Passion for God

Title: Passion for God

Bible Book: Matthew 24 : 4-14

Author: Allan C. Purdie, M.D.

Subject: Encouragement, Love for God



Matthew 24:4-14

Matthew 22:34-38

Some would say we live in troubled times. We certainly live in controversial times with rapid changes in our world and in our own country. Our President of change has delivered on his promise to bring change. Some think the changes are good, others tell us the future is uncertain; maybe even catastrophic.

Regardless of how you feel it is clear that the warning in Matthew 24 is relevant for all of us. The text tells us that we will hear about false teachers, wars, famines, earthquakes, and false Christs. Jesus then tells us that there will be persecution of Christians. And during this tribulation there will be many who will hate and even kill Christians for their faith. All of this is occurring even as I speak this morning.     But the point of the text is not to list certain events for us to watch so that we can predict Jesus’ return. The important point of his comments is a warning about our passion for God, our love for the Lord.

During these days of tribulation many will fall away and their love will grow cold. Even Christians will turn on one another. The ominous warning during these days of lawlessness is to watch our hearts. Jesus words are sober words of warning. He tells us that “most people’s love will grow cold.” Will I be one of those people? Will you? Growth is a slow process. A cold heart doesn’t usually get that way quickly but it takes time. How many who have today a strong faith, and a passion for God, will find that over time, with the hardships of discipleship, grow cold? They are left with only embers or cold ashes where there was once a raging flame of passion.

What is your supreme passion today? Just this week I visited a place where a man raises beagles that hunt rabbits. It was amazing to go into his office.

Dozens of trophies were on the selves. All kinds of certificates and awards hung on the walls. Outside were several pens of beautiful dogs. A new breeding pen was being outfitted with an air conditioner to encourage the little dog’s amorous activities. This gentleman was passionate about raising rabbit dogs. As a result he is among the best in his business. Passion is a good thing. It takes passion to arrive at excellence. One can be passionate about a lot of things. Passion is a good thing unless the passion is misplaced or supersedes one’s love for the Lord. The terrorist who blows himself up along with innocent people is passionate about his cause. The student who defiantly stood before the tanks in Tiananmen Square was passionate. The Buddhist monk who set himself aflame in protest was passionate.

In Jesus day there was a pantheon of Roman gods to be passionate about. Others were worshippers of sun gods, moon gods, and gods representing the forces of nature. Patriotism among the Romans elicited great passion and pride. Jesus gave all these passions perspective when He stated the one great passion that is worthy of our lives.

It isn’t passion itself that Jesus is encouraging us to have. But rather it is love for the revealed God of the scriptures. The Lord Jesus is talking about the God of the Bible-Jehovah God. And the love whereof He speaks isn’t just a sentimental feeling but rather an affection that controls all we are and hope to be. It is an all- consuming love that gives us guidance, strength, and hope. When Jesus spoke of the heart He was referring to the seat of our emotions and our will. He was speaking about our desires, our motivations, and the most precious things we count dear and valuable. Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a valuable treasure that a man had sold all he had to purchase it. He referred to the Kingdom of God as a pearl of great price that a man gave up everything to obtain. This is how we are to love the God as He has been revealed in Scripture.

This kind of love isn’t just a feeling but invokes the will. Emotion without control can be a consuming fire that will burn you. But love directed by principles produces character and fulfillment. Every wife knows this to be true. Wives desire a husband that not only showers her with kind words and romantic gifts but also kind deeds of care and responsibility. This is the way God loves us. He not only told us of His love, but demonstrated it to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God wants us to love Him the way He loves us for He knows that in this way we will truly be saved from passions that hurt and destroy. If our primary passion is Him then we are protected from being misguided by passions that are false, which will hurt us and destroy us. With this kind of love we are conformed to the image of Christ and redeemed by God’s glory.

Just as Jesus asked Peter, God asks us today, “Do you love me, more than these?”

I. To Love God is to have God as the supreme passion of our lives

A. Love God above all things

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24 NAS

B. Love God above all other relationships

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worth of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:37 NAS

C. Love God more than our own life

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38 NAS

Why is it that God desires for us to love Him so supremely above all else? Is He egotistical? No! He desires this for He knows that He is life. When our affections are singularly fixed on Him then we too share His life without distraction and we flourish like a branch on the vine of life. Jesus is the vine and we are His branches. When God saves us for His glory, He shares His life with us in order to redeem us and save us from the world and from ourselves.

Countless are the examples of those who chose to have other passions before God and suffered the consequences. Many are those who chose to love God and were rewarded with lives well spent, leaving a legacy of truth and hope for their loved ones left behind.

II. To Love God is to turn from our evil desires and in faith obey Him

A. Our heart needs direction and redemption

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17: 9-10

It has been said that love is the motivating principle for most people. People desire to love and to be loved. Without love we are left unfulfilled and lost. The command to love God gives us direction and peace. It isn’t just love itself that gives us a correct direction but love for Jehovah God that gives us a right direction and peace. Without this direction one can be consumed with love for many other things like one’s country, other people, tradition, that can be misguided if taken to the extreme. The Pharisees loved their traditions and their religion more than they loved God. I fear that some Baptist love their church buildings, their own religious traditions, and their heritage more than they love God. They find solace, security and belonging in their own history and cultural group. And sometimes unknowingly make these their passion and fail to reach out to people different from themselves. It is like being a member of a religious club. As a result we are rapidly becoming increasingly more ineffective in the Kingdom work the Lord has commissioned us to do.

Yet, unlike other passions, one cannot take love for God to the extreme for God’s very nature is good. He is the Father of light. One may love Him with all they are and not be disappointed. The church’s purpose is to arouse and encourage people to love God. One theologian translated this passage, “You shall direct your heart and soul and mind and strength toward the good of God.”

We are, by nature, selfish and fallen. Only a glance will reveal that mankind can be cruel, greedy, lustful, deceitful, and ugly. Since the fall this has been the condition of people. This is the condition of my heart and yours apart from the grace of God. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5 NAS

The very first step toward loving God is a willingness to confront our own wickedness and be willing to turn away from our evil desires. We must acknowledge our failures, insecurities, and sins meeting God with a needy humble spirit. Many a person never truly loves God because they think they are okay because they compare themselves to others. But God’s standard is not our neighbor but rather His own holiness. None of us measure up. We are all in need of transformation, and direction. The Bible says, “…God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b

“…For He knows the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:21b

The amazing thing about God’s love is that He loves us even though we are sinners. “He has loved us with an everlasting love.”     And the amazing thing about His love is that He will redeem us so that we are enabled to love Him and receive from Him forgiveness, wholeness and direction. But if our heart is prideful, arrogant, and full of lust, then it is difficult for us to fellowshipping with Him in such a way that our very nature is redeemed and changed.

The psalmist wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10 NAS And again, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalms 51:17

In the book of II Chronicles we find a dramatic and touching expression of God’s desire for us to come to Him with a needy spirit. “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the Lord.” II Chronicles 34:27 NAS

In repentance we encounter God’s grace, we are purified, and we are refreshed and given new hope and direction. The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said it best, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 NAS

Are you pliable before the Lord today? Are there areas of your heart running wild apart from the control of His love? Are you unrepentant? Are you willing to open up your heart and life to the challenge of loving others despite their ugliness just the way God has loved you? What sin or passion are you unwilling to surrender to His control? The Bible says “Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be forgiven.”

But repentance is only the first step enabling one to answer the call to love God with all their heart.

B. To Love God is to obey Him

To obey God is to believe God. Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. The commandments of God are important for without them we are left to our own understanding. Can you imagine what a mess it would be trying to get through Atlanta during rush hour if all the traffic signs and signals were simply replaced with an exhortation to “love your neighbor as yourself!” We obey these traffic commands for without them there would be chaos. Today there is chaos in many a life because of disbelief and disobedience. I fear that the place of obedience has lost favor with some in the Church today. Many a believer approaches God’s commands as if they are suggestions rather than commands.

The bible teaches us in the book of Deuteronomy 4:39-40a “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you…”

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NAS

“Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statues which I am commanding you today for your good?”

Often obeying God is difficult and sometimes hard to understand. We all struggle with the temptation to take the easy path - the one most traveled by those around us. Faithful obedience is like looking at a beautiful stained glass window from the outside. The images are blurry and difficult to understand. Yet when we enter into the sanctuary the beauty of the picture becomes clear giving us inspiration and clarity of thought.

Entering into the sanctuary is like obeying God in faith even when it is difficult. It is not cheating on a test, young people, even if it means failing a class. It is reframing from sexual intercourse until you are married, despite your longings and desires. Believing that God’s ways are best will bring fulfillment in the end. It is loving a spouse even if that person is not meeting your needs and is difficult to love. It is being kind even when we are offended. It is paying our tithes though times may be difficult. It is praying even when our spirit is weary and desperate. It is believing in God. And the amazing thing is that through obedience our faith increases and our love for the Lord increases as we see the beautiful purpose for His commands.

This is why Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15 NAS. And again, Jesus stated, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14 NAS

Illustration: A student may do well in a class because he has learned the material. But the best learner may not have the highest grade. The best learner is the one who has developed a passion for the subject material and continues to learn and grow. Over a hundred years ago an Ohio boy was having so much difficulty with his school work that his mother was advised to take him out of school. Yet the boy had a passion for science and scientific experimentation and he followed his interest. That boy was Thomas A. Edison the inventor of the light bulb and many other modern conveniences. The education God wants to give us through obedience is not simply to master the commands, but to have a passion and trust in the law-giver.

Illustration: A little girl at the piano is taught to play the scales over and over. She dreads the mundane exercises. They seem to restrict her freedom. Yet when she masters them she is capable of playing the best music with a freedom and passion that brings joy and fulfillment. So, God through trials and difficulties, tests our faith to make us have a deeper understanding and love for Him. Yet too often too many fail to obey and give up, wanting to circumvent the discipline of obedience. And so they live without the ability to freely play the best of melodies. And their lives reflect the discords of wrong notes out of tune with the Master   of life who calls us and says “obey Me, love Me”.

Are there areas of your life where you knowingly are in disobedience to the Lord? Illustration: Deuteronomy 8:1-6

III. To Love God with all our heart is to be passionate about the mission of God

“A person is not fitted for the Christian life until he has learned to like what Jesus liked. A virtue is never safe until it is transformed from duty into desire.”

Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost. This is the passion of God - to redeem people for His own glory. Jesus restored self-respect to the lost. He told the woman about to be stoned to go and sin no more, but He didn’t condemn her. He called out to Zaccheus and asked to eat at his house. He publicly allowed a woman with a bad reputation to wash his feet with expensive oil and her tears, cleaning away the dirt on his feet with her own hair. To love God is to go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come into God’s fellowship of grace. We are not to judge but to love them and encourage them to love God.

We are not only to love those in the world but we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible exhorts us to love all men especially the household of faith.

Use illustration: John 21:15-17 The story of Peter and Jesus: Feed my sheep - We are to love each other even as God loves us. “This I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17 NAS. My brothers and sisters, I fear that all too often we fail in this endeavor. Over the past few months I have been attempting to encourage a pastor who has been going through difficult days because of cruel criticism and political maneuvering among a few in his congregation. When will we, as Baptist, as followers of Christ, learn to be passionate for the family of God even as God is passionate about those He loves so very much?

“If someone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (I John 4; 20=21 NAS)

My friends, I fear that much of the decline in our own denomination is not just the onslaught of secularism but rather the coldness and poor example of our love within the very ranks of our churches. Are you critical and judgmental towards other believers? Have you said mean and cruel things about certain people and even ministers of the gospel? The Bible says we are to show double respect for those who teach and minister among us.


We live in challenging times. Our children are indoctrinated everyday with the philosophies of secularism. They go to schools where violence and drugs are common place and some have even died by the hands of deranged misguided youths crying out from their loneliness. Satan’s influence is alive and well. Our homes are bombarded through television with the values of those who have no respect for the sanctity of marriage, or the place for honorable sexual relationships.

Our own government, founded upon a fear for the Lord, has lost its way and attempts are made at every turn to marginalize the truth of scripture and the preeminence of Jehovah-God that once occupied public opinions of morality. Those held up to be admired are entertainers and sports figures rather than teachers of the scripture. Even in our churches we are more concerned about music that moves our emotions, using music as a cheap replacement for the filling of God‘s Holy Spirit, sermons that entertain us and make us feel good rather than convict us, programs that serve our own interest rather than the needs of the world about us. We are addicted to fellowshipping with each other at the expense of bringing the lost to the banqueting table of the Lord.

Yes we live in difficult days. Perhaps we are living in the last days. Matthew wrote, “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:2 NAS) In the Book of the Revelation we read about the Church of Ephesus. This Church was successful by all outward appearances but the Lord said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4

Several weeks ago I spoke with our pastor about the Church. He expressed to me a desire for us to engage in an effort to disciple believers. My heart was thrilled for I too recognize this need for myself and others. Today we must examine our hearts and realign our allegiances. The Bible says, “But God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.” We have the opportunity to embrace God’s grace. The apostle John wrote, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” John 4:19

The opportunity to love God is set before us this day. To love Him with all our heart will not always be easy. It will require sacrifice, obedience, faith, repentance and humility for we live in a world which is passionate about a good many things other than the Lord. Will you be one of those whose love grows cold? Will you find yourself apart from the blessings and fellowship of God’s grace because your passions are for another beside the Lord? Is God your supreme passion? The only hope we have for wholeness, wellness, and redemption of heart, mind, and spirit is to seek Him with our whole heart. A half- hearted disciple of Christ cannot fully know the transforming power of God’s grace.

The command to love God with all we are is nothing less than an opportunity to be rescued from a world in rebellion to the Lord. Just as in ancient times, I exhort myself and you, as Joshua exhorted the people, choose you this day who you shall serve. God’s grace will enable you, if you are willing, to follow Him. Is God your supreme passion? Do you love Him?

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