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Christ – The Holy Root

Christ – The Holy Root

In my last post, we looked at Paul’s illustration using bread and the firstfruits. He’s talking about the nation of Israel as a part of God’s plan. In this post we’ll look at his next example.

If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Romans 11:16

Now Paul will use roots and branches to give a more detailed illustration. He tells us that if the root is set apart as holy, then the rest of the plant is holy also.

It’s clear that the most important part of the plant is the root. That’s where the life is. So, Paul is talking about a holy root.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Revelation 22:16

There’s no way around it; Jesus Christ is the holy Root. That’s why we need His life. This is an important concept. The Lord explained it to His disciples in the parable of the farmer planting his seed.

I believe that the NKJV brings this truth out in the best way.

These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. (NKJV)

Mark 4:16-17

This statement of Jesus explains what Paul is talking about in the book of Romans. We can see that Israel is a self-righteous people. The key is that they have no root in themselves.

It’s like building your house on the sand. We need a root to give us life and keep us from falling. So, a holy root makes holy branches.

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Romans 11:17-18

Paul tells us that some branches were broken off and wild branches were grafted in. The wild branches speak of the Gentiles who receive Christ. We’re now a co-participants of the root. According to the apostle, we now share in the richness of the olive tree.

This goes right along with what Christ taught His disciples…and us.

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. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

John 15:5-7

What matters is the life of the root and the richness of the tree. I’m not better than any other branch. There’s nothing I can boast about. It’s the root that sustains my life.

That’s why we have to watch our attitudes. We don’t keep the root alive – the root keeps us alive.

It’s so important that we keep ourselves connected to the root. When we try to go off on our own, we’re headed for failure. We must remain in Christ.

That means maintaining a healthy relationship with the Holy Spirit. Time in prayer allows us to receive the life-giving support of the root. Please don’t lose sight of this fundamental truth.

Question: How have you received strength and support through your time with the Holy Spirit?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Trap of Tradition

The Trap of Tradition

We’re continuing through the book of Romans. Paul is talking about God’s dealings with Israel. They’re still a part of God’s plan, but they enter salvation the same as all people. It must be though faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The history of the Jewish people needs to be a lesson to us. We cannot allow tradition and self-righteousness to short-circuit our walk with God.

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…

Romans 11:7

We see from Scripture, that what the nation of Israel as a whole intensely craved and sought for, it did not obtain. But, the few who entered by grace obtained it. These are the people who confessed the Lord Jesus Christ and believed that God raised Him from the dead.

According to Paul, the rest were hardened, literally, petrified – turned into stone. The apostle now quotes some Old Testament prophecies.

…as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.”

Romans 11:8

The Greek word for stupor, in this verse is that prickly feeling you get when a body part falls asleep. It’s numb and you have a hard time using it correctly.

It’s what happens to us spiritually, when we get caught up in religious traditions. We have eyes that don’t see what they should see, and ears that don’t hear what they should hear. God rebuked the Israelites for this on many occasions.

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.

Deuteronomy 29:2-4

When I read this, it seems that the Lord is almost being sarcastic with them. It’s like He’s asking them, “Did I really have to give you a supernatural mind to understand what I was doing?” It shouldn’t have taken a seminary degree to see that God wanted to work out His plan in the Jewish people.

But this is not just an Old Testament trap. If we’re not careful, we could fall into the same mindset. Isaiah warns us about it.

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

Isaiah 29:13

It’s unfortunate, but this rebuke could be said of many churches throughout the world today. Many people who call themselves “Christian” are merely following a set of rules that have been laid down for them.

It’s clear from this verse that using religious terminology is not enough. Simply saying, “Of course I love God, I go to church every Sunday” is not enough. We have to bow our knees to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Paul goes on to quote David.

And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

Romans 11:9-10

The people of Israel got all messed up by what should have helped them. They got tripped up by their traditions. Don’t let that happen to you.

We need to seek intimate relationship with Christ. Spend quality time with the Holy Spirit.

Question: What are your private prayer times like?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gift of Righteousness

The Gift of Righteousness

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

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

Romans 3:21

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 3:22-24

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 1:7-8

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

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

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

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

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

 

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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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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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There’s No Convincing a Hard Heart

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, we come to a point where Jesus is met by some Pharisees.  They start to discuss theology with Him.  But they have an ulterior purpose.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.  To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.
Mark 8:11-12

The Pharisees were the spiritual authorities in Israel.  They were the ones who the people looked up to for guidance and counsel.

In the natural, you could say that there was a lot riding on this meeting.  If the Pharisees accepted Jesus as their Messiah, then the people would follow.  If they rejected Him, it would be harder for the people to be convinced.

On the surface, it seemed pretty innocent.  A group of spiritual leaders looking for more information upon which to base their decision.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We’re dealing with a group of self-righteous leaders, who don’t want to lose their power base.  The appearance of the Messiah would make them step down a rung on the ladder of authority.  It was in their best interest to find a reason to reject Christ.

Of course, that’s always the reasoning of the self-righteous.  They put up a smoke-screen of seeming to want to accept you.

“Show us a sign from Heaven, so that we can follow you.”

This isn’t how self-righteousness works.  In my experience, self-righteous people are looking for signs that you’re not truly a believer.

“You can’t possibly be a strong Christian.  I saw you dance and drink the champagne toast at the wedding.”

These Pharisees had already concluded that Jesus wasn’t on their level.  After all, He heals on the Sabbath.  He doesn’t even make His disciples perform the religious rituals, like fasting and hour-long ceremonial hand washings.

How do you convince someone whose mind is already made up?  It requires supernatural wisdom.

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”  Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Mark 8:12-13

This is the key to walking in the wisdom of God.  The original Greek version of this verse specifically says that the Lord groaned deeply in His spirit.  Most people don’t realize that Jesus had a rich prayer life in the spirit.  For a more detailed look at this, click here.

This is why we need to cultivate our spiritual prayer language.  It’s how we tap into the mind of Christ.  It’s the channel for the wisdom of God to flow through us.

We think that we always need to defend ourselves.  We get into arguments trying to convince people that we’re right.  The truth is, even though we’re right, God’s wisdom might be to simply not answer them and walk away.

That’s what the Holy Spirit led Jesus to do in this instance.  The Pharisees had already made up their minds about Him.  Nothing He did would change them.

This is a reason we need to pray regularly in the spirit.  We must be prepared to face the challenges ahead.  It doesn’t matter if it’s people who are challenging us or the enemy’s kingdom.  It’s the wisdom of God that will ultimately bring the victory.

Question: When have you received supernatural wisdom as a result of your prayers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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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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Warning: Legalism is Addictive

PillsIn my last post, I talked about hearing from God and receiving vision for your life and ministry.  This is important, because under the New Covenant, believers need to be hearing from God.

I’m so glad that whenever I pray, God hears me in Christ.  But I also need to hear Him when He speaks.  I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as it’s me not listening.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus made a startling statement that many have overlooked.  But first, let’s look at the context.

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.”
Luke 5:37-38

In this parable the old wineskins stand for those who walk in legalism.  Once wineskins were used, they became empty, used up, dry, and unyielding.

That’s a good description of many of the Pharisees Jesus had to deal with.  They had nothing on the inside to give that would bless others.

In the natural, new wine is unfermented grape juice.  As it becomes wine, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins.

Old, dry and unyielding wineskins would burst under that internal pressure.  You can’t live for God like that.

A New wineskin – one that’s unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable – is ready to be used in this process.

As we get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us, it starts to ferment.  There is a spiritual pressure that builds up.  That’s what brings growth.

Now you’re hearing from God and something is being poured into you.  The pressure is building.  You have something to give and pour out into someone else.

Listen to Jesus’ next statement.

“And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Luke 5:39

Once you get a taste for legalism, you don’t want the new work of the Spirit.  Why is that?  Simply put, legalism is intoxicating and addictive.

Legalism strokes my ego.  “Look at what I’m doing for God.  I read my Bible and pray every day.  I go to church every week.  I’m better than most.”

This “intoxication” with self-righteousness will put us to sleep, spiritually speaking.  We don’t feel the need to hear from God.  We can live the way we want as we perform our minimal church obligations.

Basically, we can live for God without being changed by the Spirit.  That’s the deception of legalism.

I want to be prepared to hear His voice.  This requires that I allow the Holy Spirit to work His change in me – to stretch my outer man sometimes.  It may feel uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to see the Lord working through me.

Question: How far are you willing to be stretched by the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Legalism, Prayer

 

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