A Passion for Christ

A Passion for Christ

A preacher once asked an actor, “What is the difference between you and me? You appear before crowds night after night proclaiming fiction and people listen with delight. I proclaim the unchangeable truth of God, yet, most people listen with no passion at all. Some even go to sleep.”

The actor answered, “I present fiction as though it were true. You present truth as though it were fiction.”

There is much more to it than that; however, that illustration makes me do some serious self-examination. It is impossible to show a genuine passion for Christ and His Word if I don’t have it. Oh, I could shout, spit, work up a sweat, prance, and dance as I preach, but if my life does not demonstrate a passion for Christ and His Word, my preaching will present the truth as though it were fiction. If that is what I am doing, seriously, I should be replaced by someone with a passion for Christ. You are wasting your time listening to me.

You are the critic of my sermons. That is right and proper. It is your responsibility to search the Scriptures to see whether or not the message is the truth, to be remembered and followed or to be ignored and forgotten. God is the judge of what you believe and do.

God is also my judge. He will hold me accountable for what I preach and how I live. It is a sobering, serious, and fearful responsibility.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we, who teach, will be judged with greater strictness.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is preaching to me this morning, and I trust He will tell you what He wants you to hear.

So, what does the phrase "a passion for Christ" mean? Jesus described what is required of a person to have a passion for Him.

Mark 8:34-38 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

A passion for Jesus begins with denying ourselves. It is the very thing we don’t want to do. We naturally want to please ourselves.

To deny self is to subdue the flesh and bring it under submission to Christ. It is saying “No” to self in order to say “Yes” to what Jesus Christ wills. Self-denial enables Jesus to be truly Lord of our life and allows us to enjoy the benefits of obedience and the promises of God.

Therefore, a passion for Christ includes an ever-increasing love for Jesus and obedience to His Word. Jesus said in John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Most of us think of obedience as a personal, individual compliance to God's commands. That is true, but obedience to His Word has implications far beyond that. Our obedience isn't merely a personal pursuit. Our obedience is also for the sake of the Lord's Body, the Church. What we do individually has an effect on this congregation and on the entire Body of Christ. Therefore, if we have a passion for Christ, our passion will also include a passion for one another, His Body.

Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Under the New Covenant, God is looking for more than an individual pursuit of Christ. God isn't interested in having just one Christ-filled man, or one Spirit-governed woman, or one fully surrendered preacher in a compromised church. He is looking for the pure and spotless Bride of Christ, another term for the Church.

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

We can't separate our individual passion for Christ from a genuine passion for the Bride of Christ, the Church. Our lives are blessed as a result of our individual passion for Christ. With this passion, come God's peace, joy, rest, and a desire to know Christ more intimately. But we should not to be content just to pursue Jesus, while all around us the Body of Christ is suffering! No, the love of God in us desires all believers to have a passion for Christ.

The deep cry in your soul for a holier walk didn't come from your personality. The Lord put that desire in you. His Spirit awakened you and stirred your heart. And He did it for His purpose, which is to help others grow in Christ.

Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

God's Spirit sets us aflame to ignite others! Our passion is meant to affect those around us. However, our passion for Christ is not only our words—it is demonstrated by our obedience.

1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

It is impossible to have passion for Jesus without a corresponding obedience to His commands. We can't say we have passion for Him if we don't obey His Word. We can’t say we love the children of God if we don’t obey God, for our disobedience is harming the children of God.

In addition to obedience, a passion for Christ causes us to be humble.

Matthew 18:1-4 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus directed this statement to His disciples. His message is clear: Those who want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and those who are in the Kingdom of Heaven must be humble.

For the first six centuries, the Church met in homes and open areas where everyone could see their worship and witness their passion for Christ and for one another. As a result, the Lord added to the Church daily those who were saved. The first church buildings were humble meeting places, useful, but not extravagant. Since then, many church buildings have become large entertainment centers. Their expensive, grandiose buildings speak of their pride before you meet the proud, affluent members. The simple and poor don’t feel welcome there.

If we're all honest before God, we would have to admit our pride causes us to disobey and to do religious things with the wrong motive. At times, even the most spiritual among us doesn't practice what he preaches.

Romans 2:21-24 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

In short, this passage is saying, "You do well to preach against these sins. But you're not dealing with them in your own heart." This hypocrisy affects the whole Body of Christ and causes unbelievers to blaspheme God and reject Christ.

Here is the critical decision for all of us: Are you willing to open your heart to God’s Word? Will you ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of any pride and disobedience? Will you repent from all dishonesty and hypocrisy? If so, ask the Father for grace to become humble, repentant, obedient, and to be transformed.

Humility is more than the opposite of pride. It is more than practicing what we preach, or taking the lowest seat in the house, or doing good works in secret. Of course, these are all good and acceptable things in God's eyes, but none of them makes us humble.

The surest evidence that someone isn't humble is that he thinks he is humble. So, don't think you're being humble through your meekness, quietness, self-abasement, poverty, or self-denial. You are not humble by ignoring someone’s praise or by putting yourself down.

True humility is about one thing only: total dependence on the Lord. The word "dependence" means "trust for all things, in all things." It includes a mindset that says, “There dwells in me no good thing except Christ; however, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is contentment with whatever you have and a willingness to share because the Lord is your provider.

Trust, therefore, is another element of a passion for Christ. Trust means having no agenda, no self-will, and forfeiting all rights. It also means knowing Who has power for all things and turning to Him in faith for His supply. Genuine trust doesn't stop at saying, "I'm weak." It also declares, "He is strong." Such dependent trust requires humility and obedience. Together, a passion for Christ is created.

Jesus is our example of a humble man who has a passion for the Father and for His Church. The Lord, who created all things and for whom all things were made, demonstrated His passion by becoming a man wholly dependent on the Father.

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus demonstrated His passion by His humble, obedient, dependence on the Father. Everything Jesus did, said, and sacrificed wasn't for Himself at all. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection had everything to do with obeying the Father and sanctifying His Church. His humble obedience and victory was totally for us: for you, for me, for everyone throughout the centuries who would believe in Him.

Our Lord's victory over Satan provided our victory over sin. The penalty He paid was for our debt, not His own. His death was our death and His resurrection was ours also. He accomplished all of these things to restore us to the Father. His purpose all along was to sanctify a Church, a Body, a Bride for Himself, and to place every member in the Body as He sees fit.

Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

What Adam did affected all of us. What Jesus did affected all of us. This principle holds true for us as well. For example: Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up and to cause trouble and defile many.

If one Christian's bitterness can "defile many" in the Body of Christ, it is also true that one person's humble, obedient, dependence on God can bless many in the Body of Christ. So, ask yourself, “What is my influence on the Body of Christ?”

Perhaps, as you've listened to this message, you have been quietly praying, "Lord, please renew my passion for You." If so, you need to be prepared to let the Holy Spirit search your heart. He wants to reveal to you any area of disobedience to His Word. You must be willing to deny self, repent, and be humbled.

Moreover, you have to abandon all your own ideas about humility and become totally dependent on Christ.

Until His commands are your delight and you totally depend on Christ, it will be impossible for you to have a passion for Christ. Instead, you will be depressed, complaining, and seeking ways to indulge your fleshly desires.

Therefore, deny yourself, die to your desires, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk by the Spirit in obedience to Christ. A passion for Christ will return. And the peace and joy of the Lord will be your strength and testimony.

If you pursue Jesus with passion, your life will become an example for the whole Body of Christ. In that pursuit, God will allow you to endure things that have nothing to do with your own life, but they are lessons for His Church.

Right now, you may wonder why you're facing certain trials that simply don't make sense. It may be that the Lord is using your example to minister to the larger Body. Whatever the reason, you can be certain that He is constantly at work in you, conforming you to the image of His Son. And that divine work in you is meant to spark others to a passion for Christ.

Jesus is calling all of us to fully surrender to His lordship of our lives. That requires denying self, picking up a cross, and following Him. Whatever He is showing you today is part of that “all” you promised Him when He saved your soul. Will you answer His call? Will you surrender all?

If you have never made Jesus your Lord and Savior, today can become the day of your salvation. If you believe Jesus is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross, publicly confess your faith. Then repent of your sin and give Jesus your life by dying to self in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit and receive a new life to live with a passion for Christ.

   May 2019   
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