You can have a zeal for God, and yet not be saved.

zeal

There is one verse in the Bible that terrifies most Christians, and that is this:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

– Matt 7.21-23

Jesus declared that there are many, many – not just some, who will think that they are saved, who will have preformed miracles in the name of Jesus and cast out demons in His name, but who never were saved and will not be allowed to enter into eternity with Him.  If you have any concept of Hell, or a desire to spend eternity with Jesus, then this is a terrifying reality.  Paul, likewise, has a unique prayer in his musings over the Jewish people:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.  For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.

– Rom 10.1-2

Zeal is a good thing.  We should all seek to be passionate about God.  John tells us that anyone who is lukewarm will be “spit out” as it were,

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

– Rev 3.16

and Paul goes on to say in Romans,

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

– Rom 12.10-13

Most importantly, Jesus taught us (directly from the Old Testament) that we should,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

– Matt 22.37

But how can it be that the Jews were zealous for God and yet were not saved?  How can it be that some people will preform miracles and cast out demons in the name of Jesus and not be saved?  Paul gives us the answer in his very sentiment,

“For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”

– Rom 10.2

They were zealous for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  Now, we all know the warnings about knowledge, that it puffs up (1 Cor 8.1) and that knowledge alone cannot save.  It must be utilized by wisdom in order to be effective in the heart of believers and in the world, but we must beware that we do not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater in trying to stay humble and meek.  Knowledge is not only good, it is essential to knowing God.

Consider this:  God gave us a book which tells us about His direct activity in the world throughout history, it tell us about His heart, His thoughts, His intentions and His plan for salvation.  He sovereignly oversaw the writing of it, the preservation of it, and the translation of it so that we can all have access to His spoken words, His actions, and His offer of forgiveness.  Do you not think that He intends for us to read it and know it?  If you wrote a letter to your spouse or best friend pouring out your heart, would you be hurt if they just left it partially read?  God intends for us to know that which He has revealed about Himself.  And He has revealed Himself in the Scripture.  You cannot know the heart of God unless you know the Scripture.

There is a praise song that is growing in popularity these days called “Good, Good Father”, and the first verse goes like this:

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like.
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night.
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone.
Notice the lack of logic in this sentiment.  “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like” – everyone has their own opinion of who God is and how He acts.  But instead of opening up the Scripture to find how God describes Himself, the author says, “But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night”.  He relies on his own experience and his own zeal.

It is not good enough to sit back on our haunches and say, “you’re wrong and I’m right”, or “the God serve is like this…”.  We must turn to the Scripture and know, “This is who God says He is, and this is what God says He thinks and does”.  Yes, God is a good father.  He is the best father.  He is the only Heavenly and eternal father.  But to know Him we must know His word, we must have knowledge of Him.  Otherwise we can facilitate a zeal that is of one who is unsaved.  It is a zeal for a name of a person that we do not know.

Therefore we can understand that this knowledge is not an academic knowledge only, it is a relational knowledge.  It is abiding in Christ, remaining in Him.  It is getting to know God by learning what He has to say about himself and reveling in it, rejoicing in it, letting the Spirit mold and change who we are by soaking in it.  It’s like the old adage,

Garbage in, garbage out.

If we soak in Christ, if we renew our minds in the Scripture and meditate on it, if we remain in Christ, then Christ and Scripture will come out.  If we remain in Christ, He will produce the fruit through us.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

– John 15.4-5

John Owen taught us that to remain in Christ means friendship:

“Christ is our best friend, and ere long will be our only friend. I pray God with all my heart that I may be weary of everything else but converse and communion with Him.”

and

“Mutual communion is the soul of all true friendship and a familiar converse with a friend hath the greatest sweetness in it…[so] besides the common tribute of daily worship you owe to [God], take occasion to come into his presence on purpose to have communion with Him.  This is truly friendly, for friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occasioned by urgent business…they are, the more friendly they are…We use to check our friends with this upbraiding, you still [always] come when you have some business, but when will you come to see me?…When thou comest into his presence, be telling him still how well thou lovest him; labour to abound in expressions of that kind, than which…there is nothing more taking with the heart of any friend…”

God intends for us to know Him, and He gave us an entire book to be able to do so.  We cannot have a true and real passion or zeal for God unless we know Him and remain in Him.  Thus we must seek to know His word, and by learning what He has to say about Himself, we naturally develop zeal for Him, for His reputation, for making Him known, and He will flow out of our hearts and minds as we live our daily lives.  We maintain this friendship by coming to Him in prayer and “visits” as Owen says.  Not just in crises or on business.  But to commune.  To talk.  To worship.  To adore.  To praise.

Let us be zealous.  But let it be rooted in knowledge.  So that we will not find ourselves amongst the many who never knew Him.  Visit Him today, spend time with Him today, invest in your friendship outside of business and an urgent need.  Read His word, learn who He reveals Himself to be, and pray back to Him how amazed, thankful, scared, thankful you are – or whatever response you have to His word.  Get to know Him a little more today.

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