Did you know that Christians are commanded to be zealous for the Lord? It’s not just a recommendation or a goal. Christians (and not just full-time ministers) are expected to be fervent in spirit. I find this incredibly self-convicting, and I hope to convict you as well. Let me explain.
Paul said to the church at Rome, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:11 ESV) The Greek word for “fervent” is “zeó,” which was commonly used by famous Greek author Homer to describe boiling water. Authors like Plato and Plutarch also used this word metaphorically to describe the boiling over of emotions such as anger and love, or a strong desire to do good or evil. The technical Greek meaning is literally to bubble over in boiling and also figuratively boiling with interest or desire.
Do we understand what this means? It means all Christians are expected to be boiling hot for Christ. Why? Because God is glorified when we give Him our whole hearts. He wants all of us. He wants our entire wills. He wants our heart, soul, and mind. He wants us to say with Paul that we count all things as loss compared to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ. Read what Paul says similarly to the church at Corinth.
Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them.
(2 Corinthians 9:1-2 ESV)
Paul says that the Corinthian church as a whole was boiling hot for Christ, and many were “stirred” as a result. He makes no distinction of rank in the church, but addresses the church as a collective whole. He praises the whole church for her boiling hot affections for Christ, which erupted in service toward the church in Macedonia. In fact this same expectation is illustrated in Revelation when the church in Laodicea is addressed, as quoted in the passage below.
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
(Revelation 3:15-19 ESV)
The Laodicean church was rebuked for their lack of boiling hot affection for God. They were lukewarm. They were neither cold nor hot. God wanted them to be boiling hot. Lukewarm was not good enough. They forgot that they were “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” They were satisfied with the work of their hands. They thought they needed nothing; their hearts for God were cold and dim. They were to repent of their pride, humble themselves before God, and burn in their hearts with flaming hot affection for Christ, or they would be reproved and disciplined by God.
So we must ask ourselves, are we doing all that we can to be boiling hot for Christ? If not, why? If our hearts are not burning hot for Christ, then we need to ask God to help us figure out the cause. We need to determine what is holding our affections captive. Once we do that, we must repent (stop) . We must cut off any affections that divert our hearts away from God, stop quenching the Spirit, and be “fervent (boiling hot) in spirit, serving the LORD.”
How do we do this? I will write more on this in the next post, but it can be summarized in one word: holiness.