“Truth without enthusiasm, morality without emotion, ritual without soul are things Christ unsparingly condemned. Destitute of fire, they are nothing more than godless philosophy, an ethical system and a superstition” Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932)
This statement is very illustrative of a little church in Ephesus, a group of Christians John the apostle wrote to on behalf of Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation. This fellowship was once a prime example of how good it could be when humble hearts earnestly seek the King of Kings who dwells in their hearts by faith. In Paul’s writings to that same church we see the result’s of this truth (Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith; see Ephesians 3:14-21), that they would be able to not only grasp the love of Christ that is immeasurable but because of this great love be filled with all the fullness of God. Seems to me this is referring to fire. You may argue opposite, but by the time of Jesus’ instructions to the Church in Ephesus by John’s pen, this little church had every thing from the previous mentioned quote, except fire. They were destitute of the fire of love for Jesus. Because of this lack of fire they were not moving in Christ’s Great Commission calling. They were no longer moving, they were no longer going. To me Samuel Chadwick’s quote is indicative of where we are as a movement of Christians (geographically speaking). We have become doctrinally correct, active in working but trying to get people to move to us, our gatherings and our religious methods. Not only is this unbiblical in the sense that Jesus commanded us to go, but it is also as wasteful as a powerful work vehicle with the latest equipment and potential, even having a full tank of gas, yet immovable for having no spark plug, no ability for fire. Without the ability to create fire, no matter the mechanical potential, or quality of fuel, there will be absolutely no movement.
This is the church in America as a whole. We have more potential, knowledge, access and reach than any others in the history of the redeemed, save those who actually walked with Jesus in His first incarnation. We know of the fuel of Divine life and movement, the blessed Holy Spirit, yet we are stuck without movement. We have no fire, no spark to ignite, and hence we being stationary have begun to call the heathen to us. The unsaved masses are interested for a while until they figure out what we have to offer is only part of the picture. Having the hunger in their soul unmet, they wander away to search for whatever may satiate, for just a little while, that eternal void meant only for the God they need to be reconciled with first. What is this missing fire needed to tap into that river of living water, who is the Holy Spirit in His fullness? Well, it begins with desperation.
We understand that biblically speaking the Holy Spirit is symbolized as fire and at times quite literally manifest as such, but before we can enjoy the fullness of the fire of God for the glory of Jesus in witness, we need to have a spark of love for the Lamb of God that transcends any other inward inclination. If we ponder for a moment the disciples who were commanded to the upper room, what was it that kept them together for the ten day absence of Jesus before Pentecost? Certainly, Jesus’ command was part of the reason, “go into Jerusalem, until you are endued with power from on high”…. “You shall be my witnesses…” but can this account for such a radical commitment? No, they had something more, a desperation as they hung on every Word of their master (recall Peter’s statement John 6:68-69). The desperation was the spark that led to movement. They needed to follow until they were filled with that which would transcend their own fire and passion. In truth we need to have fire (passion that moves us toward the vision of God) to get God’s fire. The disciples had this fire and so did others.
Psalms 63:1-8(NKJV) 1O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. 2So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. 3Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. 4
In David’s cry to God he clearly shows us where the prerequisite spark comes from and how it is fanned into flame. David shows us his desperation for his God. It arose because of God’s love for David. David loved God for who God was not what He could do for him. David’s spark caused him to search for the Lord’s Presence in his own sanctuary of the Judean wilderness, not in some official dignified religious way, but as a desperate man who knew nothing else would satisfy. Interestingly it was his lack of God’s fire that set him on his passionate fire filled journey. This fire of passion for His God led him to pursue God, a pursuit that caused him to need God to uphold him in. David would find forward motion in his own strength. We have a greater potential for this flame because we have what David did not, Jesus dwelling in our hearts by faith, yet we often have not a minutia of David’s flame. David also describes this passion, this spark, this desire as a deer that in exhaustion pants for water to quench its thirst Psalm 42). Desperate desire for God’s presence and love is the spark that sets the man of God on a journey for God’s Fire and fullness, which is the only thing that will satisfy his soul. This thirst for God is essential to all avenues of our walk with Jesus. Especially prayer…
“No erudition, no purity, no diction, no width of mental outlook, no flower of eloquence, no grace of person can atone for a lack of fire. Fire gives prayer access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no incense without fire, not prayer without flame” E.M. Bounds (1835-1913)
As we see here without the spark of passion, a flame in the heart of a man desperate for the Presence of the Lord God Almighty, desperate for the glory of Jesus Christ in a dark and lost world, there is no prayer, no growth and no movement. When we get ambient and our prayers mere petitions of obligation we are in a dangerous place. Little motion in the people of God towards the heart of God for the lost or towards their salvation in Christ is a tragic and sinful waste. Before God will breathe His Holy Spirit fire into the church anew, the servants of the Lord must seek the truth about their own motion or lack of it.
When is the last time you have pondered Christ crucified, as the heat of tears washed your face in holy gratitude? When was the last time with grief we plead with God for His power to revive a church that is long on all the stuff of the Ephesian church but short on the exact same virtue they lacked…which is a desire filled love for Jesus Christ the Lord. In order to reverse this trend that led Ephesus to extinction, we first need to stop filling our life with the false fire of a respectable Christianity that allows for every distraction from our holy pursuit in the name of a “god” we created who exists to bless us (when in truth we are to glorify and bless His name). Truly to look at the Word of God is to see men that were out of balance, men who were radically separated to God and found their rest and power and fullness in God alone. There was a time not so long ago when the church needed not to look for recreation, for the Holy Spirit by His direction and glorifying of Jesus through his church was all the entertainment we needed. Recently in attending a meeting of pastors I was grieved to find one pastor who boastfully accounted that he had all of the men in his church addicted to fantasy football. It is good for fellowship he reported. Really? I wonder how many of those men are praying during the week with passion for the God of heaven to transform them, their families or their neighborhoods by Holy Fire from God.
Could it be that we have for too long merely assented to Biblical truth in the area of the power of the Holy Spirit, that we no longer believe what we shake our head affirmatively about? Jesus said if anyone believes in me as the scriptures have said that out of their inmost being will flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). Where is this river of purity and power, this flow of holy fire that will light up the darkness around us? Could it be we malign the suggestion of this necessary spark, because in our hearts we know we are far from the heart of God? A car designed for the purpose of movement without being able to is a tragic waste of resources and potential. A Christian without movement is an even bigger and tragic waste of grace. Let me encourage you to walk with me as I am desperate to taste of the Lords goodness in the land of the living, not for us, but for the one who loved us before the foundation of the world.
In a final thought, ponder for a moment the sheer passion we as Christians carry for our “home teams”. Many of our brothers are devout and crazy Buckeye fans. I used to be. A few years ago God showed me something as I watched the 2002 national title. For the championship game we had a Christian couple over who were having marital difficulties. As we all watched the game it impressed me that we were all cheering, nervous and united in our fandom. The couple seemed to be getting along and in fact on the same team (maritally speaking). Then it hit me, we had never really shared, prayed together, or fellowshipped about our love for Jesus, how sad. A few years later that couple divorced and I was reminded of the unity of the world and that unity which needs God to change hearts. I was saddened that they could cheer for the same team but not be on Jesus’ team together. My view of sports has changed. How many Christians give more fire, passion and desperate attention to sport, hobby, career building, or legacy building for family than to Jesus? Where is our balance? Where is our fire for Him? He will not have rivals, not even if we sport nice truth and activities that promote His name (Matthew 7:21-23). Do you want this Fire? Find it in a desperate, out of balanced and fire filled love for the one who was slain for you before the foundation of the world.