What Is Religious Passion?

What does a passionate Christian look like? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Passion is a difficult term to describe. Most of us when we hear of passion think immediately of romantic passion, and yet that is part of the problem of defining it. Watch a TV show or movie and you will think all passion takes place in the bedroom. Well, there’s supposed to be a lot of passion there, but ask most any married couple and there will be other places of passion. A wife can fix a great dinner for her husband with passion. A husband can passionately express his love through gifts or writing or music to his wife.

When it comes to religious passion, we often have some negative ideas about it. We might think of people barking like dogs and calling that the work of the Holy Spirit. Religious passion often seems to be equated with a show. It is a strongly expressed feeling or emotion.

Well, yeah. It can be. Maybe it isn’t just that. Maybe it’s something different and maybe it’s different from person to person.

My wife and I were talking about someone we admire very much who gave an excellent testimony at Celebrate Recovery and during the music in the last service talked about how she was dancing in the center aisle and she used to think there was something wrong with people like that. I asked Allie if she could ever see me doing that yesterday. Nope. Not at all.

Yet she still thinks I’m passionate about Christianity.

I think many of us know several Christians who we would say are passionate about that, but would not express that passion the same way. Get me together with some of my theological friends and there will be passionate discussion about matters of faith and practice. There won’t be dancing going on, but there’s a lot of excitement.

This doesn’t mean that we always have a strong feeling about what we are doing, and this is really a good thing. C.S. Lewis said something once similar about being in love. When you fall in love with someone, it is an emotional explosion at first, but if you stayed that way, you would not be able to function. The explosion dies down, but the will can stay there and that should be the strongest. It would be a mistake to coast from that point on after the explosion.

That passion can still show up momentarily. The great feeling shows up when you actually do the loving things you’re supposed to. So it is with religion. When my friends and I get together, I may not be feeling it at the moment, but get some discussion going and before too long, there is passion and excitement once more.

There is a mistake along those lines that we often make that we often think all genuine action must be backed by genuine feeling. Not at all. What virtue is it to you to act the way you feel? Anyone can do that. We could make a parallel to the words of Christ. You love those who love you? Wow! Aren’t you just awesome? If you love those who hate you, that is real love. You love when you feel like loving? Impressive! Your parents must be so proud! When you love when the feeling isn’t there and maybe even the opposite one is, that is real love.

As I told my wife yesterday about this, there have been mornings I have got up and thought the heavens seemed silent and I am angry with my God. What do I do? I go and serve Him anyway. Why? Because it’s just the right thing to do and nothing in Christianity says “Do the right thing provided you feel like it.”

“But I feel so fake doing that?” So what. That’s again putting the cart before the horse. Is it better to say, “I feel fake doing this so I won’t do what is the right thing to do.”? If your intention is you want to serve or you want to have a certain mindset, God knows and I believe honors your intention. Do you not feel like reading your Bible or praying but want it to be a priority? Then do it. Many times our feelings don’t change until we act. As long as we act the same way, our feelings will continue.

“But it’s just duty then!” And sometimes duty is where you have to begin. For one thing, duty does not mean that you don’t like it. For example, a husband in Scripture is required to give his wife her conjugal rights. I am sure so many husbands were saying “Well geez. If I gotta do it, I gotta do it.” That’s a duty, but it’s a wonderful duty to so many of us men.

We also have to be on guard that passion itself is not a goal. If we are coming to God because we want to feel really good, then we are just using God. Holiness is our real goal. If passion comes with that, great. If not, oh well. We have done the right thing.

But if you do want some excitement, I do have some recommendations. First, I think you really need to make sure you have some apologetic grounding. Not every Christian is meant to specialize in theology and/or apologetics, but all Christians are called to do those things. You have to do them. You might as well do them well.

At the same time, those of us more intellectually inclined need to remember that while Scripture says that there is zeal not according to knowledge which is dangerous, there is the reality that knowledge puffs up. We need to study. I think Lewis once spoke of seeing a lady in church and thinking she probably doesn’t have a clue about the Nicene Creed, but then realizing that when it comes to holy and devout prayer and living, she has him beat by spades.

Then just go and do what you are supposed to do. It doesn’t matter if you feel like it or not. Do it anyway. Let the actions and will lead the feelings instead of the other way around. Nothing says “Love your neighbor as yourself, provided you feel like it.” When our neighbor is being an agreeable person, we are to love them. When they are being a total jerk, we are also called to love them. Don’t like that? Keep in mind God’s love for you doesn’t change when you are a complete jerk, including to him.

To come back to Lewis again, when you start loving your jerk neighbor, you will notice a strange thing. You start to love him. If you wait until you feel like loving him, you will never do it. If you just do it because it is the right thing, you will eventually have the love for him.

Passion is good, but it is not to be our foundation. Enjoy emotions when they come, but do not make a steady diet out of them. Instead, shape your will to serve God more and do the right thing regardless of the feeling.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/25/2017: Michael Chung

What’s coming up Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Kings. We don’t really think about them much today. Here in the West, we live with a president over us and several governing bodies like Congress and the Senate. Washington is a large organization with numerous parties involved. It’s hard for Westerners to think about a king.

Yet if the Bible is true, we do have a king. Even non-Christians have this king. Their not acknowledging Him doesn’t change that He is the king. This king is Jesus. Jesus is the last king of Israel and the current ruling king of the universe.

What can you learn from this person? What did He go through in His life? I decided that it would be good to look at the Passion of Jesus and discuss how it applies to our life and how we can learn about Jesus and His response to suffering and what He saw as worthwhile in life. To do that, I decided to have Michael Chung come on. He is the author of the book Jesus, The Last King of Israel.

So who is he?

Michael Chung

According to his bio:

(BS, The Ohio State University; MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Ph.D. University of Nottingham) has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary-Texas, Houston Baptist University, Calvary Theological Seminary-Indonesia, and Houston Christian High School. He is also the author of Praying with Mom (2012) and has published academic journal articles in North America, Asia, and Europe on Gospels, Paul, Spiritual Formation, New Testament Theology, and Missiology. He has also done missions and pastoral work.

Not only will we be discussing the last week of Jesus, we will spend some time on some issues that are troublesome to Christians and scholars alike. The first will be the anointing of Jesus. Do the accounts contradict? Even the number of days looks to be mentioned. The second is the cursing of the fig tree. Does this really fit in with the character of Christ?

Mainly, we will be looking at what Jesus did during His passion. How did Jesus approach it? What did He do with these moments that would be the last ones of His fully public ministry? How did He handle problems of failure among His disciples? Who was it that He wanted to go and spend His time with? The way a person dies can reveal a lot about them and if Jesus knew that He was going to die, what does the way He spent His time reveal about Him?

Also, briefly if anyone is interested, we didn’t do a show last week due to my being out of state for a funeral, but we hope to make it up this week with this interview. I hope you’ll be looking forward to this one showing up on your podcast feed. Please also go and write a review of the Deeper Waters Podcast and let me know how you like the show. I’m working hard on getting the best for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Jesus, The Last King Of Israel

What do I think of Michael Chung’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Michael Chung has written a book that is more of a devotional book based on the passion of Christ. I’ll grant that this isn’t the kind of work I normally read, but Chung is a professor at Houston Baptist University. That is a school I hold in high esteem and I find the professors there are all of incredibly high caliber.

Chung in this book goes through selected events in the life of Christ and what we can learn about them. The material is easy to approach and at the same time, scholarly, as he has a profuse use of footnotes. I would have liked to have seen more of an apologetic approach, but this isn’t that kind of book, although he does have two such sections at the end in the appendices. Both of these are quite interesting to look at, including one on the question of the character of Jesus in relation to the cursed fig tree.

Chung’s material will be good also for small groups that are going through the passion week of Scripture. (As I write this, Easter is approaching, which would be quite appropriate for studying this material.) Each section contains basic information along with the application that is to be followed and then, in turn, is followed by questions.

The questions are good and thought-provoking and are meant to make the reader enter into the life of Jesus and apply His message to our lives. It is striking to see what it is like for the perfect human being to live in what was no doubt the most stressful and awful week of His life. Is this not a message that we need to hear in the church today in dealing with many of our own problems?

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more on the title of the book, though to be fair I know that authors don’t always get to pick the titles of their books. Jesus is indeed the last king of Israel (And I would argue the current king), but what does that mean? Chung’s book really didn’t say much on that. It would be good to see what it meant for Jesus to be the King of Israel and what would it mean for us today to see Jesus as our King? Scripture profusely describes Jesus as the Messiah and yet we hardly ever seem to take into consideration what that means.

Still, Chung’s book does have a good balance. It looks at the life of Jesus in the passion, but it doesn’t do so in a dumbed down way. Jesus is engaged with as the serious historical figure that He is, but there is more about how that matters to us. One final suggestion is I would like to have made sure that the way we live our lives is like the way Jesus did. The cultures are quite different coming from a culture more focused on internal feeling to Jesus who lived in a culture focused more on external pressure. There could be gaps here that I think need to be addressed.

Despite that, if you have a small group, this could be a good study for Easter. I recommend it in that regard.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: A Rooster Once Crowed

What do I think of Bryant Cornett’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

roosterbook

I wish to think Bryant for sending me a copy of this book and wanting my opinion on it. While I was sent it some time ago, I don’t often sit down with my Kindle as much as I should as I have several other books on the list at times, so in reality, this book could be read a lot faster than I had done it.

In this book, Bryant wants to go through the Gospels and introduce you to the person of Jesus. Bryant is more of a layman, but he does take a serious approach, one that seeks to grapple with a number of big ideas and is what I would call mildly apologetic.

There were some areas that I did disagree with. I disagree with his view on prophecy and I thought there were some problems with the section on the works of the Law seeing as I lean more towards the New Perspective on Paul. I also found some apologetic claims to be dubious. One that comes to mind is the idea that Matthew might have been written in 37 A.D. I have never read that in any work of NT scholarship.

That having been said, I don’t think the target audience is really unbelievers too much. It might be for someone who is sitting on the fence and interested in a Pascal’s Wager kind of approach, but for the hardened atheist, there probably won’t be something they’ll find persuasive, but then again, when I meet people like that, they don’t even find the scholarly authorities persuasive. (But oh those crazies on the internet! They’re persuasive!)

Yet there is one excellent feature about this book. This is the one that gives it the edge that makes me think it could be motivational to a number of people.

Bryant has a lot of passion.

Seriously, the passion that he has comes through on a consistent basis and even when I disagreed with some points, the writing has a way of drawing you into the situation that he is describing. An excellent example I think of this immediately is his telling of the story of Cain and Abel. I think when I went to bed at night I was thinking about what that story meant for about a week.

I also think with that passion that Bryant rightly points us in the direction of Heaven. Now with my different take on prophecy, I disagree with much of his description of Heaven, but he is certainly right that Christians need to be thinking about Heaven and with that, they need to be thinking about the final judgment and what they will do with the time that they have left.

Which gets us to the title. As Bryant says, a rooster crowed one time. There could have been hope for repentance at the first crow of the rooster. Once the rooster crows a second time, then it is done. Right now, we have heard the crow once. Will we be ready if it comes again?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Triumph of the Christ

What happened on Palm Sunday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday. This is to acknowledge the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. While we state that this is the start of what we call the Passion week, I’d like to instead look at it as the Triumph of the Christ. For those who don’t know, a triumph was a celebration held for a Roman general after a great victory. To be sure, this isn’t an exact parallel with Jesus, but there is no doubt He is getting a king’s welcome.

Also, I will be looking at this in the gospel of Matthew mainly. Right now, I’ve been spending the past month or so focusing on this gospel. I’m using it then to show how it works with an overall thesis I’ve been developing. Of course, the other gospels have valuable information, but I’d like to look at the presentation in Matthew.

I am also using the BibleGateway web site and the NIV translation.

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” ”

In Matthew 8, we saw Jesus as Lord in healing a centurion’s servant from a distance. The centurion realized Jesus has under His authority sickness and even from a distance. In Matthew 14, we saw Jesus’s authority over the waters as He is able to walk on the sea. Regularly, it has been stressed Jesus has not just the authority to interpret the Law, but the authority over nature. He is the rightful ruler of the cosmos. When He comes to Jerusalem then, He is able to give the orders just as much. What is the reason? The Lord needs them. That is all that needs to be said. The king wants what He has a right to.

“4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’””

Fulfillment is a huge theme in Matthew. Regularly, one reads about how Jesus is fulfilling an OT Scripture. Note that this one is about kingship. The king of Israel is coming, and not just the king of Israel, but the king of the cosmos.

“6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,”

The disciples are good servants of the king. Now here, we come to a question. Did Jesus sit on two animals at once? I say no. The “them” refers to the cloaks. There’s a simple reason I don’t think Matthew intended for us to think that Jesus sat on two animals. Here it is:

Matthew is not an idiot.

Matthew grew up and lived in a society where people rode animals. He was likely an eyewitness to what happened. He knew darn well that one person could not ride two animals at once. At worse, we have an ambiguity here. For some interested in Inerrancy, I could understand attributing an error to Matthew at some part, though I don’t think there is one. I cannot understand attributing idiocy to him.

““Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!””

All of these are cries or praise and highly Messianic. Deliverance has come for Jerusalem! The Messiah is here! For the people in the city that day, they were likely anticipating the Davidic Kingdom was coming back. Jesus has a far greater Kingdom in mind, and unfortunately, it will be one that the people do not see. We must always remember that when God acts, we accept Him on His terms, not ours.

“10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.””

Once again, the question comes back to who is Jesus. This is the question Matthew wishes for us to ponder. He wants us to ask who Jesus is. The answer of the people is that He is the prophet. Matthew sees much more. Matthew sees the king coming to His people giving them a last chance to accept or reject Him.

As passion week goes, we will see how they responded.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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