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REIGNITING YOUR PASSION FOR GOD
BY RICK WARREN
The creative force behind all great art, all great drama, all great music, all great architecture, all great writing is passion. Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without passion. Nothing great is ever sustained in life without passion. Passion is what energizes life. Passion makes the impossible possible. Passion gives you a reason to get up in the morning and go, "I’m going to do something with my life today." Without passion life becomes boring. It becomes monotonous. It becomes routine. It becomes dull. God created you with the emotions to have passion in your life and He wants you to live a passionate life. Passion is what mobilizes armies into action. Passion is what causes explorers to boldly go where no man’s gone before. Passion is what causes scientists to spend late night hours trying to find the cure to a dreaded disease. Passion is what takes a good athlete and turns him or her into a great athlete where they’re breaking records. You’ve got to have passion in your life.
One day a man walks up to Jesus and he says, "Lord, what’s the most important thing in the Bible?" And you know what the Great Commandment is. We’ve talked about it many times. Jesus said, "I want you to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. Nothing matters more than that. That’s the number one thing in life. I want you to love Me passionately." Nothing else matters in life if you don’t love God passionately. God doesn’t want you to love Him half-heartedly. He wants you to love Him with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.
I love the paraphrase of that verse, Mark 11:30, from The Message "Jesus said, ’Love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy." Circle the word "passion". That word, in Greek, is the word "heart." God is saying I want you to put some muscle into it, put some energy, put some emotion into your relationship with Me. Don’t be a wimp about your relationship with Me. Don’t be namby-pamby. Don’t be half-hearted. Give it all you’ve got. Jesus is saying, "If you’re going to follow Me, you’ve got to go it with passion. You’ve got to give it some oomph, some spark, some zip, some enthusiasm, some zest. I want you to live passionately."
In fact, this truth is all through the Bible. The Bible tells us that we’re to seek God passionately. We’re to love God passionately. The Bible says that we’re to serve and obey God passionately. We’re to trust God passionately. Then as if you didn’t get the message, in Colossians 3:23 He says "Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart as unto the Lord and not unto men." He says I want you to do everything passionately when it comes to loving Me, serving Me, living for Me.
Here’s the amazing thing. In America it’s ok to be passionate about anything except God. That is not politically correct -- to be passionate about God. I can be passionate about movies. I can be passionate about sports. I can be passionate about politics. I can be passionate about fashions and clothes. I can be passionate about restaurants (and some of us really are). But I cannot be passionate about God. That’s a no-no.
I type in the phrase "a passion for..." into Amazon.com and found a couple hundred books with that title. There’s a book call A Passion for Birds, A Passion for Books, A Passion for Cactus, A Passion for Chocolate (that’s understandable), A Passion for Fashion, ... for Fishing... for Flying, ... for Gardening, ... Golf, Hunting. There’s even a book called A Passion For Mushrooms (somebody’s smoking them probably is what he’s doing. He’s not eating them -- putting them in a salad. He’s smoking those things.) A Passion for Needlepoint, Pasta, Ponies. There’s a book called, A Passion for Potatoes, for Roses, for Shoes. There’s even a book called A Passion for Steam. I can’t figure out what that one’s all about! I don’t know why you’d get passionate about steam.
But in our culture it’s ok to be passionate about anything except your religion, except your faith, except your relationship with God. I can go to a rock concert, or a political rally or a baseball game and I can shout my head off. I can get excited. I can get hoarse from yelling so loud. When my team loses I could cry. Nobody thinks that’s a big deal. When my team wins I can jump up and dance around and wave my hands in the air. If I do that at a game people go, "He’s a real fan!" If I do that in church people say, "He’s a fanatic! He’s a nut case." You don’t want to get too emotional about your faith. Its ok about anything else but not that.
Romans 12:1 "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor." Keep the fires going in your life. Circle the word "keep." Notice, it’s not automatic. It’s a choice. It’s a discipline. It’s something you must maintain. You are not by nature passionate about God. It’s something that you must choose to do. You get distracted and everything in life conspires to keep you from being passionate about God. So He says keep your passion going. Keep the fires going. It’s a discipline. It’s not just automatic.
This kind of thing -- being passionate about God has nothing to do with either your personality or your age. Our church is filled with hundreds if not thousands of senior believers who have walked with God a long, long time and are still passionate. I could give you hundreds of names of people in our church who have lived passionately for God for years and years and years.
Last night, Bill Bright died -- the founder of Campus Crusade. We lost a giant in the land last night. Yet I was always amazed by Bill Bright. I knew him quite well. In his eighties he was just as passionate as he was many, many years ago. He never let up. It has nothing to do with your age. It has nothing to do with your personality. My wife Kay by nature is quite an introvert. Yet I don’t know anybody more passionate about God than my wife.
Everything in life conspires to keep you from being passionate. And it dissipates your energy. On Friday we had a birthday party for Matthew, one of my boys, who turned eighteen. We had some helium balloons and they got loose and they went up on our high ceiling and we were wondering how to get them down. Tom said, don’t worry about it. They’ll be down by morning. And the truth is, it wasn’t even that long. In just a few hours they began to dissipate, lose their steam and come back down.
A lot of times we’re like that. When you first become a believer and you really understand what a good deal you’ve got you get excited about it, "This is quite a deal! All my sins are forgiven. I now have a purpose for living, and I now have a future home in heaven. What a deal! And you get excited about that when you give your life to Christ and you’re pretty passionate. But as time goes by you begin to lose your steam. You begin to lose your zip, your zest, your enthusiasm. What happens? Why does that happen?
That’s what we’re going to look at today. As we go through God’s word we’re going to look at seven passion killers, things that rob the joy out of your life. I thought this would be a very appropriate message, right in the middle of the dog days of summer, when nobody feels very passionate about much of anything. You want to chill back, lay back a little bit. So we’re going to look at these passion killers. I want you to use it as a checklist. Because God says, I want you to love Me with all of your heart.
Seven passion killers and what keeps you from having that constant passion for the Lord.
1. An unbalanced schedule
That means either if you’re overworked or you are under worked you’re going to lose your passion for life and lose your passion for God. Life is a series of seasons, the Bible says. There’s a season for everything. And there’s a rhythm to life. You need both in your life -- both input and output. You need both rest and work. And too much of either will cause you to lose your passion. Too much work will cause you to lose your passion. Too much nothing -- boredom -- will cause you to lose your passion too, if you’re not working enough.
My guess is, in a crowd this size, half of you need to work less and half of you probably need to work more. We’re all different in our personalities. And you can go to either extreme. Psalm 127 "It’s senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing that you’re going to starve to deat;, for God wants His loved ones to get their proper rest." That’s a good verse for your refrigerator door. God wants you to get your proper rest.
Some of you the problem is you’re always giving out. You’re always helping, you’re always sharing, you’re always serving, you’re always working, you’re always being generous. And you never take time to recharge. If you never take time to recharge you’ve got unbalanced on the ministry side, on the work side, you’re going to eventually get compassion fatigue.
What is compassion fatigue? You just stop caring. You don’t care about God any more, you don’t care about other people any more, you don’t care about anything any more. Why? Because you’re burning out from too much work, from too much service. When you care and care and care, eventually you get this compassion fatigue.
Others of you here, you’re the exact opposite. You’re always taking in but never giving out. You go to Bible studies, you listen to teachers on the radio, you listen to tapes, you go to seminars, you go to Christian concerts, you go to workshops, you come to church all the time. You’re always learning, always taking in, always growing in the input. But you’re not giving out any. You don’t have any ministry, you don’t have any mission. You’re not really helping anybody. You’re just taking all this food in getting fatter and fatter and fatter till pretty soon we’re going to have to roll you down the aisle. And that’s where we get the term holy rollers. Some of you are holy rollers. You’re taking in all the time and you’re never giving out.
I don’t know which one is your problem but my guess is one of them is. You either have too much output and not enough input. Or you’ve got too much input and not enough output. You’ve got to decide that. I’m sure God can help you out.
Let me give you a little shock though. Bible study without ministry is extremely dangerous. Because the Bible says in James 2:17 "To him who knoweth to do good and doeth it not it is sin." Do you realize that the more you know about God’s plan for your life the more responsible you are to God for that knowledge. And the more you know, if you don’t do anything about it, you are simply increasing your judgment. You’re increasing your responsibility. Because God holds you accountable for what you know. So the Bible tells that you need both in your life -- input and output. You need work and you need rest. You need balance in your schedule.
What’s the antidote for that? 1 Timothy 4:7 "Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit."
How do you do that? One word. Balance. We all know to be physically fit you have to have a balanced diet. And to be spiritually fit you have to have a balance of God’s five purposes for your life in your life. You need to have time to worship with God private and corporate. You need to have times when you’re fellowshipping with other believers. You need to have times when you’re reading God’s word and growing as a Christian. You need to have times of ministry -- service -- where you’re giving out and using your abilities. And you need times of mission where you’re sharing your faith with others.
If you tend to go to seed on one of those purposes -- you have a lot of fellowship but nothing else. Or a lot of Bible study and nothing else. You’re going to get imbalanced. And you will inevitably lose your passion. You’re going to go, "How come I don’t feel as close to God as I used to be?" Because you’re out of balance. That’s the number one reason.
2. An unused talent
An unused talent will cause you to lose your passion for life and your passion for God. 1 Peter 4:10 says "Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gifts well." Notice God gives you certain talents, abilities, personality, gifts -- the shape that He’s given you -- and those gifts, those talents that you’ve been given are not for your benefit. They’re for the benefit of other people. My gifts are for your benefit. Your gifts are for my benefit. You are to use those gifts in the service of other people. God has given you a special role in this world. He wants you to make a contribution with your life. God says, I have given you these gifts and talents.
If you don’t use your talents you’re going to lose your passion. God did not give you special abilities just to sit on them and do nothing about it. God says I want you to use it or you’re going to lose it.
Let me get real specific. If you are stuck in a job that does not use your talents to any degree you are inevitably going to lose your zeal and zest and passion in life. It’s going to burn you out. Studies have shown that 70% of all Americans are in a job that does not use their talents. That’s tragic. That makes God sad. Because God did not give you talents and then say, "Don’t use them. Just go make some money." There’s something more important than money. That is using what God gave you. God is grieved when He looks and sees you in a job that’s not using your talents. He’s going, "What do you think I gave you your talents for? Just to sit on them?" No. If you do that you’re going to lose your passion.
If you’re in a job right now that uses only 30% of your talent that’s going to give you what I call a 70% boredom factor. Does that make sense? You’re bored by your job because it’s not using the talents that God put in you. A lot of guys are stuck in a job they hate, that aren’t using their talents. They lose their zest for life. Why? They aren’t using the talents God gave them.
1 Corinthians 7 "Each one should live his life with the gifts that the Lord has given him." God gave you gifts and abilities and talents to use.
The reality is you’re never going to find a job that uses 100% of your talent. You’re never going to find a job that is 100% fulfilling. Why? Because God never meant for you to find 100% fulfillment through your job. Your life is more than your job. He wants you to have a ministry. That’s why you need a ministry in your church to use the talents you’re not using in your job. Because no job could possibly use all the talents God has given you. So you need a job but you also need a ministry that expresses what you’re good at. That’s why we here at Saddleback encourage everybody to find a ministry.
Let me say this as your pastor because I care about you. If you are in a job right now that is killing your passions, get out! Get out! This is America, folks. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. In a lot of countries you don’t have a choice on where you work. But you do in America. And it is not good stewardship and it is not wise use of your time and life to be in a job that doesn’t use the talents that God gave you. It’s no wonder you lose your passion and zest.
You probably can’t do it over night -- can’t go out tomorrow and quit. But you could start planning for the transition. You start making preparation. Part of your church family’s role is to help you find your niche in life. Many of you may not know that we have a lot of different tools here at Saddleback to help you discover, develop and deploy your talents. Pastor Eric Reese has produced a great new tool called the Life Review Retreat. I want him to come and take a minute and tell you about some of the ways that are available to you.
Thanks, Rick. About eight years ago a very close friend of mine said, "Eric one of the greatest things you can do in life is to discover who you’re not so you can fall in love with who God’s made you." That’s what the role of 301 is all about -- helping you discover who you are and who God’s made you. So you can live with fulfillment and passion every day of your life. We have many opportunities from CLASS 301 which some of you maybe have taken. If you haven’t we look forward to seeing you in CLASS 301 in the near future. After CLASS 301 you can taken a Shape Discovery Session, which is a one-hour opportunity with someone to set down and start to sift through your unique shape. Beyond that is what Pastor Rick just talked about -- a Life Review Retreat.
What is a Life Review Retreat? It’s a designated time away -- away from the noise and distractions of your daily life to pause long enough to allow God help you realize where you’ve been, reflect on who He’s made you and respond to where He’s leading you.
This last service a lady came up to me and she goes, "I just got back from a week of vacation. It sounds like a Life Review Retreat might be the best investment of a vacation I could make this summer." For some of us maybe this summer is the time to take that Life Review Retreat. If so, there’s information on the patio. We would love to partner with you as you start to fall in love with who Jesus has made you because God wants us to live with fulfillment every day of our lives. Not frustration. We’ll be outside for you. We look forward to meeting you. God bless you so much.
In fact, if you’re interested in the Life Review Retreat that Eric just talked about why don’t you pull out one of those response cards sometime during the rest of the service, fill out your contact information on the front and on the back write "LRR" for Life Review Retreat and he’ll get you some more information.
There’s a third cause for a loss of passion in our lives.
3. An unconfessed sin
This is a big one. Few things rob us of joy, rob your confidence, rob your passion, more quickly than guilt. Here’s how it works with us with guilt, the sin in our lives. We don’t walk around thinking, "I have a sin in my life. I am a guilty person." No, we rationalize it consciously. Consciously we think, "It’s ok. Everybody’s doing it. It’s no big deal." But subconsciously it gnaws at us. Subconsciously whenever it gets quiet that guilt pops into your mind. Subconsciously right now as I’m talking about it, it begins to pop into your mind.
Here’s the truth about us as human beings. We cannot feel enthusiasm and guilt at the same time. You can’t feel guilt and passion at the same time because guilt by its very definition robs you of passion. Psalm 38:4&6 "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear... I am bowed down and I am brought low."
A lot of you work on computers. Anybody besides me ever had your computer crash? Sometimes they crash. They stop working. Some program tries to write the wrong thing to the wrong place and it’s gone! Guilt does that to us as human beings. We’re not made to live with guilt. God did not make you to carry guilt around in your life. He made us to deal with it immediately. He sent Jesus to this earth to die on a cross to say, I want to offer you a gift -- freedom from guilt. That is God’s gift.
But some of you right now, you’re in the midst of a personal system crash. Truth of the matter is the joy in your life has crashed and you’re trying to keep the enthusiasm up, you’re trying to keep the passion alive. But the guilt keeps crashing your system. So what do you do?
Fortunately this is a problem that can be remedied quickly. You can do something about it right now. Because Jesus has already done all that’s needed to be done to deal with our guilt. That’s why He came to this earth.
1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins He [God] can be trusted to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That’s His promise. To confess just means you agree with God. You just say, "God, I agree with You. It’s a sin. What I did was wrong. I agree with You. And I want to begin to live the kind of way You want me to live. Would You free me from this guilt?"
I would encourage you -- do it now! Don’t wait. Sometimes we carry guilt around for weeks, months, days. You shouldn’t carry guilt around even an hour. The minute that you realize that the red warning light that’s flashing saying Do something about it. Not carry it. So right now in your mind, in your heart, take it to God and say, "I confess it. God, would You relieve me of this guilt? Thank You for forgiving me. Would You restore my passion?"
There’s a fourth cause for a loss of passion in our lives.
4. An unresolved conflict
Conflict just drains the passion right out of you. Do you ever start a day and it’s going to be a great day -- you know it. You just fly out of bed. You’re awake from the moment you get up. You’re ready for the day -- shower, breakfast -- you’re ready. You’re on the way out the door and you have a fight with your husband or your wife. All the zip goes out of your doo-dah. It’s like the air going out of a tire when the conflict comes. That’s what conflict does to us. It takes all the passion out of our lives. Your attitude all of a sudden just goes flat.
Let’s be honest about this. Some of you, you’re in situations at home or at work where the conflict is constant. Maybe you’re even doing all that you can to minimize the conflict. But it’s coming from the other person. How do you keep your passion in a situation like that?
You decide to protect yourself from the three passion killing emotions that can come into our lives in conflict. You cannot control the other person always. But you can control the kind of emotions you have in the midst of the conflict. The three emotions that kill our passion in the midst of conflict are resentment, jealously and prolonged anger.
These next verses talk about them. Job 5:2 "Resentment destroys the fool and jealousy kills the simple." Circle "resentment" and circle "jealousy." Passion killing emotions.
Job 18:4 "You are only hurting yourself with your anger." Circle "anger." It only hurts you.
You make the decision when it comes to resentment and jealousy and prolonged anger to let it go. This is why forgiveness is so important. God who knows us, who made us, who created us knows that we can’t carry resentment. So He says here’s a way to let it go. Even logically we know that the resentment that we have in our lives it’s not hurting the person we’re resentful against. They don’t even know you’re resentful. It’s hurting us. The anger is hurting us.
If you want the passion to be restored in your heart, in your life, you have to forgive. You have to let it go.
I know what some of you are thinking. "Let them off the hook? How can I do that?" I’m not telling you to let them off the hook. I’m telling you to put them on God’s hook. Let them off your hook. Just put them in God’s hands. Just say, "God, I can’t handle this. You can. I forgive them and I leave it to You." If you don’t then that unforgiveness is going to kill the passion in your life the rest of your life. If you do not then the resentment that you have for that person that resentment is controlling your passion and by that it’s controlling your life. And you do not want them to control your life. So you forgive and you let it go. That’s how you resolve the conflict in your heart.
There’s a fifth cause for loss of passion.
5. An unsupported lifestyle
Sometimes you lose passion for God because you’re not spending time around other people who have a passion for God. You’re not spending time around other Christians. You’re not getting any fellowship. I love this incredibly practical verse in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, just common sense from the Bible. "Two are better than one... because if one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" We need each other. We all fall sometimes. We all stumble at times. So we all need people to help us up in our lives.
If you’ve been around Saddleback for any amount of time you’ve heard what I’m about to say hundreds if not thousands of times but I’m going to say it again because it’s so important. This is why you have to be in a small group. This is why it’s so important. Those of you who have thought many times maybe, "I should do that," maybe this is the day when you realize, "I’m going to do that!" Do not wait until the crisis comes to think, Now I need a small group. You’re not going to have time to get in a group then. We all fall sometimes. We all go through crises in life. So you find a small group. You get the support system in your life so you can keep the passion alive even during the difficult times.
It’s not only for the difficult times. It’s also for the good times. Human beings were made for relationships. We’re made to live that way. In a prison, when they want to give somebody the ultimate punishment in a prison, where do they put them? They put them in solitary. Solitary confinement. Because we were made to be around other people. That’s how God created and made us. Whether you’re married or single you need relationships with others. Others who are trying to live with passion for God in their lives, to keep that passion for God real in life.
Having been a pastor for a while now, I’ve seen a lot of people continue with their passion for God and a lot of people lose their passion for God. Those that lose their passion for God there’s a predictable pattern. You can see it the same way almost every time. I’ll tell you where the pattern begins. The first thing that happens is the person stops coming to church. I’m not talking about the ritual of coming to church. I’m talking about they draw back from the relationships of being around other believers. There’s a lot of reasons we tell ourselves that’s ok. Summer... I’ll watch it on the internet... I’ve got other things to do... I’ll get back to it soon... but whatever the reason you start not spending time with other people who have a desire to have passion for God.
The next thing that always happens is your heart starts to turn cold. You start to feel far from God. You start to feel like God’s far from you. What you really need is to be around other people who can warm up the love that you have for God in your life. It’s a need in all of us to be around other people to have this passion for God. If you have no inspiring contact with other believers your heart wills grow cold. It’s inevitable.
Greg Lauri who’s going to be with us next week speaking, was recently interviewing one of the women from the Survivor show, a Christian woman. She’d gone on the show and been told she could bring five things to the island or wherever they were. She said, one of them I want to bring is a Bible. They said, "No, you can’t bring a Bible. Somebody already did that. You’ve got to bring something different." So she went to this island without a Bible, with no Christian relationships and watched what happened to her life. She fell right off the table. Her character began to change, the way she talked, the kind of words she used, the ugly words she used. The attitudes she had towards others, the jealousy, the hatred. All of it immediately came into her life. She told Greg, "I didn’t realize how weak I really was."
I’ll admit it. I’m weak. I’ll admit it. I need relationships with other believers to grow. For better or for worse the only reason I’ve grown as a believer is because I’ve been around other people who are growing as believers. That’s how God made all of us. We need relationships in order to grow. That’s what makes it happen.
Hebrews 10:24-25 "Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let’s not give up meeting together and let us encourage one another."
The sixth passion killer is...
6. An unclear purpose
When you forget the purpose of your life that is a sure way to kill your passion for life and for God. If you don’t know the purpose for life, why bother? Why get up in the morning? Why put forth the effort? Why get out of bed? Life without purpose is activity without direction. It’s motion without meaning. Life without purpose is trivial, petty, and pointless.
My guess is that the people at Saddleback church know more about the purposes of God than probably any other church. We talk about it all the time. But even still it’s easy to forget why we’re here on earth. We get distracted by budgets and bills and babies and baseball and all kinds of other things. We forget the five reasons God put us here on earth. Whenever you forget why God put you on earth you’re going to drift toward apathy and lethargy. Who cares? Why get out of bed if there’s no meaning, if there’s no purpose to my life. Maybe you’ve felt like Isaiah who said in Isaiah 49 "I’ve labored to no purpose and I’ve spent my strength in vain and for nothing."
Passion and purpose go together. When you have a clear purpose it’s going to give you a lot of passion. But it’s got to be God’s purposes for your life. If you’re only living for yourself, that’s a pretty dinky purpose. That isn’t going to make you very passionate. In fact it’s pathetic. "I’m living for me." That’ll give you a lot of energy to get out of bed in the morning! You need a cause greater than yourself. That gives life significance and gives life meaning. The more you understand God’s purposes for your life and the more you live those purposes the more passionate you’re going to be.
Hobbs wrote this about passion. He said, "Passion is waking up in the morning wherever you are and bounding out of bed because you know there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that God made you for and you’re good at, something that’s bigger than you are and you can hardly wait to get at it again. It’s something that you’d rather be doing than anything else and you wouldn’t give it up for money because it means more to you than money."
Nothing matters more than knowing and living the five purposes that God put you on earth to fulfill. Nothing else can compensate for not living those. Not fame, not wealth, not success, not pleasure. Nothing can compensate for life without meaning. So whenever your purpose gets unclear and you tend to forget why we’re here in the first place you’re going to lose your passion.
It might be good idea this summer to go reread Purpose Driven Life. I know we’ve all gone through it before but it’s easy to forget, what on earth we’re here for. And an unclear purpose will kill your passion.
7. An undernourished spirit will kill your passion.
Every day you face all kinds of circumstances that conspire to shrink your spirit and shrivel your heart. You’re going to get up tomorrow morning. You’re going to have distractions and disappointments. You’re going to have conflicts and you’re going to have changes and challenges. You’re going to have problems and pressures. You’re going to have frustrations and fears and failures and fatigue. All of these things fall in on you to shrivel your heart and shrink your spirit. So you must intentionally nourish your spirit. If you don’t do it nobody else is going to do it for you. Nobody else is going to nourish your spirit. So if you don’t take the time and trouble to do it, it’s going to shrivel up.
How do you do that? Through the five purposes. You need times of worship with God everyday, where you get to know Him -- private worships. You need fellowship with other believers. You need to read God’s word and grow to be more like Christ. You need to have a ministry where you’re using your talents to help other people. And you need a mission in the world where you’re sharing your faith. If you just choose one of those purposes and forget the others you’re going to be imbalanced and you’re going to lose your passion. You need them all.
So how do I do it? How do I plug into God? How do I have this living, vital, daily relationship with God that keeps my spirit nourished?
The starting point is to remember how God feels about you. You know it but you forget it. Did you know that God is hopelessly in love with you? The reason that you’re not passionate about God is you have forgotten how passionate God is about you.
Exodus 31:14 "You must worship only the Lord, for He is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you." Did you know that? Did you know that God is passionate about you? He’s got going, "Oh, yeah, another one of My creations... next!" No, He is passionate about you. He made you to love you. You were created as an object of His love. The more you understand how God is passionate about you, the more passionate you’re going to get about God. When you forget how much God loves you, you start blowing Him off and going, "Forget it! I’ve got other things. There’s a good movie on TV tonight."
How do we know that God is passionate about us? The proof is the cross. Jesus stretched out His hands and they nailed Him to the cross and He was in essence saying, "I’d rather die than live without you. That’s how passionate I am about My creation. I made you. I love you. And I’d rather die than live without you."
In fact, the suffering of Jesus on the cross- His Passion. You’ve probably heard about communities or towns that have Passion plays. What is a passion play? It is drama that depicts the suffering of Jesus Christ. Jesus never wanted us to forget what He did for us on the cross. So He gave us the symbol of communion. He said, "When you take communion I want you to remember My passion. I want you to remember how passionate I am about you."
Acts 1:3 says this "Jesus showed Himself alive to them [the disciples] after His passion by many demonstrations: for forty days He continued to appear to them and tell them all about the kingdom of God."
Today we’re going to end this service by remembering the passion of Jesus, reminding ourselves how much God loves us by taking communion. I’m going to ask the servers to begin serving right now. We’ll wait until everybody’s been served then we’ll all eat together.
The Bible says in Psalm 107:33 "Whoever is wise will remember these things and will think about the deep love of the Lord." Let’s do that. Would you pray with me?
As you think about God’s love for you take a moment right now to just go through this checklist of passion killers mentally and renew your commitment to Him. I don’t know what it is that’s been killing your passion. Maybe it’s an unbalanced schedule. You just need to say to God, "God, help me to begin to take in more, quit being so busy for You that I don’t have any time to love You." Or maybe you need to say to Him, "God, help me to stop just taking in. Help me to do something for others." Maybe it’s an unused talent and God brought you here this morning to say, "Get in a new place, a new job. Begin a ministry. Start to use the gifts I’ve given you." Tell Him, "God, give me the strength. Show me how to do that." Or maybe it’s an unconfessed sin. If you didn’t confess it earlier, confess it now. Jesus died to forgive you of that sin. Say to Him, "Jesus, thank You for forgiving me." If there’s an unresolved conflict, as best as you can resolve it right now in your heart, and resolve to resolve it with the other person. Maybe the cause of passion dying in your life is an unsupported lifestyle. You’ve been trying to go it alone. You need today, "God bring some other people into my life. Help me to make that decision." Maybe it’s an unclear purpose. You’ve been living for yourself. Or you’ve been living for nothing. God reminded you today of His purpose for your life. Thank Him. Maybe the cause of passion dying is an under nourished spirit. Focus your heart on the strength that only God can give. Draw up nourishment from Him.
Our Father, we thank You for the passionate love You have for us. You couldn’t have said it more clearly in Your word. You couldn’t have shown it more clearly than by sending Jesus to die on the cross. Help us to learn to love You back. Take if it’s one of these seven things, and be serious about it. Lord, You love us more than we can imagine. In that love You want to change our hearts. We pray that You would this morning. Reignite the passion in our lives and find the way only You can the passion and love that we have for You in our hearts. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I’d like to read Psalm 107 again, the verse Tom read. "Whoever is wise will remember these things and will think about the deep love of the Lord." It is foolish to not think about how much God loves you. It is wise to remember the passion of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross and how much He showed His love for us. 1 John 4 says "God showed us how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It’s not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins."
Sacrifice -- even before Jesus Christ went to the cross He suffered enormous pain for you and for me. Before He went to the cross, first they took Him through six trials -- three Jewish, three Roman. They kept Him up all night which meant all six of those trials were illegal because it was against both Roman and Jewish law to have a trial at night. So He went the entire night without sleep. Then the Bible says that they gave Him over to the Roman soldiers just to make fun of Him. So the Roman soldiers blindfolded Jesus and they began to beat Him and beat Him. They used Him as a punching bag. They’d take sticks and hit Him on the head. And as He was blindfolded they’d say, "Who hit You, Jesus? Who hit You? If You’re God, tell us who hit You." Jesus could have given their name, their father’s name, their grandfather’s name. He could have traced their family tree back to Adam. But He remained quiet.
Then it says that the soldiers just decided to mock him and ridicule Him. So they made a crown of thorns and they took those thorns and they pushed them into His skull. Of course He began to bleed as those thorns were pushed into His brain. It says they began to mock Him and make fun of Him. It says they plucked His beard out -- just for fun, just to be mean. You can imagine how painful it would be to have your beard pulled out of your face.
Then it says that they went and they had Him scourged. A scourging was no mere whipping. A scourge is a whip with nine leather straps at the end of it. And at the end of each of those nine leather straps they would tie either a piece of bone to tear the flesh out, or lead to bruise the body. So every time a person was whipped with a scourge it would leave nine marks on the back. It was such a terrible punishment that men often died because of the loss of blood on their back. And it was Jewish law that said you could never give more than forty stripes. That would normally kill a man. So there was another law that said that if you ever gave more than forty lashes with a scourging whip that the person who gave it would be given the same punishment. So they always only gave 39. Just in case they miscounted.
Think about this -- 39 times nine is the number of marks on Jesus’ back before He went to the cross. His back was one bloody pulp before He went to the cross. That’s passion.
Then they gave Him the heavy cross to climb up the mountain with. As He climbed up the mountain suffering from loss of blood and lack of sleep He stumbled and fell under the cross. They grabbed a man out of the crowd, an African named Simon. He was given the privilege of carrying the cross of Jesus the rest of the way. They get Him to the top of the hill. They stretch His arms out and they nail Him to the cross. They weren’t these little-bitty galvanized nails. They were a spike that they would nail into His hands. Then they would take that cross and they would lift it up and they would set it into the group, into the hole. Of course, it would pull and tear at the man’s hands.
I doubt you’ve ever been held in this position for any length of time. But if you’re held in this position eventually the muscles around your chest cavity begin to tire and begin to paralyze. Eventually you can breathe in in this position but the muscles give out and you can’t breathe out. You can breathe in but you can’t breathe out.
So death on the cross would have been a simple death by suffocation. Except the Romans didn’t want to make it that easy. So what they would do is they would take a man’s legs and bend his knees and they would nail his feet to the cross. Why would they do that? So He could stand up on them. What would happen is a man hanging on the cross would hang there and breathe in but he couldn’t breathe out until the pain in his lungs began to be unbearable -- the pins and needles and his lungs were about to explode. He couldn’t breathe any more so he would stand up on his feet that were nailed on the cross. He’d get relief and he’d begin to breathe air until the pain in his feet was unbearable and he’d let himself down again. He’d hold that position until the pain in his lungs was unbearable and He’d stand up again. Until the pain in his feet was unbearable and he’d let himself down again. Death on the cross was a very cruel torture. It took days to kill a man. It was up and down and up and down and up and down, often for days. Extremely cruel death.
It says at one point the soldiers came to Jesus and they were going to break His legs. Why would they do that? Because if you break your legs you can’t stand up any more and He’d suffocate and die. But Jesus had already died by that time. So the soldiers to make sure He was dead took a spear and jabbed it into His side. The Bible says that water comingled with blood came out of that cavity. I’m no doctor but I’ve read dozens of medical explanations of death on the cross. Experts say that the only way that blood and water would co mingle in that cavity would be if that heart would tear, were to rip, were to explode. The stress that Jesus was carrying of all the sin in the world and the weight of the world on His shoulder, you can call it symbolic or whatever you want to call it, but Jesus’ heart literally exploded He died of a broken heart. He said, "I love you this much."
Do you know what the worst sin is for Christians? It is not adultery. It is not murder. It is not some sort of sexual perversion. God tells us in Revelation 3. He says it’s lukewarmness. No passion. "God is just one of the things in my life. I have my social life and my career life and my sexual life and my family life and over here is a little piece of the pie called church." God says, "How dare you! I love you this much. I love you passionately. I made you, created you, planned you, purposed you, saved you, have a place for you in heaven, and you would treat that with half-hearted indifference saying, ’Excuse me but there’s a good TV show on tonight.’"
Jesus says "I’d rather have you hot or cold. Lukewarmness makes Me sick to my stomach."
C. S. Lewis said it like this, "The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important." Moderately important! If Jesus is God and He died and loved you that much, you owe Him the rest of your life, every spare minute of it. If He didn’t then go home and live a self-centered life. The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important. It either deserves your entire life or nothing.
So how are you in your passion for God? Are you lukewarm? Are you just going through the motions? Or are you red hot for God because He loves you that much? Has there ever been a time in your life when you were closer to God than you are right now? If so why? Nobody’s holding you back. The truth is you’re as close to God as you choose to be. You can have as much of God as you want. You can be as passionate about God as you want. And if you’re not it’s your fault.
Before we take communion I want us to pray a prayer together. Would you bow your heads?
Thank You, God. In your heart just say, "Thank You for being passionate about me even when I was distracted by other things. Jesus, thank You so much for enduring all that suffering for me so I could be forgiven. I’ve never been loved by anybody that much. Thank You for creating me. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for You. Thank You for having a purpose for my life. Forgive me for my lukewarm attitude toward You. Jesus, I want to have a passion for You. I want to get up in the morning looking forward to the day that You’ve planned for me and I want to love You passionately. I want to love others passionately. I want to use the talents that You’ve given to me for Your sake. Help me to take time to nourish my spirit and grow every day. Through worship, fellowship with other believers, using my talents for You, sharing the good news with others."
If you’ve never opened your life to Jesus Christ say, "Lord, today I realize what You did for me. I want to say thank You. I want to accept what You did for me. And I want to follow You. I want to accept Your forgiveness." In Jesus’ name. Amen.
On the night Jesus was betrayed He took bread and He broke it and He said, "This is My body which is broken for you." He hadn’t even gone to the cross and He said it so obviously it’s a symbol. He said, "This is to symbolize and help you to remember how passionate I am about you. When you eat it do it to remember that I gave My life for you."
That same night as He met with those He loved the most -- His disciples -- He took a cup of wine and He said, "This cup represents the blood that I’m going to shed for you. I want you to keep this tradition, keep this symbol to remember that I gave My life for you. That’s how passionate I am about loving you. I want you to never forget it." As you drink this say in your mind, "Jesus, thank You for dying for me."
I once nearly drowned in an undertow in Hawaii which is pretty unusual since as a young man I was a lifeguard. So I’m a pretty good swimmer. But I was in this undertow that pulled me under the water for what seemed to me like minutes. I was holding my breath. It wouldn’t let me up to the surface but when I finally forced my way to the surface, I gasped for breath like I’d never had a breath in my life. You might say I was passionate for air. If you, all of a sudden, stopped breathing, you’d get pretty passionate about air.
That’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to see Him as our daily bread and as the air that we breathe. And have that kind of passion for Him.