Last week, we learned about the powerful reality of God’s promise to be with us. We learned from Daniel and his buddies that when God is with us, even though we will still go through the fires of life, that we can escape them without even smelling like the smoke surrounding us! We even saw a literal, physical example of how true this promise really is!
With the Holy Spirit within us, we can confidently proceed through whatever life throws our way knowing that God is with us and for us. Even as Daniel proclaimed just before being cast in that fiery furnace:
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Of course, we know that they were not exactly delivered from the fire, but that Jesus accompanied them through the fire and spared them from the dangers of it.
Today, we are learning about another fire. Not the hazardous and destructive troubles of life type of fire, but a fire that forges great things, burns away impurities, and stirs up zeal and passion that spreads rapidly. The fire that we’re learning about today is the fire of God!
For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
God is an all consuming fire.
Natural fire can serve many good purposes. When contained within a box with air blown over it, it is able to heat an entire building through even the coldest of winders. When contained within a box along with raw food, it cooks delicious meals. When a wildfire runs rampant destroying forests and homes, a controlled fire placed ahead of its path is able to stop it in its tracks.
You can literally fight fire with fire!
When fire begins in unexpected places, it can be extremely destructive. A home standing for decades can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. As Smokey the Bear teaches us, just a small spark can begin that raging wildfire mentioned previously destroying thousands of acres of land. Actually, the book of James mentions this destructive force as well.
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
The fire of God is no different. It can be both destructive and beneficial.
The fire of God fell and destroyed Job’s sheep and servants. The fire of God fell and consumed 2 of King Ahaziah’s captains and 100 members of his military. 250 people were consumed by His fire when complaining against their leaders followed by 14,700 killed by a plague.
Aaron’s sons were destroyed by the fire of God because they brought to His altar unauthorized fire, because it was introduced contrary to His command. Several times, His fire destroyed His own city and people because of their rebellion. In the end of days:
2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
However, when that same fire of God is appropriately contained, the benefits are amazing! For example, God’s fire burned a bush, but did not consume it, to get Moses’ attention and proclaim his destiny from it. Fire grabs people’s attention for sure still today! In fact, God also still speaks through His fire today!
Let’s take a look at the comparison of the fire of God experienced in the Old Covenant on through to the New Covenant. We begin just after the ten commandments are given to God’s people after they are lead out of Egyptian slavery.
22 These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.
23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me. 24 And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”
Now, we fast-forward to the new covenant that we received from God. After all, we don’t want to be like that people who wanted to be far from God and to cover their ears to God’s voice, we want to be a people in passionate pursuit of Gods’ voice and long for more of His Presence!
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
God now has chosen to place His fire in the most unexpected of containers – you and I! He has chosen us to contain His Presence and to speak to us through fire from within. When you’ve encountered it, you want more of it!
However, that passionate zeal for God that burns brightly within feels as if though it can be easily snuffed out by life. How can we keep the fire of God ablaze in our lives so that we don’t grow lukewarm or cold spiritually? As Paul encouraged Timothy, how do we fan into flame the fire of God within our lives?
Well, for anyone who has been in scouts or studied science, we know that fire needs three basic components to exist. Without any one of them, the fire quickly goes out. Those three components are: heat, oxygen, and fuel. This is true for fire in the natural world and it’s true for God’s fire as well.
1. Heat – God
God is the source of His fire. God is an all-consuming fire and His burning zeal never changes and never ceases. Just as we learned last week, to experience His promise to be with us, we need simply to draw near to Him. This is also true of His fire. The closer that we draw near to Him, the more zealous that we will burn as well.
Even a water-drenched log can be dried and catch fire if it is placed into red-hot coals. If God’s fire can do that on mount Caramel for Elijah’s sacrifice, it can do the same in our lives as well! John the baptist said:
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
God is the source of His fire – His Presence baptizes us with fire. God is the heat component!
2. Oxygen – Holy Spirit
The Greek word used for the Holy Spirit, pneuma, is defined as a movement of air (a gentle blast). Likewise, the Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit, ruwach, is defined as wind or breath of air.
The Holy Spirit is the oxygen necessary for the fire of God to burn brightly in our lives. At the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, He brought a powerful wind followed by fire:
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The Holy Spirit within us breathes His breath of life into us and provides the oxygen necessary for the fire of God to burn bright.
3. Fuel – Sacrifice
The first two components are readily available. God has promised and will fulfill that promise to be near us as we draw near to Him and to baptize us in the Holy Spirit as we request it. The last component is the big variable.
In the Old Testament, God’s fire burned among His people through sacrifices offered as the fuel.
1 Chronicles 21:26
David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.
22 Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.
23 Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.
2 Chronicles 7:1
When Solomon finished praying (at the dedication of the temple), fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
1 Kings 18:36-39
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
The fuel for God’s fire hasn’t changed – it is still a sacrificial offering. However, no longer are animals used for this purpose:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
The sacrificial offering is us. As we surrender our lives to God – choosing to be set apart for His purposes – holy, we become the sacrificial offering that fuels the fire of God. Unlike the animals in the Old Testament that burned up and turned to ash, we are a living sacrifice.
We don’t burn up brightly and quickly just to fade away as the fuel is used up, we burn brightly and intensely hot for so long as we choose to offer up ourselves as a sacrifice.
What are the by-products of fire? Well, the results of a natural fire are the same as God’s fire!
2 Corinthians 4:6-9
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
We are the light of the world as Christ shines brightly through the fire that He has placed within us. We may be nothing more than broken jars of clay, but the treasure within us is clearly from God. Us, these jars of clay, are exactly the containers that God needs so that His fire can burn fiercely and provide all of the benefits without any destruction!
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
The heat produced by the fire of God is a warmth that provides comfort for those who are cold. The Presence of the fire of God within us draws those around us to Himself.
Our lives should be like that warm campfire on a cool fall evening. All of our senses are drawn to it. The warm light that it provides, that unmistakable smell of a campfire, the literal warmth, the sound of crackling surrounded by friends and family laughing, the taste of food cooked over that open fire that nothing can compare to.
Our lives should provide that same type of comfort, warmth, and acceptance as the fire of God burns within us.
…I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’
9 For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
so as not to destroy you completely.
10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.
When Isaiah first entered the Presence of God:
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
1 Peter 1:6-9
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The fire of God purifies us. It burns away our sin and even our temptation to sin. As we draw near to God and offer up our lives as a sacrifice, He burns away our lusts and desires for the things of this world and replaces them with the good things from the Kingdom of Heaven that we were created for.
The fire of God is a refining fire that transforms us. It burns away our impurities just as natural fire boils away impurities in water or gold or silver. We burn with a zeal and passion within for God alone. Jeremiah described how this encounter with the fiery Presence of God felt to him:
9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
Don’t try to keep the fire of God contained within your own personal life. Shine bright and let the fire of God provide warmth to those around you. Let your life be like the burning bush that drew Moses to God and be like Isaiah and Jeremiah – allow the word of God to flow form your mouth to encourage and build up those around you.
Take note of those who have gone before us with tremendous fruit and success in their lives. Take the advice from spiritual giants like John Wesley who was once asked, “What is your secret? Why do so many people come to hear you preach?” To which Wesley answered, “I get alone with God in prayer. He sets me on fire. The people come out to watch me burn.”
Don’t be a lukewarm Christian – don’t let your zeal and passion and love grow cold, though it is so easy to have happen! Draw near to God – He is the source of heat. Be filled with the Holy Spirit – He is the oxygen. Offer yourself up as a living sacrifice – you are the fuel. Together, we’ll burn brightly for all to see the awesome benefits of God’s holy fire!