How to Love God More and Increase Grace
Adapted from Pastor James Wooten’s 11/20/22 sermon, How Can I Grow in Grace: Let God’s Jealous Love Ignite My Soul
It’s not uncommon to feel spiritually lazy or indifferent. Sometimes, we let life put out our fire for the Lord, and sometimes we’ve never been on fire at all. But the good news is that if you want more of God–you can have Him! It’s possible to cultivate an intimate and passionate relationship with the living God and move beyond checklist Christianity.
And it’s even more breathtaking when you realize that a deeper love for Him also brings more of His amazing grace into your life. As Christians, we often use the word “grace” but may not know how to live in it or grow in it. And at times, we might even struggle to define it. Simply stated, grace is God’s unmerited (or undeserved) favor, like getting the “good” we don’t deserve. But a fuller definition would be the divine favor and beneficial goodness of God that draws people to Him. Who doesn’t need more of that?
What is the first step toward embracing more of God’s favor and goodness? It’s developing a zeal for God, a passion that ignites your soul for Him. Interested? Let’s break it down.
What Is Godly Zeal?
Zeal? Unlike grace, it’s not a frequently used term. Zeal means to set your affection on something with a singular focus. In today’s terms, we might say it’s a passionate (but pure and selfless) love. In Hebrew, it suggests an excited mind or fervent spirit. But from this flows a deeper understanding of zeal.
Zeal is also closely related to the word “jealous.” This isn’t as strange as it might seem. If you have set your affection on something and burn with passion for it, you would also want to defend it.
So, godly zeal also means passionately defending against anything that would threaten or harm what you cherish or value. It’s the protective side of zeal that means you are jealous or “zealous” for the good of another. Think of a husband being jealous or protective over his wife or parents over their children. It’s a desire to keep who you love from harm.
This contrasts sharply with the negative meaning of jealousy we’re more familiar with in human terms. This type of jealousy means you’re set against the good of another and are upset that someone possesses what you desire but don’t have. In other words, it’s envy.
But godly zeal is always right and loving, fervently desiring the good of another and willing to act to ensure it.
Jesus Has Zealous Love
When Jesus rid the Temple of the moneychangers in John 2, He demonstrated His zeal and jealousy on behalf of God the Father and even for His people. Imagine the disruption He caused in the crowd as He began flipping over tables with passion-driven strength. Why? He would not stand by as God was dishonored, His house corrupted, and His people taken advantage of. This is the zeal, the jealousy that gives the courage to defend and protect even when it’s not ideal or comfortable.
Scripture declares that our God is a jealous God, jealous for us and for our good. Jesus' act of cleansing the temple is a powerful object lesson in divine jealousy. But perhaps the most awesome demonstration of love was His willingness to suffer and die on the cross in our place. His affection was singularly focused on God the Father, and by extension, on us. That is a zeal only He can accomplish.
And if we are going to see God’s grace flourish in our lives, this is one aspect of Christ that we desperately need more of in our lives. Because, if we’re not developing a zeal for God, then we’re gradually slipping into indifference, which we’ll discuss more later.
God’s Love for You
If you stop and consider, you will realize that everything God does is a zealous act for His people. If you look at Creation, His work of Redemption, and His constant provision and care, what isn’t a zealous act of love?
But there is a specific work of God that shows both His graciousness and zeal toward you. You’ll see it in the way He prepares you to serve Him. In His love and jealousy, God works to consume or burn away the impurities (or dross) in your life. It’s a zealous act of love because it’s what’s best for you.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29
Our jealous God is a consuming fire that purifies us for service and reward, protecting us from harmful corruption.
Your faith journey began when you gave Jesus your sin and guilt and received grace and life in return. But the end of your faith journey is giving Him your complete trust, to be as Job and say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him…” Job 12:13.
In His zeal for you, God is burning away everything in your life that hinders you from this point of total surrender. Yes, His passion for you is that great.
How Can You Develop a Passionate Love for God?
As the children of Israel wandered in the desert wilderness, God continuously called them to remember His goodness, keep their focus on Him, and keep a tender heart. What He gave them was a recipe for godly zeal.
Remember His Zeal for You
God spent a lot of time in the Old Testament reminding His people of all He had done for them. He desired them to remember. If they would only recall His love and miraculous provision, their passion for Him would grow. Their devotion would be strengthened. They would be zealous and even jealous for Him.
It’s not different for us today. If you want your soul to ignite passionately for Christ, it will take a long memory, a loving recounting of His many acts of zealous love. How has He been a consuming fire in your life, ridding your heart of impurities, sins, and wrong desires? How has He transformed your mind and taught your heart what to want? How much heartache has He saved you from, and how many rewards will you receive in His kingdom?
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Set Your Affection on Christ and His Kingdom
What are you pursuing? People pursue what they love. If you want a zeal for God, set your sights on Him, and make Him the object of your desire. The more you come to know Christ and live a life that resembles Him, the greater your love and the more of His grace you experience.
As amazing as it would’ve been to walk with Jesus on earth, we can know that same fullness today (and maybe more so). Just as Jesus poured out His fullness on all, even those who wouldn’t receive it, He will also fill our hearts with Himself if we’re open and seeking.
If you set your affection on Christ, expect a burning fire for Him to grow in your heart.
Cultivate a Tender Heart
A heart that’s soft toward God will be quick to repent as His purifying fires do their work. When you lay aside your excuses and defenses, confessing all your heart, you’ll experience His mercy, grace, and a reciprocating love for Him.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Revelation 3:19
When we can accept that He corrects in love, it pours fuel on the flames of passion for Him. And this devotion increases tenderness and sensitivity to sin. Zealous repentance flows from a submissive, tender heart.
Spiritual Dangers of Indifference
“Eh. I’m okay.” That’s indifference. A spiritually indifferent person doesn’t necessarily say they don’t need more of God, but that is how they live. No pursuit. No tender, zealous heart for repentance. Little or no remembrance of what God has done out of love for them. They’re just, “Okay.”
Indifference is the exact opposite of zeal. It’s passionless and content to be so. And more than that, it’s nearly void of sincere love.
“Grace be with them all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” Ephesians 6:24
Grace is given to those who love the Lord with sincerity. And the only sincere love is a zealous love. But indifference is the enemy of grace and will rob you of blessings and His power in your life.
Indifference at Laodicea
You’re probably well acquainted with the church of Laodicea as described in Revelation 3:14-22. This was the infamous “lukewarm” church that was rich and increased in goods. The members were comfortable, having plenty of resources, but devoid of the presence of Christ. The Lord was on the outside looking in rather than being invited to dwell among them.
The Laodicean church illustrates the great danger of lukewarmness and indifference. If you’ve become lukewarm, you’ve got all the things you think you need but are lacking the power and presence of God. And today’s church is frequently compared to Laodicea. This heart attitude of indifference or lukewarmness is among the greatest dangers to the modern church.
Are material goods and comforts contenting your heart? Are you lacking the power and presence of God as a reality that lights a fire in your soul?
In Revelation 3, Jesus tells the lukewarm church, “You need zeal. Fall on your face before God and beg His forgiveness. You need God’s love and zeal to light a fire in your soul.”
Do You Have a Zealous Love for God?
Sincere love is zealous love. So how do you know if you’re zealous or indifferent?
It takes reflection, introspection, and prayer to determine your spiritual health and what the next spiritual step is for you. As you spend time communing with God, consider these questions:
- Am I a checklist Christian? Am I simply going through the motions?
- Am I living a fruitful life or a fruitless life?
- Do I get victory over temptation?
- Am I seeing answered prayers?
- Is communion with Christ real to me or not?
- Is God’s grace a reality in my life or is something hindering the flow?
As you grow in zeal and grace, God will invest people, power, circumstances, and resources in you to bring you to an expected (hopeful) end. This shows you how He is still at work in you.
Indifference hinders grace, but zeal fuels it. So, ask God to help you remember His zealous love for you, set your affection on Him, and cultivate a tender heart toward repentance. While you seek to love your Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, may your prayer be, “Lord, set my heart afire!”
May God ignite our souls!
Feeling uncertain about your relationship with God? This video can help.