Last time we discussed what zeal looks (and doesn’t look like). We contrasted the zeal of Phinehas with the misplaced zeal of the Pharisees, but what does that mean for us here and now? What makes people like us zealous for God? How do we show real zeal? Here are some thoughts:
- Zeal is a product of what we KNOW
(Romans 10: 2, Philippians 3:6). This is the foundation, we must have a correct knowledge of God. Otherwise the zeal that comes is not from the Spirit, who teaches us the depths of God through the word, but from our fallen flesh. A lot of the activity we see in church and on social media would change if we showed zeal according to the Scriptures.
2. Zeal comes in response to what we have SEEN or EXPERIENCED.
An example is Jesus at the temple, in John 2:14-17. Jesus saw the evil transpiring in his Father’s house and drove out the money lenders. This was done out of the desire for God’s holiness (just like Phinehas, who drove out the man who had defiled the children of Israel). If we have God’s zeal when we see blatant wrong in the church or in society, we cannot be passive. Zeal, like we’ve discussed is not only to love what God loves but also to hate what he hates. Regarding our experiences a great example is King David. He encountered various situations, mostly due to persecution and yet was still zealous for God (Psalm 69: 9 – the same verse the disciples remember after Jesus clears the temple)
3. Zeal as a product of our human fallibility.
For me coming to Christ genuinely, was due to my hopeless battle with sin, particularly lust. Recently I gave into entertaining lustful desires again. I was devastated, something I’ve been told the blood of Jesus defeated at the cross was still working against me. I didn’t want to repent initially, but God still had grace and mercy upon me, as he has for each and every one of us. The goodness of God led me to repent (Romans 2:4) and eventually I read Psalm 51. King David, who was used mightily by God and was even called the man after God’s heart in 1 Samuel 13:14, fell deeply into lust and sexual sin. However when reading Psalm 51 we see David confess his sinful state and he pleads to God for forgiveness, which only comes from a place of deep sorrow. This is not shown through excessive sacrifices and wailing as the world does, but by a broken and contrite (repentant) spirit. A humble acknowledgement which God cannot “despise” since David is essentially saying he cannot fix himself. Zeal, in David’s case, increased from a broken place and meant he served, praised and worshipped even more (Ps 51: 13-19) . I also read 2 Corinthians 7 where Paul acknowledges that his first letter to the Corinthians was harsh (verse 8), but it was to instigate true repentance. This led to their “godly sorrow” which was distinct from the worldly sorrow and produced zeal (verse 11)! So real zeal can be instigated from a fallen place. Zeal comes from an unquenchable desire for the glory of God to be made manifest. Glory is, in simplistic terms, the expression of God’s divine nature- His majesty and splendour. When I had fallen into sin, I had a godly sorrow that produced a zeal to see God glorified in my life which triumphed over my desire to remain fallen. Writing this today is just a small testament to that.
Phinehas left a legacy and God established a covenant with Him forever; in Jesus Christ we are partakers of a new and better everlasting covenant. Even in sin, God is still able to work things out for His purpose and your life if you turn to Him. Sin has grave consequences, so we must detest it and refrain from it. But the best way to do this is to desire the glory of God, recognising our fallibility but letting that spur us on to fellowship with God through prayer and His Word for transformation. Thanks to God’s abounding grace and mercy, He makes a way for us to become zealous for Him as a result of sorrow at our sinful state.
Meditate on this verse for a few seconds.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test”
[2 Corinthians 13:5, 6]
Are you zealous for God and for His glory? If we are, great but the question then is: how can we be a more zealous for God? Practically I can suggest:
- Spending time being sharpened by godly friends (Proverbs 27:17) and wise counsel
- Extended time of consecration to God (e.g. fasting. Also read our article on consecration here too)
- Studying the lives of zealous characters in the Word and even reading the books/biographies of past church leaders too. After all, zeal is a product of what we know.
If we aren’t zealous for Christ, the first question to ask yourself is: are you someone who knows Jesus or are you someone who knows about Jesus? That is crucial. We saw the Pharisees and how they fared. Christ is knocking at the door of your hearts, wanting to be let in, wanting you to receive his life and righteousness that He died for on the cross. Knowing Christ and His love for us is the foundation to being zealous for God. In our generation, zeal for certain aspects within society is championed: equality, politics, sport and entertainment are just some. We can be (rightly) passionate about these things but when it comes to God, we have nothing to show for. This is where we ask Holy Spirit to grant us the desire for God and God’s holiness. Ask God to genuinely reveal Himself to you so that you know Him and are filled with Him to overflow.
I’ll leave you with Titus 2:14, which tells us God Himself will purify a people to be zealous for good works and to live for Him. Are you willing to be that person? Are you willing to make known the hope of glory, which is Christ in you?
Will you exhibit zeal for real?