Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up...

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Recently I read a helpful and challenging new book by Dr. Joel Beeke and James La Belle entitled Living Zealously. I highly recommend this volume, which draws from the writings of several Puritans on the subject of zeal and is a great means for stirring us up to be all that we can be for the Lord our God. In this work, the authors cover the topics of the nature and marks of Christian zeal, its necessity and motives, its regulation, its objects and outworking, and the means to develop Christian zeal.

 

Here is what Derek Thomas says in the Foreword:

 

"Zeal is a subject, like many others in religion, most sadly misunderstood. Many would be ashamed to be thought 'zealous' Christians. Many are ready to say of zealous people what Festus said of Paul: 'They are beside themselves--they are mad' (Acts 26:24)." Thus wrote the nineteenth century Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle in a chapter entitled, "Zeal." Several pages later, he made this observation: "It may be very true that wise young believers are very rare. But it is no less true that zealous old believers are very rare also." That brings to me to this current volume on Living Zealously by Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle.

           

What Ryle observed a century ago is of even greater import in our own time: people are deeply suspicious of zeal (except, perhaps, in sports or entertainment). Think of the term "zealot" and what comes to mind? Fanaticism. Hatred. Bigotry. Add the descriptive "religious" to zeal and you have a verbal incendiary device. Whatever else it may mean, in the modern mind, such a thing is offensive. Thus, we encounter folk of choleric temperament, certain and robust, pushy and egoistic, determined to achieve their goal at whatever cost to those around them; intimidating, often doing and speaking in ways that appear to us excessively judgmental, narrow-minded, and offensive. Worse, a terrorist! Is this not how the world views zealous people, especially religiously zealous people? And the world is correct to be suspicious, at least, in some measure.

           

Witness Paul's (or Saul's) own confession of his zeal in persecuting the church (Phil. 3:6) and our suspicions are confirmed. He was out to kill people--zealously. But "zeal" need not be such; channeled in the right direction, with accompanying grace, zeal is a fruit of the Spirit's sanctifying work. It is an expression of devotion, single-minded determination to please God and fellow human beings. Thus Paul again, commending Corinthian Christian repentance (2 Cor. 7:11), or Roman Christian industry (Rom. 12:11), advances zeal as laudable and commendatory. Here, zeal is humble, reverent, God-focused, aware of others but resolute to serve God with one's entire self. Listen to Ryle again:

               

A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies--whether he is rich, or whether he is poor--whether he pleases men, or whether he gives offence--whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish--whether he gets honour, or whether he gets shame--for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is, to please God, and to advance God's glory.

           

Such a thing, of course, will never appeal to the world, nor, sadly, to lukewarm Christians. But it is what Jesus expects of us and what the gospel encourages. It is this kind of zeal, one that is focused on giving God glory whatever the cost to oneself, that Beeke and La Belle, gleaning from the riches of the Puritans, commend in this book. It is godly zeal. It is Christ-centered, gospel-infused zeal. Would you not have such a thing characterize your love for Christ? Then read on...."

 

Living Zealously                                                                                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted May 14, 2012 @ 11:43 AM by Rob Ventura
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