Fire of God – Feared or Filled?
Fire is a fascinating image in the Bible. One of the most common associations is judgment. That’s understandable since God describes himself as a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). His Mt. Sinai appearance in fire and smoke was terrifying. Some sinned and were destroyed by fire.
Yet a closer study reveals that fire is not exclusively a picture of judgment; often it describes God’s glorious presence. When the LORD made a covenant with Abraham, he came as a smoking firepot and blazing torch. When he spoke with Moses, he appeared in the burning bush. He led the children of Israel through the wilderness as a pillar of fire. God often shows up with a fiery presence.
Fast forward to Pentecost. Once again God shows up with fire, tongues of fire. That fire wasn’t feared; instead it filled people with the Spirit. The torn temple curtain gave us direct access to God’s presence and now every believer is a burning bush.
How you view fire will impact how you approach it. The same is true with God. If you approach him on your own terms, it will be terrifying. If you approach him in a trust relationship with Jesus, you look forward to it as time spent with your best friend.
Many of our LDS friends are trying to approach God through their efforts. They genuinely want a closer relationship with Jesus, but he still seems distant and deep down they’re often afraid of God. They’re unsure if they’re truly forgiven. They see God as a judge who is testing them. In short, their relationship with God may resemble those who keep their distance from the fire.
It’s important to note at Pentecost that an external force was poured out upon the people. The Spirit was the active agent as they came to faith. It didn’t depend on their efforts to first rid themselves of sin. No, God accepts us broken as we are and he removes our sin.
This indwelling of the Spirit helps you recognize where you stand with God. “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). “The Spirit comes into our hearts crying ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit speaks of God’s love for you. He assures you of your adoption into God’s family. He takes the promises of God you know in your head and makes them real in your heart.
The Spirit also gives us a message to share. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them...we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongue” (Acts 2:4,11b). The Spirit tore down language barriers to reach many more with the good news of Jesus. The people were joyfully obsessed with telling others about the amazing things that God has done.
So, how do you feel about the fire of God? Friends, there’s no need to fear. When you know you’re forgiven and already perfect in Jesus, you bask in the warmth of his loving presence and want to be filled by it. And as you witness to others, pray that those who are still afraid of his fire might join the Emmaus disciples: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us…and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
Blessings as the Spirit lights a fire in and through you!