Book Review: Living Zealously

We live in an age where people are “too busy.” Amongst churchgoers, this manifests itself in less attentiveness to the things of God, and lower participation amongst God’s people. And while it is true that many people are busy (home-schooling parents and those working more than two jobs to make ends meet certainly qualify!), to say that one is “too busy” to partake in the life of the local church is very often an excuse. It’s simply not a priority.

Sadly, this is a day in which the American church is mired in apathy and lukewarmness. Christ warned about this in His letter to the Church in Laodicea to “be zealous” (Rev. 3:19).

But what does that look like? How does one find this zeal, and sustain it?

A great place to find the answers is Joel Beeke and James La Belle’s book, “Living Zealously.” This volume is the second in their “Deepen Your Christian Life” series, based upon the writings of the Puritans. The first, “Living By God’s Promises,” is also very much worth the reader’s consideration.

The author’s outline for “Living Zealously” is fairly simple: they first define what Christian zeal is: “a purposeful stirring and enflaming of the affections” which “captures the believer’s affections and drives them towards a specific, biblical goal.” They then define the marks of Christian zeal: love for God, according to the Scripture, a desire to perform good works, candid self-examination, and care for others, and constancy.

Beeke and La Belle then provide a helpful guide for readers to determine true from false zeal.

Following this, they argue for the necessity of zeal, lay out its proper motivations, state how zeal should be properly regulated, what its objects are, how to apply it to one’s calling (at work and in the home), and the means for attaining and retaining it.

While the book is strong in each of the areas, I found it to be strongest in persuading Christians to have this zeal at all. To wit, Beeke and La Belle argue that one of the believer’s prime motives for zeal was the purchase of them when He was crucified:

“Christ came to redeem you from all iniquity, including the iniquity of spiritual coldness and lukewarmness…How then do you live? Has Christ come all this way and stooped so low and suffered so much for nothing? Can you report to the Master that you have doubled the talents that He gave you, or will you have to admit that you buried yours (Mt. 25: 19-29)? If you admit that you lack the zeal the Apostle speaks of, what excuse can you offer? You cannot say that Christ does not want you to be zealous, or that He meant it for elite Christians, but not for ‘average’ Christians like you. You cannot say that you wanted to be zealous, and would have been, if Christ had not purchased it. Nor can you say you were under no obligation to be zealous, or that your ‘moderate zeal’ does not fall short of your duty and calling. You are without excuse. You have been purchased for zeal by the Mediator’s precious blood.”

It is hard not to be stirred by such passionate zeal, and convicted of one’s own slothfulness.

Granted, some might try to wiggle out of buying this volume by declaring that they’re “too busy” to read it. But given that this book is only six chapters in length, they are without excuse.

I highly recommend “Living Zealously.”

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