Real Zeal vs. False Zeal part 2

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By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 Discerning false zeal, here

Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:1-2).

By this verse we see there is such a thing as a zeal that is not of God. There can be zea, or fervor or energy around religious things, but not according to what we know from the Bible. AKA knowledge.

Zeal: great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Synonyms: passion, fervor, enthusiasm.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached on the Romans 10:1-2 verse in a sermon called False vs. True Zeal. The sermon is stunning, relevant, and informative. He laid the foundation as he always does, logically, then laid out tests to determine of someone is exhibiting false zeal. Then in the later part of the sermon he laid out how to determine if a person is exhibiting true zeal. I paraphrased the part of his sermon discussing false zeal, here. Today, we have an exam of true zeal.

Lloyd-Jones’ sermon can be heard here, for free: True Zeal and False Zeal: A Sermon on Romans 10:1-2. Or on Youtube with closed captions (which might help due to his accent).

What follows is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ excerpt from the sermon True Zeal vs. False Zeal, focusing on true zeal.

What are the characteristics of a true zeal? A true zeal is never a zeal that’s put on. It’s not put on you by anybody else it’s not put on by you yourself. If you’ve got a zeal you’ve got it not because you’ve been told it’s the thing to do when you join this church or this society. That’s not the reason if you are doing it, simply because it’s the thing to do in this society or company. It’s never put on or mechanical either by other people or the thing to do or by ourselves as the result of a decision.

Secondly, it is always the result of being the man who’s got a true zeal has it because he is what he is. He has it because he’s grown in grace and because he’s grown in sanctification. It’s not an act.

Thirdly and putting it still more specifically and in terms of our text true zeal is always the result of knowledge. It is always the outcome of knowledge. With the Apostle is really put this very wonderfully for us already in chapter 6 in verse 17, (KJV)

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

Now you notice the order. He actually puts the obeying first. That the obeying actually in practice was the last. This is what he says has happened to you – he says the first thing was this a form of doctrine was delivered. The gospel was preached to them and they received it and believed it with their minds. But it wasn’t only in their minds, the heart was involved. They were moved by it and because the heart was involved they were moved by it. They gave it obedience. Their will came into action but that was the order they received it with the mind first, it moved the heart it moved them to action.

That is the true order of true zeal. The trouble with a false zeal is that it puts the will first and is not interested even in the heart nor in the head. The man who says ‘nothing matters but activity’ is exhibiting a false will. That’s the danger of activism. It goes on in his headlong blind manner. The right order is the mind, the heart, then the will.

The man who has the true zeal he knows what he’s doing and he knows why he’s doing it. Zeal is according to knowledge!

The fourth test is that it’s a deep zeal. Not superficial. It’s not a spectacular, showy blaze, but a controlled fire that’s longer lasting and more useful.

As such, the true zeal displays control. Fire is a bad master, but when zeal is controlled by knowledge it’s as it should be. If a fire is in the hearth it’s controlled and warming the room and pleasant to be around. Fire that is out of control is damaging and unwanted. It burns and destroys. It is the same with zeal. A person exhibiting true zeal controls it.

Sixth, a true zeal is never self-confident. He’s always reverent. He doesn’t get excited. The Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians that when he went amongst them he did so in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, Paul, trembling, apprehensive, fearful nervous? How different that is from the false zeal and the confidence and the assurance and the mastery of the occasion some men show in their false zeal!

A person with true zeal knows he operates under grace and not in his own strength. His confidence comes from knowing his energy is deposited by the Spirit of God.

Remember, the Corinthians were despising Paul because he wasn’t boasting about himself. Some of the false teachers were boasting about themselves. They were recommending themselves. Well, says Paul, if you really want to know I laboured more abundantly than they all yet not I but the grace of God that was with me. I am what I am by the grace of God .

Seventh- What’s the motive that animates true zeal? Well it isn’t just to be busy and to do things and to get results. It’s the glory of God… the glory of God. The love of Christ. Their motivation is the love of Christ and wanting to share that with others who are lost.

A man of true zeal is not simply anxious that people should decide for Christ. He wants them to come to what Paul calls our knowledge of the truth. He’s not interested in superficial results. He is very concerned that men and women should have a knowledge of the truth that will save them from hell. 

It comes to this – that the man who is animated by a true zeal however successful he may be he is never elated he’s never excited with his own success. When the Lord sent the seventy out to preach and to cast out devils and they were so successful that they came back full of excitement. They said ‘master the very devils are subject unto us!’ and our Lord looked at them and said ‘In this rejoice not that the devils of the spirits are made subject unto you, but rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

I ask you a question as I close. What’s the effect of all this upon you is it that you are so afraid of the false zeal that you do nothing at all. If it is I have spoken in vain if you are so afraid of a false zeal that it paralyzes you, then you’re the very antithesis of Paul. You’ve not understood the truth. Knowledge of the truth always moves the heart and moves the will.

If the knowledge of the truth hasn’t moved you, hasn’t engaged your affections and your emotions hasn’t made you do something, you have not known the truth properly. When a man really knows this truth he says we cannot but speak of the things which we have seen and heard.

In any case the Apostle teaches us in Romans that we must not be slothful in business we must rather be fervent in spirit serving the law not a false zeal but a true one. Fervent in spirit serving the Lord. He’s not writing to apostles he is writing to ordinary church members. Are you fervent in spirit? Are you moved by what you claim to believe? Do you really believe it? If you do you know that everybody who doesn’t believe it is going to hell, can you be passive and quiet and paralysed and say nothing and do nothing?

To what extent are you concerned about the souls of the Lost? How can a man believe the gospel and not be concerned about those who don’t? How can a man sit down feeling his own pulse worrying about his own temptations and sins and problems and have no concern about the lost?

————end MLJ sermon part 2 on true zeal.

We don’t often talk about zeal, or energy, or fervor for the lost. We talk of how ‘busy’ we are, but as we saw in part 1 and in part 2, there can be a false motivation, a false energy propelling us in this busyness that is completely vain. Make sure your energy comes from the Spirit, that it isn’t something put on and springs from a fountain of carnality. Matthew 7:21-23 shows the unmasking of people who exhibited a false zeal, only to find they were doing it in their own strength and not in the Lord.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:1-2).

The only way to obtain knowledge of God is to go where God is: the Bible. That is where he has revealed Himself, and is the source of truth and knowledge.

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