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Caesar and God

Caesar and God

As we continue to study the Gospel of Luke, 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.

Each time they do, the wisdom of Christ proves superior. In His teaching, the Lord highlights the hypocrisy of these religious leaders.

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Luke 20:19-22 NIV

This is an interesting group that came to Jesus. Mark tells us that these spies were made up of both 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.

He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius.”

Luke 20:23-24a NIV

The key word here is duplicity. It’s really a Greek word for craftiness. Jesus knew that these men were simply saying what they thought He wanted to hear. They figured they could get Him off guard by complimenting Him. The fact is, that 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 saying what God wants to hear? 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.

He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

Luke 20:23-26 NIV

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?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2022 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Squatters in God’s Kingdom

Squatters in God’s Kingdom

Over the next couple of weeks or so I’ll be on vacation. While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost some of my most read articles that I feel are important. Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already. If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

What’s your purpose for being a part of God’s kingdom? Are you fulfilling that purpose? Jesus gives some parables to explain God’s priorities.

Today I’ll be looking at the Parable of the Vineyard as recorded in Mark chapter 12, verses 1 through 12. You may want to read it in Scripture before continuing with this post.

In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who owned a vineyard and rented it out to some farmers. According to the terms of the lease, the owner was to get a share of the harvest as payment. This was a normal agreement for property owners in those days.

It’s interesting to see that the owner did all the work to set up the vineyard. All the farmers needed to do was move in and start harvesting.

How does this relate to the kingdom of God? Simply put, the Lord is looking for fruit. It’s not about our church attendance, Bible reading, or even our tithing. He’s looking for the fruit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit that He placed within us.

During His ministry with the disciples, Jesus made this abundantly clear to them.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

What we have to understand is that this is not our kingdom, but God’s. Everything we have is owned by someone else. Even our very lives belong to the Lord.

Because of this, God is well within His rights to demand anything He wants from us. We know right from the outset that He’s looking for the fruit of the Spirit.

Please understand that the fruit of our relationship with Christ is for the benefit and refreshing of those around us. The fruit of the Spirit are not merely for my personal gain.

The tenants in the parable didn’t understand this. They wanted to keep everything for themselves.

We live in a society where we’ve been taught that in most places – restaurants, stores, etc. – it’s all about what I want or need. Somehow we’ve transferred this mindset into our spiritual life. When it comes to being a part of a local church; I base it on what I can get from it.

What services do you offer me and my family? Do I like the type of music and the length of the worship service? Do I enjoy the way the Pastor delivers his sermons?

Wait a minute!!! Why does God have me in His kingdom? Is it purely for my comfort and enjoyment? No! I serve at the Lord’s good pleasure.

The tenants in this parable made a great mistake. They figured that if they could get rid of the owner’s son, then they could take over the vineyard. After all, squatters have rights.

Too often, I’ve seen this attitude in God’s people. The Bible refers to it as godlessness. Yes, there are many godless Christians.

To be godless simply means that God and His will don’t figure into any of your decisions. You’re living as if there’s no God. These are the squatters in God’s kingdom. They’re living on God’s property as if it belongs to them.

If you’ve been guilty of this attitude, then it’s time to repent. Get back to the purpose you were saved for. We need to be producing the fruit of the kingdom.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Question: What are the fruits of the spirit that you have produced most recently?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2021 in Anointing, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Handling the Truth

Bible1I talk a lot about the Word of God in my posts. So I decided to do a series of posts on the subject of the Scripture. Most Christians have a misunderstanding about what Scripture is, or of its place in the life of a believer. Without that foundational knowledge, you can never move on to the greater experiences of the faith.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

This verse should set us on course in all that we do for the Lord. We should be seeking His approval. Not running after the fame of a large ministry or the acclaim of people. We should be doing our best to receive our approval from the only One whose opinion matters.

Do your best literally means to use speed, be prompt, and be earnest. This speaks about our priorities. How important is it to you to obtain God’s approval? As you look at the important matters of your life, where does God’s will fit in?

Present yourself is an interesting phrase in the Greek. It means to stand beside and exhibit yourself. Think about it. You need to take a step back from your life and view it from the outside.

How would someone else, watching you from a distance, classify your commitment to the Lord? What would your advice be to someone else who lives for God the way you do?

We need to put away the denials and excuses we use to justify our lack of relationship with the Lord. It’s time to step back and take a cold, hard look at our priorities and change whatever needs to be corrected.

Don’t be ashamed. God wants workmen who do not need to be ashamed about anything. This is a big problem in the church today – embarrassment over our walk with God.

We say that we’re all about winning the lost, yet we never speak to anyone about Christ. We say that Christ is Healer, yet few are healed. We’re afraid to speak up because we don’t want to offend anyone. Why? The world has no qualms with offending our beliefs 24/7. What’s the problem?

Correctly Handle. In the original text there’s no word and after the word ashamed. The reason you don’t need to be ashamed is that you correctly handle the word of truth.

The literal Greek of the phrase correctly handles is to make a straight cut with. The Word of God is a sharp sword. Would you trust your life to a surgeon who couldn’t cut a coupon out of a magazine? In the same way, the church needs to know how to handle the Word.

Why are we so ashamed sometimes? The answer is the same as the lawyer was given in the movie, A Few Good Men. “You can’t handle the truth!”

Questions: Have you felt embarrassed for being a Christian? How did you handle it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Why so Downcast?

heart CrossIn my last post I talked about how worshiping God on our own terms is actually a form of idolatry. It’s through our arrogance that we think that we can approach God however we want.

One of the problems of our humanity is our tendency is to make a god in our image.

“If I were God, then this is what I would do.”

We say things like that and think that somehow this makes our foolishness theologically correct. It doesn’t. God is God and I’m not!

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he spent a portion of his letter talking about idolatry. He explained that in the world there are many so-called gods.

…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
1 Corinthians 8:6

For us there is only one true God. It’s for Him, only, that we live. I can’t relegate Him to the spot of one among many. I live for Him and for His pleasure. I have to come to the point of realizing that my relationship with Christ is all that matters.

It’s when the church in America comes to this realization that revival will break out. The timing and outcome are all on us. We need to respond to the call.

“Why so downcast?” The sons of Korah asked this of themselves. Cain was asked it as well. The answer was the same then and now.

“You know what to do.”

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

This has always been the key to revival. I’ve heard this verse preached over and over since I was a child. We need to put our relationship with God back on His terms.

“Why so downcast?”

“Look at the condition of the world and its people. The economy is in rough shape. I don’t have the time to do anything for God. There’s no power in the church.”

Let’s put away all of the excuses. It’s time to return to our first love. We need to put our hope back in God where it rightly belongs. It’s time to let all else fall away.

It may mean that some things have to change. We might need to stop doing some things – even good things – that are eating into our time with the Lord. There might be priorities that have to be rearranged. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it to see the glory of God once again manifested in His church.

Question: What’s the next step in your progress to get closer to the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Idolatry – Worship on my Terms

MirrorIn my last post I started talking about how we relate to God. It needs to be on His terms and not ours. In the book of Genesis, Cain learned that lesson the hard way and ended up angry and depressed.

That happens when we try to approach the Lord on our terms.

“After all, God should respond the way I want Him to no matter what the situation is.”

When this doesn’t work, we get upset. It’s just like what we read in the Psalms.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:5-6a

The Sons of Korah ask a very insightful question in this Psalm. It literally asks why is there a war raging inside me? The answer was simple.

“Your hope is not in God.”

Cain wanted a relationship based upon his desires and not God’s. It’s what we do many times. In ministry and in life, we cut corners, show up late, and pursue our priorities over God’s. We portray the unspoken attitude that “this should be good enough for God.”

We think that we should be accepted by God simply because we performed some task for Him. Unfortunately, that will never happen. We want to work for God’s approval. Then we can boast about how good we are, and how much more we do than others. It’s all about us.

In fact, it should be all about the Lord and His work in us. That’s the crux of the conflict between Cain and Abel. As a result, Abel became an innocent victim of Cain’s desire to approach God on his own terms.

It was also the start of a new trend that has carried on through the ages. Mankind wanted a god who was there when, and only when, they needed him. They didn’t want him to mess with their lives the rest of the time. They wanted a god who would help bring rain when their crops were dying. Make a sacrifice for rain and that’s it – a rain-god.

Oh, yes, and when I want a child, I may need a fertility god. On and on it went throughout the generations. What Cain did was the start of idolatry – worship on my terms.

There was a king of Israel who learned this the hard way. Saul was told what God’s will was, but he decided to do things his way instead.

“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:23

Why is arrogance like idolatry? It’s because by our arrogance we reject the known Word of God. We know what God has said, yet we do it our way and continue to expect His blessing on our lives. We say, “That should be good enough.”

This is one of the big problems of the modern American church. It seems so obvious to me when I compare our experience to that of the Book of Acts. The early church lived to do God’s will – all else was secondary.

Now our prayer is, “God use me, when my schedule is open. Maybe next Thursday at 3:00, if nothing else comes up.”

We need to make the will of God the highest priority in our lives. Then we can fit everything else in once we submit our whole schedule to the Lord.

Question: How often do you seek God’s leading when filling your schedule?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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