Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dangerous Faith: Zeal

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 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…Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12 1-2, 9b-18 (emphasis added)

Last week we looked at Paul’s life and realized that the first step toward dangerous faith is extreme love for God. Paul was willing to forsake everything in order to know his Lord more intimately. He had found that knowing God brought him more joy than anything else in life. That includes money, prominence, and comfort. None of them could compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. 

It is this type of extreme love for God that I want to take a closer look at this week, and I want to suggest that it is related to what the Bible calls 'zeal.' Now ‘zeal’ is kind of an Old Testament word so let’s see if we can update it to a 21st century context. We’ll start by looking at a most excellent definition for the word I came across recently:
Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way…A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing… He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies,—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness,—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor,—whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense,—whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish… for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it,—he is content… he has but done the work for which God appointed him… This is what I mean when I speak of “zeal” in religion.
(Bishop J.C. Ryle. Practical Religion, 1959 ed., p.130)

I love that definition! Something about it speaks to me deep down in my soul. It stirs me. It challenges me and convicts me. And this is what I want each of us to move toward, to run after with all our might.

If we “draw near to God, He will draw near to us” (James 4:8)! And while we are in His presence we will be “transformed into His likeness” (II Corinthians 3:18). We will become passionate about the things that He is passionate about. We will become zealous for His glory. We will be moved to defend the cause of the fatherless, the widow, the downtrodden and the outcast (Jeremiah 22:16).

If you are tired of pretending to know God, if you are tired of boring religion and are ready to actually know Him, then try this. Seek Him! The Bible promises that if you seek Him you will find Him. Instead of relying on your pastor to tell you what the Bible says, pick it up, dust it off and read it yourself. Don’t live your relationship with God through your pastor or anyone else. Enter into relationship with God yourself. Pray to Him. Read your Bible. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Going to church is important and your pastor can really help you understand the Bible but that is just the beginning of your relationship with your Savior. Like in any relationship the most special moments with our Lord are those that we share with no one else but Him.

For further reading this week...

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