You couldn’t put words to what was going on in your heart, but jealous of Jesus seems to fit. You may wonder, “How can I be jealous of Jesus? I’ve known him since I was a kid. I’ve spent my whole life in church. I’ve served Him in every way imaginable: Sunday school teacher, missions committee, choir, kid’s ministry, nursery ministry, visitation.”
Yes, like the Jews before you, you might have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Romans when he shares his ongoing prayer and desire that his fellow Jews be saved. (10:1) He laments that “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (10:2)
This was his own testimony as he described who he once was to the saints in Philippi: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4b-6)
Paul, like many of his countrymen, pursued the law as if it were based on works and not by faith. Unfortunately, we can do that, too, and it leads us to the same end: stumbling over Jesus.
Coming to Jesus is terrible for our pride. For we need to see ourselves as “unclean, and all our righteous deeds… like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) I was challenged anew when my husband recently prayed, “There is no righteousness in me apart from Jesus.”
That is a hard thing to recognize, especially when you’ve been in church since your first memory: memorizing scripture, singing about Jesus, avoiding a list of sins, and generally seeing yourself as “a good person.”
Even believers in Christ can be tempted to desert the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ and turn to another “gospel.” God provided Paul’s letter to the Galatians in His Scripture to warn us of this type of turning from justification by faith to justification by works.
Paul declares, “…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (2:16) And he asked the Galatians a pointed question, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (3:2) The answer, according to the Word, is that we receive the Spirit by hearing through faith, “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)
When we submit to this truth, we will be grateful to, not jealous of, Jesus and His righteousness.