God is a Consuming Fire
Since I was a young boy, I loved to sit around a campfire. There is something mesmerizing about looking into the flickering flames, hearing the crackle of the wood burning and feeling the warmth against your face. The fire would begin to die down as the wood was consumed only to grow into roaring flames again with the addition of each new stick or log. After a little while it became somewhat of a game to see how high you could make the flames burn only to realize you had to back further away from the heat produced in the process.
If you stayed all night out at the camp, you would awake to check out what had become of the fire that had burned so brightly into the previous night. It would appear the fire had completely burned out leaving only lifeless ashes. Surprisingly, the addition of fresh dry sticks and blowing on the seemingly dead ashes would show there were still hot coals under them. With a little effort, smoke would appear, and flames could be rekindled from what looked like a burned-out fire.
The Bible speaks a lot about fire. Hebrews 12:29 says, “our God is a consuming fire.” In Exodus 3:2, the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush, that didn’t burn up. In Exodus 13:21-22, God appears as a pillar of fire guiding the Israelites through the desert. In Leviticus 9:24, fire came from before the Lord and summed the burnt offering Aaron had placed on the altar. In the famous account of the prophet Elijah against the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:38, fire came down from heaven to completely consume the burnt offering, wood, stones, dust and water that Elijah had placed on the altar.
John Wesley, the famous founder of the Methodist church, spoke of being “strangely warmed” after attending a powerful prayer gathering in 1738. After this deep experience with God, he went on to start an evangelistic and church planting movement that literally turned the world upside down. He is attributed with saying, “I set myself on fire and the people come to watch me burn!” Some historians consider him to be the most important and influential person in Great Britain in the 1700s.
The newly resurrected Jesus had an encounter with 2 disciples while walking on the road to Emmaus. For some reason, the disciples weren’t able to recognize Him even after walking a long way and having a long conversation with him. Finally, at the end of the day their eyes were opened, they recognized Him, and He disappeared. The first thought they had was, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us…”
In Leviticus 6:13, God tells His people, “Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.” In the New Covenant in which we live since Jesus’ resurrection, we no longer offer sacrifices nor do we burn fire on altars. Jesus was the last great sacrifice and we become His temple with our hearts being His altar. I suggest to you that God starts a fire in our hearts when we come to know and experience Him, but we have a responsibility to keep the fire burning. If that fire is not tended and fueled, then it begins to burn out.
How do we keep the fire burning? Christianity is not a religion where we work hard to get to God, but it is all about our relationship with God Himself. In order to have a strong, healthy relationship, one must spend time with the one he desires to have the relationship. This allows one to get to know that person more deeply and to appreciate their attractive qualities. With God we do that through prayer, quiet times of listening to Him, worship, scripture reading, focusing on his existence and presence and spending time with others who are doing the same. I am thankful to know that God is always available and longing to have time with me. If we will simply lean into Him, we will realize He is nearer than we think and ready to do life with us. It’s impossible to be near God and to have the fire burn down! If you feel your fire is growing cold, draw near to Him again and you will quickly see the flames burning bright again.