SIGNS OF A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL LIFE #2: PASSION
When searching the Scriptures to learn about passion for the Lord, one might not expect to find any insight in the book of Leviticus. But I find one of the most powerful illustrations of what developing and maintaining passion should look like in its pages. This third book of the Bible served two primary purposes for Ancient Israel. The first was to instruct the Levites—who mediated between God and the people of Israel—how to access the Lord through the sacrificial system and the atonement provided by the blood of animals. The second was to clearly communicate God’s expectations of His people as it related to holiness.
In chapter six, the Lord provided Moses with specific instructions for the priests about burnt offerings. He explained, “The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar…The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”(Exodus 6:9-13)
When the Lord repeats Himself, we can assume that whatever He is saying must be important. He did not waste words when speaking to His people. He wanted to ensure that the priests made it a top priority to keep the fire on the altar from getting extinguished. This required an intentional effort because fire has a consuming quality.
If you were to start a bonfire, you would begin by stacking up large logs and branches, along with some flammable material to ignite the flames. As the branches and logs catch fire, the flames will slowly consume each of these items until all you are left with are glowing embers, and eventually just ash. The only way to keep the bonfire going is to continually add logs and branches to replace the ones that are burning away. Fire has to be fed, or it will die. That is the nature of fire.
So if a priest had the responsibility of tending to the fire on the altar, and then got caught up in a conversation or became distracted with another task and forgot to fuel it, it was guaranteed to die out; it was just a matter of time. Through this command, God warned the priests, “As important as your other tasks are, the one thing I want you to pay special attention to is the fire. Keep it continually burning no matter what.”God warned the priests, “As important as your other tasks are, the one thing I want you to pay special attention to is the fire. Keep it continually burning no matter what.” Click To Tweet
Imagine you are a Levite priest in training during this period of history when God was forming the nation of Israel under Moses’ leadership. You know that all of the instructions that Moses and Aaron give you have come directly from Jehovah Himself. He is the same God who judged the nation of Egypt with mighty plagues and parted the Red Sea (See Exodus 7 through Exodus 13). He is also the same One who appeared on Mount Sinai with thundering and lightning (Exodus 19:16).
Tonight is your first burnt offering. Understandably, you have a lot on your mind. You want to do everything exactly the way you were instructed. You have been given clear directives and you feel the weight of the responsibility bearing down on your shoulders. Think about it for a minute. How much attention would you be putting on that fire? If it were me, I would be overly cautious. I would be checking to make sure there are still flames every couple of minutes…just in case. You never know when a wind might blow through. And that wood seemed extra dry when you added it to the fire. How long would it last? If anything, you might be borderline obsessive about keeping the fire going. But God made the fire on the altar a top priority. So as a priest serving Him, you would need that make that your own priority.
It reminds me of the attitude we should have if we want to live with a passion for God and continually go deeper in our relationship with Him. In the church world, we often use the word fire as a synonym for passion. We have sayings like, “He’s really on fire for Jesus,” or, “She is really fired up ever since that missions trip.” The more “on fire” someone is, the more consumed they are with the things of God. The problem is that we often allow the fire to dwindle. Christians will attend a powerful service, or go to a conference or missions trip, and make all kinds of promises to the Lord in the midst of an emotional high. But often there is no follow-through and the fire fades.
But what if we began to live our lives today as the priests of the Old Testament would have lived in regards to the priority of keeping the fire burning? What if every day we woke up and asked ourselves, “How can I stoke the fire today?” What if—in all our actions—we were continually striving to stay passionate for God? What if our chief concern was to keep from quenching the fire of God in our lives? Would our lives look different than they do now? I am certain mine would.
Too many Christians fail to entertain thoughts like these. We spend our day concerned about so many other things. We have to keep all the plates spinning, so we nearly burn ourselves out trying to meet all our obligations. And to top it all off, we spend a great deal of time trying to keep ourselves distracted with the things of this world. But learning how to maintain a passion for Jesus burning inside of us is one of the essential keys to going deeper in Christ.Learning how to maintain a passion for Jesus burning inside of us is one of the essential keys to going deeper in Christ. Click To Tweet
True love for the Lord will be evidenced by a passion for Him. The devil and the world system will try to cause us to redirect our passion toward things other than God. There is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of luxuries, distractions and experiences all around us. If we are not careful, we can allow our passion to be focused on the wrong things. This is why we need to be intentional about keeping the fire burning.
Doing nothing to a contained fire will cause it to slowly fade. That is why putting your spiritual life on ‘cruise-control’ is not safe. Your heart will grow harder automatically. That is just our fallen human nature. You do not have to intentionally turn from God and sin to backslide. If you allow the passion to die, you will be heading in that direction already. As Brother Lawrence once wrote: “We must, nevertheless, always work at it, because not to advance in the spiritual life is to go back.”
I picture our spiritual lives like walking backwards on a moving walkway. In order to actually make ground, you really have to press in. It requires strength, effort and persistence. You cannot make it halfway and simply stand still or you will end up at the place you started.
All of us have habits, practices and resources at our disposal that the Lord has provided that can help stoke the fire. Each of us connect with God in different ways, so it is important for us to discover what really ignites our passion. Here are three practical ideas that can assist in igniting and maintaining a burning passion in our hearts:
Find a worship song or album that really helps you connect with the Lord. It might be one that you worshiped to when you were first saved, or it could be something fresh and new that really grips your heart. Spend time really pressing into the Lord while you worship.
Download a sermon or find one online from a minister whose messages really challenge you to go deeper in your relationship with the Lord. Find a message that speaks about pursuing intimacy with the Lord and use it as a springboard to pray for more of Him.
Pick up a book that really causes you to cry out to the Lord. Perhaps it is a Christian classic about prayer or union with Christ. Take the time to read each day and allow the Lord to spark a fresh passion through its pages.
What are the things that really assist you in keeping the fire of passion burning? We would love to hear about it in the comments section. Let us be the kind of Christians that keep the fire burning continually on the altar of our hearts as we pursue the Lord!
DUSTIN RENZ is the President of Make Way Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to see the world changed one Christian at a time. He has a passion to see the Body of Christ find rich intimacy in their relationship with Jesus and step out in faith to share the Gospel with the world around them. He is the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy and Something Better. He resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.