24 May FIRE – A CONSUMING POWER THAT TRANSFORMS US INTO THE HOLY PEOPLE OF GOD
This past weekend your church may have celebrated the Christian holy day of Pentecost – the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Jewish believers in Christ, 50 days after His crucifixion, just as He had promised. Many would say that Pentecost marks the birth of the Church, the Body of Christ. Acts 2:47 tells us that after this event “the Lord kept adding to them those who were being saved, day after day.” But few people, even those who have grown up in the church, realize that the first Pentecost happened 1500 years earlier.
Pentecost, or Shavuot, as it is called in Hebrew, occurs 50 days, after the Feast of Passover. After the Israelites left Egypt, God continued to rescue them from their enemies, guide them through the desert, and provide for their physical needs. Fifty days later, God presented to the community the opportunity to enter into covenant with Him. An invitation to become the Lord’s own treasured possession from among all the people of the earth – and the people willingly agreed! (Exodus 19) At that time, God came down in a great show of fire and power upon the head of Mount Sinai:
“The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day he called to Moses from the cloud. The appearance of the Lord’s glory to the Israelites was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop.”
“Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke because the Lord came down on it in fire. Its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently.”
It’s during this awesome demonstration of God’s glory and power that He gives Moses the Torah, the Law, or better put – the instruction of the Lord. It’s important to note that the Israelites were already saved through their faith in the blood of the Passover Lamb. God’s Law was not a precursor to their salvation – it came after they had been called out and drawn out of slavery and bondage.
Flash forward 1500 years and we see a strikingly similar event take place in Jerusalem:
“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.”
Here we see an amazing parallel: At the first Pentecost God inscribed His Word on tablets of stone, and later fulfilled this event by writing His Word on tablets of flesh. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel both prophesied of this event:
“…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
I’m guessing none of you reading this have ever had tongues of fire appear above your head, so what can we, as modern day believers, take away from this event? When John the Baptist spoke of the Messiah Who was to come he said, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I am is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16) When we put our faith in Christ to be our Lord and Savior, we are sealed, baptized by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13) We are marked as His own special treasure. But what of the baptism by fire that John speaks of?
Think about what fire does. In Hebrew the word literally means “strong consumer.” The author of Hebrews tells us in 12:29, “For indeed, ‘Our God is a consuming fire!’” When we put our faith in Christ and receive His Holy Spirit, a work begins in us. The Spirit begins to wage war against our flesh (Galatians 5:17), and the holy process of sanctification begins to take place – wherein we submit ourselves to God, and, through His Spirit, He enables us to die to our flesh, to take off the old man, and to walk in the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-17, Ephesians 4:22-24, Galatians 5:16)
There’s a term that perhaps you’ve heard, especially if you grew up around forests – controlled burn. Often times fires are intentionally set for the purpose of hazard reduction, restoration, and preparation for the planting of new crops. This reminds me of what Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
As believers in Christ, we have the assurance of salvation through the baptism of the Holy Spirit; however, when we accept that free gift, we can also be assured of the baptism by fire – the holy, refining, sanctifying work of God, that consumes our darkness and fills us with His light!
Here’s some things to think about:
1. Where have you seen God’s consuming, refining fire at work in your own life?
2. How is God’s Spirit leading you to die to your flesh as He sanctifies you to become more like Christ?
3. Are there any areas that you have been holding back from God – fearful of His consuming fire? How can you trust Him more and believe that God is for you, working to accomplish His purpose in your life?