Word on Fire

Paul writes to Timothy

'I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you'
(2Tim 1:6)

so, to help the church with this, we offer this brief word, because

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord'
(Jeremiah 23:29)

The Purifying Fire

Do you struggle to be holy? Is there a battle in your life in which you can’t seem to gain the promised victory against bad habits, worldliness, and sin? Let me tell you, friends, you can’t win this battle on your own! You will continually fail, you will seem to even lose ground on the gains that you think you have made, and you will grow disheartened and maybe even give up the fight - if you struggle in your own strength. You need – as we all need – heaven’s purifying fire!

Let me first say it loud and clear – the fire of purity is a privilege for the saved. If you’re not saved – if you’ve not committed your life and all your ways to Jesus Christ – then this is where to start! Call on Jesus Christ and ask him into every part of your life. Being a churchgoer isn’t enough; neither is being a lukewarm Christian. It’s all or nothing. As I’ve said before, you can’t stand at a railway platform with one foot on each of the two trains about to leave the station. You’ll be torn apart. It’s Jesus or the world. Choose!

Zechariah 13:7-9
Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
In the whole land, declares the Lord,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.

In Zechariah 13, there is a prophecy of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and of the falling away of many as a result of the world’s opposition. But, representative of the remnant of the Church (and not to be taken as a literal proportion of humanity) a third will be brought into heaven’s fire for sanctification. Will you choose to offer yourself to the Lord to be in this “third”?

On various other occasions, God’s word refers to fire as the means of purification. Unfruitful lives and lives of sinfulness are “chaff” which will be burnt up at the coming of the Saviour into the life of every penitent person (see Mt 3:12, Lk 3:17). His new life within us is like a refiner’s fire (Mal 3:2) or a furnace used for burning rubbish (Mal 4:1). The leaders (Hebrew alluph – also translated ‘clans’) of the Church are intended to be nothing less than furnaces (or braziers) and blazing torches (Zech 12:6) performing the same function in bringing fire to the faithful, and being purifying pastors! Again, there is a reference to the purifying fire in Isaiah 50, but in this passage the ironic tone of God’s voice warns (v11) that those who merely “walk by the light of your fire … shall lie down in torment” – selfish fire is wasted fire, for the preceding verses call for ministry to “sustain … him who is weary” (v4) – but first the fire must burn in us!

This fire – given by Jesus, brought by the Holy Spirit – burns away our sinful desires and inclinations and keeps us focused the ways of holiness. One example of this was given to me by Sreenu, a 30 year-old man to whom I ministered in India a few years ago. He was in the habit of drinking and gambling. Afterwards he told the pastor of the church I was visiting "I was unable to resist alcohol and was drunk daily. As Pastor Chris laid his hands on me I felt fire come down through my head and touch my tongue. Now I don't even want to touch an alcoholic drink". The Pastor added "Now he is totally changed and leading prayerful life". I’ve known the same happen when ministering to people who want to give up smoking, pornography, and other addictions.

Writing to Timothy in what we know as
2Timothy 2:20-22, Paul says:

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace…

This is exactly where we began – thinking of our struggle to flee improper passions, and seeking to become more suitable for Kingdom use! What was Paul thinking of when he spoke of “cleansing” ourselves? We don’t know, but as a Pharisee, and an expert in the Law, Paul would know the rules for ritual cleansing. Keeping this brief, let’s look at
Numbers 31:21-23.

Then Eleazar the priest said to the men in the army who had gone to battle: “This is the statute of the law that the Lord has commanded Moses: only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. Nevertheless, it shall also be purified with the water for impurity. And whatever cannot stand the fire, you shall pass through the water.

This text comes as part of God’s instructions for vengeance on Midian. After the time of Moses, the Midianites were consistently opposed to Israel, both in violent warfare and spiritually. They worked with Moab in hiring Balaam to curse Israel (Num. 22:4, 7). At Moab, the Midianites were among those who practiced sexual immorality as part of the ritual of their idolatrous religion. They involved some of the Israelites in this idolatry, causing God’s judgment to come upon His people (Num. 25:1–9). Brothers and sisters, we live in a Midianite world! It’s a world of violence and active opposition to followers of Jesus Christ, and a world of growing sexual immorality into which the Church is evermore being tempted to join.

We are the Army of the Lord, the spiritual successors to the very people to whom the instructions of Numbers 31 were given. “Everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire”! That which can’t stand the fire, shall nevertheless pass through water.
To be cleansed we must be baptised with Fire, as well with the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:16). Not everyone who has been baptised in the Spirit can stand the fire! This is a matter of willingness on their part. Some believers just don’t “fan into flame” (2Tim 1:6), some just are comfortable not being “fervent in spirit” (Ro 12:11 – the Greek for ‘fervent’ is derived from the process of boiling, using the heat of a fire). This doesn’t mean that these believers are “lukewarm” (and therefore liable to be rejected, Rev 3:16), but they are in danger of heading that way – if your car engine stops sparking (loses the fire) the vehicle stalls! Washing with the Water of the Spirit will purify, but will not render us so useable as when passing through Water and Fire. I’ve mentioned before the sad reality that even believers baptized in the Spirit don’t seem to move in the gifts of the Spirit. That’s because the fire empowers the gifts, and without the fire, the gifts all-too-often remain unused. Likewise, as we understand the need for the purifying fire, we see why even “Spirit-filled” believers struggle unsuccessfully to be pure.

Friends, don’t be satisfied with hollow rhetoric about ‘fire’ that says nothing. Let the Lord Jesus Christ, as he comes to you, bring to you the presence, the power, the passion, and the purpose of God, and let him baptize you with fire for purity!

Click the links below to read previous ‘Word on fire’ messages.

We Need The Fire; Take Up Your Life By Faith; Fire Kept Burning; Olympic Shame; Tsunami; Sea Mixed With Fire; Hurricanes and Heavenly Barricades; The Blacksmith; The Goblet of Fire; Satan’s Mistake; Finding and Fanning; Victory Fire of Unity; Delayed Fire; Babylon Burning; CofE Babylon; Hearing From God; The Burning of Christopher Wade;

Find more messages & insights like these in the Notes section of Chris’s Facebook page.