Are you keeping and maintaining the zeal for the things of God? Is your zeal flagging in your prayer, in your fasting, in your study, in your love and expression of love to one another?
What gets you, as an individual, I mean really gets you excited? Where you're ready to go. What makes you want to move, to go for it as they use the expression? What piques your interest and curiosity? This is something that is very very important for all of us to stop and look at in a way that maybe you have not thought about before and it's going to have a bearing on the topic we're going to discuss because we live in a unique time, according to the scripture. While there are many things that interest people, the scripture tells us that the most important thing that should be priority on the minds of the sons and daughters of God at this time, those called to salvation, is the importance of the things of God. The things of God become very important because they're very important to Him and to the Christ and they have to be important to you, they have to be important to me and anyone who wants to be a part of the kingdom of God. If those things are not a priority of thought, well then we're on the wrong page, we're not with God, we're apart from Him and God is very excited about the things that He's doing and He wants you and I to be excited. As we study the scriptures we find some very interesting things that come forth. For example, we find that we are living according to the prophecies of the Word of God and a very dangerous period of time, as I've alluded to and we hear that in the national news that are constantly reporting, reports and updates from time to time. We'll hear reports such as this - that our nation is experiencing a national apathy or a spirit of indifference. Or, the nation just doesn't seem to have the caring and the desire to do anything. We see that in vote turn outs when the so-called voting for the President, we recently had that in England, where even they suffer from the same malaise that works upon their society. Tony Blair got a land-slide victory but he got very little votes, it was low turnout. So here we have Mr. Clinton for a second term, like we got Mr. Clinton for two terms, they get Mr. Blair for two terms and they've likened him to President Clinton.
Well the interesting thing of it is, this apathy and this indifference that is around the world, has a very dangerous side effect. It can bleed into the church of the living God and affect you and me or anyone else if we're not careful. We're told in the book of Ephesians that we are living in a time, it says we have to " redeem the time for the days are evil. " We've explained that before, the term evil there is the Greek word poneria , meaning hurtful in its affect upon you.
There are a lot of things going on today that can hurt you whether it be in mind body or spirit. This world is in a very very dangerous state of affairs, we're not in the kingdom of God yet, although some people think we have the kingdom of God in our hearts and they're walking around in kind of a euphoric state, but that's not what the scripture is addressing.
God wants us to understand that the things that matter to Him should matter to you and to me and in order to do that, there is an ingredient that you and I need and everyone who professes to be a Christian actually needs in his or her life in order to be effective as a Christian and that is the subject of zeal, which we're going to talk about today. The matter of zeal, because it plays a very very important and strategic part in the lives of God-fearing men and women and we're going to take a closer look at that today in the time remaining. Some lexicographers, when they go through the scriptures and they analyze the various words, they've discovered that there's basically four different Greek words in the New Testament that are translated into the word that we in English call zeal. It basically can be utilized; these words can be as many as forty times used in the Greek.
New Testament. Now basically that would be the word zelos , is where they translate the Greek word, zeal and you and I need to be mindful of this because it is translated from Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon in the following manner, and I love this definition: "Excitement of mind." There is something about the things of God that should create an excitement of mind, just like we have in the physical secular world, there are many things that excite the mind of human beings on a physical and secular level. You can get a brand new car, that excites the mind and boy, you get in that brand new car and you say, "Whoo, I've always wanted one of these." That's a fulfillment, but see in the process of time that excitement wears off and you can become kind of apathetic toward that new car in the process of time. Maybe for a lady its, "Oh that's the dress I've always wanted." Excitement of mind, or for a fellow, "Oh my suit, I've been waiting for this suit for a long time." Or a new pair of shoes, I mean we're talking just physical things, but when you bump it up on the higher level, which we're talking about today on God's Sabbath, we're talking about the things of God, not the things of men. And the Sabbath deals with one of the things of God.
Are we excited when we come before our God on His Sabbath? Are we excited when we have the opportunity to have placed before us the plan of God through the annual holy days? All this becomes very very important because God says, Hey, I haven't revealed all this to everybody at this time, I've only called a handful and are you excited over it? Does it excite your mind, do you show a fervency of zeal toward the things of God? In the Old Testament God talks about His commandments and how He said that He shows love, He is jealous - He uses the term " jealous God" and that Hebrew word can be translated either " jealous " or more properly " zealous ." God is a zealous God and He is very zealous, or full of excitement with regard to His mind and the plan and purpose of salvation that He is working out with mankind. Do you realize how exciting that is for God, to realize that which is lost can be saved and He's going to do it through Jesus the Christ, His beloved Son - and you and I have the wonderful honor to be the firstfruits in this great dynamics that God is working out in the lives of men and women. That is an exciting thing for God. God doesn't look and say, "Oh brother, how long am I going to have to bear with these human beings and play around with this thing of salvation?" Ho-hum. You just can't even picture God that way. You see God on the edge of His chair, excited, He loves His children, He wants them in the kingdom of God and He is determined to bring us there with the help of the spirit of God working in our lives and with our cooperation. It is a marvelous picture that is brought and that excitement of mind, order or fervency of spirit is what that term zeal is all about. Now you see we're living in world today where people, they get excited about certain things, but religion is on the wane in the lives of many people, it's on the back burner, people are not zealous as they were back in the 19 th century when they used to write a lot of things about that, and in the 19 th century you would have things like the Encyclopedia Britannica 11 th Edition and you could read some things interesting in there that you won't even find in modern day Britannica's anymore because the influence is not there any more. Other things have come in.
We've become a multi-cultural secular society and the influence of spiritual things is not what excites people, although there are people out there who want a spiritual experience but that's quite different from understanding about the things of God and what the scripture is addressing.
Now W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of the New Testament , also touches on this and he refers to the word zeal and he uses the common noun, zelotes , which is sometimes translated zeal . He uses and defines the word as this is what is defined as a zealot. "One who is an uncompromising partisan. " Now the zealots were named after a group of individuals who were considered, back then in that period of time of Josephus' writings - and you'll find this in Josephus Antiquities, all this material that I'm touching on. He calls them " an extreme section of the Pharisees ." He references them, he says,
" They were bitterly antagonistic to the Romans ." Interesting because Jewish historian Josephus goes on to say, " They were considered the fourth sect and they were broken down as follows: you have the Pharisees, the Sadducees, you have the Essenes and this what is considered more radical or more agitating group called the Zealots who were kind of an off-shoot of the Pharisees ."
Now what is interesting, it is the Zealots who stirred the fires of revolt in the mid-60's A.D. that finally brought about the Roman intervention into the area of Jerusalem and brought about the destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian and Titus and the invasion of the Roman armies at that time and destroyed the temple of God at the time in Jerusalem and of course the true Christians according to history, we can trace them back in 69 A.D., they fled, they got out of there, they saw the handwriting on the wall, that trouble was coming. It is interesting to note that today, people kind of have the same idea that when anybody is uncompromising in their religious convictions about something, notice back then they were called Zealots and they were an extreme section. Interesting today that we hear when religion is defined in people's minds, we have liberal, we have moderate and then we have the "religious right" that extreme religious right. Sometimes it bumps into the political area and they call them the religious conservative right and they'll dump them into that arena and of course nobody wants to be, if you're politically correct, you don't want to be extreme now do you? No, you don't want to be extreme. But you see, you don't want to be compromising either, you want to be uncompromising, so there's something here that we need to understand, that being zealots like they were, they were taking this whole matter of zeal in a wrong direction and of course it backfired and it brought the Romans down on them.
That's what we want to look at today because zeal is a very powerful ingredient that is needed in our lives to keep us moving in the right direction, keep us excited about the things of God because then the spirit of God working in our lives keeps feeding and providing what is necessary to keep us going in the right direction, that straight and narrow that leads to life, otherwise you can just wander all over the place like Christ said and " broad is the way that leads to destruction " and many can go in that way and many unfortunately are.
Now what we want to look at is this thing of zeal in terms of, if you were to define it, you could just put it in simple terms, it is simple fervor, it is getting excited or "turned on" to use the modern vernacular today, turned on by the things of God. Now there are people that we have known who were once turned on by the things of God but they're not turned on anymore, they're turned on by other things and that's unfortunate because again, God says the things of God must be looked upon in the same way that that God in the Old Testament, as He says, I am a jealous (or zealous) God, showing mercy unto thousands of them …notice… that love Me …so He's not going to get you for something like that, that's not the representation there, but He is a God who says these things are important to Me and if you love Me and you keep My commandments, I show mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
So again, the zeal of God is directed to show mercy and that is a very important ingredient that we all need, it's one of the weightier matters of the law, that mercy of God is very very much appreciated, we all appreciate it.
But now looking at some very very simple things that we want to study today to help get a proper definition on this thing because if we don't you see the world we live in today is creating an atmosphere of apathy and you and I can't afford to get into an apathetic spirit with regard to spiritual things of God, we've got to maintain zeal for the things of God, that's very very clear in the scriptures and we're going to see some examples of how the apostle Paul ran into individuals who had zeal, but it was going in the different direction, it didn't have the zeal that had the stamp of approval of God. You and I must have the stamp of approval of God in our zeal or our zeal is going in the wrong direction and we don't want it to go in the wrong direction, so how do we find it? We let the spirit of God guide us through the word of God and show us how to get on track and keep on track so that God can continue to work with us and reveal more and more about the things that are important, that excite His mind and that should excite your mind and my mind.
For example, do you remember the first time you encountered the subject of the Sabbath and you had to study and prove that to yourself? That became an exciting revelation because you'd always wondered about things like that and then of course the holy days began to add another wonderful dimension and then of course, the idea, what about my loved ones? And then you discovered about the Last Great Day - this isn't the only day of salvation! It isn't a matter of people are going to be lost if they don't "accept" Christ right now because there are a lot of people who have died and never accepted Christ, the only name given under heaven whereby we can be saved, so what did God do? Study the word, the word tells us what? Oh my, you get excited with fervor of mind again, the zeal comes to the fore because it says that God is not willing that any should perish. That's His will, but all come to the knowledge of the truth - well, they're not all given that yet. Well, then God has to have a plan and a purpose that is going to give them that opportunity - wonderful! It's exciting, it gets rid of the fears and the worries about, What about my loved ones, what will happen to them, are they burning in hell or are they in heaven? What is the truth of the matter of this story? The things of God become very very priority to the men and women of God. It's a priority thing that God wants us to understand, but like everything else, as the years go by, familiarity breeds contempt and I think that is what has happened to a lot of people, when we look back and see what we have experienced in these last years. But a lot of people took things for granted instead of keeping and maintaining the zeal for the things of God.
We're going to look at that a little bit more now. Let's go to the book of James 4:2 . Zeal here in verse 2 is the word zeloo , it's the verb form and it merely means " desire to have ." Now notice what we learn from the apostle James beginning in verse 1. He addresses something today that our world leaders should really be listening to, but they don't, they sit down trying to decide how they're going to bring peace to the world, but listen to what the spirit of God, inspiring James to record, and notice what he says:
James 4:1 - From whence come wars …well there are wars in this world all right… and fighting's among you? Come they not hence even from your …notice… lusts …now that word lusts means inordinate desires, anytime the word lust comes up, that has more a connotation of an inordinate desire not with the blessing of God as opposed to a legitimate desire that has the blessing of God. God wants you always to have His blessing and He wants to honor your desires in harmony with His will, but notice here, He says here is all this fighting going on and he says… you lust and these desires that war in your members. So here is human nature with all these desires raging pictured here in this and notice in verse 2:
Verse 2 - You lust, you desire and you have not and you even kill and …notice it emphasizes clearly… you desire to have and cannot obtain. So what do you end up doing, the world's nations? You fight and you war and yet you have not because you ask not. They don't go to the true source where blessings come from, El Shaddai. They try to take other people's blessings and go to war to do it.
Now we live in this world in what is called the political "have" and "have not" nations. We are blessed to be a nation that is a "have" nation but there are other nations that don't have certain things and so they envy the nations that have things. If you study right now Africa and you see what is going on in Africa, it's a terrible terrible state of affairs, especially in countries like Sierra Lyon where we have civil war raging. Now this country is rich in diamonds, diamonds that could produce wealth for all the people, but we've got political factions warring against one another and so what they end up doing, they take these diamonds and apparently the rebels right now control the real rich diamonds, the big stuff, and they take that and they put them on the market and they either get monies for it or they get illegal weapons with it and they can use this to further their so-called war of liberation. What they do to the opposing side, and you may have seen this and it is really sad to see, they go around and they butcher some of the other people, the civilian population, they chop off their hands, they chop off their legs and so you see a beautiful young little lady coming on the line, 13, 14, if that, and here she is, she's walking with no hands because her hands have been decapitated, wiped right off by opposing forces. Now her life is going to be greatly restricted because of that, but here again, all of this comes from illicit desires, lusts, to have things at the expense of other people. He goes on to say:
Verse 3 - You ask and you receive not because you ask amiss that you may consume it upon your lusts (or your desires). And that is what is happening in this world today.
So we see that warfare is a classic arena where this type of wrong application of zeal, because see people get excited in their minds, they want things, they desire things, all the world wants what we have here in the United States, they're getting in boats and coming over here in droves, they'll run the risk of dying in the Caribbean over there and get on some little trashy boat and try to fight the currents to get over and touch U.S. soil so that they can have the chance of a new life. What others are trying to do here in this country, others are trying to do even in England because England has a standard of living that is above many of the others and they want to have access to that. They'll run the risk of that, their own lives in many cases. Well here we see very clearly then that the desire to have is normal and right and good, but when it's in a wrong context, when things excite the mind and take you in a wrong direction, it produces something very very wrong and in this particular case it defines where warfare comes from in this world among the nations in which we find ourselves living.
Now another definition can be found here in Acts 5:17 . A lot was happening because of the dynamics of the spirit of God working in the early New Testament Church, there were tremendous healings, a lot of things, signs and wonders going on in those earlier years of the Church and in verse 17 it says:
Acts 5:17 - Then the high priest rose up and all that were with him which were of the sect of the Sadducees and they were filled with indignation … They were filled with indignation.
Now that word indignation here is that Greek word zelos again and it means zeal. I mean their minds, they were just literally, they were not apathetic in this matter at all, they were all excited in their minds, they were just moved with a fervor of spirit - but it was against what? Against all the good things that were being done by the apostles in the early New Testament Church because they were looking at it as a threat to their power and their control as a religious body among the Jewish community of that day. So what we end up having here, it says:
V. 17 - They were filled with indignation and they lay hands on the apostles and they put them into prison.
Well you know the rest of the story, an angel of the Lord came because the people were praying and they were let loose and that caused no small stir, but here again, the opposition was demonstrating zeal and it was a zeal against the servants of God for all the kindness and the good that they were doing.
Now if you'll move back again a few more chapters, let's go to Acts 13:45 . Going back and recognizing the context we see that here the apostle Paul was describing how God was working a work in your days, he says that no one is going to believe it, how powerful and how dynamic the work of God started.
Acts 13:42 - When the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought him and said that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath .
Well of course I think you know, this is a very important scripture we've used many times to look and prove the Sabbath, showing this was Paul's glorious opportunity to do away with seventh-day Sabbath keeping and say, "Hey you Gentiles aren't under the bond of seventh-day keeping, all you got to do is come back tomorrow on the first day of the week, that's your day." But he didn't do that, he said, We'll see you fellows, see you ladies next week, on the seventh-day Sabbath. And he was so powerful in what happened, in Verse 44 it says:
Verse 44 - And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city had gathered to hear the word of God. The apostle Paul was quite a powerful speaker in capturing the minds and hearts of those who were to listen to the truth of God being preached at that time. Listen to Verse 45:
Verse 45 - And when the Jews saw the multitude …they didn't care what they were speaking about, what they were concerned about, all the people were going there instead of coming here, to us, following the Jews religion of that day and so what happened… when they saw that they were filled with envy .
They were all inflamed, their spirit was all up in the air, they were all excited about, but what were they all excited about? This is the Greek word again zelos , they were showing a zealous reaction but it was motivated by envy. Their zeal was turned in the context of envy because they were jealous of what was going on by the servants of God at that time. The book of Galatians - we find that the apostle Paul had an encounter with a group that was causing no small stir to the Galatian people of God at that time. He had come into that area, he had taught people the things of God, he'd showed them the importance of these things and then what ended up happening? Here came, as many of the commentaries will tell you, Judiaziers, individuals who came in behind the scene, tracking the movements of the apostle Paul and when Paul was out of the way they would move in and preach the opposite and undo certain things that Paul was trying to show the people. One of the things that got them so bent out of shape was the subject of circumcision and some of the other things, the days that they were observing, all these things became hot issues and these were buttons that were being pushed on the people at that time.
Now Paul, at first he didn't know who it was, at the first part of the chapter he says, he says, " Who O foolish Galatians has bewitched you ?" Who is working this over? Now for somebody to do that means that these individuals had a certain charisma or zeal about what they were doing. They were zealous in coming in to try to undo what the apostle Paul had done. I think we realize very clearly that you don't undo sound doctrine, sound teaching by coming in and being very passive, very easy, laid-back, don't sweat it…No! you come, you run into and encounter dynamic individuals, people who are, as we say, fired up and they're just as fired up for the wrong as you might be fired up for the true things of God and you need to always understand that, it becomes a very valid point. That's why people can be led astray by wolves in sheep's clothing, because sometimes those wolves come and they get fired up, but since they're wearing sheep's clothing, you can't quite discern unless you're mindful of what the scripture is warning.
In this case, where are they going with this? Are they taking me to the laws of God or are they taking me away from the laws of God? Do they perform miracles to take me to God or to take me away from God? And why does God allow some of these things to be? To see, to test the faith of the people, to see how easy it is, where are we going to go, are we going to be easily led astray, will we be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine? You see to have the zeal for the things of God means uncompromising. You cannot picture Jesus Christ as a compromiser, He never once compromised with the things of God and because He didn't, He ran awry of the locals in that day who constantly kept at Him and said, You're not doing this right, you're not doing that right, you're breaking the law, you're breaking the Sabbath, you're doing this…and Jesus would constantly throw it to the ground, He'd say, You're ignorant about this because you do not understand the scriptures. He'd nail their hide to the wall, He'd come right back at them and He made it very very clear. He said, You full well put aside the commandments of God. For what purpose? So that you can teach the commandments of men. The commandments of the Jews religion of that day. That's why Galatians, in Sterns book, New Testament Bible makes it very clear in the book of Galatians. It says when the appointed time came, Christ was born into a perverted Judiastic society. He understood where the deceptions were, He knew what was in men's hearts and He was able to target these areas and expose it. These people got hot under the collar, their zeal was going in a different direction. Christ's zeal was always to demonstrate the will of God, which you and I must do.
Our zeal must always be directed to uphold the things of God that are important to God Himself, otherwise why would God want to put any of us in His kingdom to be teachers and to teach others? If the things of God are not ours, and you know a lot of people today when they went to school, why did they not like going to school? Why did they not enjoy certain classes? Do you remember why? You remember the same as I do, it's boring, the teacher puts me to sleep, the teacher just drones and I don't see any relevance, how is this going to help me pay bills when I get out in the real work-a-day world, diagramming sentences and things of this nature. You say, Well that's the same way it's going to be, we're not going to be a bunch of, (said in a low small voice) "Well we're here to teach you about the laws of God, we just want you to be so happy in the kingdom." So happy? People look at that and say, what kind of teacher is that? You've got to be excited about the things of God and that excitement generates and because you are happy with the things of God, it translates, the people pick up on that and they say, I want a piece of that. I want a piece of that, I want a part of that kingdom of God. Oh, now they're starting to desire the right things you see. This is the way, walk you in it - showing people how to do it. Well the apostle Paul here makes it clear in Galatians 1:14 . He had some problems and difficulties, he goes back a little bit about his history in some of the prior verses, he talks about how at one time he had to be taught these things himself because he was ignorant of it and he says in Verse 13:
Gal 1:13 - For you have heard of my conversation …or my conversion or my conduct… that in times past …notice… in the Jew's religion …you see Paul now understood it, he used to be a part of it, but now he sees it for what it is because Christ has taught him. He says:
Verse 13 - … how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God …I went after this new group hammer and tongs and why did I go after them?… I wasted it. I did it because…
Verse 14 - I profited in the Jew's religion above all my equals. In other words, I profited, I gained certain respect, certain monetary benefits and what have you I'm sure, he says… being more exceedingly …notice Paul's problem, what did he do? He was… exceedingly zealous …
Here again the apostle Paul was so zealous, but he was going in the wrong direction, this is not the kind of zeal you and I want, to go out persecuting the Church of God. Paul is talking about himself, he says this is when I was in error, my zeal was misdirected and I was persecuting the very body of Jesus Christ in so doing and I had to come to see the error of my ways.
Verse 15 - But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me by His grace, to reveal in His Son in me …
You see, he was to realize Christ was to come into his life and be a part of him to transform him, to have sins forgiven, as we heard in the sermonette and then to move on from that point on. So Jesus Christ, the head of the Church is a God who is a zealous God and He wants his sons and daughters, His brothers and sisters in this case, when we're talking about the Father as opposed to the Son, the Father wants the sons and daughters to be zealous toward His things, zealous toward the Christ and Jesus wants us to be zealous in our service to Him and to the Father because this is part and parcel of what they have demonstrated in their life.
So zeal we see is a powerful motivator in terms of getting past apathy, it ignites the mind, but it can go either way. Now zeal without knowledge is very dangerous. Without knowledge it's very dangerous and we've seen some examples right there. In Galatians 4:18, notice the following:
Gal 4:18 - It is good to be zealously affected, always in a good thing and not only when I am present with you .
So in other words, zeal must always be directed into a good channel, a good area. If zeal goes into a different direction, such as warfare, envy, the things we saw there, some of those scriptures, that takes it totally away from God's blessing. Now Romans 10:2 , the apostle Paul, who was very well versed in dealing with the people of that time. He explains in verse 1 that it is his desire:
Rom 10:1 - Brethren my heart's desire and my prayer to God is for Israel that they may be saved. That is what he desired for the people of God as a whole.
Verse 2 - For I bear record that they have a zeal of God …oh they did, there definitely was a zeal for God, but notice… but not according to knowledge .
They did not have the right balance of knowledge to direct the zeal where it needed to go. The apostle Paul said prior to that, he didn't. Before conversion he said, I was overly zealous, I was going after the Church of God and then I realized that's not right because he had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Then he began to see where the Jews religion was breaking down, where they didn't have knowledge of this critical understanding that the bible reveals. What ended up happening? He said, they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge and that knowledge is based on knowledge that comes that brings conversion to the life of an individual, a man and a woman.
Verse 3 - For they being ignorant …notice, they just did not have a clue of God's righteousness, what is the defining factor of that word righteousness?
Psalm 119:172 - All Thy commandments are righteousness . God defines what He means by that.
You and I are to learn with the help of God how to bring the commandments of God into our lives through the spirit of God so that we can keep them in the way Jesus Christ kept them, in the context of love and devotion, love to God, love to our fellow human beings. That's the summarization of it all, very simple, a child can understand. God makes it that way. But he says they went about trying to establish their own righteousness, now that's what Jesus said when He was encountered by them on various occasions. He said, Full well you put aside the commandments of God that you may …do what?… teach the commandments of men .
So here you are, instead of weighing the weightier matters of the law, you're worried about pots and pans and washing hands and all this kind of stuff instead of the super stuff that really counts. He says, I don't fault you on the tithing and things, you go above and beyond on that, you shouldn't leave the other undone, but the weightier matters of the law, where is that in your life, in your religion? Then He gave parables, examples of that that you and I can relate to very clearly. He said, Look, here comes a Levite, a Levite walks down the road, he sees this guy down there, he's been whipped to pieces, beaten up on the highway, what does the guy do? He really practices his religion, his belief, he walks on the other side of the road so he's not defiled. Finally another one walks, he does the same thing. Then here comes the outcast in most people's minds and the Jew's minds of religion of that day, the Samaritans. Oh man, what does the Samaritan do? He comes by and does what they should have done, took care of the man, fixed him up, took care of his wounds, took him back, paid the bill, did kindness to him, showed kindness to him. In other words, he practiced the Golden Rule - do unto others what you would have others do to you. You would want someone to pick you up, you would want someone to tend to your wounds, you would want someone to give you a place to rest and you would be deeply in their debt. You see this is the acts of love that God wants His people to practice. Well the Jews did not have it, they went about establishing their own righteousness and have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God, that was their problem and that's why Jesus and those religious leaders of that day were always banging heads, simply because they were on different pages, they just didn't know or understand and they weren't being called at that time.
All right, then the happy combination that you and I are seeking is zeal in our personal lives with knowledge that is directed by the spirit of God, because remember when the holy spirit comes into your life, the book of John makes this clear, it's going to add to you that which…you will suddenly understand the knowledge of God in a way you've never understood before. It's going to mean something to you now, the things of God are going to become very very important to you and what you used to slough off and say, This doesn't matter, now you see it matters a whole lot! Why? Because it matters to God and it matters to Jesus who is the head of the Church. Now we find in an example of Jesus' own life Himself, that Jesus was a powerful example of this. John 2:17. There was a situation and encounter that Jesus came into, this was just prior to the Passover and He had come to the temple and as was their custom, because of the sacrifices and the various things that were required of the people, V. 16, Jesus saw all the sheep, the oxen, the money changers and so forth and what did He do? Well I guess they thought He was…You're getting a little bit radical, Jesus. Why? He overthrew the moneychangers, He takes a cord and starts - Get these animals out of here. Why? Why was He doing all that? He said:
John 2:16 - " Take these things hence and make not My Father's house a house of merchandise. " That's what it had become and what did He say here?
V. 17 - His disciples remembered as it was written, "The zeal of Your house has eaten Me up."
Jesus walked in there and said, This should not be going on in the house of God. Zeal for God, the things of God, Jesus demonstrated that zeal and they picked up on it and so again, certain things God shows should never go on in the house of God, in the lives of the men and women of God in the Church of God. Why? Because you are the temple of God. And just like they were doing things that shouldn't be going on in the house of God at that time, the temple of Jerusalem, God says, Make sure your conduct, your life, what you're trying to accomplish as men and women, husbands and wives, fathers, mothers, children, make sure it reflects honor and glory to God the Father and Jesus Christ. These things should never be mentioned, the things that you hear about going on in the world, these things should be away with. You see why it's a battle on our hands, why we need zeal? Because once you walk out that door, what are you going to do? You're going to get peppered by every unbelievable influence in the world. They've even got a new program coming on now, they're advertising it, it's called Tainted Love, a new series on television. Why can't they have wholesome love? Why do they have to have tainted love? Because it's more exciting to watch the tainted you see, they mentally tease the mind with it, don't you want stolen waters, don't you want to see what it might be like? NO! You don't want that! That's not how people are going to find happiness. It's going to be just miserable and it's going to be misery and it's going to be exactly what their season title is, it's going to be tainted.
God does not want you, myself or any of His sons and daughters to be tainted because we were tainted from the world and God has called us out of the world and He has removed that cloud of sin hanging over us through Jesus Christ's great sacrifice. Passover reveals that to us and so we can, with joy in our hearts and zeal, come before God to show that appreciation that we thank Him for what He has opened up for us, a new way of life that we could never have discovered of and by ourselves. Zeal is a requisite for being a Christian man and woman. If you try to live life without zeal, you're in trouble because if you allow apathy to affect your spiritual relationship with God, and your zeal begins to flag, meaning to wane, it begins, you're not as interested anymore, not as excited about the things of God as you once might have been, then what it ends up doing, it takes you away from God rather than brings you to God and this is what we can't afford to do. Revelation 3:19 gives us a very stark warning in the end time showing that a whole group of people that we reference here, called the Laodicean Church of God. It's a group of people that are kind of a "come see, come say." I guess the old saying of "when they're hot they're hot and when they're not, they're not" and that's why they're called lukewarm. Jesus Christ said, I don't like this condition I see in these people, I wish they would be much more involved, hot rather than cold. That word hot there is the word zelo , which means again, I wish they'd show more zeal for the things of God.
But it's a problem that I submit to you, has bled into the minds and hearts of these men and women of God who will comprise the Laodiceans in the end time. This is why you and I must guard our heart and our mind that this doesn't influence us because I don't think any of us want to be in this category.
These are people loved of God but these are people that are in a very serious state of affairs that are going to face a terrifying day of reckoning. Notice that God goes on, you say one thing, you think this or that, but God goes on to say:
Rev 3:17 - …" you know not… you haven't really considered what you've turned into, what you've developed, you're not looking at yourself properly from the mirror of My word and what ends up happening He says… you think you're rich, you're increased with goods, I counsel you to buy gold tried in the fire ." Now here's the interesting point, Verse 19 - look what it says:
V. 19 - " As many as I love …so we know God loves the daylights out of the Laodiceans, wherever they are, whoever they may end up being in that final analysis… as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." This is a rebuke and chastening from a loving heavenly Father to a group of people who claim to be people of God, who fall in that category and He says, notice… be zealous therefore and repent.
The thing I want to stress here is that zeal helps to promote repentance, this is what the context is showing, it's showing that for them to have to repent in the state of affairs they're in, they've got to turn up the heat, they've got to get the zeal quotient back up to par. The things of God have got to be important to them. Matthew 25, they've got to go back and get oil for their lamps while they still have a chance, before the light goes out.
Now I'd like to emphasize something here to you just to show you how serious it is. When I made the statement about the outside world, how it can creep in and why we have to guard against this in our personal lives. I went to Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary and I looked up the word " flagging " because I've heard that term and I've heard the term " flagging zeal " - you know, your zeal is flagging. What does that mean, so I wanted to be sure I got a clear definition. Here's what it said, listen to this and ask yourself - is this what you want to be? Flagging zeal …and that's what the end time, Revelation 3:19 says, that the zeal of many people will be flagging, it will be dropping low because of the influence of hurtful things… means to become unstable. Do you want to become unstable? Do I want to become unstable? No, not at all. It goes on to say… feeble …do you want to become feeble in the things of God? No, you don't. But here's the kicker… spiritless . It means you have no spirit, you have no get-up-and-go, nothing turns you on anymore, you're so jaded by the world you live in, that your zeal, the desire to get excited over the things of God, has been neutralized and you have no spirit. I mean even in the physical application, if you leave the spiritual dimension out, look how the world… "get into the spirit of things," they say, get into the spirit of this and the spirit of that, they're trying to stir you up, they're trying to motivate and get your zeal, your interest and excitement in this particular product, or whatever it is they're selling.
God says, Look, what they're selling can't even compare to what I've got for you, and you're going to let your zeal flag when I offer you eternal life in the kingdom of God as My firstfruits? This doesn't excite your mind, this doesn't turn you on? You see God wants you to look at yourself and do a self-analysis and an appraisal on these matters.
To find a declining interest in or attraction to …that's also part of the definition. And you know, that's what I have seen. I have seen people now who years ago were excited over the truth of God, the things of God, but I see their zeal has flagged and they're just not with it anymore and what has happened to them is that they, in some cases, have become unstable, some people. Some have become have become very spirit-less, they have no spirit for things anymore, they've just turned off "religion" they don't want any part of religion anymore. That's a shame, that means they've been had, they've been spiritual shipwrecked, the adversary's gotten them. That's not where a person wants to be.
Titus 2:14 , I'll begin in verse 12 where Titus is stressing the importance of what is it that God is teaching us. He's:
Titus 2:12 - teaching us that by denying ungodliness and …notice… worldly lusts … that's those illicit desires again… that we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world… that we are living in at this time. We should be…
Verse 13 - looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ . Now notice v. 14:
Verse 14 - who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity …or lawlessness… and purify unto Himself a peculiar people .
Now that doesn't mean peculiar odd or weird or crazy and I believe that is something we should look seriously at because I think maybe sometimes in years past, you've heard sermons and things that people have mentioned different times and different places where the reference was that if you keep the truth of God, people will think you're weird and crazy and odd. No, that's not what that means, they'll only think you're weird and crazy and odd if you act weird crazy and odd! But if you act normal, sound and balanced and you set the example of God's way of life and what it means as a peculiar people, you have become unique - peculiar in the sense that you are unique in being what? Zealous of good works, that's where zealousness comes in. We're zealous to respond to do the things of God. You know if you ask children growing up, and children grow up in the Church of God and they hear things, if they hear things like, "Do you want to be part of the dynamic kingdom of God, do you want to be part, the honor, glory and immortality?" Boy, they hear that, it sounds exciting. I might get a little more turned on with that. Or over here, somebody says, "You want to become weird and crazy and an outcast?" I don't think I want to be part of that. See what I'm saying?
It's very important how we represent the truth of God. The world may one day say the truth, speak evil of it, they may say some bad things about the people of God, that doesn't matter at that time. What matters is what kind of example are we now? Are we the balanced God-fearing people that God wants us to be? That's where we manifest ourselves by the way we conduct ourselves. I Corinthians 13 , you're familiar with that, called the love chapter. The apostle Paul talks about this and I'd like to share with you something in here that you might have missed. In verse 4 where he talks about the importance of love and how it operates, he says:
I Cor. 13:4 - Love suffers long …in other words it's tempered, like you temper steel… love suffers long and is kind …notice… love envies not …
Now do you remember we went back earlier and we showed how the Jews were filled with envy? That was the same word, zealous. Well what does that say? That you can have zeal and be without the spirit of God and go in a wrong direction or you can have zeal for the things of God under the governing power of the spirit of God which is what? A spirit that energizes love, because Paul said the holy spirit sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts, which means your zeal will always be for the good and the right and the wholesome, you'll never use your zeal to be hurtful, demeaning or trying to take advantage of in a wrong way. That's why this is in the context of the love chapter. A husband will always appreciate his wife in that context; a wife will appreciate her husband in that context you see. There will always be that zeal, that fervent spirit that is demonstrated. The word here envy in I Cor. 13 is zeloo - it's one of the derivation words again of this. Now the required acts of a Christian man and woman, as demonstrated in the bible shows a need for fervor and zeal in execution and implementation. You can't just do the things of God in a half-hearted, ho-hum manner, it's got to be important for you, it's got to be a life pursuit. Let's notice a few scriptures as we draw to conclusion here. In Acts 17:11 the apostle Paul was addressing the Church of God in Berea in opposed to Thessalonica and these individuals that heard him, he mentioned this very thing.
Acts 17:10 - Then the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night to Berea . When they came to the synagogue of the Jews he said:
V. 11 - Now these were more noble than in Thessalonica in that they received the word of God with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily whether these things be so.
Now what that comes from is a word, the readiness of mind is prothymia in the Greek, it's a compound word , pro meaning forward and thymia - mind, eagerness . Hence they had an eagerness of mind, a mind that was forward looking to listen to, without casting judgment against what Paul was saying, they wanted to hear it and then they went back and checked it out to see if these things be so. And that shows again a readiness, an eagerness, a fervency that God desires in His children . Romans 12:11 - here conduct is mentioned, various types of conduct and in verse 11 notice here it says we are not to engage in conduct that is slothful, slothful in business, but we are to be what?
Rom 12:11 - … fervent in spirit …this carries this same connotation of being filled with a zeal and a desire to do things honorably, according to the word of God. Several other scriptures here, lets take a look at I Corinthians 15:58 .
I Cor. 15:58 - Therefore my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
What God has called us to, and the reason He has given us this marvelous understanding is that He is looking for individuals who will share the zeal that God has for His way of life, the zeal that brings happiness and joy, not only to God and Jesus Christ, but can be transmitted to the sons and daughters of God through conversion and through the spirit of God. But it has to be directed the right way, with the spirit of God. If you leave the spirit of God out of it, you just can get all excited about certain things, but it will be on a physical level, but in the end time we are told, that people can't even get excited about certain things anymore. Now it's, Don't sweat it, take it easy. They don't say, Work hard, they say, Take it easy. Well no boss pays you money for taking it easy, you have to work hard, you earn those dollars by working hard. And this is exactly how God shows we have to do the work of God, we have to be zealous about it, be about our Father's business. It's important to God, is it important to us is what God is asking. How do we feel about it? Two final scriptures. Colossians 3:23 . We are admonished:
Col 3:23 - Whatsoever you do… whatsoever you do in living life… do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men.
In other words, husbands, love your wives with zeal as unto the Lord, because that pleases God to see you doing that. Wives, love your husbands. Those of you who have families and loved ones, love your loved ones, give of yourself in zeal, but do it heartily, as unto the Lord, knowing that this is what pleases God. You're not trying to manipulate anyone, not trying to take advantage, you're trying to do the right and proper thing that has God's blessing. Galatians 4:18 in conclusion to be reminded once again:
Gal 4:18 - It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing .
That's what God wants us to do, to be zealously affected in a good thing. As Paul said, not just when somebody is present, but just to live life to the glory of God, and to look, as we must in our day and age, we must look at ourselves and ask ourselves, Is my zeal flagging? Is my zeal flagging in my prayer, in my fasting, in my study, in my love and expression of love to one another? Love toward God, love toward my fellow human beings. If it is, then what should we do? What does zeal do? It pushes you toward repentance, because the goodness of God leads you to repentance so that you can change with the help of God. May God help us all to repent where we fall short and we all do.
This is just a message to help us all realize that a very critical element that we need, to stir the fire in our lives for the things of God must not be seduced into wrong directions where we get our mind and our desires off on other things, not that some of those things can't be desired, you know, I'm not saying just live like a stoic and strip your life. God wants you to have an enjoyable life, to live joyfully in this physical life to the best of your ability, but He wants you to understand that the things of God are being eroded fast. Look around you folks, look at the society and the world around you and if you can't see the erosion of spiritual things and then the warning, be careful that it doesn't bleed off into your life where you no longer have the zeal for the things of God, and most important, what did Jesus demonstrate when He walked this earth? What shall we liken unto the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God was the zealous driving factor that He educated His disciples in and you and I are to be looking for that glorious return of our Lord and Savior who will initiate the kingdom of God and where do we come in? We must take up our posts and our responsibilities as kings and queens in the kingdom of God - kings and priests, we have a royal responsibility, a royal priesthood, called to do the will of God and to do it with zeal. May God grant us all a greater increase of our personal zeal and our devotion to our God.