Godly Zeal

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." - Isaiah 9:6‭-‬7 NASB

"Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no [stately] form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. ...

"But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting [Him] to grief; If He would render Himself [as] a guilt offering, He will see [His] offspring, He will prolong [His] days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see [it and] be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the spoils with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors." - Isaiah 53:1-3, 10-12

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." - Titus 2:11‭-‬14 NASB

Suppose I offered you a kingship. Not just any kingship, but rather one which would carry the weight of the world. If it's as Mel Brooks says, "good to be the king" how much better to be the King of kings? With it, you will have many titles among which include: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace. Add to that that there will be no end to the increase of your government or peace. That is to say, once established your Justice and righteousness will endure forever!

Now assuming you would accept such a position, the question I want to ask is this, could you accomplish this with zeal? Zeal as we see in Isaiah 9:7 which means "an excessive fervor to do something or to accomplish some end." Some dictionaries refer to it as "a great hunger." So, could you take this on with zeal?

This doesn't seem too out of the question, right? I mean as long as it's the good stuff, we would all say we can have a zeal for this. But this isn't the end of the book.

Clearly, God does! The end of verse 7 declares that the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this Kingship.

Now let me throw a little wrench in here.

Isaiah 55:8-9, a passage most of us have heard before, tells us that God's ways are higher than ours, and so are His thoughts. Now, this is important because "higher" isn't just a distance. Instead, in God's kingdom, higher is often understood as being "upside down" compared to our way. (There's a critical application based on this point which I'll come back to near the end.)

Now imagine with me having zeal for this kingship but this time with Isaiah 53 and 55 in mind, in addition to chapter 9. You get to be a king, but you're going to grow up a "tender shoot" a "root out of parched ground." You're in a dry and weary land. Nothing about you is attractive, stately or majestic. As a matter of fact, you will be despised and forsaken, known as a person of sorrows and acquainted with (that is close friends with) grief. But wait there's more, your very people are going to hide their faces from you; they're going to pierce you, scourge you, oppress and afflict you.

So let me ask you my question again. Would you take this on with zeal? Hint: Your answer is no!

Even if you assert that you would, the truth of our fallen humanity is that we couldn't. We would have to find a workaround for the need to be a perfect, sinless sacrificial king. Even still we're not humble enough. We don't love enough. And the rescue of sinners isn't enough joy set before us to do this enormous task. More reasons we need a savior. The truth is Isaiah 9, 53, 55 and so on are about Jesus alone. The only one fit to be King.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB

For us, when the going get's tough, we bail. For Jesus when the going get's tough, the zeal of the Lord accomplishes all things!

So this is where the imperatives begin. You and I are altogether unqualified to be the King spoken of in Isaiah. But praise God we don't have to be. Jesus is qualified! His mercy has been shown to each of us so that we, "might live through Him."

But as His redeemed, we are to look and act precisely like Him, are we not? We're to have the same dependence on our heavenly Father. We're to have the same code of conduct governing our lives. And for our purposes today, we're to do everything with the very same zeal as the King of Kings!

"By this, the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." - 1 John 4:9-11

and later in verse 19

"We love because He first loved us."

The imperative is that we live through Jesus and we love because He loved us. And again Titus 2 says that God is making for Himself a people zealous for good deeds. So we're to do as Jesus did and we're to do so with the very same zeal.

So how are we to do this?

First, and we must make no mistake, it's going to get tough. Jesus said if they hated me they would hate you. We're to be zealous for good deeds not only when it's easy but also when it's hard. We're to have a great hunger for good deeds. So how?

Let's take our cues from scripture.

Isaiah says first that "the zeal of the Lord will accomplish this..." and Titus 2 says that Jesus was sent to redeem us from all our lawless deeds, purifying us as a people for His own possession "zealous for good deeds."

The first thing we must start with is placing our trust in Jesus! There's only one way that we're redeemed from our lawless deeds. Jesus! There's only one way we're purified, refined, unpolluted (detoxed if you will) from the sinful influence of this world. Jesus! Over and over God's word declares that everything begins with God.

God's word tells us plainly that the just shall live by faith; that we are saved by grace through faith. That if we will believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord we will be saved. If all that is true, then we are a people purified for good deeds right now! It starts by trusting that God will accomplish what He sets out to do.

Now we've all heard this message before, and I don't want to add anything to create a different gospel. Instead what I hope to accomplish is teaching a full gospel. To encourage you to put faith into practice!

Believing in Jesus for fire insurance is not what the Bible communicates. Of course, trusting that Jesus alone justifies us before the Father is essential but walking by faith is a continual submitting of one's self to the very same God who rescued you. Remember grace saves us through faith, but God's word also says the righteous shall live by faith. This is an active effort.

So we trust that God will accomplish this thing and He has done so by our purification. But He also does so through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. So 1. We place our trust in God. And 2. We live by the Spirit.

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

So there is the indicative (that is what is fact) here comes the imperative:

"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in [your] moral excellence, knowledge, and in [your] knowledge, self-control, and in [your] self-control, perseverance, and in [your] perseverance, godliness, and in [your] godliness, brotherly kindness, and in [your] brotherly kindness, love." - 2 Peter 1:2-7

So you and I have been purified, and consequently, we are to be zealous for good deeds!

Previously I mentioned a critical application. Here's where it comes into play. God's ways are higher than ours, and by this, we mean set apart from ours. This can be understood clearly in an application. Let's take love for example. We all know that love (God's way) is different from what the world says about love. So no matter how difficult it seems zeal for good deeds (including love) is a zeal for how God defines love.

I like to think about apologies in our relationships. How many of you know we don't sincerely apologize in today's world. What happens is that we say something like "I'm sorry I was mean to you the other day. I didn't mean it." or "I'm really not sure what came over me." Not only have we not apologized we've added lying to our list of sins for the day. If we were honest, we wouldn't try and blame some sort of force inside ourselves that seemingly makes us do bad things, that we (also a force within ourselves) doesn't want to do. What we out to say is something like, "I'm sorry I was mean to you the other day. I was upset with something you said. I felt that you deserved a harsh response, but I was wrong and unloving."

Do you see the difference? Doing things God's way requires, actually doing them His way! Which of course leads to another point I'd like to make.

When zeal goes wrong: There are two ways that zeal can go wrong.

1. When you have a zeal for the things of man instead of God: For example, in the Old Testament Saul was zealous for the approval of men. This led him to disobey God and consequently to the departure of God's Spirit from his life.

2. When you are overly zealous. That is you add to what God wants from you in life. Think Peter in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus get's arrested. Peter becomes overzealous and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest.

If the Holy Spirit leads us, we don't have to worry about either of these extremes.

So we are purified by Jesus, filled by His Spirit, and lastly, we are to grow in our understanding of zeal and good deeds.

"Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs so that they will not be unfruitful." - Titus 3:14

We are all in the school of the Spirit in this life. Once we've surrendered to Jesus become purified and filled with the Spirit, we are as I've said many times at the beginning of a journey, not the end. We are to learn to engage in good deeds. This learning has everything to do with both what good deeds are and why they need to be done. This enables us to do whatever it may be with great zeal!

If you've ever had to do a menial task, one in which you had no understanding of the bigger picture you no doubt got bored of it. However, if you've done a menial task yet, you were given the "why" behind it. Someone showed you the lasting impact you took on that lowly task with intention. With zeal.

Now I would be remiss not to mention why we need to learn to engage in good deeds. Clearly, it's because that's the purpose for which God has made us. That is after all what Titus 2 plainly states, but there's a more substantial reason in the scriptures. Paul also says it's so that we will not be "unfruitful." Why is this important?

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every [branch] that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. "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. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." - John 15:1-6

There's no need for us to imagine we're a king. We already have one, Jesus. In Him, we have been purified. Because of Him, we have been filled with His Spirit, and in light of Him, we are to learn to be zealous for good deeds which produce fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God.


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