Fire is vital to human existence. I know we have to breathe and take in water, but at points along the way, we need fire. It is part of the full development of the human being, for we need it to cook and maintain warmth and manage our living. Fire is important. Throughout the Scriptures, fire is seen in manifestations of the presence of God and those manifestations are glorious and significant. We talk about the church being on fire and when we do it is not just talking about a stirring of emotions or loud praise, but it is when we allow the consuming, controlling presence of God to possess us that the church will be ignited with fire.
The old story is told of a church that had caught fire (literally) and people from all over the town came rushing to see the burning building. The pastor of the church was standing out front with a lot of people from the community. He saw a man who had never been to his church at all and spoke to him, “You’ve never been here before, have you?” He replied, “No. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire.”
The truth is that literally, in a spiritual and consuming kind of way where God takes over and manifests His presence in warmth and power and glowing reality, fire is needed today by the church. In fact, as you look through the Scriptures you will find fire manifestations that maybe encompass what God needs to do in our churches and in our hearts individually. Just think about the fire of God and you will probably quickly remember the call of fire.
In Exodus 3:2, it was that bush that was on fire but not consumed that got Moses’ attention and drew him aside to come and see what was happening. When Moses came to the bush that was burning but not being destroyed, God spoke to him and told him the ground on which he stood was holy ground and to take off his sandals. Moses did. That burning bush experience is where Moses found his entire life coming to a focal point of why God had even put him on this earth, his call to be used by God.
While you may have not seen a burning bush in the desert or maybe had a smaller piece of the fire of God showing up in your life, most of us have some sense of a call from God that for us in our moment of time and God’s revelation in our lives brings us to understand this is what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher or a preacher, a layperson or in full-time ministry, there is a time when God brings you to that moment and you understand this is what He wants you to do and to be. For me, there are those special moments and times where God has dealt with my heart in such a profound way that, I must confess, it was a burning bush experience for me. One of those experiences was when He called me to preach the Gospel. I can take you to the place. I can tell you about the experience. It was an unforgettable, life-changing, call from heaven.
A second time you see fire in the Bible is what I call the fire of commitment — a call of fire and a commitment of fire. It somewhat takes place in a man’s heart in Jeremiah 20:9. Jeremiah had come to a low point in his life and ministry. He was ready to give up. He was ready to quit, walk away from it all. God had used him, but now things were challenging, difficult, heavy to bear, and he was ready to stop but he said he could not because the word of God burned within him as though it were fire in his bones. Many of you can relate to that because you may have been through a difficult time, a challenging time, a time that you didn’t expect and something for which you didn’t have answers. Maybe the way people acted. Maybe the way you were treated. Maybe the way you were feeling and you just wanted to give up but you could not. There was that commitment you made to Him that, like fire that was stirred in your own soul and in your own bones, brought you to a renewed commitment to say, “I can’t quit. I must continue.”
Probably every child of God who ever walked this earth has come to some moment when things weren’t going right. Maybe you just wanted to throw in the towel and God said to you, “No, I’ve got more for you. You’ve got more for Me,” and there blazed within your soul the fire of commitment. Years ago I read a sermon by an old English preacher and I don’t remember all of the sermon, but I do remember one of the phrases that he used. As he talked about living for the Lord and serving Him, he said, “Often I am tempted to flee my task but that strange man upon the cross bars my way and holds me back.” What he was saying was, “I can’t quit and I do want to go on,” and the fire burns in our bones.
One other manifestation of fire to which I would point you is what I call the communication of fire. It was that day when the launching of the church was taking place and the empowerment of the Spirit of God came upon the disciples. In Acts 2:2, it is written that there was a sound of a rushing mighty wind and when that happened, it is written that cloven tongues of fire sat upon the apostles. Can you imagine? Soon, God was going to open the mouth of Simon Peter and was going to communicate with the thousands who had gathered there and they were going to hear the glorious Gospel of the living Christ. Cloven tongues of fire and their communication began to take place.
This is the same guy, Simon Peter, who was not the great communicator. He may have been a great fisherman, but he often said wrong things at the most inopportune moment and failed the Lord and even denied Him. This is the same Simon Peter who in those moments possessed a timid tongue or a cowardly tongue, but now the fire of God was upon him and when he spoke three thousand people, under deep conviction of their need of Christ, turned to the Lord Jesus and were saved that day. Oh, that God would send His fire upon us — fresh, new, alive, and burning — to renew our call and our commitment and even our communication that would be ignited by His presence, the fire from heaven. Poetically someone wrote and said, “Set us afire, Lord, stir us, we pray! While the world perishes we go our way, purposeless, passionless, day after day. Set us afire, Lord, stir us, we pray!” Amen.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.