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Spiritual Violence

Spiritual Violence

In my last post, Jesus concluded with a comment about finances. He said that you couldn’t serve both God and a desire for riches. The Pharisees heard it and continued in a state of denial.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

Luke 16:14-15 NIV

This section of Scripture shows just how hardhearted the Pharisees had become. By their actions, they clearly loved riches and power. When Jesus talks about the love of money, they openly ridicule Him.

They’ve gotten to the point where they’ve rejected Him and His teaching. Now, their goal is to publicly discredit the Lord.

As usual, Jesus brings their hypocrisy to the surface. He exposes the fact that they’re always justifying themselves before men. They had a great way of twisting Scripture to make them sound holy while doing evil.

What they seem to forget is that God is not like any human judge. He doesn’t give any credence to a fine sounding argument. The Lord looks straight at what’s going on in their hearts. That’s what He bases His verdict on.

We would do well to remember this. Humanity places a high importance on the temporary. That’s especially true when it comes to personal pleasure. In God’s eyes, it’s the unseen – the eternal – which is the most valuable.

Just how bad are these temporary things that we run after? This translation uses the word detestable. This is one of those words that the translators had to be careful with, knowing that the Bible will be read in church with the Sunday morning crowd.

This Greek word comes from a root that means to pass gas silently. That’s why Jesus felt the need to expose where this foul spiritual smell was coming from! That’s what God thinks about us when we chase after the world and try to justify it by Scripture.

Jesus continues.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

Luke 16:16 NIV

Jesus warns the Pharisees that they’re out of step with what God is doing. Until John the Baptist came on the scene, the Law and the Prophets were the main emphasis.

The Pharisees enjoyed that. Any good lawyer could get around the teachings of the Law of Moses. They knew all the loopholes.

Now, since the beginning of John’s ministry, it’s the kingdom of God that’s being focused on in anointed preaching. The kingdom doesn’t deal with laws, rules and loopholes. It looks at the hearts and minds of individuals.

You don’t enter the kingdom of God by well thought out arguments. You have to force your way in by overcoming the natural inclinations of the flesh.

A fire has to ignite in your soul. Another way to say this is that you need the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Then, in response to this work, you must accept Christ in total opposition to the desires of your sinful nature.

We need to realize that making a decision to ignore the flesh is an act of spiritual violence. Throughout our whole lives to that point, our body and soul were in complete agreement. Then, suddenly, the Holy Spirit plants a seed of dissension in this relationship.

Now, body and soul don’t totally agree. Eventually you came to the place where your soul made the choice to bow its knee to Christ. The flesh lost its place on the throne of your life. That’s a spiritual rebellion against the established order of your very being.

Praise God for His life changing power in your life. That’s what gave you the strength you needed to see this change through to its completion.

Question: How did the power of God change your life?

©2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2022 in Faith, Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Healing and Water

Healing and Water

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, we see the religious leaders becoming more and more agitated by the Lord’s exposure of their hypocrisy. In today’s post, Jesus steps on their self-righteous view of the Sabbath.

You may want to read Luke 13:10-17 before continuing.

This incident occurred in a local synagogue where Jesus was teaching one Sabbath. He saw a woman in the crowd that was so crippled, she couldn’t stand up straight.

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Luke 13:12-13 NIV

The leader in charge of the synagogue became angry at this. Not only was she healed on the Sabbath, but she was praising God. After all, women were not allowed to speak in the synagogue.

This leader doesn’t take into account the fact that only God, Himself, could have accomplished this miracle. Instead, he tells the crowd that the Sabbath is not the day for healing. This is another example of worship being reduced to laws made by men.

This flagrant misrepresentation of our Father-God made Jesus upset.

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

Luke 13:15-16 NIV

These are good questions. They’re the kind that self-righteous hypocrites don’t want answered. They’re also questions that should speak to us even in our generation.

We live in a time when miracles are not everyday occurrences. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that most Christians have never seen a true miracle. I’m talking about miracles that are clearly something that only God could do.

At this point, we have become very used to praying for people and nothing happens. Because of this experience, we don’t expect anything to happen and make all kinds of excuses for it.

“It’s just not God’s will for you to be healed.”

“Maybe you don’t have enough faith.”

“God is trying to teach me something through this sickness.”

I only have one thing to say about all this…

Let God be true, and every man a liar.

Romans 3:4b NIV

In this passage, Jesus equates healing to giving your animals their daily water. That’s a requirement. Animals need water to survive. This is how God’s provision of healing is talked about throughout the Scriptures.

In Matthew 15:26, Jesus calls healing the children’s bread. Again, it’s a daily requirement. As a parent, I can say without any hesitation, that I never prayed to see if it was God’s will to feed my children that day.

I can also say, I never let them go hungry because I wanted to teach them something. That is known as child abuse. God is not an abusive Father.

If there’s any problem with us receiving that healing, it’s on our part. I believe that it’s our understanding of how healing works that’s faulty. As the church matures, so will our experience in the miraculous.

That’s why I’ve spent so much time trying to teach on this subject. In the Search bar on this site, you should look for the series Healing 101 and Healing 201 if you want more information. I believe that this is something God is trying to restore to the church in our generation.

Press into the Lord and let Him restore His power in the church.

Questions: Have you witnessed the miraculous power of God? How?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2022 in Healing, Legalism, Power of God, Revival

 

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Nothing Hidden

Nothing Hidden

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus teaching His disciples. In my last post, I talked generally about not adding any of our own opinions to the Word of God. Today, I want to talk specifically about what the Lord is teaching.

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

Luke 12:1 NIV

The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who knew the Bible intimately. They had memorized the entire Torah (the first five books) as well as other huge sections. You would think that they, of all people, would agree with the teaching of Christ.

The problem was, they added their “yeast” to the Word. The yeast the Lord talks about is hypocrisy. Jesus saw that many of the Pharisees were hypocrites. That word in the Greek language is very specific. It’s the word they used for an actor in a play.

An actor studies his lines and gets into character. He does this so that he can convincingly portray a different person before an audience as he’s on the stage. That’s how the Pharisees viewed the Jewish religion.

For them, it was all about putting on a convincing performance before the people. They studied the traditions and laws. They practiced their roles, lines and actions. It was all a show with nothing coming from their heart.

The Lord doesn’t want His disciples to fall into this trap. Hypocrites actually get to the point where they’ve convinced themselves that they’re righteous and holy. Unfortunately, they’ve missed the whole foundation of the fear of the Lord.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

Luke 12:2-3 NIV

Jesus is giving His disciples an important truth here. We would do well to listen and apply it to ourselves.

The word for hypocrisy literally means to act under an assumed persona. Your real identity is hidden, covered, under the character you’re acting out.

In the above verse, Jesus says that there is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. The truth is that hypocrisy cannot stay hidden forever. No matter how well you act it out, at some point you will be discovered as a hypocrite.

The sad thing is, by that point, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re sincere. You’ll get offended and mad that someone would dare accuse you of this evil. Unless you come to the point of repentance, you’ll sink into bitterness and defeat.

Jesus had better hopes for those under His teaching. The second sentence of the above verse is for them. He wants the apostles to live in such a way that their private conversations can be proclaimed from the rooftops.

That needs to be our desire as well. Because I’m a pastor, I’ve been in meetings with various groups and denominations. There have been times where the discussion sounded more like a political strategy meeting than a ministry.

We have to be careful that we don’t lose sight of the fact that our goal is to serve Jesus Christ – the Head of the church. It’s not about power struggles and who gets the credit for what happens. Our goals and motives should be an open book before all men.

In this way, when a move of God takes place, He gets the glory. We need to reorient our thinking to a ministry mentality. Like Jesus said, “I’m not here to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45). This will keep us from the yeast of the Pharisees.

Question: What are some ways you can keep your life open before God and men?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 

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God’s Word Without Yeast

God’s Word Without Yeast

I’m continuing to post through the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has just finished rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for their blatant opposition to His teaching. They simply refuse to listen to the Word of God.

On top of that they’re doing everything in their power to stop the Lord from continuing His ministry.

When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.

Luke 11:53-54 NIV

In spite of this opposition from the religious leaders, the people continued to listen to the Lord’s teaching.

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Luke 12:1 NIV

On different occasions Jesus told His disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. At that time they didn’t understand what He was saying to them. Later on they realized that the Lord was speaking about their hypocrisy.

This was not a warning that only applied to the disciples. We need to take care not to add our own baggage into the mix. If so, then we’ll corrupt the pure Word of God with our own pet doctrines. What we mix into the Word determines the spiritual climate of our churches.

For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
Hebrews 4:2

This verse speaks to us about the similarity between us and Israel. It warns us about how we receive the Word. It literally says that the logos of their hearing did not benefit them. The only way it will is if we combine it with faith in the process of receiving it. The Word of God must be combined with your faith in order for it to be of benefit to you.

So, here we are. I’m doing my best to present you with the pure, clear, logos of God in this article. I want to give you life and nourishment through the Word of God. This is the logos of your hearing. There’s only one way that it will accomplish what was intended. That’s for you, the reader, to combine it with faith. But wait a minute! Where do you get this faith which you’re to combine with the Word?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

Most of us have this verse memorized. Faith comes by hearing the Word. What it says in the Greek is that this faith comes by hearing the rhema of Christ. What is this? Is it a “catch 22”?

I present the logos to you, but the only way it will benefit you is if you combine it with the faith that only comes through rhema. What kind of circular logic is this? Actually, it’s a picture of the infinite wisdom of God. It’s better than anything you could ever imagine.

In actuality God wants to give you both logos and rhema at the same time. BUT, you have to be expecting Him to do this. God won’t just hit you over the head with His Word.

That’s why when you go to a meeting, or hear a godly speaker on TV or the internet, you need to be ready to receive from God as the message is coming to you. There actually can be times when God speaks to you something totally unrelated to what’s being preached.

You just need to be open to the Lord’s voice. But remember, don’t mix your “yeast” with the message. Too many people add their opinions, ideas, and prejudices into the word that they hear. That will water down God’s Word and make it unprofitable to you.

Spending time in the presence of the Lord helps you to develop a listening ear in the spirit. Then you can hear and guard the pure Word of God in your heart.

Question: When have you heard a Word from God while listening to a human speaker?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2022 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Religion is the Problem

Religion is the Problem

We’re continuing to go through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. As we do so, we’re beginning to understand the problem of religion without a relationship with Christ.

Paul now asks some important questions for those who are self-righteous.

…you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?  You who preach against stealing, do you steal?  You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?  You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?

Romans 2:21-23

Remember what I mean by self-righteous religious people.  I’m talking about those who have developed a set of rules that they think makes them better than everyone else.

One of the biggest problems is that these folks have a double standard.  They understand the weakness and imperfection of their own humanity.  So they judge themselves based upon their intentions.  They want to do the right things.

But when it comes to others they have a different way of seeing things.  They’ll judge you based upon what they see you do, regardless of your intentions.

That’s why Paul starts with a question about their desire to teach others.  Do you teach the same standard to yourself that you hold up for others?  Do you sin internally, while publically judging others for the same type of outward sin?

Religion gives the false impression that God grades on a curve.  They think that as long as my good works outweigh my bad works, I’m okay in God’s eyes.  Unfortunately, they forget one simple spiritual truth.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.  For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.”  If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

James 2:10-11

This is a major principle of the law.  It only takes one sin to makes you a sinner.  You only need to break one law to become a lawbreaker.  That’s why we all need the Savior.

A type of movie that I enjoy watching is the organized crime (mafia) movie.  I find it interesting that many of these crime bosses are deeply religious.  They go to confession and give a great deal of money to their church.

They think that they’re okay.  Their good works outweigh the bad.  Religion lulls them into a false sense of security.

That’s why religion is the problem.  It gives the world a bad view of Jesus Christ and Christianity.

As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Romans 2:24

The word, blasphemed, means to vilify or speak bad about.  The actual statement Paul makes is that God’s name is vilified through you.

Who is it that’s actually profaning the name of God?  It’s the holier-than-thou religious people that the world is watching.  They say, “These people think they’re better than us simply because they go to church.”

People in the world aren’t stupid.  They see the double standard.  They see the hypocrisy.  It causes them to write off true Christianity.

As much as we’re able, we need to live for Christ according to Scriptural principles.  That’s what Paul is leading up to in this letter.  Be a true follower of Christ in this world.

Question: How do you stay clean from the hypocrisy of religion?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2020 in Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Ministry Qualities Part 3

This is the third in a series about the earmarks of a godly ministry according to the Apostle Paul.  He wrote about them in his second letter to the Corinthian church.

…in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…
2 Corinthians 6:6-7

My last post ended with patience.  Now we’ll continue on…

Kindness – This is a quality that most believers don’t understand properly.  For a detailed explanation, click here.

Simply put, kindness is not just a matter of doing nice things for people.  In God’s eyes, the definition of kindness is; doing good to those who absolutely don’t deserve it.

Our problem is, when someone is doing wrong, we want to see them punished.  Of course, when we do something wrong, we want to be forgiven.

We need to spend time with the Lord so that we can pick up the same heart that he has.  In that way we can show the love of Christ to all people – even those we label as “undeserving”.  We must see others as the Father sees them.  They all have great potential in Christ.

In the Holy Spirit – This is probably the most important one.  Many of the qualities we’ve looked at so far are impossible to maintain in our own strength.  We need the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

That’s how the fruit are produced.  We must remain in the vine – Christ Jesus.  Time spent praying in the Holy Spirit is never wasted.  It changes us more and more into the image of Christ.

Sincere Love – This is a big one!  The literal Greek reads love without hypocrisy.  How can we do that?

This verse is talking about agape-love.  This love is a choice; there’s no emotional involvement.

So if I show love – doing something good – for someone I really don’t like, isn’t that hypocritical?  Good question.

Actually, that’s not being hypocritical; it’s being obedient to the Lord.  Hypocrisy would be to do something nice for them now, then gossip about them when they’re not around.  We’re to show people love and respect whether we like them or not.  This also includes whether they’re physically present or not.

This is another reason why we need the power of the Holy Spirit active in our lives.  Without His influence, we could never hope to live up to these godly qualities.

Question: How have others treated you with kindness and love in the past?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Believer’s Court

Judging by what’s on TV, court cases are very entertaining.  Each side tries to prove its claims.  Who’s doing the best job at convincing the judge or jury?  You never know until the final verdict.

But how does this play out when a believer takes another believer to court?  In Paul’s day, society found it just as entertaining as we do.  In Corinth, there was an epidemic of Christians suing Christians.  The Apostle had some things to say about it.

Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!  I say this to shame you.  Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!
1 Corinthians 6:4-6

The problem is that many view the church as an organization rather than an organism.  We are a body.  We’re to function as a unit.

There have been times when I’ve accidentally stuck my own finger into my eye.  In that instance, should my eye take my hand to court to sue for damages?  It may sound foolish to even ask that question.  Taking a fellow believer to court is just as foolish in God’s eyes.

According to Paul, even the least esteemed person in the church is probably qualified to act as an arbitrator between two parties.  In that way, internal differences can stay within the church.

But I believe that there’s a deeper issue here.  It’s about taking into account the fact that the world is watching us.  They’re always looking for a reason to accuse the church of hypocrisy.  We shouldn’t be giving ammunition to the enemy.

I have a deep problem when I feel the need to publically and decisively prove that I’m right.  I need to check my motives.  Is it stemming from bitterness, revenge, low self-esteem, or any of a hundred other faults in my sin nature?

Paul clearly gets to the heart of the matter.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
1 Corinthians 6:7-8

Paul says that a public lawsuit between believers is proof that you’ve been defeated by the enemy.  The actual word he used implies that you’re acting like a failure in your Christian walk.

He tells us that it’s better to be wronged or cheated rather than to bring public shame upon the body of Christ.  But if the hurt was great enough, he suggests private, Christian arbitration.

The problem is that we don’t want a Christian to arbitrate between us.  There’s too great a chance that they might use Biblical principles to judge the case.  In our greed, we want to exact revenge for the hurt we suffered.

Instead, we should always look for the restoration and healing of relationships.  I know that might sound idealistic, but in Christ, the Holy Spirit can do great things through those who submit to Him.  As far as it depends on us – whenever possible – we should take the high road of forgiveness and unity.

Question: When have you chosen to forgive instead of seeking retribution?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Hung by the Tongue

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, it’s getting closer to the time of the cross.  The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in His words.  They’re sending delegations of teachers to Him for the purpose of tripping Him up.

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.  They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity.  You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
Mark 12:13-15a

This is an interesting group that came to Jesus.  Pharisees and Herodians.  The Pharisees wanted national independence for Israel.  The Herodians were very comfortable under Roman rule.  They expected that no matter what Jesus answered, someone would be offended.

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy.  “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
Mark 12:15b

The key word here is hypocrisy.  It’s really the Greek word for stage acting.  Jesus knew that these men were simply playing a part; what they said about Him was not meant in reality.  If they really believed what they said about Him, they would have been followers of Christ.

If you think about it, it’s actually something we should take seriously in our generation.  It seems pretty easy for us to say things like, “Jesus is my Lord.”  Every week we sing lyrics that say, “Jesus, you are my whole life.  I give my all to you.”

We need to ask ourselves; do we really mean it, or are we just playing a part – our Sunday morning acting personas?  That’s what it means to be a hypocrite.  It means that under certain, public conditions, we say things that are not true in our daily lives.

“No!  I’m not trying to deceive anyone.  I’m just singing the words that they put on the screen.”

Remember, Jesus said that we would have to give an accounting for every careless word spoken (Matthew 12:36).  I believe that includes the careless words we sing too.

They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this?  And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
Mark 12:16-17

This is the truth that we all need to hear.  If we live in the world, then there are obligations that come with it – taxes, jobs, expenses, and other things as well.  The Lord knows about these.

The problem comes in when we voluntarily obligate ourselves to the world.  In our generation, we take on too many things that leave no room in our schedules for the plan of God.

We don’t have time for spiritual things because of that night class, soccer practice, movie night, or the hundred other things clamoring for our attention.  We can binge watch twelve episodes of our favorite TV show but have no time for intimate prayer with the Holy Spirit.

According to Jesus, we need to get our priorities straight.  The time is now for the people of God to live as though Jesus Christ truly is our whole life.  Then we’ll see the hand of God manifesting the power that they had in the early church.

Question: How do you reorder your schedule to make more time for developing your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Receiving God’s Word

BreadI’m posting about giving and receiving the Word of God as spiritual seed. I’ve talked about preaching and teaching being like a baker making a loaf of bread for those who listen. Jesus had something to say in this regard.

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Luke 12:1

On different occasions Jesus told His disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. At that time they didn’t understand what He was saying to them. Later on they realized that the Lord was speaking about their hypocrisy.

This was not a warning that only applied to the disciples. We need to take care not to add our own baggage into the mix. If so, then we will corrupt the pure Word of God with our own pet doctrines. What we mix into the Word determines the spiritual climate of our churches.

For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
Hebrews 4:2

This verse speaks to us about the similarity between us and Israel. It warns us about how we receive the Word. It literally says that the logos of their hearing did not benefit them. The only way it will is if we combine it with faith in the process of receiving it. The Word of God must be combined with your faith in order for it to be of benefit to you.

So, here we are. I’m doing my best to present you with the pure, clear, logos of God in this article. I want to give you life and nourishment through the Word of God. This is the logos of your hearing. There’s only one way that it will accomplish what was intended. That’s for you, the reader, to combine it with faith. But wait a minute! Where do you get this faith which you’re to combine with the Word?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

Most of us have this verse memorized. Faith comes by hearing the Word. What it says in the Greek is that this faith comes by hearing the rhema of Christ. What is this? Is it a “catch 22”?

I present the logos to you, but the only way it will benefit you is if you combine it with the faith that only comes through rhema. What kind of circular logic is this? Actually, it’s a picture of the infinite wisdom of God. It’s better than anything you could ever imagine.

In my next post, which will finish this series, I’ll show how God wants to impart both logos and rhema into His people. But, more importantly, what we need to do to receive them.

Question: When have you heard a Word from God while listening to a human speaker?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Faith, Ministry, Word of God

 

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