I’ve been reading through Roman’s lately and I’ve been struck by the language Paul uses for the Jewish people who have not accepted Christ. Those who believe God is real, but also believe their good works are what will get them into Heaven, rather than believing Jesus is the Savior.
Paul is so passionate about wanting them to understand who God is, but they’ve blinded themselves with religion. He says, “I know what enthusiasm they have for God but it’s misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself.” (Rom 10:2-3)
And I wonder about today’s Christians. The ones who hurl hateful words at LGBTQ events claiming God hates gays. Or the ones who post comments online letting people in the world know how sinful they’re being. Or the ones who argue with other Christians about differing beliefs between denominations. Or the ones who annoy every unsaved person they know by constantly telling them they need to accept Jesus. And I suppose you could also include those on the other end of the spectrum who look and act too much like the world and not enough like a people who live in the world, but are not of the world.
Is this not misdirected zeal? Is it not a misunderstanding of how God makes people right with himself?
Roman’s 10:3-4 says “Refusing to accept God’s way they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in Him are made right with God.”
And in Romans 7:7-9 Paul says, “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “you must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died.”
The point being, that the law was meant to show us how sinful we were, not to save us from sin. And yet, it’s the law we use when we try to convict the world of their sinful ways. Only Jesus, and an understanding of what he did for us when he died on the cross can save us from sin, and he did that in love. He didn’t hang on the cross and shout at everyone how sinful they were, how angry God was with them. He forgave them.
For the past several years I’ve been questioning my motives. Asking myself why I believe what I believe, why I say and do the things I do. Why do I raise my hands in worship? Do I use Christian-ese when I talk about God? Am I judging people I should be ministering to? Do I act in ways that are ‘learned behaviors’ from being in church my whole life? And if so, why? What is the point?
And as I’ve asked these questions of myself I’ve discovered that when the answer to those questions is something I don’t like, something that reveals I have been judgmental or religious in some way, the answer is also, always, to draw closer to Jesus. To know Him better. To understand Him better. I believe all Christians have misdirected zeal in their lives in some form or another. The question is, are we willing to let God reveal those areas to us, or are we going to cling to our own ways?