Pentecost is our example and reminder that we must live on fire for God. It’s His desire that we surrender to be transformed and be used to transform others.
And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
A fundamental truth about fire is that it has to be continually fed. Wildfires rage only as long as there is available material to feed them. Deprived of oxygen, a fire will slowly go out. The warm winter blaze or braai fire – for non-South Africans, read barbeque for braai – must be continually watched. The same is true for those who desire to be on fire for God. To understand this, we need only look back to the time of our salvation. Without exception, the new believer burned with passion, enthusiasm, praise, and thanksgiving. Sunsets were brighter, joy was closer, and everything revealed the glory and presence of God. After the ‘honeymoon period,’ though, something changes. Some become smouldering embers, while others die out altogether. It seems, when we look around us, that very few believer continue to burn with zeal and passion for God.
To be on fire for God is His desire.
Pentecost is a very telling picture of what God desires for His people. It’s no accident that the Holy Spirit manifested over each believer as a tongue of fire. The response to the infilling and outpouring of the Spirit that day is powerfully revealed in Acts. Men and women of God spilled into the streets, on fire for God and burning with a zeal that overtook and transformed the entire world. Ordinary human beings like you and I became an irresistible blaze that swept through humanity. This is the evidence of what He desires our response to be. Coming to Jesus and receiving His Spirit should be a point of ignition. God desires to light His fire in us, one we should take to not allow it to go out. His desire is that we live and live in the full revelation of Pentecost.
As believers, we shouldn’t simply lament the loss of true zeal for God in the Church. We need to examine ourselves for what has put out the fire. What is the reason that we no longer burn with our first love – the ignition of the deep fire within? Some of us believe that Pentecost was only for those first Apostles. Others somehow believe that it’s for a ‘select’ few – those like apostles or with a ‘big’ ministry. Many, though fully believe that Pentecost is a biblical representation of the truth that we must be on fire for God. We accept that this is what He desires. What we have difficulty with is that it’s perceived as being ‘radical,’ or ‘out there,’ or even a little crazy. It’s noisy and abnormal enough – by society’s standards – that it would make us stick like a sore thumb. God’s desire is given second place.
Purpose and principle of on fire for God.
The fact of the matter is that God wants us stand out from the crowd. We aren’t supposed to conform or blend in or fear what others may say about or to us. He desires that our fire, like our light, should burn up on a hill so no one can miss it. To be on fire for God is sharing in a radical and transforming reality of God’s love and power. It cannot sneak in or remain unnoticed. It impacts us and through us, spills out into the world. That’s the fundamental principle of Pentecost – filled up then overflowing. First and foremost, God’s fire is holy. It’s refining. It burns away the bondages and all restraints. That’s the first purpose. To change and refine and shape us from the inside out.
I’ve heard people say that the tongues of fire were outside as an excuse to avoid the refining. That’s Old Testament truth – the Spirit of God came upon them. Now, we have Him within us. We were all on fire for God when first saved, but it was a fire without foundation. Pentecost came for the believers when they knew Christ. The truth – His Word – has to be what feeds and drives the flames. To be on fire for God may be radical but it’s never a wildfire, totally out of control and raging unbridled. The principle behind Pentecost was submission – obedience to the will of God. That didn’t change when the fire came. They spilled out and began preaching boldly and without fear of the consequences, but it was under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The purpose and principle of Pentecost is always transformed, empowered, then sent.
Why we are no longer on fire for God.
There are a few reasons why we don’t display a Pentecostal conflagration of passion and zeal for God. All, however, seem to wander back to the same point – self. From a purely practical perspective, our fire dies back because it’s not properly fed. Fire needs oxygen and it needs material to feed the flames. This is why back-burning can be effective in fighting fires. We remove flammable material and starve it. From our spiritual perspective, we shut off the oxygen needed by hiding our fire. We like its warmth and the ‘feel good’ that comes from it. But we don’t want to have to share it and/or we don’t want others to notice it. It’s a little difficult to blend in when we have a Pentecostal flame burning inside and spilling out of us. When we keep our fire inside, it’s deprived of spiritual oxygen and will slowly die back.
God, in His grace, may keep a tiny flame or ember burning. But this will never amount to anything unless we continually feed it with the Word and through intimacy with Him. Today’s verse sums up very powerfully how we can remain on fire for God. It is through time spent with Him, learning from Him, and learning of Him. When we don’t feed our fire with spiritual things of God, it cannot keep burning. It’s a supernatural fire that can only be sustained and fully ignited by the power of God. When we cut ourselves off from Him or don’t surrender fully to Him, our little flame will remain just that. The truth is that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot have our own personal Pentecost just for us. Pentecost is always in us then through us to the world.
On fire for God is possible.
I am convinced that the full grace and power of Pentecost is available today to every believer. For one thing, God never changes. Pentecost is our example. It’s our encouragement to throw all into the ring and be on fire for God. I have no doubt that He is willing and waiting to ignite His people and that it is us who are holding back. At Mount Sinai, the people drew back and chose to communicate with God through Moses. They chose distance. But God offers us more. Yes, it’s refining fire and will no doubt be uncomfortable and even painful. But like those three Hebrew boys, if we choose the fire, we know that He will be beside us all the way. If we desire the all of God we must be willing to give all to God.
To choose the fire means that things of self will continually burn away. But what He puts in is eternal and beyond our ability to measure. Today’s verse is our reminder is that when we remain in His presence and walk in His ways, He will stir up the fire. When we yield to His will, He will release an eternal fire that cannot be quenched, diverted, or diminished. It’s God’s holy fire against which nothing can stand.
Father, forgive us for holding back or trying to define how we want Your holy fire to work in us. We know that without it, we cannot fulfil our purpose in You. Draw us close and help us to surrender to Your will and purposes. Release Your fire in us and through us. Transform us and refine us, and send us out as a people on fire for God.