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A Prayerful Appeal for Christian Zeal, Part 2

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Renewing Christian Zeal

Have you noticed it? Christian zeal is missing! I laid out in our last post that I believe Christian zeal has been on the decline in our lifetime. Today, we are going to define Christian Zeal. Then discuss how we can place ourselves on a path to renew the zeal in our Christian walk. ‌

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Are you ready?

‌Let’s get our zealous on!

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‌Our World Amid Declining Christian Zeal

‌An anonymous author once said,

A little girl saw a sign in a church meeting hall and was crying. It read, “The zeal of Thy house hath consumed me.” An elder asked why she was crying. “I’m afraid of the zeal.” He answered, “Don’t worry little girl; there’s no zeal in this place.”1

‌‌‌Perhaps, we are afraid of Christian zeal like the little girl in this short quip. But we shouldn’t fear it, we should pray for more of it. The renowned Anglican Lord Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle, wrote the following words in 1878 and they still ring true today.

Zeal is a subject, like many others in religion, most sadly misunderstood. Many would be ashamed to be thought “zealous” Christians….But zeal is a subject which no reader of the Bible has any right to pass over. If we make the Bible our rule of faith and practice, we cannot turn away from it. We must look it in the face.2

‌Rather than fearing zeal, we should seek to understand it. In understanding zeal, we would do well to love it enough to prayerfully ask God to grant it to us. Our world needs a vibrant, zealous witness for Christ.‌ If it ever has, now is certainly that time!

In our day, we are witnessing an unprecedented amount change and discovery. Technology has changed the way we view and interact with our world. In addition to that, our society is increasingly embracing a moral progressivism that attempts to make us a little less moral each day. Over the last few years, lockdowns, pandemics, political confusion, riots, and wars have ruled the day. ‌

History is in danger of being discarded and erased. Revisionist historians are telling us that things haven’t happened as we’ve been taught. There are new versions of historical thought infiltrating every sector of our lives. It is even infiltrating the Church. Some are asking, “Is our world beginning to look like Orwell’s novel, 1984.

Authors Beeke & La Belle have summarized the situation well in their book, “Living Zealously.” They wrote,

‌I have little doubt that we are living at a time in which the condition of today’s church mirrors that of the Church of Laodicea. We need to hear Jesus’ words to the Church of Laodicea anew!

We live in a day when the visible church is sick with spiritual lethargy, dullness, and presumption; a day when few understand or display Christian zeal; a day when many are ablaze with blind and false zeal; and a day when what passes for Christian fruitfulness is really little more than foliage.3

Jesus’ Zeal for His People

‌“The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation,” said to the Church in Laodicea:

15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.4

Revelation 3:15–17 (ESV)

‌‌If we are honest, doesn’t that sound at least a little familiar? I believe with all my heart that our world needs to see believers who are defined by true Christian zeal. We live in a time that behooves us to reject lukewarm living the same way as Jesus prescribed above. May we spit out of our mouths any form of Christianity that doesn’t burn with white-hot zeal for Christ!

Our world needs us to reveal a Christian zeal that is centered on glorifying Christ. A Christian zeal committed to pursuing Him and His will with every fiber of our being. Would you not desire that your love for Christ were characterized by such a zeal?

‌What is Christian Zeal?

‌Defining Zeal

‌Let’s deal with zeal before we add Christian to it. The words “zeal” and “zealous” are action words. They are verbs that describe someone who is uncompromisingly, enthusiastic about some belief or ideal. These amazing words come from the Greek root, ζέω. My favorite Greek Lexicon, BDAG, defines zeal as being, “intensely serious about something.”5

Those who know me well, know I can get intensely serious from time to time. Yet, I also know that God desires that of my relationship with Him at all times. That is difficult to do and that’s a good thing. Because of this, true zeal works to deepen our humility.

‌Synonyms for zeal include: ardent, committed, devoted, devout, eager, fervent, intense, passionate, purposeful, sincere, and wholehearted. These words describe someone whose heart has been set on fire by life-transforming, Gospel-infused power.

My home rests under a lot of trees. My yard is often cluttered with fallen limbs and leaves. Living out in the country, fire is my friend. While I don’t enjoy smelling like smoke. I do enjoy sitting by my fire pile keeping the coals burning through my debris. Fire under control can be very useful. Fire out of control….is, should we say, “a disaster.”‌

So zeal is like a white-hot flame burning inside of us for something we know to be true. It is a truth so powerful that it transforms the way we see and interact with our world. Zeal has done much good in our history, but it also has a dark, burnt side when it has gotten out of control. ‌So what is Christian zeal and how do we keep it burning strong and under the Lord’s control?

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Defining Christian Zeal

Beeke and La Belle offer us a vivid description of Christian zeal. They write,

Christian zeal is the divine flame that brings our affections to a boil for God’s cause. It enlivens and compels us, stirs and empowers us, and directs and governs us as it sets our affections ablaze for the glory of God and the good of His church.6

‌‌With so many counterfeit forms of Christianity present in our culture, how can we recognize true Christian zeal? I am going to offer you two ways that we can do this. There are many more, but I will go into more detail on them in future posts.

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1. True Christian Zeal Is a Zeal “According to Knowledge.”

‌The Apostle Paul, speaking about Israel’s unbelief, says in Romans 10:2,

2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.7

They had zeal, but it was in religion and not in God, Himself. Paul says the same thing about himself in Acts 22:3 before coming to know Christ. Peter had zeal when he cut off Malchus’ ear at Gethsemane. The Sons of Thunder had zeal when they wanted Jesus to call down fire on a Samaritan village.

They were all zealous, but not in a way that was according to knowledge. God never approves of unscriptural zeal. The zealous Christian will do only what Scripture gives them warrant to do.‌

Christian zeal is concerned with what glorifies God and keeps us following His will. Some examples of this in Scripture would include the following.

  • ‌Zealously seeking to do good works that glorify God, not to earn approval, salvation, or anything else (Titus 2:13-14).‌
  • Zealously seeking to evangelize and make disciples. In other words having a concern for the souls of others (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 9:22).‌
  • Zealously seeking to engage in spiritual warfare against the evils and injustices of this world ( Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Corinthians 10:6-14; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6).‌
  • Zealously seeking to grow in personal holiness (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 Peter 2:9).‌
  • Zealously seeking to know and defend the Bible and its Gospel (1 Peter 3:14-16; Galatians 2:11; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).‌

Many more examples could be given, but this should help us start the conversation.

2. True Christian Zeal Reveals Charity and Love.

‌Sin is awful and God hates it. Thanks be to God that in His zeal against sin, He maintains His zealous love for us, the sinners. This is also the attitude reflected by those who are growing in Christian zeal. We, as image bearers of God, reflect His ability to loath sinful evils. While at the same time loving those who are under the control of sin. We have the ability and duty to be bold in speaking the truth, but we must do so with love and humility. The Apostle Paul said it best.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.8

1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV)

‌Christian zeal is also portrayed in how we show charity and love toward other believers. Jesus gave us the greatest defense of our faith when he said,

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”9

‌John 13:34–35 (ESV)

Renewing Our Christian Zeal

Do you desire to have a hotter fire burning in your soul? Are you hungry for more of God’s Holy Word? Perhaps you are thirsty for more of His Holy Spirit? I hope that you have been convicted to examine your life a little closer. I hope that you will seek to gauge the temperature of your own journey. That is the first step in igniting a stunning zeal for your sensational journey.

‌Earlier, I noted what Jesus said to the Church at Laodicea. He wished that they were either hot with zeal for Him or cold against Him, but they were neither. They were lukewarm.

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What an unimaginable response for those who claim to be His bride! For those who claim to have been bought, redeemed, and forgiven by His precious blood!

Throughout Church history, from the days of the Apostle until now, zeal has been our barometer. Zeal is what has separated Christians from the world. ‌God’s call to the Church in our day is the same as His call to Laodicea: “Be zealous and repent.

‌Be zealous and repent. Christian zeal always leads us to see our sin in light of God’s zealous love for us. In doing so, the only appropriate response is to “be zealous and repent.”‌

Zealous.”‌

We couldn’t think of a better word to describe the life and actions of an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ! We wanted our work here to promote a fervent, zealous lifestyle focused on one thing: Glorify God in Christ! So, be zealous Christian! Be zealous Church! ‌Zeal is a wonderful cure for what ails your soul. Zeal, does a soul good!

I am going to give you the same advice Dan Hayes gave me back in 1998. Go, spend some time today outdoors with your Bible in hand. Find a quiet place and get alone with God and don’t be afraid of zeal, embrace it! ‌Doing this transformed my life forever. I know it can do the same for you as well.

Help Us Start A Movement

Join our Zealous Nation!

Let’s begin to offer up a collective prayerful appeal for Christian zeal to permeate our lives, our families, and our churches.

It is our hope that this article has helped to give you a renewed zeal. So, if our content has added value to your life, please help us out by subscribing to our Newsletter. Also, we’d appreciate it if you would share this article with your friends. It doesn’t cost you anything and it is a tremendous help to us as we seek to grow and spread God’s Word far and wide. ‌Until next time, live zealously!

#Bezealous! #LiveZealously!

Footnotes:

‌1 Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book: Over 4,500 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997), Zeal.‌

2 J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 183.‌

3 Joel R. Beeke & James A. La Belle, Living Zealously (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 3. ‌

4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Revelation 3:15-17.‌

5 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 427.‌

6 Joel R. Beeke & James A. La Belle, Living Zealously (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 2.

‌7 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Romans 10:2.‌

8 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Corinthians 13:1.‌

9 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), John 13:34-35.‌

10 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Revelation 3:19.

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