A fresh approach to capturing and keeping your passion for the Lord.
As much as we may hate to admit it, when we use the term “on fire,” we really just mean we’re feeling a few heightened emotions. Our measuring stick to determine whether we are passionate for God often comes with questions like these: Do I feel as if I’m in right standing with God? Did I get excited over the worship songs this morning at church? Do I feel inspired whenever I read the Bible?
Are any of those questions necessarily bad? No.
Does our relationship with God often produce emotions in us? Yes. And I, for one, am grateful for it. But does our relationship with God necessarily produce the same positive feelings in us all the time? Nope. It actually doesn’t.
I’m not against being on fire for God. Quite the contrary. It’s possible to get on fire for God and stay on fire for God. But here is what I am against: the modern-day definition of what it means to be “on fire.” I’m against the way this generation has shifted the meaning to fit the culture.
Do you know what doesn’t make you a true Christian? The emotional intensity of your faith. What does make you a true Christian is knowing deeply who God is and depending on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
We sustain this passion for God by constantly accessing His throne room, seeing Him, and basking in who He is. We aren’t supposed to simply say a prayer, repent once, and then live life as normal. A lot of people, including myself, miss the fact that repentance and confession of our need for Him is a daily practice. We are meant to be going from glory to glory until we are face-to-face with our Creator.
Don’t think it’s possible? Yeah . . . I may have rolled my eyes at first too when confronted with this truth. But this verse was a dagger to my heart:
We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
When Paul uses the words “from glory to glory,” he sums up the entire Christian life in a nutshell. That short verse covers our redemption, our sanctification, and our eternal welcome into heaven. We were never meant to reach a spiritual plateau on our walk with Jesus. His will is for us to keep growing, expanding our knowledge of Him, and getting closer to His heart.
But why do so many of us buy the lie that spiritual plateaus have become the standard? That nobody on earth could truly live a holy and set-apart life, filled with an ongoing passion for the Lord? I didn’t think it could be done because I always figured that kind of life was dependent on my emotions. And I, for one, developed a love-hate affair with my emotions. I know I need emotions to be human and to experience reality, but it also drives me mad that I can’t control them. My emotions are as unpredictable as Boston weather. How was I supposed to keep my emotions in check long enough to feel continually near God? I saw that task as impossible, so I resorted to what was easier: putting one foot in the Kingdom while keeping one foot in the world.
Now, don’t get me wrong . . . spiritual plateaus shouldn’t be the norm, but they do happen occasionally. From time to time, you’ll find yourself on one. They are God’s way of protecting us and weaning us away from experience-oriented Christianity. If we are relying too much on external circumstances, He may need to gently guide us into truth. Just like He’s doing right now. Sometimes that truth can feel like a wilderness season. Sometimes that truth can feel like a drought. Sometimes that truth can feel like the kind of spiritual plateau that we so desperately try to run away from when it’s really just God intervening in our lives.
If you’re anything like me, you’re an adrenaline junkie, always rushing from one high to another. Those plateaus and droughts may feel like a waste of time, so you try to distract yourself and not dwell on your spiritual life. But when God leads us into a season of drought, we need to recognize that He’s trying to get our attention so we can experience closeness with Him again. So many people miss this. Just because you don’t always feel connected to Jesus does not mean He isn’t doing something behind the scenes. A relationship with God extends beyond emotions.
Our culture encourages us to feel something at all times. I mean, think about it. In just one generation, we have gone from phone calls to emails to instant messages to voice memos to FaceTime to Twitter. Now life is just a series of 140 characters or less. Instant gratification is the name of our theme song. So it’s no surprise that in a society where we spend so much time chasing after highs, we find ourselves wanting the same thing in our spiritual lives. We want to feel something in our souls for the Lord. We want the same rush that we get from strobe lights, a sound system, and a few performers every single day of the week.
Revolutionary. Impactful. Life-changing. Extreme. Innovative. Cutting-edge. Explosive. Those are just some of the ways that many of today’s churches want to be described. We long for the next big thing, and congregations demand taking the church experience to a whole new level. Fly in popular speakers. Start a feel-good sermon series. Buy a new sound system.
Do we want Six Flags, or do we want Jesus?
Call me crazy—but a constant emotional high is not sustainable.
So are we then forced to choose between an occasionally on-fire relationship with Jesus or a constantly boring, obedience-fixated relationship with Him?
The good news? Those aren’t our only choices.
The bad news? The other choice God has for us isn’t as glamorous as most of us want.
The good news is that God has a better, sustainable way for us to live. The way God desires for us to live is beautifully illustrated in the Bible. So many of us glance over these words, but here they are:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
This verse contains a very significant sequence. First we see that, as children of God, we must refuse to be conformed to the world and instead allow transformation by the Spirit. Then, as our minds are renewed according to the things of God, we can finally know God’s perfect will.
We have to redefine what a passionate life for God really looks like because, according to this verse, we don’t become privy to God’s will by attending cool Christian events or church services with charismatic speakers. God reveals His will to us when we remain steadfast in His Word, practice daily repentance, and seek His face. Then, and only then, will we see what His good, pleasing, and perfect will looks like.
Adapted from Ignited: A Fresh Approach to Getting—and Staying—on Fire for God, by Jonni Nicole Parsons, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers in October 2022.
Jonni Nicole Parsons is an author and founder of the digital marketing company Sunday Morning Marketing, where she offers customized services to help clients build their unique brand. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications. Jonni and her husband make their home on the East Coast, where she can often be found hanging out with friends, drinking coffee, or reading a theology book. Her new book, Ignited, releases from Tyndale in October. Visit her online at jonninicole.com.