Eric Washburn | Chattanooga, Tennessee
If you spend much time around church folks, you will probably not have to wait long to hear someone say something like, “God created you on purpose and for a purpose.” In fact, since Pastor Rick Warren wrote his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, many Christians have made a concerted effort to identify their own purpose, and to help others recognize God intentionally created them, as well. Despite all this talk about the significance of our existence, there appears to be more people, in and out of the Church, who lack direction, live apathetically, and make little to no impact in the world. That is not what the Lord had in mind when He created humanity in His own likeness and image.
Perhaps, this phenomenon is the result of an overemphasis on knowing what is right (orthodoxy) and doing what is right (orthopraxis), with very little focus on having a heart that is passionately right (orthopathy). Whenever knowing and doing are the primary foci, believers tend to become legalistic zealots who are miserable and make other people miserable as well. They are “church people,” instead of living stones, which, are together becoming a spiritual house that brings glory to Christ. Their speech is often filled with criticism, and they oppose any attempts to try new things. Instead of passionately worshipping God, they complain about styles of music and standing too long during worship. People who aren’t like them are not welcome to attend “their” church. While I could continue to paint a picture of the kind of people many believers have become, most of us recognize the ones I am referring to, and I really want this article to have a positive outcome.
While my family and I traveled across the United States, running revivals, from August 2015 to July 2017, our hearts were broken by the many churches which seemed to have no passion and no purpose. In fact, we were most surprised by the older saints who had seemingly lost their joy and spiritual vitality. Many of the pastors (several were on the verge of burnout) talked of church conflict, unfaithful members, and empty altars. Some also confessed of not having a move of the Holy Spirit in years. Our hearts were broken for the pastors and the churches. Jesus did not give His life for us to live marginal and miserable lives. John 10:10, reminds us that He came to give us life that overflows. All of these churches had religious activity and sound biblical teaching and preaching. So, what was missing? Fire!
Whenever I think of passion, I think of fire. Fire is one of the most powerful and needed resources we have, both naturally and spiritually. Fire has the ability to warm and consume. When John the Baptist prophesied about Jesus’ ministry, he stated that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Ghost and fire. Ironically, when the Holy Spirit fell on the 120 in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, divided tongues of fire sat on each of them as a physical witness of what was taking place within them. What followed the outpouring of the Spirit was more than dead, religious activity. The apostles and followers of Jesus turned the world upside down, or, right-side up. It was evident that the fire in them drove them to be passionate witnesses for Christ.
My question for you is, are you on fire? I’m not sure why we quit asking one another this question. In my youth, we asked people this all the time. A couple of years ago, I was scheduled to preach a special meeting at a friend’s church. Following a powerful time of worship, I was asked by a brother in the Lord, “Are you on fire now?” I simply responded to the gentleman, “I try to stay on fire.” I wasn’t trying to sound arrogant or spiritual. I’ve just learned that the Christian life and ministry demands more than just knowing and doing the right things. In fact, in my early days as a believer, I constantly frustrated the grace of God by perfunctory Christian living. That path led to nothing more than self-righteousness, arrogance, judging others, and secret sin. Once God helped me to understand the significance of having a burning heart for Jesus, it was a game-changer. My actions went from dead and passionless, to living and passionate. Let me ask you again, are you on fire?
We began this article talking about purpose. Maybe you feel as if I have forgotten the subject, but I am simply attempting to frame the subject as I understand it. Fulfilling the primary purpose, for which we were created, is all about the primary issue, the heart. Our actions flow out of our heart. Even our understanding of God, if it is merely “head knowledge,” avails us nothing. God’s desire is to have our whole hearts first. From a right heart, right understanding and right actions can be supremely effective. In other words, godly affections produce effective actions. The truth is, people will see your heart by your actions. Jesus reminds us that the world will recognize we belong to Him by our love for one another. Love, in this case, is the affection of Christ within us, by the Holy Spirit, producing godly actions and attitudes.
I would like to challenge those reading this article to consider the level of godly passion in your life. A passionless church is a dead church. Since the Church is made up of “members in particular,” it is the responsibility of every Christ-follower to “keep their heart with all diligence.” If your church is dead, pray for God to fill you afresh with His fire. A church on fire will be a church that fully realizes its purpose. Remember, God did not create you to just know and do some things, He created you to BE an on-fire witness of Him.