Christian Zeal

With Easter on the horizon, I thought it might be fitting to do at least a couple of posts pertaining to faith and our excitement about what has and will happen in God's great story of redemption.  I was thinking and reading through some old J.C. Ryle sermons the other day, I came across one about Christian Zeal.  As I considered my desires and the calling Jesus gives his followers, I thought this was a fairly interesting word to study.

thoughts on becoming a zealous Christian

What is Zeal?
Zeal (noun)  - to have great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective (synonyms include: passion and devotion)

A person who has zeal for Jesus gives their whole life and heart to him as a living sacrifice, withholding nothing for themselves or their own agenda.  Just as a wife should only to have eyes for her husband, the church and it's members should only have eyes for Christ, passionately pursuing submission to him and helping to spread his message in whatever way they can.  Zealous Christians spread their joy, energy, and passion for the gospel among other believers, making their faith contagious.

Evangelists, missionaries, teaching pastors, and even mothers are just a few great examples of those who often work tirelessly, devoting themselves to the call God has given to do. (Although I'm sure that Christian zeal can manifest itself in every calling.)

Why is it so Difficult to be Zealous?
On the outside, zealous people don't have something our culture values greatly...life balance.  It appears as though they are so stuck on their one cause, so focused on their mission, so devoted that others might even label it "weird" or "unhealthy".  Even in Christian circles, aren't we sometimes guilty of mocking those who have the truth always on their lips and focus their all on Jesus? It makes us a little uncomfortable.  People who are sold out for God appear not to care as much about material and mortal things as much as the rest of us, and therefore they look and act differently.  Sometimes it can feel awkward and our defense is to pride ourselves in our ability to be balanced and reasonable.  Then we tell ourselves they must be in some super-spiritual category that we aren't a part of.  We're just "normal".

Not to mention, our world hates the message of Jesus.  They hate everything about him, and the second we become about him, we are hated too.  It often seems easier to just blend in with the crowd, speak in a quiet and mild voice and only chime in when we are forced to do so.  Instead of standing alone for truth, we cower in fear of man and stand with the crowd.

Finally, aren't we all a bit numb to truth?  The age of technology and social media has left the sweet honey of the word as a dull taste on our tongue.  What used to be a treasure is now forgotten and replaced with things that gratify us in the here and now, only to fade away later.  We try to fill ourselves up and find satisfaction in any and every earthly distraction and then wonder why we are tired, empty and unable to muster up energy to serve God.  It seems as though there is a lot riding against us.

Jesus, the Gospel, and Perfect Zeal.
We have an example of perfect zeal for God and his purposes.
"Zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me."  Psalm 69:9

Jesus was all-consumed with his role and purpose and message.  He was not divided, he was devoted.  He was not afraid of what people could do to him.  Even unto death, he did not shy away from his call - consumed with passion for his father's will to be done.  As a result, it was done.  Jesus took the reproach that should have fallen on us and instead gave us freedom.  He granted us his righteousness, and in turn gave us both the power and the motivation to be zealous for God.

So I'm free to be full of zeal for my faith.  But I must ask myself,

  • Can I say that I'm not afraid to stand alone for truth?
  • Can I say that I don't care if people judge me or judge my motives because I am secure knowing that God understands my heart?
  • Can I say that I don't care what I lose for the sake of advancing the gospel?
  • Can I say that I am only about one thing and one thing alone?
  • Can I say that I am so devoted to the cause of Christ that I ignite a fire in others to love him more?
  • Can I say that I am wide awake to the truth and how it impacts the world?
  • Can I say that my hands are always at work for the sake of the gospel?
  • Can I say that my face shines the glory of God to others?
  • Can I say that no matter where I go, I bring the essence of Jesus with me?

This Easter season I am challenged by these thoughts and the example Jesus has set before me in his death.  What I do in this short life matters, but only if I give it fully to God so that my good works don't burn up but stand for eternity.

Do you live with zeal?

*questions adapted from this sermon
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