The final poison we will look at is really pivotal for your Christian life. In fact, if you get this one right, many of the other poisons are rendered powerless… It’s the poison of passionlessness.
This is another poison that just slowly but surely kills you. Little by little you will find that your life fades away into mediocrity, and before you know it you won’t even recognise the person you once were.
The poison of passionlessness turns on fire Christians into smouldering wicks, full on believers into quiet backsliders and Holy Spirit filled powerhouses for Jesus into dull, lifeless, boring religious bigots.
You see, Passion is what energises your life. It turns the impossible into the possible. If you don’t have any passion in your life, every aspect of your life will become boring, dull, routine and monotonous.
In fact, if you don’t have passion in your life you are not living. You are just existing.
God made you to live a passionate life and to serve Him and His people with vitality. With vibrancy. With energy. With enthusiasm. He wants you to have this in your life.
In John 10 Jesus said “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” God wants you to live a full life and a fulfilling ministry, which is the basis for a fulfilling life. If that’s true, the kind of life God meant for us to live is meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured, to be fulfilling, not just filling in time.
Sadly, however, countless thousands of Christians, even those in ministry and leadership, are simply enduring, holding on for the ride and hoping to survive until they reach eternity without blowing it too badly. They are experiencing passionlessness.
CAUSES OF THE POISON OF PASSIONLESSNESS
Passionlessness is not something you pursue, it’s something that pursues you by default. To become infected with this poison, all you have to do is… Nothing!
The loss of passion is the natural way any relationship goes, unless you decide to maintain the passion. If you won’t service you car, if you don’t maintain your house, if you never clean out your computer hard drive, trust me, none of these is going to get better! They all run down over time, and so does any relationship if you don’t actively work to sustain the passion.
This is often seen in long term marriages, where the passion died slowly as they age and the couple is left with just living in the same house, going through the same motions. I don’t want to live like that. No one does, but it just kind of works out that way sometimes. I’d rather stay a newly wed all my marriage life, wouldn’t you! Passionlessness is misery!
In the Christian life, just like in a marriage or friendship, passionlessness is caused by you just not valuing your relationship with God enough to maintain the passion, but this loss of passion is hastened by a number of things…
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
Unconfessed sin will block your relationship with God. It’s like putting a soundproof wall between you and Him, so you can’t hear His voice any more, and He doesn’t listen to your prayers.
The most miserable person in the world is a backslidden Christian. You can’t enjoy God as He intends for you to do, and your conscience won’t let you even enjoy the fleeting pleasure, the momentary fun of sin.
Being a believer and choosing sin over God makes you miserable. No joy, no peace and definitely no passion. No future as well, so you don’t want to be this person at all!
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
While some people find persecution deepens their relationship with God, others fall away and get mad at God for what He’s “allowed to happen” in their lives.
How do you react when you face difficult circumstances? Do you collapse and scream out, “Not fair, Lord”? Do you feel like life, people, lousy circumstances and bad luck affect you and you demeanour?
I ask some people how they’re doing, and they say, “OK under the circumstances.” I then ask them what they’re doing under there! We should live above the circumstances, right? Some people decide to constantly live in victim mode, and passion dies.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Cares of the world, worries about the future, the desire for riches or things, these can choke the joy and life out of you. They can suck the passion you have for God right out of you, because they make you look away from Him and towards things, money or fears!
The Bible says
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Why doesn’t God want you anxious? Because it is lack of trust in Him, and it poisons you with passionlessness!
1 Corinthians 7:35
I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
That word undivided in the Greek means “without distraction”. So many things in our modern life distract us, even if they are not bad in themselves. TV is a distraction, the Internet is a distraction. Facebook, football, mates or Mills and Boon, anything can distract you from what is really important. If it distracts you from the Lord, the passion dies.
And the crazy thing is, while we don’t get passionate about God, we get really passionate about theses distractions. Look at football, for example, or what about watching your favourite show… Nothing deters you from this, and we usually choose the idiot box over spending time with the living God!
Remember, the poison of passionlessness is passive, meaning you don’t have to do anything to become infected by it, you just have to do nothing and it will seep into your heart.
But you have passion within you, and if you get overly passionate about the wrong thing, the passion for the right thing is overwhelmed. Choose what you are passionate about, and how.
OVERWORK, OR OVER-MINISTERING!
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The old saying was, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, in other words, work makes people passionless.
Work can also fill you with passion, if you are doing what you love. But work, even in the church, can suck you dry of your passion, especially if you’re doing it because you feel you have to rather than because you love it. In fact, this is one of the major sources of the poison of passionlessness and it is so sinister because you feel like you’re actually serving the Lord, even though you hate what you’re doing!
Jesus didn’t say Martha was wrong or in sin, he said she was troubled and anxious, and had chosen the lesser way. Spending time with God is the better way.
Now of course, Jesus was not saying that no work needs to be done, because there clearly is much to do in the Kingdom of God. He was simply saying that spending time with God should be your priority, not working yourself into the ground and working yourself into a tizz, getting cranky at all the people around you who are not working as hard as you!
I have experienced this, as has Fiona. We call it burnout! It can affect anyone who works hard or serves the Lord in any area, and it can crash your entire life. It even leads to changes in your personality. You become lethargic, uninspired and without passion for anything in life! Passionlessness accompanies burnout every single time!
Overwork, burnout and being too busy is a sure fire way to allow the poison of passionlessness to infect your heart, and ruin your life and ministry.
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Religion is rules, and it’s pretty hard to get passionate about rules. Some do though, and some of the great injustices in the world are currently being perpetrated by religious zealots like ISIS.
Listen, religion kills you, but relationship fulfils you!
Being zealous about some religion is not the same as being in love and passionate about a person. Don’t confuse the two please! Zealous Religion, even Christian religion, is not Holy Spirit inspired life, it’s just not!
You can be as religious as you like, go to church twice on a Sunday and to Bible study midweek, and still go to hell! You can sound like a Christian, speak the right words and live a pious life. You can become a monk, live in the desert and eat Wild locusts with honey on toast and still not be saved. You can be ultra religious and super nice, and you’ll be the nicest guy in hell!
Salvation is not about rules, it’s not about obeying a list of dos and don’ts… It is about relationship, your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger!
Saying prayers won’t save you, otherwise prayer wheels would be all the rage. Being kind to others won’t even save you.
Only a living, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, having Him as your Lord and Saviour, living a life filled with the Holy Spirit, can save you. It’s nothing you do, it’s someone you know.
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit
Time allows the poison of passionlessness to sneak in. This is far more common than we acknowledge and if affects us all. Time, that’s all, simply time. We don’t do anything, we don’t change anything, we keep going to church, being involved, working hard, serving the Lord and our brothers and sisters… But time takes its toll.
Beware, each of you, especially as the years roll on. When you’ve know the Lord for a long time is dangerous. Let me ask you, is each year you spend with God getting better, or are you looking back on the good old days?
(KJV) Habakkuk 3:2
O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years,
in the midst of the years make known;
in wrath remember mercy.
The danger time is when we have been saved for years. You don’t walk away, you don’t deny Christ, you don’t stop loving God, you keep going to church, but you just grow cold. Church is mundane, the Same ol, same ol, stuff.
This is what I love about some of our seniors here… They don’t retire, they refire, and that’s the passion Jesus is looking for.
REMEMBER YOUR FIRST LOVE
In Revelation, Jesus says this to the church at Ephesus…
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
Do you remember your first love? I remember meeting Fiona for the first time. How excited I was about pretty much everything about her. The way she looked, the way she spoke, the things she did. That passion, that excitement, that first love…
The truth is that, over time, with all the ups and downs of life, it’s easy to lose your first love. It’s hard to maintain the passion in the humdrum monotony of life, but that’s exactly what Jesus addressed the church at Ephesus about!
This church was a faithful church, right in the heart of a city devoted to idol worship; a hard working church, a persevering church, one that on the surface was successful and doing everything right.
You are probably just like that, attending things, involved, calling yourself a Christian. Doing everything right, and looking the goods for Jesus, but…
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR FIRST LOVE?
Have you, like the Ephesians, lost that intense, enthusiastic love for Jesus. In their church, after 30 years of diligent service, they had seen intense love give way to orthodoxy, religion and ritual.
Bill Newman often talks about 4 stages of church movement:
Man, movement, machine, monument,
Whole churches become infected with the poison of passionlessness, just as any of us can as individuals.
The Ephesians had not yet departed from their love for Christ, but they were well on the way, and Jesus knew it! They were infected by the poison of passionlessness, and Jesus loved them enough to rebuke them.
In the Greek the word used for forsaken means to leave, let go of, disregard, omit or to keep no longer. Tellingly, it is the Greek word associated with divorce, a man leaving his wife. Forsaking your first love is tied to divorce and separation, as many will attest.
My experience is that, if you keep the first love, the passion, the joy of your love alive, no one is thinking about separation or divorce.
And in marriage this seems to be harder as you grow older. Your partner gets wrinklier, chubbier and more familiar (and by the way, so do you!) Little irritations start to really get to you… They way he hangs his clothes up on the floor, the way she lets the washing pile up, the way he hogs the remote. Sometimes you don’t feel as passionate.
In marriage you have to work hard to keep the passion alive. It’s the same with your walk with God. As you mature in Christ, as you work and serve in the church, you must not neglect the better way, the way of true relationship.
There’s no point serving the Kingdom and neglecting the King.
Jesus was so serious about this with the Ephesians church that He told them “If you do not repent I will remove your lamp stand from its place.” Revelation 2:5
Today no church exists and Ephesus itself does not even exist, except as an archeological site. They were infected by the poison of passionlessness, and they lost everything. It’s a sobering thought isn’t it?
THE ANTIDOTE FOR THE POISON OF PASSIONLESSNESS…
I’m going to take that passage in Revelation and reveal the antidote to the poison of passionlessness..
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Remember the life you once had…
Remember the Feelings:
Don’t deny your feelings. In church we often think feelings are unimportant, but we’re wrong if we think that. Feelings are good and necessary, and they are part of not a religion but a relationship. However, I challenge you to compare your feelings in a football match, or a chick flick to the feelings you probably don’t have in church.
Remember the Memories:
Memory is a luxury only good men can enjoy.
Do you remember when you were saved?
Is your love today colder, more indifferent, is it self sufficient, sophisticated, is it a veneer, and if so, what is really underneath?
We need to remember our first love, our original passion, the passion that was once there when we first came to know the Lord. How grateful we were for eternal life, how the Bible came alive as we read, how we made great friends and actually looked forward to and enjoyed Bible study or church
Remember what you did:
How you spoke, how you read the Bible, how you told your friends… Is it still the same? Is it still a thrill?
Fiona and I still go on dates. We still hang out, she is my best friend, but we have to fight for it! I have to make sure I keep the passion alive for her, because over time everything breaks down and gets worse. You start with remembering what is use to be like once upon a time.
Repenting means to turn around 180 degrees. Jesus calls us to repent, which means you need to decide now to rekindle that first love again, the excitement, the richness, they joy of deep relationship with Jesus.
Repenting is making a decision to turn around. It’s not veering to one side or the other, it’s doing a 180. It’s a decision I hope every one of you makes this morning to reignite your life for Jesus.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
Times of refreshing means joy, passion, being in love! But it is not enough to just repent, we need to finish the antidote properly with actions…
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
- DO THE THINGS YOU DID AT FIRST
This is the key to defusing the poison of passionlessness… It’s not enough to just feel like you love Jesus, not enough to to make a great decision, you need to back that up with actions, because actions speak louder than words, and faith without works is dead!
What sort of actions neutralise the poison of passionlessness? Let me finish with some practical steps to regaining your first love and being passionate for Jesus again…
- Make a decision today.
Decide right now that you want to be on fire for Jesus.
- Commit to Studying the Word Daily
Commit yours of to studying God’s Word every day. We have a Bible reading plan, it’s free, and if I you follow it as many of us here are doing, it will transform your life.
For those of you following the reading plan, keep up or catch up. Don’t get slack. It’s half way through the year. If you’re too far behind, just start afresh at today’s reading. The plan is there to help you, direct and guide you through the the entire Bible, not make your life miserable!
- Pray Daily
You should be praying every day, many times a day. Don’t just say grace and think you’re being faithful, but live in the moment with the Lord… Pray continuously
Don’t neglect coming to church, whether you like it, love it or loath it. So many Christians stop going to church, and in my experience it almost always draws them away from God, not towards God.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
As sinful and incomplete as we are, the Church is God’s answer for a hurting world. This church is your family, your friends.
It’s the middle of the year, mornings are cold, life’s busy, church is church, kids are whining… I get it! I know some of you have other stuff on and church is a lower priority. But I’m urging you to make fellowship a priority, because no man is an island, and together we can encourage and spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
Find people in the church who are on fire for God and get with them so that they can inspire you and rub off on you. Don’t allow negative people to pull you down. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself starting to think like them. Hang with those who are contagious for Christ, and before you know it, passionlessness will be a thing of the past.
But it all starts with you making the decision to rediscover your first love, to be on fire for Jesus, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be passionate about the Lord.