The Pursuit of Passion Series: Reflection 6 of 7
Editor’s Note: Have you ever had a melody lodge in your mind to such an extent that you couldn’t stop humming it all day long? In other words, you become “obsessed” with it, without even trying! What about our living Lord and Savior? Should we not be equally “obsessed” with him? In this sixth installment of David Bryant’s seven-part series, he not only answers “by all means” but describes two responses such a level of passion for Christ requires of every disciple.
Most of us know that in the opening centuries of the Christian era, believers were hounded by their enemies, with countless martyrs perishing in Roman arenas.
And yet these followers of Jesus showed, even in the face of imminent, torturous death, a holy boldness to exalt Christ that spectators could not ignore or refute. With fierce hope in Christ, God’s people bore testimony to their tormentors of their unwavering conviction that the Lord of Life, victor over death itself, was worthy of their suffering and sacrifice for his sake.
So potent was this witness that Roman officials would often burn the martyrs’ remains after a public spectacle and then scatter their ashes in an attempt to remove all possibility of them being raised from the dead.
But pagan defiance of the passion of these early Christians proved utterly futile in thwarting the advance of the gospel. Persecuted disciples were consumed with Christ, which meant, at times, they also were consumed for him—literally. Over and over, “the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, early Christian theologian).
Clearly our forefathers and mothers were obsessed with God’s Son—they had a zeal for Jesus which meant for them there was no turning back, nor was there any holding back.
Today Christians in America fear no devouring lions; we face no stadiums filled with people screaming for our demise. So, what does such a level of unflagging dedication to Jesus require of you and me today?
Precisely the same response. Here are two metaphors to explain.
Marketplace and Marriage
Marketplace. To finalize a business transaction, contracts are signed. Financial investments are committed in writing. Legally, once that happens, you must not renege on the other party no matter how costly the agreement becomes later on. It is binding. You have “consummated the deal,” is how society says it. From that moment on, your time, talent, and treasures are relegated to the process, procedures, and projections spelled out in the contract. There’s no turning back.
In the same way, Christians become so confident about Jesus—about all the promises he makes to us and his ability to fulfill them—that we invest everything we have into who he is and what his kingdom is all about.
There’s no turning back for us as well, no matter what the cost. Hope in God stirs in us courage to press on, without reservation, to make Christ and his redemptive mission our singular venture. In other words, on the day of our salvation our commitment to him was consummated. From that point forward, we are meant to be totally consumed with him—with who he is, where he’s headed, what he’s doing, and how he gets blessed.
Marriage. Or consider how a husband and wife consummate a marriage. Though they may take their vows in front of many witnesses, they seal those vows privately, in a profoundly personal and meaningful way in a honeymoon suite. It involves an unforgettable exchange, a total abandonment to each other, an unconditional giving over of everything that’s precious because the two are now one. They have “consummated their marriage,” is how society says it. As Adam said of Eve: “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2). In other words, for the newlyweds there’s no holding back.
Similarly, for Christians there must be no holding back with Jesus. We “consummate” our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as we allow ourselves to be increasingly enraptured with him day after day, intensely and intimately involved with him and his global cause.
Thoroughly abandoned to the destiny he offers us as his beloved ones, we embrace Christ as our bridegroom (Ephesians 5), relinquishing ourselves to promises he holds out to us, consumed with our love for him.
Both metaphors reinforce one central truth: Fervency for Christ in his supremacy renounces all hesitations and all reservations. Our hope in him compels from us no turning back as well as no holding back.
We are saved to be obsessed with the King of Glory!
We may use eight hours a day for sleep, eight for work. The rest may be given to prayer and service, or to friends and family, or perhaps to recreation. But in God’s eyes all 24 hours are claimed for eternity, woven into the kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1). He wants every moment to be caught up in Christ. The God who is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12) never stops burning for the Son and for what really matters to him! And he never wants us to stop burning with him for Jesus.
A Life Obsessed With Christ
If the coming new heaven and earth could be described as Christ obsession universalized (which it is in Revelation 4-5), then should not daily discipleship in this world be defined as Christ obsession personalized?
Frankly, we should become fanatics for Jesus’ praise among the nations. “Fanatic” comes from the Latin “fanum” meaning “temple dweller,” referring to a Roman so in love with his deity that he never left the idol’s presence day or night. Yes, pagans became that obsessed with false gods!
Should not Christians be equally obsessed with our Savior, not by residing in a sacred structure but rather by constantly abiding in him as he abides in us (John 15)?
We’re invited into wholehearted engagement with the person and purpose of God’s eternal Son—to practice a love for him that is completely uncompromising in the way we go about eliminating everything in our lives not compatible with making him the grand affection of our hearts.
Jesus calls us to a relentless love for him with this challenge:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me . . . whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35, NIV).
No one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life (Luke 18:29-30, NIV).
In one unforgettable sentence, Augustine defined a life obsessed with Christ:
He loves too little
who loves anything together with Thee
which he loves not for Thy sake.
Go back and read that again. You could almost call such a love “ruthless” in its zeal to ensure that one love occupies the human heart supremely.
This Is the Obsession the Holy Spirit Wants to Unleash in You Right Now!
Last Sunday nearly 400,000 sermons were delivered across America within a four-hour time span, most of which were soon forgotten. But one Sunday in 1742, the popular New England theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards preached to his Northhampton congregation what some consider the greatest sermon in US history. It was a call to embrace the supremacy of Christ. Edwards’ opening point came down to this:
There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.
Next, his message proceeded to lay out how justice and grace, glory and humility, majesty and meekness, obedience and dominion, resignation and sovereignty all converge in an infinite display of Christ’s sovereignty.
Then he candidly revealed his own zeal for such a Savior, inviting his church to join him:
The excellency of Jesus Christ is suitable food of the rational soul. The soul that comes to Christ feeds on this, and lives on this. It is impossible for those who have tasted this fountain, and know the sweetness of it, ever to forsake it (emphasis added).
Obsession. No turning back. No holding back.
In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis concurred. He likened this experience of passion for Christ to the transfixing beauty of a spectacular sunset, describing how the viewer lingers, trying to absorb every fading ray of its splendor. You’ve known that experience I’m sure.
Similarly, Lewis concluded, we Christians do not want merely to see the beauty of Christ. We want to be united with the Christ we see—to pass into him, to receive him into ourselves, to bathe in him, to become part of all he is.
Obsession. No turning back. No holding back.
It’s the passion to be wrapped up with Christ alone. It’s the passion that naturally arises the more we get to know him in his majesty and fullness and power. It’s the passion that will mark all saints for all ages to come.
It’s the obsession the Holy Spirit wants to unleash in you right now.
So then, let him. “Do not quench the fire of the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5).
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.