Have you ever been around someone with passion? It’s infectious, isn’t it? There is something about having a passion that has the ability to motivate and stir those around us. When it comes to the level of spirituality in our lives, and in our churches, there is only one word that would be acceptable to describe it. Passionate! Jesus was quite clear in Revelation 3 that He would rather have us be cold than lukewarm. In fact, He said that He would vomit those out of His mouth who were unrepentantly lukewarm. (Rev 3:16) The fact that He is speaking to a church in that text should serve as a sobering reminder to us all that we can’t tolerate passivity in our spiritual walk.

Church history shows that as leaders we haven’t always done a great job fostering a healthy passionate level within the people we are leading. The truth is, more often than not, our invented strategies end up failing to achieve the desired goal. I believe this doesn’t have to be so. In fact, I believe that there is a way that God has laid out for us to achieve a passionate spiritual level in our lives and churches. The secret is to develop a threefold expression of being based in the Word, being Spirit directed and being world focused. If we compromise any of these three areas we run the dangerous risk of apathy.

Word Based.

Today, we are living in a time when we need to know what we believe and why we believe it like never before. We are living in a time when Biblical truth is being distorted at an alarming rate. I am not just talking about outside of the church, I am talking about inside the church. I find it very interesting and concerning that all of the New Testament warnings about deception are not written to unbelievers in the world but believers in the church. Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy spoke about how people would heap up for themselves teachers to satisfy their itching ears. (2Tim 4:3) Due to the advancement of technology we have the ability to have teaching spread all over the world with a click of a button. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if the teaching is biblically sound but if it’s not the results can be catastrophic.

I know the title for this portion is focusing on being based in the scriptures but we have to be more than just based, we have to be saturated in the Word of God. History speaks of the damage done when a partial truth is projected as a whole truth. It, in fact, becomes an untruth. We have to have the courage to declare the manifold wisdom of God in its entirety. In John’s Gospel, it says that Jesus came in the fullness of grace and truth. (John 1:14)  We have to be doing the same. We can’t comprise truth in the name of cultural relevance but we can’t neglect the grace of God in the name of legalism.

Spirit Directed

One of the greatest promises we have as New Testament believers is that God was not just among us in Christ, above us in the Father but is now in us as the Holy Spirit. The God that once dwelled in houses made of stone now dwells in houses made of flesh. Just stop and think about that for a minute. I believe the church today is far too dependant upon its own strength and less dependant on the Spirit of God then we should be. I did say “we” there so I am speaking to myself as well. It can be so easy to switch into a self-dependence, self-directed mode in our lives. The truth we all need to hear is that apart from the Holy Spirit we cannot do anything of eternal value. If Jesus needed the Holy Spirit then we definitely need Him.
The reality we can’t be consistently directed by the Spirit if we are not consistently experiencing the Spirit. If we, in our personal lives are not making time to receive from the Spirit in our own lives than we aren’t going to have much to offer those we lead and they will most likely live the same way. Jesus consistently gave time to be alone so He could pray and be in touch with the Spirit. I believe this is the way He could do what He saw the Father doing.
Reading the Book of Acts will make it quite clear that the Apostles were dependant upon the Spirit. It’s clear that they didn’t just make plans and ask God to bless it. When Paul and Barnabas are set apart for the work of ministry it was by the Spirits leading.(Acts 13:2) When the council of Jerusalem took place it was by the Spirit that made clear what requirements to have for the new gentile believers. (Acts 15:28) There can be such a great pressure on us at times, as leaders, to have all the answers. That pressure will kill your passion. The greatest thing you can model for your people is a dependence and expectation upon the Spirit for His leading. I encourage you to take some time and yield yourself to the Spirit of God. You won’t regret it.
Just like all of the other dimensions, there can be a danger of imbalance. Within this dimension, the tendency is leaning towards emotionalism or hyper-spiritualism. This is due to the excitement that comes when God’s power is demonstrated among us or even through us. A key way to help resist this imbalance is to always be anchored in the scriptures. You may not have a direct, word for word, situation in the Bible to vouch for whether or not what you experienced was genuine, but you will know God’s character and how He does things.

World Focused

The level of our spiritual passion is no better revealed than how we engage the world around us. It is a clear theme in Scripture and Church history that our faith is dead without works. (James 2:20)  We may be the only Jesus some people see in this life, and the life we live speaks about the God we claim to serve. I believe we have lost so much ground in the mission we are called to because we have developed an “us” vs “them” mentality in the church. We don’t take interest in major problems in society and culture because involvement in them would be conceived as “worldliness”. I wonder what the world would look like if Martin Luther King Jr had thought that the issues of racism in his time wasn’t his responsibility because this world was going to eventually pass away and he would be in heaven. We would still be entrenched in such evil and hatred. I know that we as a society still have long ways to go in combating racism and prejudice but his engagement brought great freedom for so many.

James makes a connection of how the works, in the world, of a professing believer, are non-negotiable in Gods view. James 1:27 says this, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (NLT) If God says that this is pure religion that is undefiled, then to neglect our service to the people around us on a daily basis, would mean our worship to God with our actions is both impure and defiled. The passage at no point clarifies to say that it is only related to orphans or widows within the church. This is saying that if we are not engaging the marginalized, or abused, or neglected with love and service then we are missing a huge part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Jesus came not to serve but to be served and give His life as a ransom for many.(MT 20:28)

Please join me in praying this for yourself and your church.

Father, we desire to be those who represent you well. Those who demonstrate the reality of who You are and the reality of what Your Kingdom is all about. I pray that You would help us as Your people to be those who are Word based, Spirit directed, and World focused. Lord, there is no way that we have mastered all of these areas of living a passionate spiritual life. We are desperate for Your grace to empower us to live like You lived and love like You love. We pray this in the name above all other names, the name of Jesus. Amen

Pastor Bryan Pue Executive Assistant Latitude Ministries bryan@latitudeministries.com