Are you tired of feeling stuck?
Has complacency gotten the best of you?
Are you ready to have your heart set on fire for the Lord?
The American church, as you may have noticed, is running low on passion. It may be difficult or even embarrassing to admit, but maybe you find yourself feeling a sense of dryness or lukewarmness, apathy and complacency toward the things of God.
Don’t feel ashamed. It can happen to anybody, but what we need is for God to renew us.
In the Bible, we see the word “fire” 474 times. We also see this phrase, “fire of God” that captures moments when God wants to demonstrate His power and His presence. He either shows up in the fire, initiates fires or causes fire to burn in our hearts so that we can be on fire for Him.
Remember the burning bush encounter that Moses experienced? God spoke from within the burning bush. God wrapped Himself around the fire.
The “fire of God” speaks of enthusiasm, excitement, zeal and passion. As believers, we should all desire to be on fire for God. In fact, you’ll see the theme of the fire of God all throughout Scripture.
In Exodus 19:10-11 (NIV) it says, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’ ”
Now let’s go to verse 18 to see when God comes down. In Exodus 19:18 (NIV) it says, “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” God wrapped fire around Himself and came down on Mount Sinai in fire.
See? God and fire.
But it’s not just in that passage. You’ll find it also in Exodus 13:21, where it says, “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”
The Lord led His ancient people by a pillar of fire then. And I want you to see He leads us now, His modern-day people, by allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit, the zeal of God and the enthusiasm of the Lord to burn within us.
Let’s be clear: The fire of God is not just an Old Testament metaphor. There, also in the New Testament, in Revelation 1:12-15 (NIV) it says, “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” I want you to see how John, the apostle, captured this image of Jesus. Again, we see this recurring theme of fire in connection with who God is and certainly who the son of God is.
When we catch a glimpse of God, we must understand that God is a consuming fire.
The Bible describes God in Exodus 24:17 (NIV), “To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” When you think and hear about the word “glory” or “the glory of God,” it means the abiding manifested presence of God. It’s like God says, “When I show up, I show up with fire. I show up with enthusiasm, zeal and power.”
I want you to see that when you walk with Jesus—the one with fiery eyes and whose feet are bronze, as if they’re in a furnace—that is the God we serve.
When you walk closely with Jesus, He burns up complacency in your heart. He burns up apathy in your heart. He burns up lukewarmness in your heart because we serve a God who’s a consuming fire. The prophet Zechariah affirms this. In Zechariah 2:5 (NIV) it says, “ ‘And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’ ” Here he’s talking about the city of Jerusalem. We see here how again, God points to the fact that His glory is a shield and safeguard around us. Take that in: His fire is a shield and safeguard around us.
God wants to make sure you are someone who’s walking with Him. The zeal of the Lord, the fire of God, will burn away the coldness of your heart and the complacency of your heart.
May we always remember we serve a God who is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). May we also be people who not only understand that our God is a consuming fire, but seek to experience the fire of God.
God ANSWERS by fire!
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah is dealing with the false prophets or the prophets of Baal. He was incensed and impassioned because the nation of Israel had turned wayward. They had become so dull, dry and despondent about the things of God that God spoke to Elijah and said, ”I want you to utter a command over the nation, that there should be no rain in this nation until I say so.”
For three years, there was no rain, and famine ensued. The king at the time was a wicked king, Ahab. Ahab put a hit out on Elijah, but God hid Elijah from this evil king and no harm came to him. At the end of three years, God told Elijah, “Go and reveal yourself now and call for a showdown on Mount Carmel.” Elijah told King Ahab, “You bring the 450 prophets of Baal and meet me on Mount Carmel. Bring the nation with you because there we’re going to choose who we will serve. We’re going to serve God, or we’re going to serve Baal.”.
There must come a time when you decide either you’re going to be on fire for God, or you’re going to be complacent. You can’t have one foot in complacency and one foot in a desire for the fire of God. It doesn’t work that way.
God is calling us to be a church that understands that He answers by fire.
Baal was an idolatrous figure. It was considered the fertility god or lord of the earth. The word Baal means “lord” which meant he was lord over the sun, the rain, nature and certainly lord over the fire.
Elijah essentially said, “So you think that Baal is lord? You think he’s supreme? Let’s meet on Mount Carmel.” By the way, historians tell us that on Mount Carmel a temple was established for the worship of Baal. Interestingly, Elijah said, “Let’s meet on your home turf. I want you then to see who God is. Either the one and only God is or Baal is god.”
Let’s jump into the text. 1 Kings 18:21-24 (NIV) says, “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, ‘I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s profits choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire on it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.’ Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’ ”
Then the false prophets started to cry out to Baal from morning till midday. Nothing happened. The Bible says in 1 Kings 18:29 (NIV), “Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” When you read through the text, it says that Elijah started to taunt them. He said, “Call louder. Maybe your god is asleep. Wake him up.” Elijah kept on taunting them. Elijah then says, “My turn.”
When we talk about the fire of God, we’re talking about going before the Lord and saying, “God, it’s my turn to ask You to do mighty things. It’s my turn to seek Your face, to engage in faith, to pursue you in powerful prayers.”
You see, the God we serve is not only a consuming fire. He answers by fire.
1 Kings 18:36-39 (NIV) says, “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’m your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ 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. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God.”
We are in a season, as a church, where we need to start praying bold prayers. We’re living in a day and age where Christianity is looked at in a negative way.
Right now, many Christ-followers have become lukewarm, complacent and apathetic.
Today I want to challenge you to go before God and say:
“God, I’m coming before you so I can have you answer by fire.
Fire up my heart so I can pray fiery prayers.
Fire up my heart so I can pursue you.”
We serve a God who’s not intimidated by this world. He’s not intimidated by the challenges that we face. He’s not intimidated by all the brokenness in our society. What God is looking for are men and women like you and me. Simple men and women willing to get baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit, so we can turn our world upside down.
God is looking for the Elijahs of today to step up on Mount Carmel.
I thank God for the boldness and the courage of the prophet Elijah. May you also be filled with boldness, courage and confidence. Know that God is not afraid to douse and empower us in the fire of the Holy Spirit so we can do great and mighty things for His glory.
That day when Elijah called fire down, God heard him.
He responded, and fire fell.
The water, wood and the sacrifice burned up. And the nation turned their hearts to God.
One of the best ways to get backslidden people, wayward people and unbelieving people to find their way to the cross and to come to Christ is when YOU become fiery for God. It’s when YOU, a child of God, step out of complacency, step out of lukewarmness and say, I want to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. THAT is when God will cause fire to come down on your heart.
When that happens, give yourself over to prayer. Give yourself over to worship. Give yourself over to evangelism. When you do that, you’ll be surprised how many people you’ll win to Christ. You’ll be surprised how your attitude will change on your job. You’ll be surprised how the atmosphere shifts in your school. You’ll be surprised how the spiritual temperature transforms in your home.
Change happens when the fire of God comes into your heart.
Flames of Fire
Not only is God a consuming fire, and a God who answers by fire, but God makes YOU flames of fire. It may be surprising to read, but that’s what He promised us!
We see this promise in Matthew 3:11 (NIV), where it says, “ ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I’m not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ ”
This passage of Scripture says that God promised to baptize you in fire. The Greek word baptize is baptizo, which means to immerse—to submerge. God is saying, “I’m going to put you into the fire.”
But get this:
The fire won’t harm you. The fire will help you.
The fire won’t burn you. The fire will empower you.
The fire won’t scar you. The fire will captivate your heart.
God is not a man who lies. God is not someone who needs to repent.
God promises to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. You don’t have to live a life of complacency and compromise. You can be renewed and refreshed.
This promise is reaffirmed in Hebrews 1:7 (NIV), where it says, “In speaking of the angels He says, ‘He makes His angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.’ ”
That’s my prayer for you. That God would make you, His servants, His flames of fire. I want you to know that to become flames of fire you must spend extended times in prayer. You must spend extended times fasting.
Ask God to baptize you in fire.
Ask Him to drive out the dryness of your heart and fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit.
What would happen if you became on fire for God?
Your family and this generation, I have no doubt, will be transformed.
I invite you to pray this: I pray, Lord, that the fire of the Holy Spirit will fall on the hearts of everybody around the world. Burn up the dryness of our hearts. Burn out the complacency of our souls. Capture our hearts, once again. Mesmerize us with your beauty. God do it again. Change us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.