The Way to Recover Zeal for Christ
By Fred O. Blakely
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent,” the exalted Lord urged the backslidden, luke-warm Laodicean church (Rev. 3:19). This also is His exhortation to all today who have lost their “first love” for Him and lapsed into carnal complacency (ch. 2:4). The tendency to become “weary in well-doing” and faint in our minds is one to which we are constantly exposed (Gal. 6:9; II Th. 3:13; Heb. 12:3). The result of succumbing to this tendency is to become merely formal and perfunctory in our devotion to God. Thus, it is vital that we know how both to avoid this snare of Satan, or to recover ourselves from it and to remain, or get back, in full fellowship with, and the hearty worship and service of, God through our Savior (II Tim. 2:5-26).
According to scholars, the word rightly translated “zealous” means literally “boiling with heat.” Christ’s call thus is an exhortation to spiritual fervor. He desires and requires that we be “hot” in our relationship to Him. Any level of devotion short of that is unacceptable (Rev. 3:15-16). Certainly, a mere casual attitude in the matter is rejected with vehemence.
The Crucial Question. How are we to recapture the fire of first-faith, once it is lost? That is the important question, and the one which confronts us in the light of the rebuke of the Laodiceans and the call to repentance and zeal. Obviously, “there is nothing in all the world worse than for a person to try to work up emotion—nothing which is so sure, sooner or later, to come to mischief, sure to breed hypocrisy and all manner of evil. If there is anything worse than trying to work up emotion, it is attempting to pretend it.”
How, then, may we rekindle the flame of zeal for the Lord?
It would seem that the way is indicated in the message to the Laodiceans as one would expect it to be. “When our Master says to us, ‘Be zealous therefore, and repent,’ we must remember that zeal in a person ought to be a consequence of knowledge. Seeing that we are reasonable creatures, intended to be guided by our understanding, it is upsetting to the whole of one’s nature if his heart works independently of his head. The only way in which we can safely and wholesomely increase our zeal is by increasing our grasp of the truth which feeds it.”
The Unmistakable Answer. When properly analyzed, therefore, the essential intent of the exhortation, “Be zealous therefore, and repent,” becomes evident. It is a call to “lay hold upon, and meditate upon, the great truths that will make your heart glow.” Observe that this exhortation is a consequence, being tied to what goes before it by the adverb “therefore.” And what precedes the exhortation? A whole series of considerations set forth by the glorified Lord such as these: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire ... and white raiment . . . and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve” (v. 18). “That is to say, lay hold of the truth that Christ possesses a full store” of all that you require to remedy your backslidden condition. “Meditate on that great truth, and it will kindle a flame of desire and of fruition in your heart.”
The Demonstration to John. It will be remembered that the Savior employed the identical technique in dealing with the wavering faith of John the Baptist. “Go and show John those things which you do hear and see,” He said to John’s disciples, after “in that same hour” performing numerous mighty miracles in attestation of His deity (Mt. 11:1-6; Lk. 7:19-23). It was designed that John should regain his initial conviction concerning Jesus (Jn. 1:19-34) by due consideration of this evidence of His Person.
Prominent among the qualities of our Lord which the Laodiceans were to ponder in restoring the fervency of their devotion to Him is that of His divine love. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” In other words, the call is to “grasp the great thought of the loving Christ, all of whose dealings, even when His voice assumes severity, and His hand comes armed with a rod, are the outcome and manifestation of His love. Sink into that love, and that will make your heart glow. Think of the earnest, patient, long-suffering appeal which the Master makes, bearing with all our weaknesses and our shortcomings. Let these sweet thoughts of a Christ who gives everything, of a Christ whose dealings with His people are in love--let them draw us to Him, and kindle and keep alight a brighter flame of consecration and devotion in our hearts to Him. Feed upon the great truths of the gospel which kindle zeal.”