Zeal: Is it a good thing or a bad thing?



It’s a constant struggle. If you are like me, it’s not “new” sins I deal with but the same old sins. I can’t recall a new sin. They all seem to fit into the same old sin categories I have always dealt with in the past. It’s frustrating. Then I came upon this quote:

“One must be more zealous to
please God than avoid sin.”

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading a book (not a small feat for an Auburn Grad) about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was the author of “The Cost of Discipleship”, my next book to read. You have probably read a quote from him, as a matter of fact you just did. This really stuck with me.

Bonhoeffer had an incredible life. It was a long read but well worth the time. He was born just after the turn of the 20th century and grew up in Germany. He was a young man when Hitler rose to power. God would call him into the ministry and he would have a lasting impact on believers. Eventually, he would become part of the plot to assassinate Hitler and would die for his involvement.

How could a “Christian”, a follower of Christ, a pastor none the less be involved in a plot to kill Adolph Hitler? Doesn’t that go against everything we have been taught in church? Read the quote above again.

We must treat sin the same way in our lives. We cannot and will not defeat sin relying on our own power. It is impossible. It can’t be done. We must rely solely on the power of God. That’s the reason I fail to defeat sin and the reason you fail as well. We are focused on the wrong thing. It not only sums up our lives but this country and world as well.

We are to be “zealous” to please God. Zeal means to have great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. We tend to think of being zealous in a negative way but the truth is we are ok with being zealous in most areas of our lives. We are zealous for our favorite football team, zealous in business and even zealous when we pursued our spouses. And we are all ok with that. But be zealous for God and all of a sudden you’re a “Holy Roller”, a “Jesus Freak” or “Holier than thou.”

To defeat sin in our lives we must be in pursuit to please God. He will defeat the sin. Christ already has. It’s His battle not ours. We fight a war we can’t even win when we are part of a Risen Savior who already has. But we just keep on rockin’ along like we always have. We are living out the definition of “insanity,” we keep doing the same things over and over again but expect different results.

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

I admit this isn’t easy. It means changes have to be made, at minimum our focus has to change. There will be obstacles to overcome. Fear will have to be conquered. For some it may mean giving up everything. No pain, no gain.

You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not
hidden from you.
” Psalm 69:5 NIV.

Bonhoeffer gave everything, up to and including his life. He was merely a man, a sinner, just like us. Yet he zealously sought to please God and did so in word and deed. There is no excuse for us.

I can no longer rely on “not doing that”, or “not looking at that”, or “not thinking about that” or even “not watching that” to defeat the sin in my life. I must zealously seek to please God and rely on Him alone. My focus must be on Him each day, each hour and each minute. When we die to ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him; how could we focus on something else?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV.

Chance are we won’t be called to be part of a plot to rid the world of a leader that was evil incarnate. But we are called to rid our lives of the sin and evil that permeate them. Will we choose a life of victory or continue with the frustrating but comfortable life of insanity?

It is said that the last moments of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life was filled with prayer. He was led naked to the gallows and hung. The doctor at the Flossenburg concentration camp said this, “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

May we zealously run to the cross!


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