5 ignition points for personal passion | Conviction
Suddenly passion is a buzz-word in the business and social glossary. If a job candidate doesn't have passion for the work, then his or her job prospects are toast. Socially, passion is our lust for people and things. The mind people list it in an emotional registry. But, it plays out physically too. Know this: human passion can be ignited by just about anything. Some are noble and some are not. Here we're talking noble!
In this context passion is that inner driving force that owns us. Merriam-Webster defines passion first as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. A secondary meaning leans toward physical danger and their tertiary idea toward our most basic sexual desires. A sexually unbound world doesn't have to use tame words like passion to describe sexually explicit behaviors. We have an entire word list of potty-mouth words for that. When we say passion today, we're talking deep feeling or motivation, personal buy-in. Poker talk is common when describing passion too. Today we're expected to be "all in" if we're passionate about something. Anything less isn't real passion. At any rate, our common use of passion is a dumbing down of a significant virtue. Go another level here---
In Scripture many terms define the multiple layers of passion. Each of them pictures something deeper and more foundational than a hot flash or an emotional rush. There's pathos, the plight of the people; pasca, physical suffering, such as in the suffering of the Lamb; the word translated compassion (from splankna, the innards) which means deep inner movement, as when Jesus saw the multitudes (Matthew 9:36); terms that are translated conviction and belief, in addition to all of the sexual references, usually prohibitions regarding promiscuity.
Of all the terms the one that most profoundly depicts spiritual passion is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:5. Here Paul wrote "...our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction" (ESV). HCSB renders "...with full assurance". In either translation, and others as well, the term literally means being "fully persuaded". It's the picture of being motivated without reservation, a total heart commitment, the capacity of being completely motivated by a deep belief. Another word similar in meaning though of different usages in in Hebrew 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen...". Here the term is elegchos and is translated "conviction" too. Both are about conviction, an inner moving. In Paul's life this conviction moved him to plant and teach, to bear the marks of Christ, to be imprisoned, always itinerant, usually under guard. In Hebrews it was the passion of the early fathers, and the ones who would suffer, under the model of the one who did suffer, the Pasca Lamb, Jesus. They were conviction driven people, people whoe lives were ignited with passion.
In faith conviction is that deeper ignition point of passion. Much more than an emotion, conviction in the inner impulse that leads us to confess our sin, respond to his invitation, to answer his call. It is the movement of his spirit in us that shapes and makes us into new creatures, that enables us to follow in the steps of Jesus, and to be his disciples. Conviction thus ignites our passion for him, and the things that pertain to him---his church, his kingdom, his eternity, his standards, his person. This passion becomes the controlling interest of life. We pursue it with all of our resources.
Unless our passion runs low. Or, just as destructively we allow the cultural hybrid to become the defining element of our calling and service. That seems to be so common just now, the lowering of passion to the standard of the world around us. Even in church we talk about finding our passion, or chasing our passion, or living out of our passion. No, biblical passion is revealed to us through conviction. The kind of passion we encounter in Jesus and his many followers in history isn't an ideal we chase. No, it chases and pursues us and will not let us go. We don't live out our passion but the passion he reveals and gives lives out in us. If passion is the controlling issue that owns us it is super-natural and exists beyond autonomous motivations .
How can this happen, our spiritual passions running low?
1. We can alter the meaning of passion to something within human capability.
2. We can misinterpret success and use secular means to pursue it.
3. We can allow spiritual fires to burn low so that passion loses it's power. 4. We can overuse the idea of passion and therefore marginalize its meaning. 5. We can ignore the conviction element and run on emotion instead.
Paul wrote about conviction and spiritual passion on many occasions. Once again, to the church at Rome he wrote, "Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11, Amplified Bible). That's the stuff of passion, "...burning with the Spirit". And, the ignition point that sets the fire is the way he speaks to us, often that still small voice in the deepest place of our heart. You know, conviction, that deep urging of God, the fire that burns in us. Martyn Lloyd-Jones defined preaching "as theology coming through a man on fire". This fire is ignited by God. It burns deep within the people he calls and sends.
We're not necessarily talking hell fire and brimstone preaching. Here it's the spiritual passion lit by what he is doing in our lives, once again, passion. There's an old story about when W.E. Sangster was interviewing a candidate for the ministry, the nervous young man explained that he was quite shy and not the sort of person ever to set the River Thames on fire. “My dear young brother,” responded Sangster, “I’m not interested to know if you could set the Thames on fire. What I want to know is this: if I picked you up by the scruff of your neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”
Well yes, that was then, this is now. But, these are times that call for passionate faith, especially in those who lead. This week I'll be reviewing five ignition points for personal passion, the first of which is conviction, mentioned above. There's no great new scholarship here. But, some reflections after dealing with passion issues for 35 years, and even more, seeking to interpret the conviction that brings passion even today.
Over my desk are three frames. One is my Passion Verse.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do no forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come Psalms 71:18 (ESV)
Thirty-five years later it still convicts and impassions me. Soli Geo Gratia.