“Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”
Paul writes in Romans 12 that we are to be living sacrifices; is he serious? Surely there must be a more reasonable way of life. And yet in the same breath that Paul admonishes us to be living sacrifices he anticipates our objection and writes, “…which is your reasonable service.” That is, considering whom Christ is and what Christ has done and that Christ Jesus has called us to be His, then it is reasonable, it is logical, it therefore follows…that we should present our bodies, our whole selves, to be living sacrifices – this is a reasonable response to God.
The passage in Romans 12 goes on to speak of the renewing of our minds, such renewal leading to knowing the will of God. We offer ourselves and in offering ourselves we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and in the renewing of our minds we discern the will of God. We can’t think correctly without offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices – surely there must be a more reasonable way.
The call of Christ is one of taking up our cross and following Him; it is a call to abandon self-preservation as we know it, and in abandoning self-preservation we find ourselves preserved by the only One who can save us. Jesus says, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, he who loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.”
“The Gospel”, the “Good News”, implicit in this term is proclaiming the Word of Jesus to the world – we lose ourselves for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel; we don’t just lose our lives for Jesus, we lose our lives for others, for the sake of sharing the Gospel with others. Naturally when we lose our lives so that others may hear of Jesus we lose our lives for Jesus – we cannot separate the two – we cannot separate Christ and others. As John writes in his first letter, we have a problem if we say we love God and hate others; by the same token there is a problem if we think we belong to Christ and yet do not lose ourselves for the sake of sharing the Gospel with others.
We tend to negotiate this proposition with Christ, we like to bargain. Often we bargain with the argument, “Lord, if I share about You I’ll offend others, surely You don’t want me to offend others.” Is it really others we’re concerned about?
Jesus was consumed with zeal for His Father’s house, for His Father’s work. That is a bit much to ask of us, isn’t it? To be consumed with zeal is to put oneself on the altar as a living sacrifice, that does seem a bit unreasonable.
Part of our negotiation can be, “Well, Jesus came to die so that I can have life. He came to take my place on the Cross. He came to be my substitute. I think I’ll extend that reasoning to the proposition that He came to be consumed with zeal for God so that I can live a reasonable life. He came to be consumed by zeal so that I won’t have to pay that kind of price in this life.”
I’m pretty sure that I’ve used every argument imaginable with Jesus to avoid obedience.