think that pleasing God is a hard, back-breaking burden.  On the contrary, it’s something that God wants to bestow upon you freely.

The second sentence of this passage is very important.  I know that we only like to quote the middle of it.  In its entirety, it shows us a beautiful picture of God’s grace.

Paul is referring to what he talked about in the two previous chapters of Romans.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re an ungodly sinner or a highly religious person.  Through faith in Jesus Christ you can access this grace and receive His free work of justification.

This passage of Scripture makes it very plain.  All of the sin in your past doesn’t make you too far away from this grace.  In the same way, all of your religious works doesn’t put you any closer.  We all start at the same level.  We fall short of God’s glory.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:7-8

If I want a righteousness that grants me access to God’s presence, it’s only found one way.  I can’t earn it or work hard enough to achieve it.  I must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, be found in Him.

This is the only path to true righteousness.  It was God’s desire, in His great wisdom, to make it as easy as possible for mankind to be saved.

Question: Why do we find it so hard to accept God’s free gift of righteousness?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2020 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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“I’m Only Human”

“I’m Only Human”

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s letter to the Roman church.  He’s speaking about those who think that following religious rules makes them better than others.

In my last post we saw that there’s an advantage to being religious.  At least you have access to the Scripture.  So, you have a foundation to eventually build your faith on.

Paul now talks about some arguments people have who think that their good works will save them.

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say?  That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us?  (I am using a human argument.)  Certainly not!  If that were so, how could God judge the world?  Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?”  Why not say — as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say — “Let us do evil that good may result”?  Their condemnation is deserved.

Romans 3:5-8

This is the problem with looking merely at good works.  We can’t judge by outward appearances.  It leads us to some wrong conclusions.

“I’m only human, so I’m not perfect.  That should bring out God’s perfection even clearer.  So, I shouldn’t be corrected when I do wrong.”  That’s a human argument that flies against the teaching of Scripture.

I’ve heard it said in many different forms, but it all comes down to the same theme.

“What do you expect, I’m not Jesus.”

“Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

“It doesn’t matter as long as you try your best.  God can’t judge you for that.”

“If I were God…”

All of these are based upon human logic and the desire to justify ourselves.  In reality, they fail to take into account the power of the Holy Spirit who wants to work in us.

The fact is that God is going to judge everyone based upon His righteousness.  It has nothing to do with what we, as human beings, think about as fair.

If we’re in Christ, then we receive the “not guilty” verdict because of His righteousness, not ours.  Without Christ, no matter how many good works we’ve accumulated, we’re condemned.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Even as believers we’ll be judged on our obedience.  That’s how our rewards, or lack thereof, will be determined.

That brings us to the second half of the above passage.  It’s the old saying that the ends justify the means.

It doesn’t matter how I accomplish it, as long as I get the right results.  Paul is clear.  That kind of thinking is condemned by the Lord.

I’ve seen this tactic used in many different ways throughout my years as a believer.  I’ve seen churches that have used prostitutes to attract the unsaved to hear the Gospel.  Others promised a big bank account if you come to Christ.

Paul goes through all of this because he’s trying to make a point.  There is an advantage to being religious – you have a basic understanding of who God is.  The problem is, what you do with this knowledge.

The important thing is to follow through on everything that the Bible teaches us.  We need the whole revelation of the Lord. 

Then we’ll rest upon the salvation that’s only found in the name of Jesus Christ.  After that, we’ll submit to the working of the Holy Spirit in us to perfect true righteousness and holiness in us.

Question: How has the Lord changed you since you accepted Him as your Lord?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2020 in Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Liberality of God

We’ve been looking at Paul’s view of giving.  He’s talked about sowing and reaping as well as giving from the heart.  Now he’ll show us the results of giving into God’s work.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

This is an incredible promise to us.  It describes the attitude of God toward His faithful children.

I know that a lot of Christians don’t like to hear this teaching.  They believe in a God of “just enough”.  They’re trusting God for just enough so they can get by.

That’s actually the most selfish attitude you could have.  You’re only thinking of yourself.

The truth is that God wants to abundantly bless you.  Not so that you can have all kinds of stuff you never use.  God wants to bless you so that you can be a blessing.

Look at how Paul describes our God.  The first thing he tells us is that God is powerful enough.  All power in heaven and earth belongs to Him, and He can use it however it pleases Him.

The Lord uses that power to cause all of His grace to super-abound toward us.  Please remember that grace is not some ethereal cloud around us.  Specifically, grace is God’s response to our faith. (Romans 5:1-2)

That word, super-abound, is important.  It means to be in excess in quantity and/or quality.  In other words, God wants to give you an excessive amount of His grace – that’s more than you’ll need in your situation.

However, God has a reason that He gives you too much of His grace.  He has an ulterior motive.  The Lord wants you to do something.  In everything you do, at all times, He wants you to super-abound in the good work you’re doing.

That means God wants you to do excessively good works.  He wants you to go over and above what people expect.  Then, when people ask why you’re doing this, you can point to your excessively super-abundant God.

I know that there are some people who would say, “Wait a minute.  The verse says ‘all that you need’.  I told you God only gives you what you need.”

No!  You took the verse out of context.  It says that God gives you all you need to do your good works excessively.  Paul illustrates this with an Old Testament quote.

As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
2 Corinthians 9:9

The word, scattered, in this verse means to disperse liberally.  It implies that God is scattering to the point where it appears to be wasteful.  That’s the God we serve.

If you’re a giver seeking to please and obey God, then He will faithfully and liberally supply all you need.  Not just to bless you, but so you can bless others as well.

Question: How have you been a blessing to others lately?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2020 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, Power of God

 

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The Spirit-Fruit Goodness

Our Supply in GodI’m taking a few extra posts to look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  The next one to see is goodness.  As with the others, goodness is not merely about being good.

Just to remind you, all of these fruits are the result of cultivating our spiritual walk.  It’s time spent with the Holy Spirit that causes these to grow in us.

We can’t just go by society’s definition of the word.  What’s important is how God defines it and uses it in Scripture.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
Colossians 1:10

In this verse, Paul talks about bearing the fruit of goodness.  But what we find is that he prayed for something that needed to happen first.  What was required for the Colossian people to walk in goodness?

Paul tells us in the previous verse.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9

In order to walk in the fruit of goodness, you must lay hold of the knowledge of God’s will for you.  That will never come through your own human intelligence.  You must tap into the wisdom and understanding that only come through the Spirit.

In other words, if you’re not hearing from God, then there’s no way you can do good – at least by the Lord’s definition.  To God, doing good is doing His will.

Jesus described this very thing in one of His parables.  At one point He described the Word of God as the seed planted in many different types of soil.  The seed in good soil flourished and produced an abundant harvest.

Listen to how Jesus explained this parable to His disciples.

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Luke 8:15

According to Christ, there are three distinct activities that are a part of a good heart – a life that consistently produces goodness.  The first is the most important, and that is to hear the Word of God.  If you’re not hearing the Word, then you can never go on to produce the fruit.

The second part is just as important.  Once heard, you must retain it.  That literally means that you hold fast to it, you lock it down into your heart.  This means that you meditate on it.  You rehearse it and think about it until it becomes second nature to you.

The third thing that has to happen is that you continue holding fast to that Word.  This requires perseverance.  Day after day; month after month; even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening in the natural.

Then, as we remain in the Word of God, that change begins to take place and we receive an abundant harvest.  The Greek phrase for producing a crop is that we become fruit-bearing.

I don’t know how anyone who reads these verses can say that to bear the Fruit of the Spirit you just need will-power.  That won’t get you anywhere.  The fruit can only be produced by the Holy Spirit working in you.

Do you want to produce what the Father describes as good works?  Then spend time in the presence of the Lord with a listening heart, then guard that word, and allow the Spirit to bring them forth in you.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s goodness operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Hearing Faith

I always thought that I was as far from legalistic as you could get.  What does the Apostle Paul, a former Pharisee, have to say about the subject?  Be prepared; I think that the answer might change your whole outlook as well.

As I look at the church in America today, I can’t help comparing us to what I read in the book of Acts.  I’m also thinking about the stories I heard from my grandparent’s generation.  They came to the Lord in the wake of the Azusa Street revival.  When they were saved they saw miracles, healings, signs, and wonders.  What’s happened to us since then?

You may think as I did, “I’m not legalistic.”  But do we even know what legalism looks like?  Let’s find out what the Paul has to say about it.

You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
Galatians 3:1-2

The word translated foolish in the above verse literally means not thinking.  Paul is asking these Galatian Christians why they’re not thinking about what they’re doing.

The next line he writes literally means; who has fascinated you by false representations?  It’s obvious from the way he writes that these believers were not being convinced by the truth, but rather a clever counterfeit.  Paul reminds them of the fact that when they first believed, they clearly understood that Jesus Christ was crucified for them.

He then asks a simple question – how did you receive the Spirit?  The literal answer is that the Spirit was received by the hearing of faith, trusting in God to do the work.  This is an important truth.

Faith comes when you hear a Word from God.  Whether it’s in your prayer time, during a sermon, or while reading the Scripture – hearing from the Holy Spirit produces faith.  Paul was re-emphasizing to them that the law can’t save anyone.  The law only condemns.

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing?
Galatians 3:3-4

This is what we need to understand.  If, by all of our rules and self-discipline, we couldn’t even start the salvation process; what makes us think that we can complete it by our own strength?

Paul, however, continues along this line with another question and we have all but ignored its implications.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

Paul literally asks how does God fully supply you with His Spirit and activate His miraculous power in you?  That’s the question of the hour.  It’s what the church desperately needs to learn and lay hold of.  It’s what the world is dying to see in operation.

I believe that it’s this truth that will usher in the end time harvest of souls before the coming of the Lord.  Paul’s answer is that the Spirit is given and His power is activated in you by the hearing of faith.  This is where the power of God resides.  It’s not a work of the law.  It only comes as I hear His voice and let it inspire faith in me.  This is the foundation for the miraculous.  God and I as co-workers.

He’s looking for someone who’ll listen for His voice.  It’s time for the church to enter that intimate place with the Lord.  Only then will we see the glory of God released through His people.

Question: What should your mindset be while hearing the Word preached or taught?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Light of the World

 

NightIn my last post I started talking about the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew, chapter 25. I concluded that the key is identifying what’s meant by the light, the lamps and the oil. If we can understand these three parts, then we’ll know how to act wisely in the days leading up to the return of the Lord.

All ten virgins had the ability to light up their area, at least for a little while. This tells me that all of the Christians in the end-time church will have the same ability to be a light to their generation.

This should help us, because on more than one occasion Jesus told us to be a light to those around us. What does this mean? And more importantly, does it fit into the constraints of the parable of the ten virgins? Let’s allow Jesus Himself to explain it to us.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. He wants our light to be as conspicuous as a city on a hill, showing that we belong to Him. What is it that shines from our lives to those around us?

It’s clear from the above passage that our light is the works we show forth to those needing a touch from the Lord. All of us have the same ability. Jesus is clear that He will not allow our light to be hidden.

There are many believers who think that they should be able to live their lives without anyone knowing that they’re Christians. They don’t want to do anything to label themselves. Jesus never gave us this option.

We’re to share the Gospel, pray for the sick, and give hope to the hurting around us. I’m not talking about activities that we do in church buildings. God wants us to function like that in our society.

I’m to be a light on the job, at school, at home, or even on the ball field. The point is that when I’m with people, my works should be a light to reflect who Jesus is. So the light then, is the good works that I perform in Jesus’ name.

But wait, when the Lord speaks of “good works”, He’s talking about righteousness. Please understand that righteousness is the only work that’s good in God’s eyes. It’s as I live righteously before God that the world sees the light of life.

This concept is underscored by the Apostle Paul.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:14

In this passage Paul states that righteousness and wickedness are the spiritual equivalents of light and darkness.

Question: How can our lives be as bright as possible?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Ministry, Return of Christ, The Church

 

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