A Consuming Fire
"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,
let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with
reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire"
Matthew 3:11, "...He shall baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire."
The Lord frequently revealed Himself in fire and used fire
as His sanctifying and purging agent. When the Lord was about
to deliver the children of Israel, He revealed Himself to
Moses from blazing fire in the burning bush(Exodus 3:2). The
Lord again appeared to Moses in the midst of fire on Mount
Sinai to give him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:18).
Ezekiel saw the Lord enthroned in glory and clothed in fire
(Ezekiel 1:27). Daniel saw the Ancient of Days on His throne
ablaze with fire (Daniel 7:9). When the Lord Jesus returns
from heaven in glory, it will be in flaming fire (2Thess 1:7).
From Genesis to Revelation, fire is shown to be one aspect
of God's manifested presence. This fiery presence of the Lord
is not just what the apostle Peter calls fiery trials that
test and purify our faith (I Peter4:12). That testing is valuable
for developing within us a dependency on the Holy Spirit.
However, to know the Lord's fiery presence is to experience
Him n our life in such a way that, like fire, He consumes,
purges, and changes us.
Throughout the Scriptures, this fire of the Lord has been
closely associated with His holiness and demand for purity
in the lives of His people. From the fire of the burning bush,
God instructed Moses, "... Put off thy shoes from off
thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground"
Exodus 3:5. Later, Israel was warned, "Take heed unto
yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God,
which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the
likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden
thee. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous
God" Deut 4:23-24.
When Aaron presented the offering on the altar, fire came
from the Lord and consumed its flesh (Lev 9:24). In this manner,
the burnt offering was sanctified or made holy by the Lord.
We know the Old Covenant is only a copy or shadow of the spiritual
reality found in Christ. Our God is still a consuming fire
whose presence will burn away all flesh and carnality.
Malachi prophesied of the coming Christ, "But who may
abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?
for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And
he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall
purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,
that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness"
Malachi 3:2,3. Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfills this prophecy
in that "He (Himself) shall baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire" Matt. 3:11.
What is His baptism in fire? It is being immersed in His
fiery, holy presence. As we abide in the fire of His presence,
He will reveal, separate and purge away all carnality. "Whose
fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor,
and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up
the chaff with unquenchable fire" Matt. 3:12. The Lord
baptizes us in His Spirit to empower us, He baptizes us in
fire to sanctify us. However, many who have received the baptism
in the Spirit have stopped short of pressing on until they
are also baptized in His fire, and walk in His holiness. Yet,
only holiness will enable us to experientially know the Lord.
Neither ministry nor the gifts of the Spirit can take the
place of holiness and true relationship with the Lord. "Many
will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied
in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in
thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess
unto them, never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity"
Matt. 7:22-23. Many Christians have become like bruised reeds
and dimly burning wicks because they lack a real relationship
with Jesus. Some have already fallen away. Others are throwing
themselves into more activity and organization seeking the
move of God. Yet, no religious or political activity can ever
substitute for living daily in His presence.
Jesus warned that He would remove His presence from His
people if they left their first love (Rev. 3:6). The answer
is not greater activity, but a return to our first love -
Jesus, and become consumed in Him. "Who shall ascend
into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy
place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart ..."
Psalm 24:3,4. When we are saved, we are sanctified (set apart)
and gain entrance to His holy place through the blood of Jesus
(Hebrews 10:10,19). But, if we want to go on in Christ and
truly knowthe Lord, we need to walk in holiness (a separated
Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me"
Luke 9:23; and "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they
shall see God" Matt. 5:8. The Scriptures are clear, "Follow
peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall
see the Lord" Heb.12:14. The Lord imputes His righteousness
to us at salvation, but the Lord progressively reveals Himself
to those whose hearts are yielded to Him and walk in His righteousness.
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and
he will shew them His covenant" Psalm 25:14.
The secret of holiness is to be consumed by His holy presence.
When you see Christ exalted in all His holiness and glory,
you will never be the same again. Moses was not the same after
the Lord revealed Himself at the burning bush and commissioned
him. Isaiah was cut to the core (Isaiah 6:5, "Woe is
me .... I am a man of unclean lips ...") and his prophetic
mission born after he saw the Lord in all His holiness.
Upon seeing the Lord of glory, Ezekiel fell on his face
in fear and then received his prophetic call. Paul was forever
changed from his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus
and also received his apostolic call in that experience (although
many years passed until the Spirit actually sent him). True
transformation and genuine ministry comes from seeing and
knowing the glorified Lord. Today, we desperately need a revelation
of the risen Christ and His cross in our lives.
Isaiah prophesied of the day when the Lord would purge Zion
of its filth by the spirit of judgment and THE SPIRIT OF BURNING
OR FIRE. Then the branch of the Lord would be beautiful and
glorious and the remnant that is left in Zion would be called
holy. And the glory of the Lord would be revealed and there
would be a shelter from the heat and a hiding place from the
storm (Isaiah 4:2-6). The Lord is starting to shake everything
that can be shaken – all institutions, doctrines, peoples.
Only those who have been changed by abiding in His presence
will stand the coming storm of judgment and manifest His glory.
"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the
house of God; and ifit first begin at us, what shall the end
be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" I Pet. 4:17.
The Lord Jesus is a consuming fire who will burn away our
dross. This is not the time for us to lean on the arm of the
flesh or to shrink back in fear.
Instead, let us steadfastly fix our eyes on Jesus and be
consumed by the Lord of glory.