Are you a passionate person? No, not that kind of passion!
Is there something in your life that you’re deeply passionate about? Something that if it is disturbed or upset or desecrated you get very upset about? Watch people sometime, and you’ll see the things they’re very passionate about. Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve seen people get passionate about:
Driving – I’ve had people practically run me off the road because of some minor offense of mine, sometimes which I haven’t even noticed.
Sports – I’ve seen people re-arrange their entire schedule, including church schedule, for a Cowboys game or tee time. I’ve seen red faces and name-calling, anger and ecstasy all because of sports.
Video games – I’ve seen the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat here. I’ve seen a persevering pursuit of excellence here unmatched in the halls of academia.
Work – I’ve seen people get up early and go to bed late to pursue the next victory at work. I’ve seen work engulf family and religion into itself.
It seems as if religion, historically, has excited the passions of people. I remember the priests of Baal in their test against Elijah and his God, and how they cut themselves and danced themselves into a frenzy. I think of the Jews who gnashed their teeth and ran with one accord to murder Stephen, and the Jews who cried with one voice to crucify the King of Glory.
And here in Ephesians 19 I witness the passion of the worshipers of Diana. What had happened to whip them into such a frenzy? Surely, their temple had been desecrated and their goddess mercilessly blasphemed!
Nope. A couple of guys came through town, talking about another god. As a result, some people turned away from Diana and from buying silver statues of her, and our business is getting hurt.
In return, the worshipers of Diana (Artemis) were filled with wrath, and cried out “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” The whole city was filled with confusion, a very large city in the ancient world of around a quarter million people. They rushed into the theater with one accord, seized Paul’s companions, and began crying out, for two hours straight, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
Now regardless of the virtue of the goddess of Diana – that’s passion! Those Ephesians were thoroughly committed to their goddess and the worship of her. I’m struck by the passion of the worshipers of the ancient world.
And there are some worshipers today who are extremely passionate about their religion. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be Moslems, about 100 million of who are willing to sacrifice themselves and their children for their bloodthirsty god.
By comparison, Christians in the U.S. seem emasculated. Yes, there is a kind of passion among Charismatics and Pentecostals, but even that often seems contained within the walls of noisy and tumultuous sanctuaries and doesn’t always spill out into the world.
Where is the passion of American Christians? These Ephesians spontaneously quit their work day and assembled to chant the same stupid thing for 2 hours, and we American Christians begin looking at our watches after worshiping the true God and hearing His Word after about 50 minutes (or less).
Where is our passion? I know, I know. It would be kind of unseemly if we actually enthusiastically spoke about Jesus Christ in the middle of the work week. Everything in its place: work for 40 hours a week from 9-5 on Monday through Wednesday, God penciled in from 10:30-11:30 on Sundays, and the rest of my waking time for leisure and entertainment.
We’ve heard story after story the past 45 years or so about how the name of Christ is increasingly being removed and obliterated from our culture. Maybe it’s become as common as water and therefore we’ve stopped noticing it or caring about it.
I’ve heard legends about Christians today who are passionate, and Christians who are passionately evangelizing and discipling others. There’s a country far, far away called Nigeria where Christians seem to be passionate, according to the stories. In 1970 there were 2,941,000 Anglican Christians in Nigeria. By 1995 there were 17,500,000, and today there are 20,000,000.
This, of course, happened all by chance, with perhaps a little natural selection thrown in for good measure. (How long did it take you to realize I was making that part up?)
No, actually the last two Nigerian Anglican archbishops had a plan for church growth. It’s called 1+1+3. One person leads one person to Christ and disciples him intensively for three years. Every Anglican is considered a one-on-one agent of conversion. Each must disciple that one person for three years and then that person must disciple someone else. It has had a multiplying effect, and this is why the Anglican Church in Nigeria is growing.
I would say that they had something called passion for Jesus Christ, and a passion to disciple others. It sounds a little like another legendary group of passionate Christians: the early church. It wasn’t only the worshipers of Diana who were passionate: the worshipers of Jesus Christ lived out passionate, joyful, loving lives, breaking their bread gladly from house to house and having all things in common.
I’m not interested in starting a riot here in Tyler. But if I manifested a little more passion about the One I passionately worship, who knows what modern day worshipers of silver or Diana may be persuaded to give up their idols and worship the living God? And who knows what other worshipers of Jesus Christ might find that they too have been given the gift of passion for their Lord again?
Prayer: O Lord, prepare my heart, I beseech Thee, to reverence Thee, to adore Thee, to love Thee; to hate, for love of Thee, all my sins, imperfections, shortcomings, whatever in me displeaseth Thee; and to love all which Thou lovest, and whom Thou lovest. Give me, Lord, fervor of love, shame for my unthankfulness, sorrow for my sins, longing for Thy grace, and to be wholly united with Thee. Let my very coldness call for the glow of Thy love; let my emptiness and dryness, like a barren and thirsty land, thirst for Thee, call on Thee to come into my soul, who refreshest those who are weary. Let my heart ache to Thee and for Thee, who stillest the aching of the heart. Let my mute longings praise Thee, crave to Thee, who satisfiest the empty soul, that waits on Thee. Amen. (E.B. Pusey)
Points for Meditation:
1. Meditate on the amount of passion you have for Jesus Christ, understanding that passion is not equivalent to energy or an extroverted personality.
2. What things are you passionate about? Why are you passionate about them? Are you as passionate about Jesus Christ?
3. What Christian practices could you develop in your life that would foster a genuine passion for Jesus Christ? (Hint: it will probably involve other Christians.)
Resolution: I resolve to practice one thing today that might lead me to be more passionate about Jesus Christ. You might consider: singing hymns, talking to Christian friends, reading Christian literature, praying, reflecting on God’s grace in your life, observing the life of a passionate Christian you know, etc.