“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire is for Israel’s salvation. That’s my prayer to God for them. I can vouch for them: they are enthusiastic about God. However, it isn’t informed by knowledge. They don’t submit to God’s righteousness because they don’t understand his righteousness, and they try to establish their own righteousness. For Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God.” (Romans 10:1-4 CEB)
It’s a common thought in our times to equate the security of our soul’s relationship with God to the enthusiasm we feel in our heart and the energy we sense in our spirit. That is, the thinking is such that if we’re really on fire about what we believe about God, then there really can’t be any question about whether or not it’s true or if we’re pleasing God. It’s a forgone conclusion. It’s a given. We are righteous because we’re zealous. Passion equals God’s possession. Zeal means we’ve got a tight deal with God.
This passage then surely becomes one of the most sobering of texts in all of Paul’s letters. For here Paul tells us it is possible to be “enthusiastic about God” and simultaneously “not understand his righteousness.” It is quite possible – indeed, was true for a great many – to be “zealous for God” and yet not be “saved.”
Worship is more than a feeling. Being right with God isn’t about how I feel about it, but about God’s declaration of it. Christ is our goal, not intensity of emotion. The depth and intensity of my spirituality cannot be rightly measured by simply weighing how worked I am at a given moment.
No, it’s all about whether Jesus Christ is truly at the center of my life. Only first place for him will do. Second place, or any other place, only makes me an idolater and a seeker of my own sort of righteousness. To know God, that is, have a deep, abiding, intimate relationship with him through Jesus Christ, is the only road to rights standing with God and rescue from Satan, sin and self.
God my Father, in a world full of things to desensitize me to life, it’s tempting at times to see real passion or zeal as the litmus test of all things genuine. When my mind is numbed by all that is, it’s attractive to see genuine feeling as the guiding light to what is in fact truth. But you tell me otherwise. You tell me you are light and your Son is the light of this world. So may you and your Son be my excitement and may my desire to be excited and energetic never lead me away from you. May I not set up “Enthusiasm” as my god and leave you behind. For I pray in your Son’s name. Amen.