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"It is possible to have a zeal for God and not be saved. It's possible to "love God" in a way that entirely misses the point. It's possible to be passionate about "God" in a way that somehow misses God and His salvation altogether. How can this be?"
One of the most shocking verses in all of Scripture is in Romans chapter 10:
"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved."
In this passage Paul describes that his heart's desire and prayer is for the Jews, his people, to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, a Jewish scholar who had a deep and profound love for his people, longed for them to come to faith in Christ.
But what is shocking comes in verse 2.
"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."
Stop and consider that sentence. Let it sink in. What this passage means is this:
It is possible to have a zeal for God and not be saved. It's possible to "love God" in a way that entirely misses the point. It's possible to be passionate about "God" in a way that somehow misses God and His salvation altogether. How can this be?
"For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." –Romans 10:1-4 ESV
You see, when we come to God on our own standard of "goodness", and we claim to be "righteous" and "good" before Him, what we are actually doing is refusing to submit to God's righteousness. We are diminishing the absolute holiness and perfection of God, saying, "oh well I'm not perfect but..." implies that God Himself also is "not perfect but...", and what we have done is remake God into our image, instead of yielding ourselves to His authority over us.
One of the clearest ways you can tell if your love for God is "according to knowledge" is this: if you truly love God Himself then His love will explode out of you towards other people.
But if you "have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge", you will love God in a way that alienates you from other people, and causes you to look down on them, and makes yourself bigger and more significant than the people around you. Why? Because with that kind of love for God it's your righteousness that has earned you favor with God, and it's your righteousness that makes you better than others.
Perhaps you've encountered this twisted and patently unChristian form of Christianity. I know I have, in myself. It can be easy to consider accomplishments, to compare and contrast my life with others and think of myself as superior to others. It can be easy to think that perhaps God looks down and thinks "boy am I glad you are like you are and not like ________". But that pride is foolishness to the extreme. Before the foot of the cross of Christ there is no room to boast. Let us boast only in Christ and His completed work, and may we live in the love of Christ with such vigor and zeal that His love exudes from us towards the people around us in our lives.
Matt serves Cornerstone by overseeing Family Ministries.
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