“Zeal for God”

Pt 2 of Series, “Pursuit of Holiness”

October 11, 2020


Romans 10:1-4

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.


Let me tell you what jazzes me.  Ice cream jazzes me.  That should come as no surprise for those of you who know me even a little bit. The Orioles jazz me.  Another losing season but I still love my Birds. The Buffalo Bills jazz me.  How ‘bout them Bills!  Four and 0!  Can I hear a, “Go Bills!”  Let me tell you a few other things that jazz me.  Marriage jazzes me.  I just love spending time with my honey.  My grandkids jazz me and I have about 2000 pictures to prove it.  Can we cast them on the big screen.  It will only take me about 5 hours to go through them all with you. Golf jazzes me.  I love playing although you wouldn’t know it by my scores. Woodworking jazzes me.  I like sawing wood.  I am jazzed about a number of things.   


What sorts of things jazz you?  Maybe you spouse jazzes you.  Don’t you dare look over at your spouse and think, “You just ho-hum me. That’s all.  You just ho-hum me.”  Get some zeal in there.  Maybe your kids jazz you.  Maybe a hobby jazzes you.  Maybe you are into fishing or hunting or quilting or cooking.  People get jazzed by all sorts of things.  They get passionate about those things, zealous about them and zeal, that is a word we are going to explore today.  People are zealous about all sorts of things. 


But, let me suggest one more.  What about Jesus?  Does Jesus jazz you?  You might be zealous about golf or baseball or football and you want to play or watch every chance you get.  So, how about Jesus?  How about God?  Do you have zeal for God?


We are in week 2 of our 3 part series, “Pursuit of Holiness” if you want to pursue holiness, then zeal for God is one of the things that you need to wrestle with.  Do you have zeal for God?  Are you zealous for Jesus?  Does Jesus jazz you?


  1.  What is Zeal?


  1.  A definition


Zeal is a strong interest or devotion.  It is intense enthusiasm.  It is a strong energy and immense passion behind something. If you are zealous about fixing cars, you will read about fixing them, go to car shows, work on cars every chance you get.  If you are zealous about reading books, you will always have your nose buried in one. What you are zealous about will consume your time, your energy and probably your money.  You can be zealous about a whole bunch of things but not all zeal is alike. 


  1.  What you can be zealous about


  1.  You can be zealous about inconsequential things, even trivial things 


I am zealous about my ice cream but who cares. You can also be zealous about cutting your gras so you have nice lines in it or vacuuming so the lines all go in one direction—what’s with the lines?—but these things really are not world changing things.  You can be zealous about inconsequential things and 


  1.  You can also be zealous about the wrong things 


The Nazis were pretty zealous about ridding Germany of the Jews, obviously the wrong thing.    Terrorists are zealous about overthrowing the United States.  From a religious perspective, we see the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses going door to door or hanging out on street corners peddling a wrong theology which will move people away from God not toward Him. You can be zealous about the wrong things and   


  1.  You can be zealous about the right things but in the wrong way 


Many in our country are concerned about social justice and racial inequities, but your zeal leads you to riot or loot.  You could be zealous about pro-life issues but they could lead you to shoot an abortion provider.  You can be zealous for the right things but in the wrong way.   


In our lesson for today, Paul is talking about the zeal of the Jews of his day.  Paul says;


I can testify about them (the Jews) that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”  Romans 10:2


The Jews were zealous alright but their zeal took them away from God.  They were zealous for the right thing but in the wrong way.  Paul was an example of that.  Before he came to know Jesus, his zeal for God moved him to persecute Christians. The Jews of Paul’s day thought they were zealous for God, trying to get people to follow laws, some of which they themselves made up, follow laws in order to be put right with God.  He went on to say;


Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”  Romans 10:3 


They were zealous for the wrong things.  So, you can be zealous about inconsequential things or you can be zealous about the wrong things, or you can be zealous about the right things but in the wrong way or.  The alternative to those ways is;


  1.  You can be zealous about the right things in the right ways.           


What I am talking about is not some philosophical mish-mash.  This has direct bearing on your life.  Listen now, here’s the question you can ask yourself; “Am I spending my life on the right things?  Am I pouring my energy, my passion, my zeal into things of consequence, things that matter, things that are the right things?”  And, here’s the deal, when it comes to the right thing, the thing to be zealous about over anything else, that right thing is God.


  1.  There is a Need for Zeal for God


  1.  God is not into moderate


A synonym for zeal could be the word enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm comes from 2 Greek words, “en”, meaning in, and “theos” meaning God.  Enthusiasm, then is being in God.  There is a need for zeal for God.  In the book of Revelation, Jesus spoke with condemnation about the church of Laodicea.  He said,


“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 


“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11


When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He quoted the Old Testament;


“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Matthew 22:37-39


Notice, He didn’t say, love God with some of your heart, soul and mind but with all of your heart, soul and mind.  Nancy and I have been married going on 48 years. One thing I learned at least a few years ago is that it is not going to cut it to come home on our anniversary day with a bunch of flowers and say to her, “Nancy, I love you with some of my heart. I love you some of the time.  I love you today but I can’t give you any assurances about tomorrow.”  It won’t do to say, “I love you but I love, (fill in the blank), more.”  No, Nancy deserves all of my love, not part of it.  She deserves it and she is entitled to it and she gets all of my love every day and every hour.  Love God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. Pastor John Piper said, “God is not into moderate.  He’s not into middle-of-the-road devotion to Jesus.  Zeal is important.  Caring deeply about God, not moderately caring about God, is important.” [1] Is zeal for God important to you?   


Another pastor put it this way.  This pastor said that someone who is zealous for God, “only sees one thing…cares for one thing…lives for one thing…is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.”  Still another pastor referred to someone zealous for God as being carbonated Christians.  He said, “Having the truth is not enough; we need to be effervescent about it!” [2]  Are you swallowed up in God?  Are you a carbonated Christian?  Are you effervescent for Jesus?  If not, then we might ask the question; 


  1.  How can I Rev Up the Zeal Deal?


Last week, Mike Barkau spoke about moving beyond the basics as we pursue holiness.  He framed it in terms of pursuing righteousness and holiness.  Paul speaks about righteousness in our Scripture for today. Here is the bottom line on it;


Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”  Romans 10:3-4


Do you need to rev up the zeal deal, then know get back to Christ, get back to the cross.  You see, 


  1.  Righteousness begins at the cross


And if you want to rev up your zeal for God, go back to the cross.  The cross of Jesus changes everything.  In Ephesians 2, Paul speaks about our past, our present and our future.  He speaks about our past.


“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,


Dead is not alive.  Dead is not being able to do one blessed thing to make you spiritually alive.  Being spiritually dead means that you are no different than this wooden podium. You are D-E-A-D dead.  That is your past.  That is you before you came to know Jesus.  That’s not all.   


“…you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”


He says that you followed the ways of the world, that the ways of the world made more sense to you than God’s ways.


“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.”


The most important thing to a sinner is the sinner. I want to do what I want to do and I don’t care what anybody else says, even God.  I want to sleep around, I’m going to do regardless of what God says. I want to cheat someone, I’m going to do regardless of what God says.  I want to sleep in on Sundays, get a divorce, drink too much, I’m going to do it regardless of what God says because I want to gratify the cravings of my flesh.  I’m going to sin in my desires and thoughts.  One more thing; because my bent is to do what I want to do, before God, I am deserving of punishment.  Paul says in Ephesians 2;   


“Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”


This is not, “Oh go ahead and do what you want. You are not harming anyone.”  This is not, “When the Bible says not to do something, that was written for people living a long time ago.  It doesn’t apply to today and it certainly doesn’t apply to me.” This is; God says to live this way and when you don’t, you are by nature deserving of wrath.  That is eternal wrath.  That is hell.  Some preachers say that the reason some are lukewarm about their faith is that they really don’t take stock in just how much of a sinner they really are. 


What about it?  Do you know you are a sinner?  I’m urging you to go way beyond lip service.  Get beyond, “Yeah, yeah, I’m not perfect.  Nobody is.”  This is, “I am a poor miserable sinner.  This is, “Here, specifically, are the ways I am a sinner.”  List them.  Get them at the forefront of your mind.  Go over them again and again in your spirit.  “I have sinned against you, Jesus, in thought—here’s the ways—and in word—here’s the ways—and in deeds—here are all of the terrible things I have done. Realize deep down all the ways you have sinned, all of those secret sins, those sins that keep biting you. And know deep down that because of those sins, you deserve nothing less than eternal judgment.  You deserve to go straight to hell to live there, separate from God, for all eternity.  That is what you deserve.  That is your past.  If you want to rev up your zeal for God, deal with your past and how that past still impacts you today.  Only when you have come to grips with your past are you ready for the rest.  Here is comes;     


 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercymade us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”


Here is your present.  God loves you and because of His love, He has not left you dead, He has not left you gratifying your sinful desires, He has not left you as an object of His wrath.  But, He has made you alive with Christ.  He has given you mercy.  He has given you grace.  Jesus went to the cross, died a miserable death, was separated from the Father so that you could have this new life, this eternal life.  If you want to rev up your zeal for God, then take that in.  Take it in that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead has given you new life.  If you want to rev up the zeal deal, get back to the cross.  Your past had you dead and an object of wrath but, through the cross of Jesus, you have life, eternal life, not earned or deserved but because of His grace.  That is your present.


And your future?


“…in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”


Simply put, your future is an eternity with Jesus.


Oh, let that increase your zeal.  If you feel sluggish about your faith, if you feel like you are not pursuing righteousness, if you feel like you are going through the motions of faith, go back to the cross.  Go back to the cross!  Go back to the cross!  And


  1.  What Does Zeal for God Look Like?


Here is a definition of a fully devoted follower of Christ that we have used over the years;


“A fully devoted follower of Christ is someone whose passion (You could insert zeal) is

 to know Jesus more intimately and to imitate Him in thought, word and deed.”


Another way to say it is to pursue holiness.  This means to realize there is a personal cost to following Jesus, but you will do it anyway.  This means to be committed to God’s way of doing things, eager to embrace all that Jesus wants for your life.  This means to surrender, to surrender your will and desires to His. 


The video we watched at the beginning was a great overview of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  If you want to know what zeal for God looks like, take in what Jesus’ sermon is telling you. 


  • This sermon tells us not to murder anyone but then defines murder as anyone who is persistently angry with another, who calls someone a fool.  Using that definition, what needs to happen in your life to quit being guilty of murder.


  • Jesus’ sermon says we shouldn’t commit adultery but then defines adultery as far more than sleeping with someone else’s spouse. He says if you look lustfully, you done did the deed.  Do you have some work to be done in this area of your life?


  • Jesus’ sermon says not to lie or swear or make an oath.  He simply says, “Let your Yes be Yes and your No, no.”  How are you doing here?  Have there been times you were less than truthful to the extent that you felt like you had to swear to God to have someone believe you?


  • Jesus’ sermon tells us that if someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and give your left.


  • It tells us to love not just those who love us but to love even our enemies.


  • It tells us to not be hypocrites or to do religious acts for show.


  • It tells us to forgive even the unforgiveable.


  • It tells us to not worry but to seek God’s Kingdom first.  (More on that next week.)


How are you doing in your spiritual life with any or all of these categories?  If you want to know what zeal for God is, it is “to know Jesus more intimately and to imitate Him in thought, word and deed,” it is working to conform your life to these ideas, that you are going to be fervent about working on those things, that you, motivated by the cross of Jesus, will strive to love God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind.  Do you want to have zeal for God?  How is that going for you.  Now, I want you to know that this is a process.  This doesn’t happen over night.  This is something that you must work on.  So, how can you do that?  Let me quickly give you some


  1.  First Steps to have Zeal for God


  1.  Pray for zeal


People get excited for sports.  I will be watching the Bills on Tuesday with my Bills hat on and maybe my Bills jersey.  Matthew has Bills clothes for his entire family.  There are Bill’s fans whop, when they could actually attend the games, would stand in line for hours to get tickets, shout about their team until they are hoarse, sit in a Buffalo snowstorm to watch their team.  Pray that you can have that kind of zeal for God. Charles Schwab said, “You can succeed in almost anything for which you have unlimited enthusiasm.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” And, remember that the meaning of enthusiasm is to be in God.  Pray for zeal for God.  Pray that you can have enthusiasm for God.


  1.  Get back to Jesus


Do what I said earlier.  Scrutinize your life taking stock of every last sin.  Repent of it.  Confess it.  Don’t excuse it or slough it off.  Treat it for what it is, an affront to God that will send you to hell.  But, then dwell on the cross and how Jesus paid the penalty for your sins, how He gave you eternal life.  The more you can take that in, the more zeal you will have.


  1.  Do something


Pray for that zeal.  Start having a regular quiet time with God.  Do some Bible study.  Read over the Sermon on the Mount.  Be sure to come to church every Sunday.  And, instead of seeing your faith as just a segment of your life, instead of giving God just this one segmented hour of your week, 1/168th of your week, see all of your life as dedicated to Him.  But, that is the topic of next week’s sermon.


You can get jazzed about a whole bunch of things. I’m going to be jazzed about the Bills Tuesday evening.  But, get jazzed about the right things in the right ways.  Get jazzed about Jesus and do those things that will help you have “Zeal for God.” 


In Jesus’ name.






[1] From the sermon, “Zeal for God,” by John Piper found at desiringGod.com.

[2] From the sermon, Be Zealous! By Doug Batchelor found at Bible Answers Live