So the whole idea of being zealous for God is something that has been playing on my mind. In Romans 12:11, Paul encourages believers to be living sacrifices and to: "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."
Paul was a very zealous individual and one of those men who changed the world from God - he didn't stop enjoying life but he learned how to enjoy life while making God first if that makes sense. And today God spoke to me saying 'be zealous with me, not just for me.' It's an idea I think is not just for me, but for the church in general, an encouragement for us all.
There is a particular story in the Gospels that shows me a prime example of being zealous for God, rather than with him. The story begins when Jesus is arrested by soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane.
47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”In other Gospels it specifies that Peter was the disciple who struck off the man's ear and this is important because Peter is clearly shown as one of the more zealous of all Jesus' disciples. But his zeal (his passionate enthusiasm to follow Jesus) was misguided when he told Jesus that he would not allow him to die, nor would he ever deny him - and in this situation when he cut the ear off the servant of the high priest. Fortunately for Peter, and for us, when we allow our zeal to get the better of us Jesus still in his grace forgives, admonishes lovingly and can fix our wrongdoings.
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
So then how can we practically be zealous with God?
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.This passage has several key ideas which I personally want to come to understand better. But the key one for me is to do with recognising that the attitude I must have it to be a representative of Christ in all I do.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
I get frustrated when different churches, different Christians and of course I myself - get caught up and focused on a particular doctrine or idea as more right than any other. Because in the end I'm coming to see that Christianity - that walking with God - is one of the easiest things. It's simple, but wrapped within that simplicity is a hidden and deeper complexity.
That's why I believe God has been teaching me more and more about the key principles of following him first - because in the past I tried to move onto what I saw as more mature Christian principles without grasping some of the concepts that will take me a lifetime to hone and understand: faith, hope and love. Jesus didn't go around arguing with the Pharisees and Saduccees about which interpretation of the law was more correct from what we see in the gospels - he lived his beliefs and hat is what we are all also called to do.
So while I (and the church) are asked to be zealous (and I certainly am an enthusiastic, positive and crazy). it's not for mere zealotry's sake. That only leads to religious laws and sets of checklists dominating how you live your life. The point is not to stir up a false sense of energy and urgency to try and be zealous, it's about following God first - from this you should not help but want to pray for the sick, pray for those who need provision, give to those in need and preach the gospel. In short when you walk with God? Everything else follows.