Updated: Mar 4, 2020
What comes to mind when you hear the word “passionate?” Does your mind go to the cheap romantic novels that you can buy for a quarter at used bookstores? They are romantically passionate. Or perhaps you think of a person with exceptional drive to succeed in whatever endeavor was important to him or her. I am speaking of the kind of passion that we are hearing Kobe Bryant had to excel in basketball. Sometimes we equate the word “passion” with someone who is more than a fan but is a “fanatic” about a team, an issue or a cause. The dictionary definition seems to support this excess as it reads, “a strong and barely controllable emotion” (Oxford American Dictionary). That kind of passion we find difficult to endure in others or to maintain in ourselves and for the most part we really seem to prefer a more passive approach to life.
I wonder if any of you had the thought of Christ’s Passion come to mind. His “Passion” is the term used to describe his suffering and death for the sins of the world. Certainly that took a deep love, a committed approach to succeed, and a devotion to the goal that was more costly than that of any fanatic. Yet he was never out of control but resolute in accomplishing what he came to do.
In Luke’s Gospel we read that as the time was near for Jesus to go to the cross that he did not turn back from what lay ahead. Instead, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). He could not be deterred from what God had called him to do. As he journeyed on there were some who said that they would like to join him. They said we “will follow you wherever you go” (Luke 9:57), and yet when they learned of the cost they turned back to attend to other pressing things. Pressing is not passion, and as Oswald Chambers wrote, “The good is the enemy of the best” (My Utmost for His Highest, 12/19).
After tabulating and discussing the results of the church survey provided by the Natural Church Development organization, the Survey Committee has chosen “Passionate Spirituality” as the first of the essential church characteristics to focus on together. It was selected because as a church our responses to the survey indicate that we rated this trait as very weak among us. It was indeed a bit of a conundrum as we examined the survey, for we rated Sunday very highly for Inspiring Worship Services and yet when we are not together we reported that our everyday-faith was rather weak. That is what we hope to address together as we move ahead. We want everyone to be passionate followers of Jesus.
What is “spirituality?” One of the more influential authors in my Christian development has been Francis Schaeffer. He wrote a book entitled “True Spirituality.” In the Preface he states that although he had written several books prior to this one yet the material discussed here takes priority over everything else. This book describes what it means to be
a Christian, one who is free from the bonds of sin and free from the results of the bonds of sin. It is about realizing who we are and what Jesus has done for us. The result is that
we cannot contain our joy in the midst of whatever life brings. That is what true passion means for the Christian. It is not fanatical but realistically freeing. Later Schaeffer would write a brief booklet entitled “The New Super-Spirituality” which was his warning against both the rigid legalism and the accepting permissiveness of present day expressions of spirituality. These miss the mark because they do not focus on relationship with Jesus who is Lord.
Christian spirituality will always involve attention to Scripture for it is God’s word spoken to us. We are called to respond to him, which is why a proper spirituality will move to prayer as the conversation of relationship. The first outgrowth of this spirituality is the lack of concern with regard to oneself and a focus on the needs of others. It produces what the early Congregationalists called a “disinterested benevolence.” That is a phrase worth pondering for a clear understanding of how to express the freedom we have in Christ.
As we continue together let’s seek God personally and corporately and help each other toward a passionate spirituality. See you in Worship.