The Prince of Passion, Part III
Topical December 26, 2004
Thoughts taken from “The Lost Passions of Jesus” by Donald L. Milam, Jr.
When we think of the “passion of the Christ” we usually think of the events of the holy week leading up to Easter.
But in fact, the passion of Christ began in the mind of God to send his Son at that Christmas some 2000 years ago to begin the process of our redemption from the horrible curse of sin which we brought upon ourselves from the beginning of our earthly existence.
His birth as a baby into the world of our existence compels our own need to be born again of the Spirit (John 3). The Christmas story reminds us that it was the Spirit who birthed Jesus in Mary.
This process of redemption begins for us when we embrace his passion – when we allow his passion to ignite ours.
We saw this in the first message I brought about the Prince of Passion – that his call to repentance was a call to embrace his passion for the things of God.
We do this when we agree with God and turn away from sin toward his holiness and righteousness. That was his message. This message was what he came to tell us – personal from God to us.
The second message I brought about the Prince of Passion gave us the consequences of not incorporating his message of repentance into our lives. You see, Jesus came to divide the world.
Now, that is not a bad thing, because before this, the whole world was united in a headlong descent into hell.
The division that Jesus’ message brought gave mankind an option. By having faith in the Messenger and his message you can not only escape hell but gain heaven.
Our passion for his message of repentance allows us assurance of gaining the place of his passion by becoming separated from the world and its hold on us.
The place of his passion, heaven, exalts forever the essence of his message. It is the home of God where we are brought by grace through faith into the eternal existence of holiness, like God himself, in separation from all sin.
Our passion for the things of God on earth will carry us into the presence of God in heaven where our passion can find eternal fulfillment.
But now I have another message for you about the Prince of Passion. This one is necessary because we still live on earth. We are still surrounded by sin.
We can believe his message and we can have the hope of heaven because of it. But it is here and now that we must begin to change.
The passion of Christ is not just some “pie in the sky”. The passion of Christ is life changing, or should be, in the present.
Christ’s passion for the things of God enabled him to live for God amidst the sin and sorrow of the world. His life gives us divine example to follow.
Let us then look in more detail about the various passions in the life of Jesus.
It is a pursuit that will change your heart and ignite a fire in your soul.
The key to the passions of Jesus can be found in the Gospels – the realities spoken from his mouth and the actions demonstrated by his hand. His lips unfold the dreams that fuel his fervor and his actions reveal the heart that initiates his every move.
Each of the Gospel writers emphasize the plural passions of our Lord, but two in particular who walked with Jesus side by side during his earthly ministry, Matthew and John, captured his fire the best.
They stood alongside him, looked into his eyes, felt the warm, sweet breeze of his passion sweep over them, and experienced the strength of his zeal invading their souls. They were drawn into the inner circle where passion beats the strongest. It had captured their hearts and they had been ruined.
But as his most intimate friend, John was the one most in tune with his heart. It was John who wrote in the beginning of his gospel (2:17), “Zeal for your house will consume me,” when he cleared the temple of moneychangers.
John does not give an historical account of Jesus’ life. He takes a closer look at the heart, and if we were to home in on the most intimate place to discover Jesus’ passions, it would be through the words of John.
John sat close to his Master in the upper room and could feel the flame of passion burn in the Son’s heart as Jesus contemplated the immanency of his own death, the destiny of his disciples, and the future of the Church. These things resonated in his instructions to the disciples and in his petitions to the Father.
The passions of Jesus flare up with great intensity in the early Church, but by the end of the first century they had already begun to diminish.
The sword of persecution and the tests of heresy diminished the flame and reduced their capacity to maintain the passion. Ritualism soon compounded the destruction and his passion almost completely disappeared from the Church.
And I think we are surrounded by evidence in the ministry of the Church at large today, especially in countries like ours and others where the Church has a longer history – the passion of Jesus is hard to maintain.
And without passion, ministry loses its effectiveness. It becomes rote exercise and tradition. And when placed to the tests of heresy and persecution it means so little it is easily given up.
Yes, the passion of Jesus is the “narrow road” and not the “wide one."
“"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13-14 NivUS)
“Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ "But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ "Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ "But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’” (Lu 13:23-27 NivUS)
So in the interest of truth – that passion is where it is at for Jesus and those he would call his followers – I have been bringing you these messages on the Prince of Passion.
Let us continually rediscover what drove the heart of Jesus so that our own hearts might beat in time with his, lest we lose our own sense of time and the urgency of his passion.
ILLUS: Quake 8.9 off coast of Sumatra – over 7,000 dead and rising.
Each generation must look for a new source of fuel to ignite them as the living edge throughout the generations.
Jesus had a passion for the Rule of God
The beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry of teaching starts right out with the revelation of his passion.
His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 were the first recorded words of his wisdom as the new prophet on the scene.
This was his “State of the Union” address as he sets forth the divine principles that will govern the Kingdom he has come to proclaim. It is the constitution and bylaws of heavenly rule.
He sets aside the existing religious order (that has lost its true passion) and establishes a new order that will be loyal to the heavenly King.
His form of government depends not on political suppression, philosophical manipulation, or religious denomination. It depends on a passion for the things of God as seen in the perfection of Christ.
Six times in Mt. 5 he says, “You have heard that it was said ---,” and then goes on to say, “But I tell you ---.” (go there)
He was sharing with us his passion for the heart of God in contrast with external compliance.
He pushed the envelope of compliance with the law further than any Pharisee could ever imagine. He exposes crude external morality and fixes it instead in the concealed corners of the heart.
He establishes non-violence as the basis for dealing with aggression. He defines adultery no longer as a sin of the flesh but of the heart.
The Kingdom is outwardly expressed in loving God and your brother as yourself.
The Kingdom Jesus spoke of was not one of earthly power and suppression, requiring its citizens to work their way up the ladder of worthiness by fearful adherence to impossible rules enforced with religious manipulation.
It was instead a Kingdom of revealed passion for the truth of God in the innermost place – the heart.
Strangely enough, Jesus’ passion for God ignited in his enemies a passion for murder since they knew they could never be at the center of such a Kingdom.
They thought that if they could just kill him everything would be alright again.
But Jesus came because it was not alright in the first place.
God himself (not man) must be at the center of his Kingdom. Is it truly God that stirs our passion?
What will he find when he comes again?
Jesus came the first time and so many missed it – because they had no passion!
Their preconceived notions led them astray.
God came near to them and they rejected him.
“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within (among) you." Then he said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Lu 17:20-25 NivUS)
It seems that so many are rejecting Jesus in this generation.
All that the Kingdom encompassed was standing right before them (in Jesus) showing them how it might be in them – and now in us.
“For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Heb 7:17-19 NivUS)
“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Heb 10:22-24 NivUS)
To encounter Jesus was to encounter the Kingdom. To encounter Jesus in faith was to draw near to God. His Kingdom would begin in the hearts of men not by subjugation or manipulation but by spiritual transformation – in other words, passion.
He is the door to the Kingdom of God, and passion begins with a simple action to implore about the passion of God for you.
“"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Lu 11:9-10 NivUS)
This kingdom of God is entwined together with the will of God.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1Jo 5:14 NivUS)
“your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:10 NivUS)
“"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 NivUS)
A passion for submitting to the will of God is the single most important Kingdom precept. It is submitting our passion to God’s passion.
This is where we choose to yield our stubborn, self-absorbed human will to a higher one – the will we rejected in the Garden of Eden – to find the doorway through which the Kingdom comes and dwells among us.
This is another “government” where ordinary people voluntarily choose to lay aside their own plans to walk in joyful obedience to their God.
It was this passion for the will of God that drove Jesus.
“Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Joh 5:19 NivUS)
“So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (Joh 8:28 NivUS)
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (Joh 5:30 NivUS)
This passion for the Kingdom often begins in the “hidden place”. In fact, if it is ostentatiously public, it is probably not passion for God at all but for self.
Jesus spoke about the Kingdom found hidden in the deep recesses of the heart of those who hear the still, small voice of the Father but respond with their whole being, “Yes, Lord.”
“"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Mt 13:44 NivUS)
Jesus also spoke parabolically about the Kingdom as a seed planted in a field. It takes time for passion to mature, and so God may tuck the man or woman of his choosing away in a solitary place so the seed can germinate and develop without interference.
Tragically it is here that many are lost, being too impatient, they launch out on their own, ultimately refusing to submit to the divine will – dying to their Kingdom destiny, and their passion.
We must bow low and even crawl through the gate of salvation – not as the haughty and the proud but as the little child – with the child’s spirit, the brokenness of the humble, the attitude of the lowly, the simplicity of the innocent.
Our passion cannot be complicated. It must be simple and direct and pure to be effective.
“And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3-4 NivUS)
“Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."” (Mt 19:14 NivUS)
“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."” (Mr 10:14-15 NivUS)
The Kingdom is occupied only by those with a passion characterized by being poor in spirit, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, persecuted, and hungering for righteousness.
Greatness in the Kingdom is measured by a passion for humble obedience, servanthood, embracing the cross, recognizing our insufficiencies, and utter dependence upon the One greater than ourselves.
It is not necessarily found on a platform before great audiences but rather in a secret prayer closet, or faithfulness to duty – whatever the calling.
Membership in the Kingdom is not found in your passion for who you are, or how much you have, or how educated you are.
It is only found in your passion for a Kingdom not of this world – a passion for the things of the Spirit – being washed in the redemptive blood of the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.
It is the Spirit of God that is the seal of our citizenship in the heavenly Kingdom.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” (Eph 1:13 NivUS)
It is this same Spirit of God that will keep our passion for the things of God alive if we listen to him and let him.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Joh 14:26 NivUS)
He lays upon our hearts the “rules of the Kingdom” that are paradoxical and illogical in this world – a passion for qualities like transparency, authenticity, servanthood, humility, submission, mercy, hiddenness, self-control, and forgiveness.
In the Kingdom realm, the way up is the way down. To save your life you lose it. To be first you must be last. This can only come by receiving and developing a passion like Christ had for such things of God.
This passion is a life-changing experience with the Eternal God who is Spirit and Christ.
May his passion for the rule of God rule our own hearts this Christmas season and always.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Php 2:5-7 NivUS)
This passion can be seen in the likes of “Brother Jim.” (Chgo. Trib., Dec. 10, 2004, “Four who watch over the city”)
I hope this message has shown you how to find, sustain, and apply a heartfelt passion for God where you are – or wherever God calls you to go.