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Don’t Take it Personally

Don’t Take it Personally

We’re continuing to go through Luke’s Gospel. For the last couple of posts we’ve seen Jesus sending out the 72 disciples. They were to prepare the way as the Lord traveled throughout Israel.

There was more they were called to do than just the logistics. They were to minister as well.

When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’”

Luke 10:8-9 NIV

They were told to preach the kingdom of God. They were preparing the towns for the message that Christ would bring.

However, there’s something greater that I think we miss here. Jesus commanded them to heal the sick. The Lord didn’t simply say to pray over them. They were to bring healing.

That’s important. This command would have been impossible unless the power and authority to heal were given with it.

I believe that this should be a vital part of our ministry today. The power of God to heal and deliver should be present in God’s people. This is what would drive the Gospel message forward.

Unfortunately, much of today’s evangelism consists of trying to convince people to change their thinking. We hope that our words will cause people to turn to Christ.

We need a revival of the power of God in our witnessing.

But, some people are not even moved when they witness the miraculous.

But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

Luke 10:10-12 NIV

Jesus warns these disciples that not everyone will receive the Good News. There are some that will reject Christ, no matter what they learn about Him. Even miracles will not convince them to follow the Lord.

That’s because the message of Christ involves giving up control. You have to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are many who will totally refuse to hand over the reigns of their lives to Christ.

Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.”

Luke 10:13-15 NIV

Please understand what the Lord is saying here. He’s not telling these cities that their punishment will be greater. Theirs will be less tolerable because they didn’t just reject the words of a prophet.

These cities actually saw the Messiah in person. They heard the very words that he spoke. They saw the miracles done from His hands. Yet, in spite of all that, they rejected the Hope of Israel. This knowledge will continually haunt them throughout eternity.

Then the Lord turns to His disciples. He gives them an important piece of knowledge that we need to hold on to as well.

“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Luke 10:16 NIV

No matter what happens through our ministry, don’t take it personally. If someone accepts Christ as their Savior and Lord, it’s not about us, but the Holy Spirit working in them.

If they reject the message of Christ, they’re not rejecting us. They’re rejecting the One who sent us. Ultimately, they’re rejecting the work of God in their lives.

Our goal should be to walk in such a way before God, that the world sees His power and is drawn to Him. Then we can be a faithful witness to what Christ has done in us. However, the final choice is theirs – for or against Christ. We are simply the messengers.

Question: How do you witness for the Lord?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Truth Hurts

Truth Hurts

In this post, we’re continuing to look at the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. It contains some important principles on righteousness.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”

Luke 6:21, 25

This is one of those truths that doesn’t sound good, but is actually very important. Remember that Jesus is addressing these statements to His disciples – the future leaders of the church.

He tells them that in the “now”, there should be weeping. What could the Lord possibly mean by saying that?

What we need to realize is that spiritual truth, sometimes, goes completely opposite what we’ve learned in the world. The disciples were hearing from Jesus the principles of the kingdom of God. This means that in many cases they had to make an 180 degree turnaround from what they thought was right.

The fact is that truth brings change. And, more than that, change is uncomfortable. The disciples were being taught that it was better to accept the spiritual principles of Christ and deal with the sorrow of change. Later on, as they experience the results, they’ll walk in the joy of the Lord.

This has always been how embracing God’s truth works. Initially sorrow – then the joy His blessings bring (Psalm 30:5).

This is a real problem for those who only want to see blessings and never want to change. Eventually they’ll experience loss, with the grief and mourning that accompanies it. I find it better to submit to the Lord’s process of change right from the start.

Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.”

Luke 6:22-23

Not only is there pain in receiving the truth, sometimes it hurts when you speak the truth. Not everyone wants to hear the message of Christ.

Here the Lord lists a number of things that will happen when people reject the Gospel of Christ. Many will hate you. That’s a choice to treat you in an abusive way.

Jesus also says that they may not invite you to participate in their events. You’ll be excluded because just seeing you causes them to feel guilty.

The word, insult, in the above verse means to defame you. It’s not just an insult to your face, but they’ll even talk about you when you’re not around. This could even include spreading lies about you.

Jesus doesn’t want to see His disciples hindered by these things. That’s why He’s warning them, and us, in advance. That’s how it’s always been with those who stand their ground for the Lord.

There is, however, another warning that we’re given.

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”

Luke 6:26

Jesus tells them that they need to take stock if everyone speaks well of them. The message of Christ will always make somebody upset. As a matter of fact, in this society, I sometimes receive a look of disgust simply by sharing with someone that I’m a minister.

We need to realize that the truth hurts. Sometimes it hurts us, when we need to be changed by it. Sometimes it upsets others who hear it. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation must continue to be preached to all who will listen.

Question: How have you dealt with the discomfort of change from hearing God’s Word?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2022 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel, Word of God

 

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Christ Followers

Christ Followers

I’m continuing through the Gospel of Luke. In the last few posts, I’ve been comparing our ministry to that of John the Baptist. Right now we should be preparing for the second appearing of the Messiah.

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.

Luke 3:15

It’s interesting that as John carried out God’s plan for his life, people began to question if he was the promised Messiah. They saw the testimony of lives that were changed by his ministry.

Throughout this section of Scripture, I’ve been repeating that we’re the “John the Baptist Generation”. What the crowd saw in John is what the world should see in us.

Should they think that we’re the Messiah? Absolutely not! But, they should see Christ in us. That’s what it was like in the early church.

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Acts 11:26

That’s where the name Christian came from. The ministry of those early believers was right in line with how the Lord lived and ministered. The crowd came to the conclusion that these people were Christ followers.

That should be the question of the modern church community. Can people see how we live, respond, and minister; then conclude that we’re trying to be like Jesus? In my opinion, there’s a big disconnect in our generation. It’s time to close the gap between how we live and the life of Christ.

It’s when the people around us see a higher standard of living, that they’ll want what we have. Then, we won’t have to preach at them. They will seek out our message.

That’s why the crowds of people flocked to hear John the Baptist in the desert. They wanted to understand a new level of spirituality.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

Luke 3:16-18

John had quite a message. The problem he had, was that the Old Testament showed both sides of the Messiah. It showed His salvation, but it also talked about the Day of Judgment. John thought that both of these would occur at the same time when Messiah arrived.

We know now that when Christ appeared then, it was to save us from our sin. The judgment won’t take place until His second appearance.

But, John does clearly place the choice right before our eyes. We can choose to be immersed in the Holy Spirit. Or, we can be immersed in the fire of judgment. We can choose to be wheat or chaff.

Actually, Jesus taught that He would do this exact thing on the Day of Judgment. He told it in a parable found in Matthew 13:24-30.

With John, his message was good news and bad news. The good news is that Messiah is coming. The bad news is that judgment is also coming.

Our message is similar, but of greater importance. The bad news is that Messiah is coming to judge the world. But, the Good News is that Messiah has already come to save, restore, and protect you from the coming wrath.

Why do we find it so hard to bring this wonderful message to those around us? What are we afraid of?

John preached without fear. Luke 3:19-20, tells us that his message actually got him locked up in prison. Yet, that didn’t hinder him from proclaiming what he was given.

We need to walk in the same boldness as John the Baptist. We need to declare the goodness of Jesus Christ to our world.

Question: How are you called to proclaim the message of Christ?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Holy Spirit Marketing

Church growth is a popular seller these days.  There are experts who can tell you what your church needs to do to make it to the next level.  Is this how God intended to grow His kingdom?

As we continue looking at the Gospel of Mark, we’ll see how Jesus grew the ministry.  It’s something that we need to take to heart.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.  When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.  Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.  For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.  Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”  But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.
Mark 3:7-12

What was the Lord’s plan?  It seems counter-intuitive to how things are done in our generation.  He withdrew to a place that was a distance from the city.  Yet in spite of that, the crowds came to where He was.

There are two things that I see happening in this passage that are directly applicable to the church of our generation.  They deal with the attitudes in the whole church growth movement.

You may think that I’m preaching against church growth consultants – I’m not.  There is a place for them.  Churches need to know the trends that are taking place in our society.

If my church isn’t speaking the same social language as the society around me, then they’ll never hear or understand the message of Christ.  Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready so that the people wouldn’t crowd Him.  He knew that in order for the message to be communicated, there had to be order.

So a consultant’s job is to coach a church in how to effectively speak to the society around them.  What needs to be in place for the message of Christ to be clearly understood by the community?

The problem is when a church uses a consultant to show them how to attract people.  When we think that our look, sound, or childcare services will bring people in; now we’ve missed the whole point.  They didn’t come to Jesus because He had the boat ready, or that He used a great ad campaign.

This passage clearly tells us that people came from all over because they heard what the Lord was doing.  The sick were being healed.  Those oppressed by the enemy were being delivered.  The Good News was being preached.

Unfortunately, it’s a harder road to see a manifestation of the Spirit.  Healings, signs, wonders, and miracles only come from time spent in the Spirit.  It’s easier to build a new nursery than to spend a month in prayer and fasting.

Jesus pressed in to hear the Father’s voice.  He then obeyed what He heard.  The results were a supernatural ministry with a Holy Spirit marketing campaign.

Yes, He had to train His disciples in crowd control.  He had to make sure the boat was ready so He could preach unhindered.  But it was the power of the Holy Spirit that drew the crowds.

Our generation needs more churches that do both.  We need a polished look that speaks to our society.  But we also need to do what it takes to walk in the manifestation of the power of God.

Question: How have you seen church growth through the power of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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America Needs the Gospel

FlagcrossIt’s hard to believe, but in reality the United States can no longer be called a Christian nation.  Yes, there are pockets of Christian majorities on various parts of the map, but overall the influence of believers is almost gone.  I believe this is because we have lost sight of the true message of the Gospel.

I was recently reading a post about 5 issues the church will have to deal with over the next ten years.  It was by Ed Stetzer, the President of Lifeway Research.  In it he made some startling statements that I may comment about from time to time.

The issue that caught my attention, was that the church of this generation needs a clear understanding of the Gospel.  It wasn’t many years ago that the flames of renewal and revival were sweeping across many parts of our nation.  How have we fallen so far from the message of Christ?

Where has the Gospel of Jesus Christ gone?  In many churches we are taught how to be “good people.”  There are messages on how to live a great life – overcoming depression and other negative qualities.  It’s almost as if the modern church has become a group emotional-therapy session.

Paul’s words should bring us a much needed wake-up call.

2 Timothy 2:8
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…

We wonder why our impact on society has diminished.  This just might be the key.  The Gospel is not about New Year’s resolutions or turning over a new leaf.  It’s not even about wanting to be a better person, spouse, or parent.

The true message of the Gospel is not about what I do.  It’s all about what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.  He died, was buried, and He rose back to life on the third day.  The Lord accomplished this so that we could receive His life and become a new person in Him.

Anything less than that is not the Gospel.

In his post, Ed Stetzer made a statement that I have turned into a question in order to check myself.  As a pastor, I’m responsible for the message received by the people under my care.  I’m going to be accountable for what I preach to them each week.

The question I must ask myself is this: Would the message I’m preaching still be true if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross?  If so, then I’m not proclaiming the Gospel.  It might be good and helpful to the listener, but it isn’t the Good News of the Bible.  The Gospel is life-changing.

The church in America needs to return to the true Gospel message.

Question: How do you perceive a need for the Gospel in our generation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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The Gospel is not About Numbers

NumbersWhy do we share the message of Christ?  Is it all about how many people we can get to pray the “sinner’s prayer”?  In my last post I talked about how we are to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As important as servanthood is, there’s still more to understand about the Good News.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18

As God’s people, we must come to the understanding that we are not sent to merely “get people saved”.  Our goal is to announce the Good News.  When someone accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that’s only the beginning of the salvation process.  As a pastor of over 20 years I am still “being saved” by the power of the Gospel.  Remember what Jesus said to His disciples.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Mark 16:15-16

We are to preach or announce the Good News first, then baptize later.  Our main job is to announce the Good News.  I believe this is the point where we’ve lost sight of what the Good News is all about.

It’s what Paul was talking about in the passage from I Corinthians 1:17-18, above.  Our goal shouldn’t be to “get people saved”.  We are commissioned to announce the Gospel.  According to Paul, it’s sometimes not with words.  It’s not even with wise words.  The reason for this is that words can sometimes neutralize the cross.

How can that be?  Paul continues to explain it to us.  He states that the message is foolishness to the unsaved even though it’s the power of God to us.  So many Christians think that the Gospel is merely announcing the message of the cross.  That’s why so few are turning to Christ these days.  We are trying to win them with what they perceive is foolishness.  There is another way – it’s the way Paul and the early church turned the world upside-down for Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1Thessalonians 1:4-5

The early church brought the Good News with not just words.  They brought the Gospel on the scene with the manifestation of the power of God.  This is what our generation desperately needs to see.

Question: What will it take to once again see God’s power manifest in His people?

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Power of God, The Church, The Gospel

 

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