A Jolting Juxtaposition

Here is my transcription of a sermon (on Amazon’s Audible) on Hebrews 10:19-22 by John Piper — a man who has a zeal for God but not according to knowledge.

“I invite you to take a Bible…perhaps yours or perhaps one from the pew, if you’d like to follow along in the text, and turn to Hebrews chapter 10 verses 19-22 … now before we read it let me tell you about the match that the Lord put in my hand and struck so that when I put it to this tinder it inflamed. Because I didn’t come to this text out of a vacuum. Last Sunday, you may have read it as well…if you’re reading in the discipleship reading plan…we read Romans 10:1 and 2 which go like this. Paul says concerning the Jewish kinsmen, 

‘My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For they have a zeal for God but it is not according to knowledge.’

Now I’ve read that hundreds of times but this time the juxtaposition of these two ideas jolted me.

‘I pray that they might be saved. For they have a zeal for God.’

You can have a zeal for God and be lost. That’s jolting. It jolted me. One of the reasons it jolted me is because I love the word ‘zeal.’ I use the word ‘passion’ … it’s on the banner up there…see that? ‘Spreading a passion.’ You under the balcony you can’t see it…if I had a mirror I’d let you see it but then it would be backwards and you couldn’t read it anyway.

‘Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.’ I love the word ‘passion.’ And so to hear the authoritative spokesman of the Living God say

‘They have a passion for God and need to be saved’

is a jolting idea. It’s a scary thought. I don’t just love it. The Bible loves it. Zeal is a good thing. Just two chapters later in the book of Romans, chapter 12 verse 11, it says

‘Never flag in zeal…never flag in zeal is a good thing. This is not a bad thing. They weren’t lost because they had zeal, though they had zeal and were lost. And the zeal was for God. That’s what’s so jolting.

So you got to take your breath and say, ‘Well, what’s the problem?’ And he gives the problem right at the end of verse 2 there in Romans 10,

‘They have a zeal for God but it is not according to knowledge.’ … knowledge is very precious. They have a zeal for God. The zeal for God is leaving them in their lost condition because it’s not according to knowledge…I really had a re-dedicatory experience to my ministry. Now I know this: Knowledge puffs up and love builds up. That’s a quote from the Bible. 1 Corinthians 8. Therefore passion without knowledge can kill. Knowledge without love can kill. I’m not naive about this knowledge thing. It’s a killer. Having it as a weapon to use on people. Or a pedestal to stand on and look at other ignorant folks is deadly.

But according to this Romans text if you don’t have it straitening, guiding, purifying, protecting, directing your zeal you’re a goner. And so it’s important. I feel like in the ministry I handle dynamite…these little caps if you bump them wrong they explode. You have got to handle this stuff right. Sounds like a Bible verse, doesn’t it? Rightly handling the Word of Truth because it’s living and active and it can kill and can give life…it can blow up in your face…and I can create passion and it can destroy…this is the match that God put on this text Thursday.”

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And [having] an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

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