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(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Jesus said: "I have come to bring fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!"

Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Romans 12:10b-11

Summary of Living Stones Series

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

Just so that we can see where we have come from and where we are going with this Living Stone Series, let me summarize:

We are, like living stones being built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:5) We found that as Living Stones, we are like the Living Stone. Jesus himself, yet we are also unique. In the past month, we have looked at the fact that the Lord creates in each one of us unique personalities that equip us for specific ministries, he gives to each one of us unique experiences in life that equip us for ministry, this morning we are going to look at the truth that he also gives us unique passions to motivate us for ministry. In the future, we will look at some of the basic categories of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as they are ours by the Holy Spirit to empower us in ministry along with the natural abilities that everyone of us possesses. Each one of these are gifts that God has given to us so that we may serve him in unique ways in the spiritual temple he is building up.

Passion defined: Bruce Bugbee in his book What You Do Best in the Body of Christ defines passion this way: "Passion is the God-given desire of the heart to make difference somewhere."

Passion is the driving force within us that motivates us to action and focuses our life's attentions in such a way that we have an impact on those around us. Passion is the set of qualities that someone will certainly mention when describing who we are. Within our character, Passion is designed to come to the surface. Like a beach ball that we try to hold under water, and it takes a lot of effort to keep down there,  trying to hide our passion is frustrating difficult work. God given passions are designed to be expressed so that we will make a difference some where.

There are two Scriptural Words for Passion:

Zeal, to be zealous.  We are told in Romans 12 , "Never to be lacking in Zeal," rather we are to keep our spiritual fervor. Passion is a spiritual dynamic. The disciples before Pentecost could hardly be called leaders or influencers of others. They were a group huddling in Jerusalem driven by, more than anything else fear. But then they experienced the resurrection and the Spirit of God came and burned within them at Pentecost.  The apostles became people driven by passion to get the message out. They became zealous for the cause of the gospel, filled with spiritual fervor.

Fire,  to burn.   Jeremiah 20:9 "But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in, indeed, I cannot." The Spirit's fire was something beyond his control.  The word of God had to come out even though it brought him into substantial difficulty, a theme that we are going to look at next week.

Paul's Uncommon Passion

Scripture Galations 1:11-24

"I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult with any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles - only James, the Lord's brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heart the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me."

Paul was a man who like other faithful Israelites was passionate for God. In Philippians 3 Paul reminds us that he was so zealous for the God of Israel that he was willing to persecute the church and put its members to death. But then when he met the Lord on the road to Damascus, he learned that the very Lord he was trying to serve was the one he was Persecuting. Zeal without proper knowledge is a dangerous thing. Before his conversion, Paul was a dangerous man!. But after his conversion, he calls himself an ambassador for Christ, passionately seeking to reconcile people to God through faith in Jesus Christ. His passion made him willing to face beatings, persecutions, imprisonments, ship wrecks etc. for the cause of the gospel. And Paul tells us too to be passionate for the cause of Christ.

Signs of Passion in our hearts

Conversation   Passion shows up in that pet topic you like to talk about, you lean forward, get animated, start speaking a little quicker. You may be able to talk with others about many things, but given the opportunity, you would love to talk about this. Often our passion will focus on people or a people group. For example, have you noticed how expecting mothers, and mothers who are in the middle of raising very small children often love to talk about babies. That's because at that point in their lives, they often receive a God given passion. Their focus of attention is on that little helpless child, and given the opportunity, they will talk about those babies, they will gravitate toward others who will talk about babies with them. Obviously, not all of us share their passion, and that's good, because if we did, those babies would be spoiled. We cannot all have the same passions, for if we did, many areas of ministry would be neglected

We can see our passions in our conversation.  Jesus said: Out of the overflow of the human heart, the mouth speaks. One possible focus for our passion is people - people who matter to God, our children, our elderly, our neighbors, our coworkers. God gives to some of us passion for people..

Enjoyment   We will probably enjoy many of the aspects surrounding our passion. When we work at something that we are passionate about, we may loose track of time as we do the work and we will regard our achievements as significant. A second illustration of a focus for our God given passions. To some of us God gives a passion for a certain role or function. For example, George loved to administrate, organize, make things work right and neatly. This organization passion of his was everywhere, in his garage, everything had its proper place. With regard to his vehicles, everything that he did to them was duly recorded right down to the oil changes. Even when he moved a few weeks ago every box was numbered, the contents of the interior of the box recorded both on the outside of the box and in a reference book they took along with them. George enjoyed being a passionate organizer. He had a God given passion that God used for the benefit of our congregation while George was our clerk.   Maybe you to have a passion for some role or function that you see expressed in many areas of your life. God can use your passions to glorify God and edify others.

Energy   Passions give uncommon energy to do a task, infact, doing that which you are passionate about gives you energy for the rest of life. Some peoples passions are focused on different Causes and their passion energizes them for that cause. Yesterday, I had a few minutes with Jim who has been to Liberia a couple of times with Life Water International. He has a passion for the cause of getting good water to needy people for the sake of Christ. And his passion has motivated him in the past to go with others at some risk to make those healthy clean wells possible. Involvement in Life Water gives Jim energy, gives him focus, enables him to give even more of himself. Obviously, we support Jim in his God given passion, though not all of us are willing to take the risks he has taken to get clean water to third world countries.

Maybe for you it is another cause.  Maybe your passion is some other organization, some other dream of what is possible, some other concern.  If your passion glorifies God and builds others up, it is God given, designed by God to be expressed, enjoyed and energetically acted upon.

What is your God given passion? How is it showing up in your conversations? Your enjoyments? Where does your energy come from?

I suspect some of us might find this area a little muddled. It is sometimes hard to figure out our passions. There may be a variety of reasons.  Maybe we have tried to bury this treasure because others did'nt like your passion. Maybe the expectations of others have been more important to you than they should be and so you have buried your passion. Or maybe your God given passion has been replaced by things less important...

Which leads to my last point this morning:

We are to Honor God given Passions.

In a wonderful book, The Table of Inwardness, Calvin Miller wrote of an antique wooden dynamite box in his home. The box was made in the nineteenth century, Miller said, carefully constructed to withstand shock as its explosive contents were transported from the manufacturer to a place of use.

On the lid were large red and black letters which said "DANGER - DYNAMITE!" "But the last I saw it," Miller wrote, "it was filled with common paraphernalia that could be found in any workroom." (Renewing Your Spiritual Passion by Gordon MacDonald, p. 205)

When we take our lives and fill them with the junk of this world, we are dishonoring what God has given us to minister with.

We are called to honor the passions that God has given within our hearts.

And we are to Honor passions in each other.  This doesn't mean that the passions of others have to become our passions.  We seem to be limited in how many passions we can have.  But we do need to cheer each other on, encourage one another, so that we together will fan into flame the gifts that God has given us.

Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Romans 12:10b-11

In our next message, we will look at how passions, at times can become painful.


Renewing Your Spiritual Passion by Gordon MacDonald, 1986

What You Do Best in the Body of Christ by Bruce Bugbee, 1995

To Next Sermon in "Passions" series

Let me know if this message was helpful.

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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