“Whenever you find a man of God, you will also find an overwhelming passion for God that is almost beyond control” ~ A.W. Tozer
“Almost beyond control”: the Christian’s passion for God should never be under the control of the flesh, so that it is subjugated to the will of the flesh, nor is such passion under the control of their friends, family, or other human authorities, which can frustrate those in such relationships, who might seek to subdue, domesticate, civilize, or control them for their own purposes.
No! A Christian’s passion for God must remain under the exclusive control of the Holy Spirit:
Galatians 5:17 (CSB) — 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
Their passion for God, if real, will cause them to serve their wife, to respect their husband, to raise their children in godliness, to honor their parents, to submit to their leaders, to take care of their neighbors like they would take care of themselves, and to sacrificially love their enemies! These are the things of the Kingdom. Therefore, such passion is always subject to the kind of holiness that is expressed through love!
So where does such passion come from?
Some might say “the Bible”. But, while this answer is posed in the right direction, it is wrong: I know many who have been raised on the Scriptures, memorized them, and committed themselves to holding right dogma – all as they should – who have no passion for Christ. The slightest change in the stock market, whether up or down, in the score of their football team, or the release of the next episode in their favorite TV series, produces more zeal and passion in them than does the suffering of the cross they are called to bear (Read Matthew 5:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 4:12-14). For those whose knowledge of Christ stopped merely at rote learning, fine speeches, and human traditions (See Isaiah 29:13), there’ll be no consuming passion for Christ in their life!
John 5:39 (CSB) — 39 You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me.
The Scriptures are precious and powerful – so much so that I’ve dedicated my life to studying and proclaiming them – but their task is to reveal Jesus; they’re not in themselves the end! Their power is in who they reveal! I only devote myself to preaching the Scriptures because I want others to know Jesus in sincerity and truth.
Instead, this passion comes from meeting Jesus:
2 Corinthians 4:6 (CSB) — 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
To meet the One the Scriptures reveal is where this kind of passion comes from! And, although this passion is what so many crave, and why so many are leaving the western Church today because they came looking for Jesus, but found instead “programs” and “gimmicks”, the reason so few ever experience this kind of joy is because the way is narrow and hard: the One from whom this joy comes requires those who follow him to carry the cross!
Matthew 7:13–14 (CSB) — 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
John 14:6 (CSB) — 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 10:7 (CSB) — 7 Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
Matthew 13:20–21 (CSB) — 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.
Some are content to simply read about the way revealed by the Scriptures, and then take an entirely different course through life, an easier “crossless” way, perhaps not even realizing that they’re even on a different path because they’ imagine that they’re on the right path simply because they cleaned up the path they were already on. When Jesus’ way plots a costly course, they will leave his way because he wasn’t their treasure.
Following Jesus will necessitate living an entirely different kind of life than what we see around us, or from what comes naturally to us. And this is hard.
Jesus told us what it takes to enter the Kingdom:
Matthew 13:44–46 (CSB) — 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.
“Joy” is not incidental to the first parable: it’s central! You cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless you receive it with joy at great cost!
The person who has this kind of passion for God is the one who has found a great treasure – Jesus himself – and is giving everything for him! Theirs is no mere curiosity about Jesus. Theirs is a deep hunger and burning desire to know the Living God, to discover his heart, and to be in his presence. This is the kind of passion that springs from being filled with the fullness of God by his Holy Spirit!
So, we can be sure that to those who are still clinging to this world, such a Christ-follower’s passion will seem “beyond control” because it is not under the control of this world. But, such passion is catching. There will be some along the way, who, in the beginning misunderstood these Christ-followers, but who will, if the Christ-follower’s passion is authentic, catch fire themselves because in his followers they meet the Savior by whose life his followers are ablaze!