How can you have a greater passion for God? Many of us want to love God more than we do. We wish we had a stronger desire to serve him, obey him, and tell others about him. Apathy, shyness, shame, fear, and so many other roadblocks can stand in the way.
Perhaps one of the most lavish expressions of love for God took place in John 12:1-11 where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus had a dinner for Jesus. By studying this Bible passage, we can identify at least four ways to have more passion for God.
To Have More Passion for God: Receive and Remember God’s Grace (John 12:1-2)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there.”
The “Passover” was a celebration remembering what God had done for Israel when he “passed over” the homes marked with the blood and spared them of death (Exodus 12). This dinner in John 12 was to celebrate the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus (John 11). As we can see, celebrations are always in response to remembering something great in the past.
But before you can remember what God has done, you need to receive what he has done. Lazarus was celebrating Jesus because Lazarus was now alive. Likewise, there is no reason to celebrate God and have a passion for Jesus if you have not been spiritually raised from the dead.
The Passover and Lazarus’s resurrection are actual historical events. But every miracle by God is also representing something. Jesus’ miracles are visible representations of the spiritual messages of the gospel. The ultimate goal was not to raise Lazarus from the dead or deliver the Israelite from the Egyptians. These great acts of God are pointing us to the real point of God’s redemptive plan, which is the gospel.
God passes over us and spares us of death when Jesus’ blood covers us. God raises us from the dead and gives us new life when we put our faith in Jesus. We will have a passion for God and celebrate him in our lives when we receive and remember the gospel.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Veterans Day celebrates the sacrifice of our armed forces. Independence Day celebrates our freedom as country. On and on it goes. And so if you want to have a strong passion for God, you must remember what he has done for you.
As Romans 12:1 explains and instructs, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Paul had just spent eleven chapters explaining the amazing grace of God in the gospel. And now the book of Romans turns on Romans 12:1 to more practical responses to the truths expressed earlier. How are we to offer our bodies to God? By viewing and remembering these truths, “in view of God’s mercy.” When you remember and look at what God has done for you, you are then empowered to live differently in your present.
For better or worse, our past often dictates our passion (or lack of passion) in the present. For example: If you were abused in your past, this will affect how you live in the present. If you were jumped in the past, when you get into similar situations you are going to react defensively because of what happened to you previously. If you abused someone in your past, the shame you have over that will ruin your present relationships as well. In short, anything you did in your past has some bearings on the way you live in your present.
But here’s the thing: you can’t change your past. Whatever you did back then that is controlling the way you live now cannot be undone. You can’t change what happened. It’s done and over with. You can’t change that. These are heavy truths but they are truths nonetheless. So what hope do you have? What can be done if the past is set in stone and unchangeable?
Our only hope now is Christ. We need Christ’s past to become our past so Christ passion for God can become our passion for God. You can’t change your past. But God can replace your past sinfulness with the righteousness of Christ. Through the gospel, your imperfect past is substituted with Christ’s perfect life. Now Christ’s past work on the cross and resurrection can dictate our present. We no longer need to remember our failures which rob us of passion when we remember the Passion of Christ displayed on the cross.
We only have shame and depression when we look back at our own merits and earnings. But when you receive and remember the gospel which replaces your past, present, and future sins with the holiness and purity of Christ, this brings us reason to celebrate. So if you want more passion for God, it all starts with the gospel.
If You Want More Passion for God: Serve Him With Your God-Given Giftedness (John 12:2-3)
So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
Martha served, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, and Lazarus was a living testimony (John 12:9). All of them were playing a different role in their celebration of Jesus. Likewise, if you want to have passion for God, you need to serve him in the way he has designed you.
Martha often gets hammered for being a busy-body. But Martha was never rebuked for serving. She was rebuked for worrying and for judging Mary for not serving (Luke 10:38-42). In John 12, there is no rebuke for her service. She is passionately serving Jesus because she is using her unique giftedness to love God.
Mary, too, served Jesus in her giftedness. It seems whenever Mary was mentioned, she was at the feet of Jesus. She served God differently than her sister. But her act of service was passionate because she served Jesus her way, the way she was designed. She didn’t succumb to the pressure of serving Jesus a certain way that was more socially acceptable.
Lazarus seems to be just chilling in this scene. But can you really blame him? He was just literally dead. While he was simply reclining, the mere fact of his living presence was contributing to the glory of God, “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” (John 12:9). Lazarus’s presence was a living testimony. He shared what Jesus had done for him, and people came to Jesus. He served God passionately by simply embracing the role he was given in this story.
Each one of these people served God passionately because they were fulfilling their calling. How do you know you calling? Your calling is the place where your passion and your spiritual productivity meet. Passion without helping others is called a hobby. Helping others without having passion is called a duty. Both are necessary sometimes, but to have passion for God you need to combine both to find your calling. Your calling is the place where the world’s need meets your giftedness. What do you enjoy offering that other people benefit from? That’s usually what your calling is.
In 1 Corinthians 9:16 Paul states, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” When Paul preached, people benefited. When Paul preached, he was fulfilling a passion he had. It’s clear Paul’s calling was preaching.
To Have More Passion for God: You Must Honor Him Over Yourself (John 12:4-6)
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Judas eventually hated Jesus because he always honored himself. Judas was mad about the lavish gift for Jesus because he wanted more resources for himself. Judas couldn’t be passionate about Jesus because Judas was passionate about Judas.
This is just like Satan. Satan began to love and worship himself and therefore he began to hate and despise God. People in hell would hate heaven because they hate worshipping God. The focus on heaven will be glorifying God. If you love to glorify yourself, you will hate heaven which is why you will choose hell. If you are a God hater, why would you want to love God and worship him forever? Judas went to hell because he loved himself more than Jesus.
Likewise, if we want to have more passion for God, we need to be ready to give up our rights for the glory of God. But has Jim Elliot stated, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Judas was a fool because he sacrificed eternity on the altar of his present. His selfish passions and pursuit of quick pleasures stands as a warning to us all.
You Will Have a Passion for Jesus When You Value Your Relationship With Him Over Your Reputation (John 12:7-8)
7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
If you want to have a passion for God, you need to accept that you will look like a fool to many people in the world. We rob ourselves of passion when we fear the perceptions of other people. If you want to give it all to Christ, you have to get comfortable with making other people uncomfortable when they see your passion.
It will scare people, other Christians included, when they see how “reckless” you are in your service to Jesus. They will show you how impractical you are being, how immature you are, and how misguided you are acting when you are passionate for the King. Often times they try to convince you to slow down because they do not want to be convinced that they need to speed up. Your passion will be convicting to passionless people, and often times they will hate you for this.
But in John 12:7-8 and in Luke 10:40-42, Jesus protected Mary and her lavish gift giving. Surely she knew she would look like a fool when she “wasted” a year’s wages on the feet of Jesus. But Mary had a passion for Jesus because she did not fear the way she would be perceived by people.
So many times we don’t have a passion for Jesus because we are too afraid of the jeers and scoffs of others. We are afraid of ruining our reputation for Jesus, and so we protect ourselves and become less passionate for Jesus. We protect our image by hiding our passion for God. Mary left it to Jesus to protect her. She was comfortable with being vulnerable to outside shots. But Mary was fine with others looking down on her because she knew Jesus always had her back (John 12:7-8, Luke 10:40-42). She didn’t protect her social status, which allowed her to be passionate for Jesus
If you want to be passionate for God, you have to be passionate for God and let him protect and defend you when the world criticizes your lavish love for him. Don’t defend yourself. Just love God. He will use your passion for his glory. No one ever remembers defensive Christians because they don’t do much for God when all they care about is protecting themselves. We’re still talking about what Mary did.
How Can You Have More Passion for God? Value His Love More than Your Life (John 12:9-12)
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
As we just talked about, when you stand for Christ, people are going to want to knock you down. As soon as Lazarus starting shining too brightly for God, the priests tried to put his light out.
Lazarus had a choice to sit with Jesus. He had just escaped death, so it could have been rather deflating to hear his life was in jeopardy again. He could have got out of the kitchen before getting burned again, “I just got brought back from the dead, I’m not about to get killed now!”
But that’s not what he did. Lazarus stuck with Jesus. I’m inserting my own thoughts here, but it’s hard to imagine Lazarus actually being afraid of these death threats, “Do you know who you are threatening right now? Do you know where I’ve been? I was literally just in the tomb bro. I was literally just brought back from the dead. Do you really think I’m afraid of you when Jesus is sitting right next to me? He just brought me back from the dead, and now you want me to be afraid of your death threats? You can threaten me all day, I’m rolling with the man who has resurrection power!”
If you want to have a passion for God, you have to hold your earthly life and circumstances loosely. The more you are unwilling to sacrifice, the less passion you will have for God. Those who do the most for the kingdom are those who are least attached to their earthly lives and comforts.
As Psalm 63:3 states, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Your lips won’t glorify God if your heart doesn’t value the love of God more than your own life. In Matthew 16:24-28 Jesus said:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
If you want to live a passionate life for God, then you need to value God’s glory over your short-term satisfaction. And when you do this, it unlocks far more joy than you ever could have found on your own.
A passion for God is always linked with valuing God’s love more than anything else.