Good morning, if you have your Bible, and I hope you do, please turn to Romans 10:1-4. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Canyon Shearer, and I love telling people about Jesus, so today I’m going to try to convince you to tell people about Jesus and see that you will also love it, but I also want to make sure you’re doing it right.
One of my favorite passages in the whole Bible is in Nehemiah 8, this is following over 70 years of a very dark time in Israel, and what happens in Nehemiah 8 is Ezra builds a pulpit out in the open-air, climbs onto it, and reads Genesis to Deuteronomy all day. When he starts reading the people are so in awe of God’s Word that they stand up, when Ezra prays, they lift their hands in worship, and when they don’t understand, the elders and priests explain. They had a love for God’s law, and they loved learning it.
We only lift our hands sometimes when the music is playing, worship, but worship is so much bigger than just when the music is playing. The reading of God’s Word and the right preaching of it is an act of worship as well. This sermon was birthed largely when I saw a student during music with his hands lifted towards Heaven and his eyes closed and he was obviously really getting into it. I thought, “That dude either is really getting the point of God’s reverence in the song, or he’s demon possessed, or he’s faking it.” I looked back after a little bit and only one hand was up, I figured maybe the other one got tired. I looked back a bit later and one hand was still up, his head was down, and I looked and saw what he was doing, he was texting with the other hand. Another time I saw a student with a hand up turned around talking to someone.
We have no lack of zeal in this country and youth group, but a lot of it is based on feelings and our own opinion instead of based on truth and honor to God. So that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today, zeal without knowledge. Let me define zeal real quick though so I don’t lose you. Zeal is enthusiasm, fervor, excitement over a topic and running full speed towards it. We see it in football idolatry and the fans are jumping up and down and screaming with joy or anger. The problem is that a lot of zeal inside and outside of the church is lacking in any eternal purpose, it’s just to make us feel good.
My friend Keith was at a gas station recently and a young man came up and said, “Hi, I’m so-and-so from such-and-such youth group, I’d like to do something nice for you today, can I wash your windows?” My friend Keith is an amazing evangelist, and he asked, “So you want to invite me to church?” The young man replied, “No, I just want to do something nice for you.” Keith asked, “So you don’t want to tell me the gospel?” The kid said, “No, wait, yes.” Keith said, “Ok, tell me the gospel.” The student responded, “Jesus loves you.”
Keith uses Psalm 5:5 more than any other verse, I think, which says, “God hates all evildoers.” So Keith asked this kid, “So Jesus loves me even if I hate him and spit in his face?” The student said yes. Keith asked if he would go to Heaven even if he hated Jesus, and the young man said yes, and by this time the rest of the youth group had come over. Keith was able to share the true gospel with these students, that God is absolutely angry with sinners, but demonstrated great lovingkindness when Jesus suffered and died for sins so that sinners can be reconciled to God and love Jesus. There was no lack of zeal in that youth group, they were out telling people about Jesus, but they were doing so without the faintest idea of the gospel or the purpose of the gospel. I mean, if someone is going to go to Heaven anyways, there is no reason to tell them about Jesus.
So we see that zeal without knowledge is a huge problem in our world today, let’s go look at how it was also a problem in Paul’s day. We’re in Romans 10, Romans is Paul’s epistle, letter, to Rome. It was written in the mid-AD50’s, it was written by a man named Paul, who was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, who grew up as a religious leader called a Pharisee, and who had been saved by grace while persecuting the very church of Christ.
The passage we’re going to read today is coming out of Romans 9, which gives us the reason that Israel is not saved, because they have so thoroughly rejected the gospel, and that God has given it instead to the nations. Let’s read Romans 10:1-4, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
This letter is written to Christians, brothers here means both men and women, and Paul really wants and prays for the Israelites to be saved. He loves these people, he grew up with them, he studied with them, he lived among them, and he wants nothing more than that they would come to Christ and be saved and be both his physical brothers and his spiritual brothers.
Paul says they have a zeal, an enthusiasm for God. In our country today people are ALWAYS busy, even when they’re not really busy. They whip themselves into over-activity so that they never have a moment to stop and think. The idea behind zeal without knowledge is that you are at least doing something. As long as we’re loving and doing something, we should be fine right? Let’s look at two churches in Revelation, Thyatira and Ephesus.
Thyatira is the definition of zeal, they are loving everybody, feeding the poor, clothing the homeless, taking care of sick people, and every year they get better and better and better at it. Jesus sees this and commends them for it, but then he says that their knowledge is lacking, that they’ve let sin sneak into their church and the sin is killing them and their efforts, and will result in their children being cut off from the faith. It is an incredible threat the Jesus gives them, and one that I think you all can probably identify with. If your parents or friends or pastors claim to be Christians and then live like the world, the power of Christ is lost on you, and you’ll have no problem rejecting it. Beloved, know that Christ is true even if every man is a liar.
This balloon represents Thyatira, it is full of zeal and love, I’m going to send it and aim it really well and hope to hit that target on the wall. All that happens when I let go of this balloon is a lot of noise and action, but I don’t get anywhere near my target. This is zeal without knowledge.
Ephesus on the other hand is the genius church, they know everything there is to know about Christianity. They even have whole books of the Bible memorized and they are great at refuting false teachers. But, they’ve got no love, they’ve got no zeal. They sit at home on their couches talking about Jesus but never to any unbelievers, and they certainly don’t feed anybody or give any money to any causes. Jesus threatens them that if they don’t repent and start adding love to their knowledge, he is going to close their church.
This straw on a string represents Ephesus, it is razor straight and knows the way to the target. I’m going to tell it to go and hit that target on the wall. Nothing happens. This is knowledge without zeal, it exists a little in America today, but not nearly so much as zeal without knowledge.
The world we live in is totally spiritual, they’ve got all sorts of zeal towards their understanding of God, but they’ve got no knowledge or purpose to their actions. A couple of examples, during the “Hope for Haiti” concert a lot of good and bad musicians sung songs to God and about hope and with prayer in them. Madonna was asked to attend, and she’s got no spiritual songs, so she sang a song she wrote a long time ago that is about sex, but it has the word “prayer” in it. Nobody even noticed that she sang such a filthy song, because she had zeal, it was just totally lacking in knowledge.
American Idol this summer had an “Inspirational” night where they all sang songs to or about God, or about bettering mankind. These songs were by and large terrible, but because we’ve rejected knowledge, as long as it has something to do with spiritually, we accept it readily enough.
Hosea 4:4-6 says that the people perish for a lack of knowledge. It also says that God’s contention is first and foremost with his priesthood for failing to teach the Bible. In the New Testament it says that believers are a priesthood, so ultimately this is the churches fault, and the reason is, once again, that we have zeal without a whole lot of knowledge. This has been exacerbated recently in Glenn Beck’s “Revival” which is utterly void of Jesus Christ and only seeks to turn people back to belief in a higher power in order to save the country.
This thought permeates television today. One example that stands out is on one of those criminal investigator shows called “Criminal Minds” where one of the lead characters claims to be an atheist, but then decides to believe again and goes and prays in a Catholic church, and while he’s praying, somewhere a long ways off his girlfriend gets shot but doesn’t die. He got all contemplative about the idea that God must have wanted him to pray at the exact moment she got shot so she wouldn’t die. The major point of that show was that believing would earn you things and make your life better.
Next, I don’t watch Glee, but this week someone told me I should watch this particular episode, so I did. It was called, “Grilled Cheesus”, and the very beginning of the show the character makes a grilled cheese which is burned to look somewhat like what we think Jesus looked like, and he says, "When I pulled the sandwich out, I saw the face of God...literally, I had a made a grilled cheesus.” I’m going to show a clip in a moment, but check this out, a major primetime television show dedicated an entire episode to religion, and in it they tried to solve the great mysteries of the universe, they even went so far as to declare that Jesus Christ is literally God. But their zeal, even interspersed with that tiny bit of knowledge, was totally misguided.
In this clip there are several students praying over a man who had an aneurism. There is a Jew, a Pentecostal, a Catholic, and a Nondenominational sort-of-baptist, they say, “We’re from different denominations and religions so we figured one of us is bound to be right.” The atheist brings in a Hindu/Muslim called a Sikh, and it just shows us that this show has no idea who God is, but they want to try to get on his good side anyways. Later in the episode the counselor girl says, “God speaks to us through all sorts of ways, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t speak to us through sandwiches.” The major point of the episode is that nobody knows the truth, let’s just have zeal anyways.
Beloved, I know it's presumptuous, but I stand here telling you that I know the truth. Jesus Christ said that he is the Truth (John 14:6), he is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11), and he said that you Shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32).
[Reader's Note] At this point a student shot rubber bands blindfolded at a target placed in the middle of the crowd. The point was that if you don't know where the target is, you ought not to be shooting at it.[/Reader's Note]
This zeal is without knowledge and is the equivalent to running full speed in the wrong direction. Or maybe like shooting arrows in random directions in a crowded room with your eyes closed; I think that’s what happened to our poor spirit duck. Or like making every shot you take in basketball, from layups to free throws to three pointers to half-court shots…except you’re making them in the wrong basket.
John Calvin said, “Zeal without knowledge is like a sword in the hand of a lunatic.” Charles Spurgeon changed it just a bit to say, “Zeal without knowledge is like a fire brand (torch) in the hand of a lunatic.” If you don’t know what you’re doing in regards to spirituality, everything you do is going to cause harm. If you ran around with a torch you’d be burning down buildings and hurting people left and right, just like modern spiritually is destroying souls left and right.
And now we come to where the knowledge has failed. Verse 3, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” God requires perfection, which is obviously WAY out of our abilities. Therefore we reject God’s law and come up with our own standards. The Pharisees were notorious for this, they would tithe even down to their last cucumber, but they rejected justice and mercy and faithfulness.
Check out the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, starting at verse 17, it is Jesus radically attacking the way that the people would establish their own righteousness, for time’s sake let’s just look at a couple of them.
v.17-20 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is setting the standard as God’s righteousness, and he concludes this thought by saying that you must be BETTER than the Pharisees to get into Heaven, these dudes were as righteous as a person can get, and Jesus right here says they’re not going to make it.
Now everyone in attendance might have felt like they broke some minor laws, but in their heart they would say, “But at least I haven’t murdered anybody.” So Jesus starts by exposing them,
v.21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.
Whoa, this is what the law requires, everyone in attendance would automatically see that they were murders in God’s sight. Now they’re probably thinking as well, even if I’ve broken some of the law, at least I’ve never cheated on my husband or wife,
v.27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Dude, this law is proving to be far more perfect than anybody in attendance would have realized. No wonder they rejected God’s law in order to establish their own, and in doing this they break the 2nd Commandment, which says not to worship idols. This god they invented wouldn’t send them to Hell, but the reason he wouldn’t is because the god they invented was a figment of their imagination invented to appease their consciences.
This law is called perfect in Psalm 19:7, and it requires perfection, let’s jump to verse 48,
v. 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Beloved, I hope you see that this is the ignorance which Paul was speaking about, which the whole world lacks knowledge of. Proverbs 20:6 says that almost every person will proclaim their own goodness, this is totally true, and most think that they will go to Heaven for their goodness, but the Bible is more than clear in lots of places that there is none good but God. Let’s conclude this thought with James 2:10, which says if you’ve broken one law, you are guilty of all. It is like dangling from a chain, if only one link breaks, you fall. And beloved, if you’re like me, you’ve broken a lot more than one.
So who are we rejecting in God’s righteousness? Is it just some laws or is it something bigger? Look at Romans 10:4, it says Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. He is perfect, holy, sinless, and undefiled. But if he is the standard of righteousness, then that means I can’t be the standard of righteousness, and not only that, it makes me a sinner in danger of judgment! This is why so many reject Christ, because he is God and they want his position, whether they’ll say so out loud or not.
Even still, most of American Christianity has rejected Christ’s righteousness as well. A recent Barna poll found that 33% of professing CHRISTIANS believe that Jesus sinned while he was on earth. If that is within the church, imagine how much worse it is outside of the church! There is a great call to say that if Jesus even existed, he wasn’t God, but just a good man. Beloved, a person who claims the things that Jesus claimed was not just a good man. In claiming to be God, he either is really God, or he is out of his mind believing he is God, or he is a liar saying he is a God when he knows he is not. We must see Christ as either totally righteous or utterly obsolete, don’t pretend it doesn’t matter to consider him God.
And if he is the fulfillment of the law, the end of the law for righteousness, then that means he must have kept every law. Let’s look at the 10 Commandments to see if he really is the end of righteousness.
One, Christ loved his Father with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, he proved it by being obedient to live a righteous life and willingly go the cross.
Two, Christ never bowed down to idols. Satan gave Christ the option of inheriting the whole world without going to the cross, without shedding a single drop of blood, all Christ had to do was worship the Devil; but he remained true to his Father.
Three, Christ never took God’s name in vain, and his reward is that he has been given a name above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Four, Christ honored the Sabbath Day, even clarifying weird rules which the Pharisees had invented, and in dying for our sins he has become our better Sabbath, our rest forever, so that we don’t honor him or keep him holy only on Saturday or Sunday, but every day.
Five, Christ was totally obedient to his mother Mary and stepfather Joseph, and he honored his Father in Heaven perfectly.
Six, Christ never murdered anyone or was angry without cause or struck back when he was struck, rather he left all vengeance up to God.
Seven, Christ is totally faithful to his bride the church, he has no affection for any other religion, and he never looked with lust upon a woman, his heart is still totally pure.
Eight, Christ never stole a single thing, not even music on the internet, but he was crucified for our sins between two thieves and asked his Father, “What I did not steal, must I now repay?”
Nine, Christ never told a lie. In fact, the Bible says that it is both impossible for him to lie, and that he does not lie. Every word that proceeded out of his mouth was worthwhile and truthful.
Ten, Christ, though rich in Heaven, became poor for our sake. He was born in the most abject of poverty, but trusted wholly in his Father for life, he never desired anything that didn’t belong to him.
In these 10 Commandments, we see that Christ is the total fulfillment of the law of righteousness, he didn’t sin even a single time, he always did what was right and honorable, he kept the law that we cannot keep so that he is now both the Just and the Justifier. Despite no demand for his life from breaking the law, Christ gave himself for our sins. It can be called the great exchange, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God in him. That’s 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Three days later he rose from the grave and reigns forever more, in his resurrection he proved to be God, he proved that his Father was well pleased with him, and he proved that his payment was accepted. So now for all of us who believe, he is our righteousness, and this righteousness calls us to be zealous in knowledge, let’s read Titus 2:11-14,
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Our works now are not to repay Christ or to earn Heaven, but are an outpouring of our love for him and desire to see his name exalted throughout the world. Beloved, if you get on fire for the truth and for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, people will come to watch you burn.
In 2009 I went to Tampa to preach at the Superbowl. As I was preaching the crowds got pretty violent, at one point I was preaching with my left arm up in the air and a girl flicked a cigarette at me, it went between my forearm and my head, I had the urge to yell, “Field Goal!!!” A little bit later and a man came up and listened to me preach for about five minutes. Then he walked off. He came back about twenty minutes later and sat on the sidewalk in front of me resting his back on a light pole, and I preached for another twenty minutes. When I finished I went up to him and learned his name was Jeff. I asked what he thought about what I was preaching and he said it was interesting. I asked him if he believed it, and he said, “I don’t, but it sounds like you believe it, so maybe I should.”
Just my genuineness drew a crowd, even if people absolutely refused to abandon their sin and give up their perceived righteousness for the genuine righteousness of Jesus Christ.
A person with zeal and knowledge can accomplish all sorts of amazing things for Christ. My dear friend Dave Snyder, who was a youth pastor here a long long long time ago, was preaching this week at an FCA in Alabama. Because he just moved to Alabama, he got good and lost and got to the FCA with only a minute to speak.
He had to cut the message down to its absolute bare minimum and he told this story; when he was first a youth pastor he got a brand new cell phone, this was when they were first becoming popular. He failed to read the instructions and went for the whole month using his cell-phone. Out of the blue the church he was a youth pastor at gave him a $300 bonus for doing such a good job. Right after that he got his cell phone bill and it was $300 because he hadn’t used it according to the rules of his cell-phone plan. But, because the church had given him a payment, the bill was able to be paid. Even before Dave knew there was a bill, provisions had already been made to pay it. He then turned the lesson to our sin, which is a debt against Heaven, and explained that before we even had a debt, Christ had paid for our sins on the cross, so we must repent and believe in the gospel.
Because my brother Dave is zealous for Christ and has much knowledge, he didn’t panic or give up when he only had a minute to preach, he was able to preach the gospel clearly and powerfully.
So beloved, know the basics, be able to share your faith. The best way I’ve found to be able to remember the message is to simplify it as short as I can, then I can emphasize certain parts more or less as the need arises. Remember two words and you’ll remember Christianity: Law, Grace. Let me expand that a bit for you: God has a law, we broke it. God has a Son, he gave him. God had wrath towards us, Christ faced it. God has the power to raise the dead, he raised him. God has grace, he gives it.
When I preach my super short message I say this, “God counts hatred as murder, lust as adultery, and lying lips an abomination, and all of these will have their place in the Lake of Fire. But God had great mercy and sent his Son Jesus Christ to bear our sin, to die on a cross in our place, and he raised him from the dead so that if we repent and trust in him, we’ll be saved.”
And the purpose of us having zeal and knowledge is once again, not to earn our way into Heaven, but because Jesus Christ is worthy. Now, beloved, when we stand in Heaven and someone asks us why we’re there, we won’t have the faintest inclination to answer, “Because I’m so awesome.” No, we’ll respond with joy and say, “I’m here because Jesus Christ is so awesome, and he sought me and bought me and to him belongs all of the honor, power, and glory, forever and ever, amen.”
Now back to Ephesus and Thyatira, one had knowledge but no zeal, the other was zeal without knowledge, let introduce you to a third church, called Philadelphia, the best church in the Bible. They had zeal and knowledge, and they are guaranteed to hit the target every time. Now watch as I attach the balloon, zeal, to the straw and string, knowledge, and send it straight to the target every single time. With zeal and knowledge you will accomplish great things for God, things which he has prepared for you to do before time even began.
But, beloved, if you have zeal for God but not according to knowledge, you must repent. You may be running at full speed, but you’re running full speed away from God. Your sin has made a separation between you and God. Let me give you one last analogy. Say we all decide to skip school this week and go to Disney. We load on a shuttle and start driving, and I’m driving. As we start out you think I turn the wrong way on the freeway but you trust me that I know where I’m going, so you don’t say anything. I’m so zealous to get to Disney that I have that shuttle wound up going as fast as it possibly will, like 67 mph, the dotted lines in the middle of the road are practically a solid line, the trees are a blur. As we pass Cartersville you realize we’re going the wrong way, so you tell me, “Hey, we’re going the wrong way.” I say, “No, no we’re not” as I ease that shuttle up to 68 mph. A little while later and we see signs for Rock City, we’re definitely going the wrong way, but I’m adamant that in my zeal we will be in Disney soon. Then we pass a sign that says, “Welcome to Tennessee.” It is clear to me and everyone that I have gone the wrong way.
I need to repent. I need to do five things to set things right. First, I need to stop going the wrong way. If I just apologized but didn’t change my direction we would end up in Canada before too long, and there is no Disney in Canada. So I stop the shuttle. Now an apology is in order, I’m sorry for wasting your time by going in the wrong direction; I hope you’ll forgive me. Third, I need to turn around so I’m facing the right way. Fourth I need to start moving the right way. And fifth, I need to not stop until we get there.
This is true repentance, in our zeal we must stop running from God and misrepresenting his kingdom. We must apologize and ask for forgiveness. We must turn to him, and place our full hope and trust in Christ and his redeeming work. When this faith is genuine, it will last until the end.
One of the things that shows that we are saved is a genuine desire to see everyone saved, just as Paul prays in verse 1. Charles Spurgeon said it really well when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” The thought that is concluded in verse 4 actually begins in Romans 9, verse 2-3, turn there with me as I read it.
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Paul’s zeal was so excessive that he would, if he could, give up his own salvation to give it to someone else. Literally he would be willing to go to Hell so that his former friends could go to Heaven. Beloved, think about it, would you give your soul for someone else’s? If I could give up my salvation so that you would be saved, I don’t know that I could, I hope that I would, but I don't know. Fortunately for you and I, that's not an option, however Jesus Christ did humble himself for us, being cut off from the God from whom every good thing flows, accursed for our sake, so that we may be saved. Love has no greater man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.
So today, if you’ve had a zeal without knowledge, if you’ve sinned against Heaven and have never repented towards God and put your full trust in Jesus Christ, then with every head raised and every eye open and no music playing and no feet moving, call out to Jesus Christ silently where you sit. I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God. If you have questions hang out afterwards and we’ll talk to you.
For those of you have repented and believed; your commission today is to live a zealous life according to knowledge, knowing that Jesus Christ is your righteousness. Live your life with a passion for Christ, a love for your brothers and sisters, a burden for the lost, a radical holiness, an impeccable purity, and a zeal for the truth. When you see someone who is hungry, give them a sandwich and tell them about the Bread of Life, when you see someone who is thirsty, give them a glass of water and tell them about the Living Water, when you see someone so ragged as to be practically naked, give them clothing and tell them about the Righteousness of Jesus Christ which clothes the sinner, when you see someone lonely and a stranger, befriend them and tell them about the Greatest Friend of Sinners, and when you visit someone in prison or in the hospital tell them about the One Who Sets Captives Free.
In all things, submit to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe.