Well, after 25 days we have arrived at the final letter in our holiness alphabet-ology exercise. Z is a great letter to end on because we can talk about a glorious subject – zeal. As the title suggests, zeal comes in two sizes – with or without knowledge. I want to approach this in a different way than I’ve heard before.
In Galatians 1:13-14 Paul says, “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” This is Paul’s own words confessing that he was a very zealous man. But, his zeal was directed toward his Jewish traditions rather than the God who stood behind his traditions. This is zeal without knowledge. This has no power and leads many people to be “religious.”
Philippians 3 reveals more about Paul’s change in zeal from without knowledge to with knowledge. Phil. 3:4-6 says, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” You see what he said? He identified himself as an extremely zealous Pharisee. What happened to change him? Phil. 3:7 says God happened! “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” You see, Paul used to be zealous about religion, now he is zealous to treasure a Person above religion!
Paul’s treasuring Jesus above religious laws and habit is holy zeal, and I want you all to be like this. I think most of you would agree with this. But how many of you think that one has to fit into some kind of box in order to be a Christian? ”I don’t” you say. Really? I do. Too many of us think one must be a conservative, good-looking, respectable, morally flawless, monetarily sufficient, un-tattoo’d, clean person in order to be a Christian. This is non-sense! This box is un-Biblical. Can anyone in a third-world nation fit into this box? Could a liberal democrat fit into this box? NO! If you find yourself zealous about outward things like this, I want to challenge you and say you’re being zealous about religious things rather than being zealous about Jesus. Holy zeal is only zealous about Jesus, and yes that does make some boxes, but rather than outward things defining these boxes, inward things define it. Christians must be zealous about getting to know God, repentance, prayer, Bible study, church involvement, preaching the gospel as it stands forth from the Bible, etc.
Bottom line? Zeal without knowledge cares about outward things while zeal with knowledge cares about knowing God and following Him as close as you possibly can.