Love the fire
VIDEO: In this sermon, Gary Fenn speaks about keeping the fire burning in our hearts to consume everything outside of Christ.
Jesus came to send fire
In his sermon at a recent Brunstad Christian Church conference at North East Christian Conference Center Gary Fenn spoke powerfully about what it means to endure the fire. Jesus said: “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49. And in 1 Peter 4:12 it’s written, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
In this message Gary speaks about what it means to endure the fire, and to let the fire do a work in your life, as God intends it to be done. And he speaks about the incredible result of embracing the fire, and allowing the fire to cleanse out all sin and self-seeking in our lives. It’s not a strange thing that is happening to us when we experience the fire in our lives! It is His work in us to sanctify us and purify us. So let’s love the fire!
Watch and listen to excerpts from the sermon here, or read the transcript below.
Sermon by Gary Fenn, May 25th 2019, NECCC:
I’d like to read a word in Leviticus that’s been working very much in my heart. We can read from chapter 6, from verse 12. “And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.”
That was God’s commandment under the old covenant. That was His longing and desire, that the altar would always be prepared for sacrifice. And the fire was to be ready at all times, so the offering could be brought. Now in the time of the new covenant the altar has transferred from stone and wood to become the fleshly tables of our hearts. And here, the intention is for all of us who have such “altar hearts,” that the fire never goes out in those hearts. And that of course, first and foremost, is the fire of first love for our Savior. From our youth time until we pass through this world, that fire should be ignited in our hearts. There shouldn’t be a day that goes by in our lives where that fire is allowed to … certainly not go out, or allowed to … those flames are not burning brightly there on the altar of our hearts.
It’s a tragedy actually, when one has begun upon that way, and the fire of zeal has been ignited in one’s youthful heart, and then little by little one begins to lose that fire. And why? Yeah, it must be because the fuel for the fire is not being offered up. That fire will continue so long as there is something to offer. And for us that, first and foremost, means that we live in a spirit of self-acknowledgement. That we are always conscious of God’s fire that wants to consume that which is part of that human nature yet, which I haven’t yet been saved from.
And Jesus of course, He was the first and most perfect offering. When He came into the world, He offered up His body as a well pleasing sacrifice to God, in order to do God’s will. And that body was never used for anything else, except to do the will of His Father in heaven. And that’s the intention for us, that we are also such well pleasing sacrifices. But then the fire’s got to consume! His purity cannot be united with any impurity in our nature. His love, it can’t be united with self-love and self-seeking. The fire has to take it. So let us be really, really strengthened and encouraged in this, that the fire, it shall never go out. It shall always be burning there on the altars of our heart. Then we will grow older as the years go by, we will grow older filled with zeal for God. The zeal that we had when we first began, and young people, your zeal is to be ignited. If it hasn’t been ignited yet, then it can be so. Offer yourself. Be an offering. Become a whole burnt offering, and then God’s fire will fall upon the altar of your heart, and you’ll be ignited with zeal from above. To love Him and serve Him. And let nothing hinder you in that. And then life is really worth living.
It’s also written in Numbers 31:23: “… everything that can endure fire, you shall put through the fire, and it shall be clean; and it shall be purified with the water of purification. But all that cannot endure fire you shall put through water.” So this is clear, obviously the intention, God’s intention for us, is that we become people who can bear the fire, so that we don’t need to live in that which is only able to be cleansed by water. And we know that has to do with outward sins. The water will cleanse us outwardly. And all of us experience that, have experienced that. We’ve needed the cleansing of the water, and we can be extremely thankful for that. For example, all of us experience that there are times when we should have been able to bear our cross more quietly, but in the pressures that come, then perhaps something ekes out, toward my marriage partner, or toward my children, or toward my parents, and in the brotherhood. And I wasn’t able to endure the fire. The pressure was a little bit too great for me at that time. Then I have to go back and say, you know dear, I should never have said it like that. Please forgive me. It wasn’t the intention. I didn’t really mean it like that, but nevertheless, it was like that! And the water can purify me. And will purify me, so I continue with a good conscience, continue on the way. But the intention is that we become disciples who can endure the fire.
It’s also written about Jesus, our Master, in Luke. And we know that nobody was so filled with God’s fire as Him. Here He testifies in Luke 12:49: “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”
It was of course kindled in His heart. You cannot behold the life of Jesus Christ and His word, you cannot behold it without seeing that very clearly. When He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” then right away they thought about Jeremiah, and Elijah … prophets of fire! That’s the way they experienced Jesus Christ. He was humble and lowly in heart, He was filled with goodness, He was filled with love, all of that was true, but He was filled with God’s zeal in His heart. And that had been kindled surely in Him, and had done its purifying work tremendously in His life, and, “Oh,” He says, “I wish it were already kindled in my disciples!” But they couldn’t yet bear it. The Holy Spirit hadn’t come, they couldn’t yet bear that fire that was in Him, but He began to prepare them, for sure. He rebuked them, and worked with them, and chastened them, and disciplined them, and taught them the way of truth. Because He had confidence in them, they would be able to receive it. And it could do a work of salvation in them. And when the Holy Spirit came, then they were driven by the Holy Spirit and fire. And they turned the world in their time upside down.
“But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” He was baptized by water, but the baptism of fire was still working, was still raging within Him. And He knew it had to be completed in order for His disciples now to have the way opened for them, that it could also be completed in their life. And this was really on His heart. He was distressed. He knew that no real true spiritual progress could take place in their lives until this began to take place in their lives. And He had a deep longing. He loves these wholehearted disciples. He loves them until today! He loves us if we are among them! We are the ones that He longs and chooses to have intimate fellowship with. We who are of that same mind, that we arm ourselves everyday with that mind, His mind, to suffer in the flesh so we’ll finish with sin. Let the fire consume it. Not draw back, not hold back! Not wiggle our way out of it. No, we’re going into it, so it can do its cleansing work! Those are His disciples, and have that disciple mind.
He says, “Don’t suppose I came to give peace on the earth …” Didn’t He come to bring peace? He did, in one way. But He also said, “I haven’t come to bring peace.” Because there is no real, true peace before war! There’s no peace when we compromise with the enemy. There has to be war! There has to be battle! There isn’t any other way. And therefore the fire comes to consume. The Apostle, he had to say to the Hebrews that they hadn’t suffered yet unto the point of shedding blood in their striving against sin. So, they put up some resistance, you can say, but the fire wasn’t able to consume it! They allowed themselves to become satisfied way too early! With way too little. A good outward appearance, and that was enough. The water had done its cleansing work.
J.O. Smith, he writes in a place, he gives that really good example about a chain, when the debris, and all the barnacles, and all those things have got to be cleansed away from it, then he said, you take water and you water it down, and you take a scrub brush and you scrub it, and the easiest things, they come off with the water. But there’s a whole lot left that doesn’t come off with water. That has to endure the fire. Then you’ve got to put it on a grate, he said, and heat with a tremendous heat, until all of that remaining filth is purged away by the fire. It’s a very good picture. That’s the way it is in our lives. There’s a tremendous amount that the fire’s got to take.
We know that when John got that vision of Jesus, we can just read a little bit of it there in Revelation 1, from verse 13 it’s written: “… and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.” That’s the way he met Him! That’s the way he described it when he saw that vision of the Master. And that’s the way we’re going to meet Him. So pure, so pure, so pure! And eyes that nothing escapes from. Nothing escapes from it! Just a question of how conscious we are. How conscious are we that we stand before the One whose eyes see everything? The One whom we must give account to. Not him, and not her. That’s a very small thing. Paul said, it’s a very small thing, that I’m judged of you, or of some human judgment. It’s a very small thing. But it’s a very great thing to stand before the judgments of Him whose eyes are like flames of fire! And He sees right straight through to the thoughts and intents of the heart, to the motives that are behind everything. He sees right straight through! There a work takes place. When we get ourselves there, oh, then a work takes place. When you can bow down on your knees and be an open book before Him, so He can speak to you, there a work takes place. So let us do that. Let us love it. Let us really love it. Because He loves it, and that’s what He desires with all of His heart. “Isn’t My word like a hammer that breaks into pieces, and like a fire that consumes?” the prophet said.
We know the word in Hebrews 13, how God first and foremost reveals Himself. In 12:29, and 13:1 – “For our God is a consuming fire.” That was their God. It also has to become our God. Not just the God that blesses us. Yes of course, He does do that, He blesses us tremendously. And we hear it so often too, we will be so blessed, and it’s true, but not if we avoid the fire, if we avoid His cleansing fire! Then we won’t be blessed in the way that God wants to bless us at least. We can be blessed like the Gentiles are, in that way, but that’s not the blessing that God longs to give us. He wants to get us into eternity filled with the life and character of Jesus Christ. Obviously, that doesn’t just happen. It clearly just does not happen. You can talk about it for years, decades on end; that does not just happen. We’ve got to be willing. Willing sacrifices in order for Him to do His work. But then He will.
And here, of course it’s written in connection with brotherly love. You can love at a distance. How horrible! What does it say when you are living at a distance with your brothers and sisters? And sure, you pass by every once in a while and wave, and very little more than that. What are you revealing by that? You’re revealing that you’ve drawn back. You have drawn back. Brothers, sisters that we hear, and we’ve heard them give their testimony, and it’s been so good, but after a little while, like, are they here even? They’ve disappeared. What do you say by that? You draw back into your comfort zone. It’s not comfortable. It isn’t comfortable. When you don’t have God’s good pleasure over your life, do you call that comfort? I don’t call that comfort. “My soul has no pleasure in the one who draws back,” God said. No, God loves it when we go into it.
And if we are afraid of the fire, what we really say is that we love our self-life more than we love God. Isn’t that what we say? I choose to protect myself, preserve myself, rather than to love Him and go into the cleansing. With my brethren. Like the ones that are not easy for me. It lies that close then, to avoid them, avoid the situation! But wholehearted disciples, they don’t do that. In one way, they almost make a greater effort to be together with them, because you sense it. And of course it’s uncomfortable for the flesh. Can it be something else? You think the flesh is ever going to enjoy it when it’s going to be consumed? It can’t enjoy it! That’s why it’s called suffering. We’ve got to suffer our way into it. But then we come there. Oh, then we come there, and how tremendous when the barnacles start to go off.
In Peter it’s written, well-known verses for most of us there in 4, from verse 12: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” What a result! What an incredible result that the fiery trial has actually come to give us. That’s what it’s come for. Not that God wants to see us squirm. He wants to liberate us! And the fiery trial is exactly meant to do that.
Don’t think it strange. It isn’t at all strange. We can sometimes get this feeling, I’m the only one who’s experienced it like this, I’m the only one. I’m more wretched than anyone else, nobody else has to go through things like me. That’s ridiculous. It is not strange. All of us partake of it if we are following Jesus in His footsteps. He who went this way before us. It’s going to do its work in us. Little by little. We sense it, the fire purges and purifies, but the glory, it comes! So, like the patience you had when you’re living before somebody else, little by little you sense it, oh, I’m able to be patient, no matter what the circumstance. Little by little it’s coming. It’s coming. I can be patient with them because the fire has done its purging work over all of those self-demands that are in me! Those expectations that I’ve had. Those wretched, ugly demands that others have to behave the way I want them to behave before they’re going to get any love from me. When the fire purifies it, then you just become so thankful. More and more. And you’re able to endure, and bear with goodness in your heart. And oh, you just long that the others can be blessed, and can get it better, and it can become more glorious for them. It becomes like that more and more as time goes on. If the fire purges. But if the fire doesn’t purge, and you’ve just put on an outward appearance, then you can be 80 years old, grow to be up to even 80 years old and still you’re having very big difficulties with other people. And of course everything is in degrees. But oh, it’s tremendously hopeful what God can do in us if we are just willing sacrifices. Tremendously hopeful.
And we can partake of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, to a very, very great degree, if we’ll let Him have His way in our lives.