Keeping the Flames Burning

Posted on Jan 5 2012 in General by mbarnes

This post is part of a series by Melissa Barnes titled, “Sitting at My Savior’s Feet…A Short Devotional for Homeschool Moms.” 

I had the privilege of attending a youth-led worship service at our church recently. The youth handled the entire morning: teaching Sunday school, greeting, leading worship, and preaching. Later that evening our Life Group discussed the obvious zeal that our youth have for Jesus. Some of us expressed a longing to reclaim that fervor in our own lives. I thought about the times in my life that I have been “on fire for Jesus” and felt a twinge of guilt for the times that I have barely flickered for Him. I pondered this the next day, wondering how a believer can sustain such a passion for Christ. God blessed me by saying I didn’t need to…at least not exactly.

God cares very much about our zeal for him, but we often mistake true zeal for an emotional substitute. Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (NIV’84). Zeal is defined as “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something.” It is not an emotion but an action. True zeal isn’t a feeling but a strong desire to move toward Him. This paradigm shift resembles another one I once had to discover about love.

About ten years into my marriage, I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The third chapter alone was worth the price of the book to me. It spoke of the difference between the “in-love experience” and “real love.”  In it Chapman writes, “We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was—a temporary emotional high—and now pursue “real love” with our spouse…It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and it recognizes the need for personal growth. Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving.”

That’s the kind of love God gives us. It is genuine. It is something He chooses to do. And that principle of “real love” applies to our love for God as well. The young man who preached at my church on youth Sunday compared our relationship with Christ to a lifelong date. He said it isn’t an event we get ready for but something we begin doing the moment we are born. Our walk with Christ will have highs and lows just like any earthly relationship. We may have a “honeymoon phase” of our relationship with God. In fact, I would venture to say we have several during our Christian lives. But just as the marriage does not end when the honeymoon does, our love for Christ is not defined by our emotions. It is a choice—sometimes a hard one. We love Him easily when we feel His love most deeply, but we must also choose to love Him when the debts climb high, when our homeschool days bear more burdens than fruit, when we miscarry, when a friend betrays us…

Likewise, true zeal is not an emotion but a choice to pursue God even when life gets difficult. It isn’t about how we feel about God but how we seek Him. In the book of Revelation, John writes to the Church at Laodicea, saying:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:15-20, NIV’84).

The solution for the Laodiceans’ lukewarm nature is to actively move toward God, to be earnest, repent, open the door, and receive Him. It is no different for us. James 1:17, tells us that God “does not change like the shifting shadows” (NIV’84). He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and Praise God, His love does not depend on anything we do or feel for him. He does, however, expect us to be in constant pursuit of him. And when we do this, He will always show up.

What is your spiritual temperature right now?  Have you allowed your zeal for the Lord to fade?  How can you consciously choose to press into Him this week?

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