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Which Came First?

Which Came First?

As we continue to look at the book of Romans, Paul asks another important question about the righteousness God imparts to us by faith.  He has already pointed out how blessed we are to receive it.

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?  We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:9

The apostle asks us who, exactly, is blessed by this righteousness.  He’s been using Abraham as an example for us.  But, what was it about Abraham that put him in a position to receive this righteousness?

Was it because he followed all the religious rules that he’d been given?

Under what circumstances was it credited?  Was it after he was circumcised, or before?  It was not after, but before!

Romans 4:10

Paul answers the question for us.  God credited Abraham with righteousness before he ever started following any religious observances.  All he needed to do was believe that God’s Word was truth.

That’s good news.  There’s no indication that Abraham had to continually try harder and harder until he was finally good enough to please God.  He was declared righteous in his uncircumcised condition.

If that’s the case, then why are there so many religious things that people do?  Is there a place for them?  Or are all religious observances to be done away with?

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.  So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.  And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Romans 4:11-12

Here Paul explains the place of religious observances.  They come after faith has been given and righteousness is received.

According to Paul, circumcision – the religious act is a sign.  This means that the outward observance is an indication of the change that took place on the inside.

What we do on the outside, is a seal of the righteousness received by faith.  A seal is the official stamp that confirms the genuineness of the item in question.

If I really believe that God’s Word is truth, then it will show up in my actions.  I don’t live right to obtain God’s blessing.  I live right because I’ve already received it.

There are many so called “religious” things that Christians do.  What we need to realize is that we don’t do them to get God to accept us.  These observances only serve to support the fact that we are accepted already by faith in Jesus Christ.

Don’t get it backwards.  That only brings frustration, guilt, and condemnation.  Come to the Lord in faith, trusting Him for His righteousness.

Then allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you to walk in obedience to God’s Word.  That will be the outward sign of the inner transformation that’s taken place within you.

Question: How do you yield to the Holy Spirit’s life-changing work?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2020 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Law’s Purpose

The Law’s Purpose

We’re continuing Paul’s discussion of religious people in the book of Romans.  We’ve seen that even though they have the advantage of access to the Bible, they’re actually no better off than anyone else.

Now the apostle is concluding this subject.  He is about to give us the bottom line of the religious lifestyle without a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

Romans 3:19

Paul is clear.  The law can only speak to those who choose to be under it.  If you choose to be under a set of religious rules, then it’s those very rules that will judge you.

What we need to understand is that God is not judging you.  It’s your own legalism that judges.

God has allowed this for a very special purpose.  He’s hoping that it will draw you to the freedom that’s only found in Christ.

The judgment of the law does two things.  First of all, it silences everyone.  Actually, the phrase, be silenced, literally means to be fenced in or blocked on every side.  Taken to its fullest measure, the law leaves no room for the excuses or justification that we like to give ourselves.

When confronted by our mistakes we usually start becoming defensive.  We give all the reasons why what we did was right at the time.  Unfortunately, the law is a cruel and heartless master.  It allows no way out.

The other part of the law is translated as held accountable, in the above verse.  That means to be already sentenced and under a “guilty” verdict.

With the law there is no appeals process.  As soon as you sin, you’re pronounced guilty.  No need for a trial – the law is supreme.

Why would anyone want to live in that type of environment?  Yet, there are many who do – both saved and unsaved.

Paul concludes this section with the only reason for the existence of the law.

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Romans 3:20

If you’re living under a set of religious rules hoping to prove to God how good you are, then I feel very sorry for you.  You’re destined for failure.

The law makes us conscious of what sin is.  Then, once we know about it, we’re responsible for the consequences of our failures.

The only purpose of the law is to prove to us just how impossible it is to please God by our own efforts.  It’s actually only the first step in a path toward salvation.

All of what’s written in the above post may sound pretty depressing.  It is…without the freedom and victory found only in the name of Jesus Christ.

From here on in the book of Roman’s, Paul will lay out for us the road to this freedom.  Don’t miss it.  Don’t stay stuck in the mire of legalism.  Lay hold of the life of freedom that the Lord purchased for you on the cross.

If you don’t yet subscribe to this blog, you may want to, so that you don’t miss this ongoing study.

Question: How have you been hurt by legalism?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2020 in Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Religious Problem

The Religious Problem

For the past few posts we’ve been looking at the advantage of religion.  That is, the advantage of having a basic knowledge of what the Bible says.  But is that enough?

Are you a better person in God’s eyes by being religious?

What shall we conclude then?  Are we any better?  Not at all!  We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.  As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

Romans 3:9-11

Here’s the problem.  Even though a religious person may appear to be better on the outside, without a relationship with Christ, they’re still lost.  Unfortunately, because they’re doing good things, they think that everything’s okay.

The fact remains that even though they may read the Bible, they have no understanding of God’s plan of salvation.  They’ve never laid hold of Christ’s forgiveness.  They think they’re headed in the right direction, but they’re outside the family of God.

Paul has some strong words for these people.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 3:12-18

In my experience, I’ve found that religious people are the hardest ones to witness to.  They see all of their good works and think that’s enough to save them.

What they fail to understand is that sin is not an external problem.  It needs to be dealt with on the inside of all of us.

When we stand before God’s Judgment Seat, there’s no set of scales.  He will not see if our good works outweigh our evil deeds.  The only question at that time will be; did you bow your knees to Christ as Lord and Savior?

That being said, there’s another thing that we need to realize.  Not all religious people are unsaved.  I know this may come as a shock to some Christians.

There are many believers in so called religious denominations.  Yes, I’m talking about Roman Catholic and Orthodox type denominations.

Those of us in less religious groups should spend more time talking with them instead of judging them.  I have personally shared with hundreds in these religions.  I’ve found that many have the same precious faith that I do.

Please understand, they don’t have the same religious vocabulary that I have.  In spite of that, I’ve found that during their lives, they’ve prayed for Jesus Christ to enter their lives and change them.  They pray, in Jesus’ name, for God’s blessing upon their lives.

No, they may not use terms like “sinner’s prayer”, “born again”, or “getting saved.”  But I could tell by their heart-felt words that they have a deep rooted faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

We can’t just assume that because someone doesn’t worship like us, they’re not saved.  We need to evangelize those who are truly lost, without Christ.

Question: How did you first come to know about Christ?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2020 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Religious Advantage

The Religious Advantage

We’re continuing our study through the book of Romans.  Paul has been talking about religious people without Christ.  He makes the point that there’s a problem of pride involved in this group.

He now moves on to another point.  Is there some advantage to being religious?

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?  Much in every way!  First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

Romans 3:1-2

If you remember, the apostle started by saying that there’s no advantage to being a sinner apart from God.  He then started talking about religion and the fact that all of your good works can’t save you.

Now, however, he says that there’s an advantage that religion brings.  According to Paul, the greatest plus is the fact that they have access to the Word of God.  Religious people have the Bible available to them and they’re somewhat familiar with it.

I can see this exemplified in our society.  Right now, people aren’t as religious as they used to be.  A hundred years ago, even many unsaved people would attend a church service.  A lot of them would even read the Bible.

When you would try to evangelize, they knew some of the Scriptures you referred to.  Many of them would even hold the Bible in high esteem.

In our present society, most unchurched people have no clue what the Bible says.  The fact that you quote a Scripture means nothing to them.  Now, the best evangelism is a testimony of how God changed your life.

So the advantage of religion is a basic understanding of who God is.  It at least has a foundation in the fact that there’s a God.

Now the issue is faith.

What if some did not have faith?  Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?  Not at all!  Let God be true, and every man a liar.  As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

Romans 3:3-4

Paul’s next question is; what if they have access to this Word and don’t believe it?  Does that make it worthless?

The resounding answer is “NO!”.  God doesn’t need me to believe Him for Him to be right.  God’s Word stands whether I believe it or not.

The phrase, prevail when you judge, literally means God is victorious in His decisions.  God is going to perform His Word no matter what the circumstances look like.  He doesn’t need my input to be victorious.  The Lord is perfectly capable in and of Himself.

My agreement with the Word of God simply puts me in position to walk with Him in His victory.  That’s something we all need to learn.

There’s a phrase I used to hear a lot when I was younger.  “God said it…I believe it…that settles it.”

Now that I’m older (and maybe a bit wiser), I’ve grown very uncomfortable with that saying.  I believe that it should be revised.  For it to truly reflect the Scripture it should be, “God said it…that settles it!”

The advantage of religion is that is gives you a basic knowledge of God.  But we need to go beyond that.  We need to know the Word and, by faith, trust it and walk in it.  That’s how we can receive the full blessings of our victory in Christ.

Question: What kind of religious foundation, if any, did you have before receiving Christ as your Lord?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2020 in Faith, The Gospel, 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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The Form of Religion

The Form of Religion

In my last post we started looking at Paul’s view of religious people.  We saw that it’s foolish to rest on a set of rules rather than the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul continues…

…if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth…

Romans 2:19-20

Remember, when talking about religious people, I’m referring to those who choose religion over relationship with Christ.  They’ve convinced themselves about a number of things.

They see their lifestyle as superior to those around them.  They view others as blind, in the dark, mindless, and infantile.  On the other hand they view themselves as a guide, a light, an instructor, and a teacher.

That’s the unfortunate attitude of legalism.  By constantly judging the lives of others, you have a huge blind spot concerning your own walk.

Let me say this to all the godly teachers reading this.  There’s nothing wrong with being called to teach or guide others into the truth.  It’s all about your attitude.

My calling is to be a pastor and teacher in the body of Christ.  But, I’ve learned over the years that there’s a fine line that I have to walk.

My job is to help people to know and understand God’s Word.  I endeavor to show how the Scripture applies to your life.

That’s as far as it goes.  I have to realize that I cannot change anybody’s life.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to do that.  If anyone is blessed, it’s because of the Lord working in their life through the Word.

I might be the one you see speaking or writing.  But, I want it to be the Spirit teaching and guiding you.  Like I said, it’s all about the attitude.

However, I think there’s an important point that we miss in the above passage.  It has to do with the words that were used in translation.

When Paul says, you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, it gives the wrong impression.  The word, embodiment, is actually a word that means a form or appearance.  Following a set of rules only appears to be a logical way to serve God.

Unfortunately, we’re told that it’s not the best way.  In talking about what people would be like in the last days, Paul makes this comment about them.

…having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.

2 Timothy 3:5

Simply following a set of religious rules is a form without the substance.  These rules are like a jail cell.  Can we say that a car thief has changed just because he’s in jail?  Absolutely not!  It’s just that there are no cars available for him to steal.

It’s the same with a set of rules.  As long as my will-power is intact, it appears that I’ve changed.  However, when opportunity and weakness get the better of me, I show what’s really on the inside.  I need the true change that only comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

Don’t allow empty religion to get the better of you.  Spend some time becoming more intimate with the Lord through His Holy Spirit.

Question: how do you overcome the temptation to be religious?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Religion vs. Relationship

Religion vs. Relationship

We’re continuing our walk through the book of Romans.  In my last post we finished the section where Paul is talking to those without Christ.

He now shifts gears and begins talking to the Jews who have not yet received Christ as their Messiah.  In our generation, this part of Romans would deal with religious people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The apostle has some very strong words for the religious community.  He starts by describing who he’s talking to.

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law…

Romans 2:17-18

The first thing we see is a kind of dichotomy.  One mark of being religious is that you rest on the law – a set of rules for living – yet you brag about God.  Instead, the most important thing is to get to know God on a personal level.

But it’s the way a religious person follows the rules that’s the most telling.  The next phrase, approve of what is superior, implies that you’re only following what you consider to be the best rules.

That’s the problem with legalism.  Usually, when you make yourself a set of religious rules, you only include the ones you’re comfortable with.  You have your own approval system that tells you what rules you’ll accept or reject.

An ongoing relationship with Christ through His Holy Spirit, however, will bring about a change.  It will change your heart, your mind, and your actions.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

This should be the goal of my life in God’s kingdom.  Instead, religion only deals with how well I’m following the set of rules I’ve established.

That’s why relationship always wins over religion.  It’s how we grow and mature.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…

Philippians 1:9-10

It’s through our relationship with Christ that we discern the best way to please Him.  Rules will only take you so far.

I want to know how to live right now, in this point in time.  There are things taking place that have never happened before in recent history.  Without the discerning of the Holy Spirit, I’ll be as confused as the rest of society without Christ.

We’re living in dangerous times.  Playing church isn’t going to bring us through it successfully.  We need a strong, intimate relationship with the only One who knows how to navigate the future.

It’s time to put religion aside and concentrate on strengthening your relationship with the Lord.

Question: What are you doing to bring your relationship with Christ to the next level?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2020 in Legalism, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion on the Attack

In my last post, we looked at how Jesus confronted the attack of religion against His ministry.  Today we’ll see another aspect of that battle.

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
Mark 3:1-2

I always read this account with amazement.  I can’t fathom the thinking process of the Pharisees.

I understand that they were starting to be annoyed by Jesus’ ministry.  I even understand how they were looking for a way to discredit Him.  But to use healing as the vehicle, doesn’t make sense to me.

In my last post, I talked about the traditions that the Pharisees had to bring more detail to the definition of work.  They had a lot of man-made rules concerning healing.  It’s the work of a doctor to heal so no work of healing could be performed on the Sabbath.

For instance, it was illegal to drink wine on the Sabbath, if you had a toothache.  That’s because if the alcohol in the wine deadened the pain in your tooth, it would be considered healing.

That’s all well and good for a doctor.  But there’s a huge flaw in their argument when they apply it to the Messiah.

Jesus didn’t work to bring about a cure in the natural sense.  He was able to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ ministry, it was God who healed the sick.

Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”  But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.  Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Mark 3:3-6

It’s obvious from the above details that the healing was supernatural.  Jesus did absolutely no work to accomplish it.

That tells me that religion is blind to everything but its own ends.  It claims that it’s trying to serve God.  The actual truth is that religion is bent on proving its own superiority over anyone else.

They claim that by keeping the Sabbath pure from work, they’re following God’s will.  God, on the other hand, healed this man; proving that He had no problem with healing on the Sabbath.  Religion actually has the audacity to say that they’re more holy than God!

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking even creeps into the church.  Paul describes it this way…

…having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.
2 Timothy 3:5

Religion couldn’t care less about the power of God in operation.  It’s the form that’s more important.  How you look and what others think about you.  Powerlessness is okay, as long as people think that we have a more superior walk of “righteousness”.

Unfortunately, it’s merely a form of self-righteousness.  It doesn’t impress God, and it doesn’t help those around us.

Our goal should be a spiritual walk.  Spending time in the spirit, listening for the voice of the Father, then, obeying what we hear.  That’s the example that Jesus leaves us with.

Question: Why do so many choose form over power?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2018 in Healing, Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion – Keeping Up Appearances

I’ve come to the conclusion that God hates religion.  What do I mean by that?  To most people, when they think about the word religion, they mean a set of rules by which you live your spiritual life.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion.  God wants a personal relationship with His people through Jesus Christ.  We see a great example of this in the life of Christ as recorded by Mark.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Mark 2:23-24

In order to understand what’s happening in this verse, I first have to explain some Old Testament facts.  The Law of Moses provided for the needs of travelers as they were going from place to place.  It allowed them to pick grain from any nearby field and eat it as they walked along.

So Jesus and the disciples weren’t stealing anybody’s grain.  God’s Word made it clear that the edges of a field were for the travelers, widows, and orphans.  It was a part of God’s provision for those in need.

Then why did the Pharisees have such a problem with what they were doing?  It all revolved around their religious interpretation of the Law.  According to the Ten Commandments, no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day.  It was to be a day of rest and worship.

Here’s where religion becomes an evil tyrant.  The Law of Moses said to not work on the Sabbath, but it never defined what exactly constituted work.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law took it upon themselves to help God out.  Since the Lord obviously forgot to explain it, they went ahead and detailed out what exactly was forbidden on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees had lists of “illegal activities” for the Sabbath.  For instance: you could pick up a chair and move it across the room.  But you couldn’t drag it because that would make a line in the dirt (furrowing) which was work.

The fact that the disciples were picking grain – harvesting – was not allowed on the Sabbath.  That wasn’t God’s law, but man’s religious interpretation of it.

It’s interesting that the word they use, unlawful, is a word that means not right.  However, this word implies that what they were doing was not right by appearance.  It didn’t look right.  With religion, it’s all about appearance.  It’s how you look on the outside.

Jesus had an answer for them.

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:25-28

The Lord uses the example of David.  The Law said that the bread in the Holy Place belonged to the priest.  He could do what he wanted with it.  It just didn’t look right for David and his men to eat it.  But the priest was ministering to someone in need.

The underlying principle is that the Sabbath was created for us to enjoy.  It was to give us a time of rest and refreshment in the presence of God.  It wasn’t made so that we could have one more religious rule.

Our God is a God of relationship.  A good relationship can never be based on a list of do’s and don’ts.  Religion is a form of slavery.  A relationship with Jesus Christ brings freedom and abundant life.

Question: How have you experienced the tyranny of religion?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Religion is Slavery

Slavery is evil.  But when someone chooses to be a slave to an unworthy master, that’s just plain foolish.  It’s so unfortunate that this is the position many Christians find themselves in.

As we continue our look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to talk about this problem.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.
Galatians 4:8

Paul tells us here that before we experienced the true God, we were under the yoke of slavery.  Now, having come to Christ, we’ve learned the freedom that’s only available in Him.  Paul is perplexed about why anyone would ever want to go back to the old ways.

But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Galatians 4:9

Paul makes it clear that this slavery is not to a person.  We choose to be enslaved by certain principles.  And his description of these principles – this way of ordering our lives – makes it sound like it’s not worth serving under them.

He says that they’re weak, without any power.  I want my life to change, but trying to serve a set of rules doesn’t bring about that change.  I’m the same person I always was, but now I’m struggling to act differently than my natural desires.

He also calls these principles miserable.  The word he uses means a fearful, beggarly existence.  In other words, you want God’s blessing, but you’re so afraid that at any step you’ll do something wrong and lose it all.  You’re hoping that by your good works you’ll convince God that you’re worthy of His blessings.

I can tell you from experience that this is a miserable way to live.  And yet there are many who only serve God in this way.  They’re in constant fear of making God mad at them.  They’re in slavery to a no-win lifestyle.

You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Galatians 4:10-11

The bottom line is that God isn’t pleased with us because of our rituals and observances.  He loves us because we’re in Christ.  He sees us under the blood – washed clean and delivered from our past.  It’s not about ritual but relationship that brings us closer to the Lord.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

Please understand what Paul is saying here.  It’s not that he wants to know about, read about, or learn about Christ.  He wants to know Christ deeper and deeper on a personal level.  The more he knows Christ, the more like Him Paul will become.

Instead of fearing that we’ll get God mad at us, we should be drawing on our relationship with Him.  Spend time in His presence.  Let the Holy Spirit work in you as He wills.  Don’t waste time by putting yourself back under a yoke of slavery.

Question: Why is relationship better than slavery?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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