The Bible is filled with images of fire. A word search of terms relating to fire renders nearly 1000 entries in the concordance. From judgment fire to Holy Spirit fire, the Bible is filled with symbols of fire. A stream or river of fire flows from the throne of God (Daniel 7:10). In this same fire Jesus immerses believers (Luke 3:16). We are commanded never to quench it (1 Thessalonians 5:19: some translations read, "don't put out the Spirit's fire"). The Holy Spirit fell with tongues of fire on the believers in the book of Acts and the tongues of fire put fiery sermons on their tongues of flesh in all the languages of those present in Jerusalem (Acts 2:2-4). Even as I'm inspired and caught up in the fire and wind of the Holy Spirit, I'm tested and tried in the refiner's fire (Malachi 3:2). Our God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29) and the God who answers by fire is God (1 Kings 18:24).
As I desire more of God a passion and hunger grows for a greater zeal and a greater fire for God. Those immersed in fire desire more fire. Those who are filled with fire seek a continual filling with fire. As a project, I printed out the 961 references to fire, fiery, flame, flaming, burn, burnt, burned, burning and read each one of them, highlighting those worth that I felt significant to my life: promises to keep, challenges and warnings to learn, words to inspire.
From the first reference to fire in scripture to the last, it is clear that the image is one of power and intensity. The Bible instructs us that only by passing through fire may we receive from the tree of life (Genesis 3:24) and also that the eternal, fiery wrath of God awaits those who reject the goodness and love of God in Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:8).
As I memorize verses on fire, I picked up a scripture and prayer memento. The Old Testament is filled with physical objects meant to remind the Israelites of aspects of God, aspects of Holiness and aspects of worship. They are only shadows of the reality, but they were meant to be a constant reminder. The fire was meant to always burn on the altar in reminder of the continual, consuming presence of the LORD (Lev. 6:13).
As a memento of God's refining and Holy Spirit fire, I bought a Zippo and carry it with me. Everyday I flick it, sometimes multiple times, and say a quick prayer, "Set me on fire, Lord; more fire; I want to burn for you." I quote the most recent verse on fire that I've been memorizing. Many times this action has brought me conviction of the cold condition of my own heart, of my lack of zeal, of my lack of fire for the lost, for the Spirit, for worship, for holiness. Often times it has comforted me as I realized that the trials and circumstances of life are the testing of my faith and the refining fire of God (1 Peter 1:7).
Earlier this year I wrote of my ministry work:
When men called by God sought victory and Holy fire to combat the enemy, they often found God’s refining fire purging their hearts and reducing them to their core desire for God. The work that God has called me to do here in the city of Hamtramck burdens me with the daily needs of those around me and the heartbreaking dominion of sin and false religion. A popular maxim for ministry in Detroit says, “all you can do is take a bucket of water out of the Detroit River, the rest of the river runs on.” Our ministries and methods may be defeated, but the Holy Spirit is never defeated. God is raising a Gideon’s band, which will march on in the face of the opposition, armed with humility and obedient service. But God has to reduce the army first. He trims away the fat and the flesh. He melts down the ore and pulls out the dross. Those who are fruitful he prunes. Those who are unfruitful he fertilizes. Those who remain unfruitful he cuts down. Our greatest hope and encouragement is an expectation of God’s pruning shears. His refining fire is a promise of His answer by fire.
We possess the glory of God, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). We carry the glory and the knowledge of Jesus Christ within our hearts, but it is contained in our fleshly bodies and human frailty. It is when this vessel is broken that the “surpassing power” pours out. It is the breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit. When we are humbled and submitted and our foolish pride and fleshly identity is broken before God, the power and knowledge of Christ and His glory flows from our lives. He does this to display that the origin is from Him and not our own lives. Pride would claim the power and glory for ourselves. It must be broken before the power can be released from within our hearts, where Christ sits on the throne.
When Gideon defeated Midian in Judges 7:16-20, the Lord drastically cut down his army and ordered them to surprise the enemy in this weak condition. The orders were not to attack with weapons or brilliant strategy, but with a pre-emptive shout of victory: a cry of faith in the midst of fear and immense opposition. The symbol of their faith, their noisemaker and the object of their proclamation were torches contained in jars. With a shout, they broke the jars revealing the flaming torches and throwing the enemy into chaos. The enemy was routed and their camp was plundered. When these jars were broken, the fire was released. In our lives the jar of clay, the earthen vessel, our soulishness and flesh, must be broken for the fire to be released. Our personal pride, strength, independence and all other fleshly obstacles must be broken to release the powerful fire of God. In the same way, when the outer ore is purged away in the refining process the true gold is left exposed. Please pray for me as I face many daily trials, but persevere in the promise that in the breaking of my outer man, the fire of God’s glory will be released in my life. The enemy will be routed and hell will be plundered. In the light and heat of the refining fire I look forward to the fire of the Holy Spirit’s work. Let the God who answers by fire be God!