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Zeal

Zeal

Have you ever been driven to do something for God, not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? That is zeal.

John 2:13-17 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

If you wanted to announce your ministry, would you go into a megachurch and start turning over tables and driving people away? Jesus was doing more here than just showing His authority. John’s explanation for this one-man attack on the sacrilege and defilement of the house of God is summed up in these words: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

Zeal in this context is not anger. It is love ablaze. Zeal without reason becomes fanaticism. Jesus was not a fanatic. His love for the Father and for us was blind to all the possible dangers of His mission. We could describe it as a “mamma bear” kind of love. This love ignores personal safety, disregards the odds against it, drops "sacrifice" from its vocabulary, ignores all danger, is intolerant of sin, but it is not fanatical. It is love ablaze.

When the worldly “wise” swept aside the Bible, they told us that we would move into a new freedom for mankind.  Instead of freedom, people have become enslaved to sin and passions. As a result, our society is dominated by broken marriages, leaving millions of broken children. Thousands and thousands of teenagers minds are broken with drugs. The people's confidence and trust in the government is broken. The economy is broken - the once-mighty dollar is broken. All is broken except our hearts.

We need broken, contrite hearts and a zeal for God to face this colossal mess. The present apathy in the Church is almost unpardonable. The Jehovah's Witnesses have zeal. The Mormons have zeal. The Muslims have zeal. The Socialists have zeal. The homosexuals have zeal. And the atheists zealously persist in dominating the media.

It is not enough in these days for the Church to say that we are fundamental. We must be ablaze with a Holy Spirit-born zeal. We must feel the hurt of God over the devil's domination of this age. We must repent of our apathy and where we have turned to our own way. Some have been more loyal to a man-made theology than to the Word of God.

For example, the Church today is fouled with disobedience by a watered-down gospel, showmanship, bingo and bake sales, tinsel and trivia. It does not make disciples of Jesus nor teach them to observe what He has commanded.

Matthew 22:37-40 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Church ignores Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Money decides who is the most spiritual. If there is a man in the assembly with great wealth but little spirituality, he is welcomed as a member of the church board.

Preachers beg for money over the radio and television. Give "for this ministry" they say, and yet much of it is to sustain their extravagant lifestyle, costly airplanes, and luxury homes. And now, after emptying your pockets while you live, they ask for your house and estate after you die. Sinners scoff and say of the rich preachers, "Their creed is greed and their god is gold." Yes, we need a baptism of holy zeal like Jesus, because the money grabbers are back in the temple. The Church that began in the Spirit is now operating in the flesh. The world now influences the Church more than the Church influences the world.

Well, I don’t want to be that way. Do you? So, how can we prevent apathy, consumerism, and worldliness? How can we develop a zeal for God?

2 Peter 1:5-11 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To walk in His holiness and maintain our zeal, we have to realize there are things in our lives Jesus wants to drive out, so that He can supplement our faith with the fruit and the fire of the Holy Spirit. For example, when Jesus ran the moneychangers out of the temple, He was ridding the Church of a certain coldness and consumerism that had overtaken people’s passion for God.

The Church today can easily lose its focus in the same way. Under the new Covenant, we are God’s temple on earth. Our bodies, not a building, are the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit and are to be a “house of prayer”. And there are certain things that don’t belong in His temple, things that can overtake our passion for Him and cause us to grow cold.

That scene in the temple offers an analogy for our time. A lot of congregations today are filled with noise and activity. They have many programs in place, from overseas mission trips to local outreaches, to dozens of small fellowship groups. The worship services can be full of bright lights, powerful sound, and amazing energy. All this can be good, yet sometimes, amid all this lively activity something is missing: Jesus.

Dr. Richard Moore says, “When ministry becomes performance, then the sanctuary becomes a theater, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and man’s applause and approval become the measure of success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, His presence moves into the sanctuary. Even the unsaved visitor will fall down on his face, worship God, and confess that God is among us.”

I’m not suggesting we start turning over tables in church foyers. But without Christ as the focus of our activities, our church is dead. No matter how hard we work to do things that serve and honor His name, none of our activities in themselves can achieve true kingdom results without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. From the outside, our fellowship may look righteous, but if we, as individuals, don’t maintain a focus on Jesus and pursue Him with all our heart, we’ll have a form of religion but not the Holy Spirit.

Good relationships demand time and effort. Just like a marriage or any relationship, it can grow stale; and so our love for God can grow dull over time. Some people ignore God until they have a crisis. They focus their minds on the things of this world while they slowly drift away from God to pursue their own interests. They stop going to worship at church; they stop studying the Scriptures; they stop praying; and they begin talking and acting like the world. When some disaster later comes along, they feel God is distant. Well, God doesn’t forget His people, but His people frequently forget Him and lose their zeal for Him and intimacy with Him.

Hebrews 2:1-3 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Now, if we want to strengthen our relationship and become zealous for God, we must start paying close attention to what God says. As Jesus overturned all those tables, He cried out, “Take these things away!” Likewise today, our temples are to be cleansed of anything that takes the place of His rightful lordship. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to rid us of those things, to prepare room for the things He wants to fill us with. He wants our temple to be once again a house of prayer, faith, and holiness.

After all, Jesus didn’t die on the cross to proclaim a health and wealth gospel that puts us in the center of the universe. He sacrificed Himself to redeem our soul from sin and to give us eternal life. His blood washes away our sin and causes us to be born again, so we will be created in His image and become like Him. Jesus is interested in our inner man; and one day He will judge our soul on whether we gave of ourselves as His humble servants.

To gain a zeal for God, we have to make Him a priority in our lives every single day. We must study the Bible because it reveals God’s thinking and His will for our lives. To know God, we have to listen to His words and obey them. We are to “pray without ceasing.” That means we intimately communicate with God by listening and speaking to Him throughout the day.

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

If we want to be zealous for God, then we must make being with God a daily lifestyle. We have to give Him control of our life. We must let Him remove the weeds out of our heart and soul. Just as weeds can take over a garden, so spiritual weeds can take over our heart and make us unfruitful.

Luke 8:14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

Many Christians fail to grow in their faith and in their relationship with God, because they let their jobs, and their hobbies, or their recreation come between God and themselves. Well, none of these things is wrong; but if you let something, anything, take you away from God, you have an idol, which is sin. Sin destroys our zeal for God, because it enslaves us.

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

When our relationship with God is intimate and strong, then our hearts want to serve God; but when our relationship is weak, we let other things dominate our lives. If we seek God and His Kingdom first, then God will add to our lives all that we need plus blessings we never realized before.

Have the things of this world, or sin overtaken your zeal for Jesus? Ask Him today to overturn the tables in your heart. If you’re letting sin have a place in your heart, then it’s time to put an end to that sin. You can’t love the world and love God at the same time.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by anything we do. However, God’s grace was never meant to leave us in a place of apathy. The opposite is true: When God’s grace is applied to our lives, it impassions us with zeal. It makes us more cautious, more desirous of a clean life, more zealous for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. Zeal inspires us to tell others about Jesus.

Therefore, don’t let your love for Christ grow cold. Don’t grow weary in your struggle against sin and lose heart. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Listen to God, love God, pray to God, develop an intimate relationship with God, and tell everyone about His goodness and kindness in Christ Jesus. Get zealous.

Maybe you have never been zealous for God because you are not sure He exists.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Ask God to give you faith to believe and grace to repent. Repentance is an act of the heart that says, “I will no longer do what offends God, but will please Him.” In repentance, we put a stop to sin, but we must also be forgiven. The Lord forgives us when by faith and repentance, we’re willing to confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and be baptized. In baptism, we’re crucified with Christ, in order that our life of sin might be done away with. Baptism is that time that we are born again of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills us daily with zeal—love ablaze for Jesus Christ.