Fire of God - Part 2

Scripture: Matthew 3:11, Luke 12:49, Acts 2:
The subject of the Holy Spirit is very important. The devil has pushed this doctrine to extremes and fanaticism. While we should not be held sway by our emotions, we can learn something through them, such as love, joy, and peace.
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In yesterdays broadcast we introduced the subject of the Holy Spirit, and how Satan has sought to bring the subject into disrepute. Until fairly recently very little was said or done about the teachings of the Scripture on this point. The old devil somehow managed to smother the truth through the long weary centuries of the Dark Ages. And when it finally began to emerge and be understood Satan stirred up fanaticism and extreme emotionalism to try to keep people from getting interested in it.

Friends, there are two extremes which we must guard against in these days. We must not let feeling be the criteria of our religious experience, else we might be led away from the Bible as our sovereign rule of faith. On the other hand, we must accept the fact that God often works, and speaks to us, through our emotions. Love, joy and peace, these are all the emotional fruits of true religious experience. They must not be the test of truth because often people are very happy and emotional while following a false doctrine or even a pagan religion.

Now I don't know how much I ought to say about this, friends, but there's a true and there's a counterfeit. There's the false and there is the true. The tendency of many is to be very staid and formal. Sometimes I think we're too much afraid of emotions. We're afraid of tears, even. We think maybe it's a sign of weakness when we do that, when we give way to something like that. Now, I'm not telling you to shout, friends, but I'm telling you to do this, don't stifle the Holy Spirit. I think we've gone too far the other way in some respects. We don't even hear any "Amens" these days in the church. We're a little bit afraid that that's getting extreme. We're a little afraid that that's giving way to emotionalism. But friends, when the Holy Spirit works He may not always do it in exactly the way we think He ought to do it. And we must be prepared, we must be prepared to receive God in the way He comes to us.

Now today the church needs this power much more than it did in those early days. We've got a thousand times more of the devil's traps to work with and to fight against. The world has now become friendly with the church. The devil has clothed his snares with religious garments. And the old devil is trying to worm his way in and make inroads in the remnant church, itself. That's why we must be on guard, and we cannot fight this battle with our human strength alone. We need the Holy Spirit now more than ever before. And yet I wonder, dear friends, whether we are receiving all that God wants to give us.

There is the strange spirit of secularization working right in our own midst. Jesus said, "Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold." A form of godliness has been growing and developing even among the people of God. What influence have these things had upon our own lives? When we're surrounded here by the spirit of the world, by the carnal things that our eyes have to see and our ears have to hear, is that making some impact on our Christian life? Are we becoming weak through the constant pressures of a carnal, fleshly world that's pressing on us from all sides? That is the great issue of today.

We need the baptism of the Holy Spirit, friends, to keep us and protect us now. The members need it, the ministers need it. We ought to be praying for it every single week at our prayer meetings. The hour is late, and unless the church arouses from this slumber, if she doesn't wake up, friends, multitudes are going to shuffle their way right on through this world and then fall right over the brink of destruction. This is the time God wants to finish His work. And I'm afraid God's people have not made themselves available for His indwelling power. As we draw close to the end of the world, there will be fewer and fewer great men in the cause of God.

"Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord." It won't be those men with their high degrees, the men who have great theological training that God will be able to use. Humble people will come to the front. Consecrated laymen like Aquila and Priscilla who know Jesus personally will be able to explain about the working of the Holy Spirit. Some of these great theologians with their high-sounding degrees will not understand. They'll be very much like Apollos was in Ephesus. But simple people like these tent-makers, Aquila and Priscilla, will be able to speak with authority, because the convicting power of the Holy Spirit will attend them. We must have that power, friends. We must receive that baptism.

It's not hard work that breaks a man down in the service of God. No it isn't. It's working without the Power that will wear a man down and kill him. It's not hard work, it's not long hours that we need to put in necessarily either. We need to just harness up with the great source of all strength.

Do you know how far it was from Egypt over to Canaan's land? How many day's travel do you think it would require to make that trip? Eleven. In eleven days they could have completed that journey from the land of bondage to the land of promise. But how long did the children of Israel wander in that wilderness? Forty long years they stayed out there, just going around in circles and wasting their time, because they did not have the faith to enter in. Now, here we are still plodding along in this old world. We should have been in the kingdom of God long before this. But we're still here, just as the children of Israel were. And sometimes it seems that we're getting more dull every day. Friends, we need to be shaken up. We need to make ourselves more available for God. We need to shut our minds to these temporary things of the world and dwell more on the spiritual things of God. We need the fire of God.

Why is it, friends, that we don't seem to have what those early Christians possessed? I read about the missionary journeys of Paul. The sacrifices those people made, the zealous investment of their time and money that was made. I don't think we understand much about sacrifice. We don't understand too much about the investment of our very lives in the cause of Jesus. What does it mean for us to make a sacrifice anyway? How many hours are we spending in the work of God. And how many hours are we spending for our own pleasure and for our own self-gratification? It would be a fine thing to measure it out sometime and answer that question.

Our spiritual poverty is tragic and it's inexcusable, friends. When unlimited resources are waiting for our demand and reception, still we're not doing the work and we're not living the kind of holy lives that God wants us to. It costs something to be a Christian. I don't think it's difficult at all. It's not difficult only because we've not understood what the Lord requires. Somehow I wish Paul could be here today and make his eloquent spiritual appeal to us. Or are you still groping along on that first little impartation of grace that came on the day of your baptism? That was the beginning, and it was fine. Our hearts burned within us on that day. Why, our first love was warm and zealous, but what is it today, friends? Are we as strong now as we were a year ago and ten years ago? Has our enthusiasm lagged a little bit in the cause of Christ? Have we found ourselves growing a little more indifferent to the great claims of the gospel as we move along year by year? These are serious questions. This is what Paul would ask, I believe, if he should come. Have you been baptized with water and with fire?

Let's read something Jesus had to say concerning this power of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 3:11: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I'm not worthy to bear. He shall baptize thee with the Holy Ghost and with fire." With fire. This is John speaking. Now, let's see what Christ said. In Luke 12:49, "I am come to send fire on the earth. And what will I if it be already kindled?" Now what did Jesus mean? He came to send fire. And John said he's going to baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

Then in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit descended upon those disciples, what rested on their heads? A tongue of fire. Now why did the Bible use fire as the representation of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever thought about that and wondered about it? Well, friends, fire is a consuming thing. It permeates; it consumes; it's a mighty purifying agent, isn't it? It's a very deep thing as far as its effects are concerned. And this divine fire will penetrate into the life of any individual. It will consume.

Let's think of some things now, that fire will do, and perhaps how the Holy Spirit will do the same thing. Fire will illuminate, won't it? Fire illuminates. It will brighten up things. When that Holy Spirit reaches into the heart it will illuminate and it will reveal every hidden sin. Every little mark of evil is going to be revealed under the presence of the Holy Spirit. And when that fire comes in to reveal, sin becomes very abhorrent. Oh, we hate ourselves, because we see ourselves as God sees us. It drives us over to our neighbor to make confession of the wrong we've done him. It sends us around to correct some misunderstandings that we've had with our fellow men. It reveals things that we're embarrassed over, that we're ashamed of. This wonderful illuminating, revealing power of the Holy Spirit.

All right, something else that fire does: it consumes, doesn't it? It consumes. It burns up sin. Will God do that for the individual? Let's turn in our Bibles to Malachi 3:2, 3. This has always been a fascinating verse for me. "But who may abide the day of His coming? Who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiners 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." Why, God is represented here as a refiner of gold and silver. The metal is put into the fire and burned, and the fire will separate the precious from the vile. It will bring such a degree of purity that finally the reflection of the refiner can be discerned right in the metal itself. God has been looking for His own likeness to be reproduced in the lives of His people. This refining work is now taking place, this sanctification process.

All right, fire purifies then, by consuming, by permeating. Isaiah spoke of it. He prayed that the Lord would let this fire, you remember, the coal of fire, rest on his lips. Sometimes I think that this is a marvelous prayer for us today. Some people need to have their lips purified by the Holy Spirit. Oh, there is so much thoughtless speaking, there is the thoughtless tongue, a gossipy tongue, unclean tongue, and unkind tongue. We need to be purged in the fire of God. Something else that fire does, it warms, doesn't it? It warms and it cheers. And then fire makes permanent. Some things will be consumed by fire. Sin is consumed by it, but other things are simply made permanent. They'll sometimes glaze a thing, an object, a kettle or a piece of pottery. They subject it to the fierce heat of the kiln in order to burn in the colors and to porcelainize on the outside in order to make it hard and permanent. So God will sometimes use His Holy Spirit to fire within our characters the sweet graces of His Spirit. Don't we long for such a thing, friends? Don't you want to be made permanent as far as your Christian experience is concerned and the beautiful fruits of the spirit?

Then there is something else. Fire spreads rapidly, doesn't it? In 1871, in just a few hours time in the city of Chicago seventeen thousand buildings were burned to the ground. Over 100,000 people were made homeless in just a few minutes of time. Fire attracts attention too. It can be seen from a far distance. And when this power of God comes into the lives of these people it's going to attract attention and it's going to spread like wildfire. It will sweep over the church with sanctifying power. And the attention of all the world will be drawn to those who are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Long, long ago in old Dalmatia, houses were built out of bituminous lime stone. They would bring in these great pieces of limestone that were simply saturated with bitumen or pitch or tar. It was a very unpleasant building material to deal with. There was a terrible smell about the building to begin with and then the pores of that limestone were just seeping always with a black tarry substance that got on the hands of the builders. But nevertheless, they continued their work, and laid the foundations out of this limestone. They put the walls of limestone. They even made the roof of the building out of limestone. And after it was all finished, do you know what they did? They struck a match to the building. They set it on fire, and the fire would burn and suck out of the pores of that stone all the bitumen. All of the pitch would simply burn away, and when it was all burned, the beautiful snow white limestone was left. Of course it couldn't burn. And they had a strong fire-proof, sweet-smelling house in which to live. Isn't that wonderful? Now listen, some day the fire of God is going to burn. Not the Holy Spirit's fire, that I have been talking about. But when Jesus comes, the second time, we're told that His very presence will be a consuming fire. What will that fire in the presence of God burn in the lives of the people? It will burn sin out, and in the process it will also consume those who are harboring the sin. But God wants to prepare us for that day of burning. And He wants to burn in our lives now, through the Holy Spirit, and He calls this Holy Spirit the Fire of God. And if we will only submit to it, if we will only receive it in faith, dear friends, God will burn sin out of our lives now, so that there won't be any sin to burn out when He appears as a consuming fire.

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