So many of my works for God, or for others, are, in part, socially acceptable covers for self-love.
I help others so they will think well of me. I write of God's greatness so people will think I am great. I obey so I can think well of myself.
That is the depth of my self-deception and my self-worship.
God asks just one thing: that I love him before all else. And one more thing: that I love others before myself.
He gave up his only Son to win me, and all he asks is my faithful love in return.
And I can't even give him that.
As I go into the new year, I find myself asking for just one thing - a rare quality. Won't you join me?
JC Ryle describes it here:
Zeal is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which is not natural to man. It is a desire which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted.
This desire is so strong, when it really reigns in a man, that it impels him to make any sacrifice–to go through any trouble–to deny himself to any amount–to suffer, to work, to labor, to toil, to spend himself and be spent, and even to die–if only he can please God and honor Christ.
A zealous man is preeminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, strong, uncompromising, meticulous, wholehearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.
Whether he lives, or whether he dies–whether he has health, or whether he has sickness–whether he is rich, or whether he is poor–whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense–whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish–whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise–whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame–for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.
He burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God and to advance Gods glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he does not care–he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God has appointed him.
Such an one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, and work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray. Yes: if he is only a pauper, on a perpetual bed of sickness, he will make the activity of sin around him slow to a standstill, by continually interceding against it. If he is cut off from working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done.
This is what I mean when I speak of zeal in religion.
Lord, give us this zeal.
Quoted in JI Packer Knowing God 196.