The Glory of Christ and His Church—Maintaining the Fire
Fire is captivating. Just to gaze at a fireplace or a campfire can be mesmerizing. So is God’s fire! Throughout the Bible and Church history, we read accounts of the fire of God and His Holy Presence in manifestation. When God’s glory comes in power, entire nations can be transformed.
Today, I want to build on our discussion of unity from last week and discuss how unity in the body of Christ can bring a release of the glory and fire of God’s presence. I’ll also begin to examine how we have a responsibility individually to steward God’s fiery presence! God’s fiery glory in our lives will change and transform us… if we allow Him!
As I shared last week, unity in the body of Christ is not automatic.
Paul told us in Ephesians 4:3 NIV we are to…
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:4-6 NKJV)
To achieve unity in a local church body, we must choose to ignore our differences and instead focus on our commonality in Christ.
One powerful example occurred with the Moravians. In August of 1727, the Holy Spirit was poured out on a Christian community called Herrnhut in Saxony, Germany. Christian refugees had gathered on the estate of 27-year-old Nicholas Zinzendorf. They were divided over various issues, including doctrine. They tried to unify by signing a brother’s agreement in May of 1727. Next, they began to devote themselves to prayer over the next few weeks, specifically praying for revival.
At a communion service on August 13th, 1727, the Holy Spirit fell on them. They couldn’t tell if they were in heaven or earth as God’s love and glory was poured over them! It spawned a 100-year, 24/7 prayer movement that fueled a missionary movement. In the next 25 years, this group of 300 would send about 100 missionaries to four continents, which was more than all of Protestant Christianity did during the previous 200 years.
The scripture that fueled Zinzendorf and the Moravian believers was Leviticus 6:12 NLT which says, “… the fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must never go out…” From this, they purposed to pray 24/7, and their prayer initiative lasted for 100 years!
They were divided, but they took practical steps to unite and began to pray. The result? God’s love and power were poured out. The world today is still being impacted by what God did through this united community.
America is at a crossroads. Cultural and moral issues are center stage, often counter to Biblical truth. The voice of culture is attempting to silence the Church. Yet, throughout the Bible and Church history, we read of culture changing when God’s people awaken to true worship, humble themselves, pray, turn from evil, and seek God’s face. Call it revival, renewal, or transformation; there is hope for us today! God longs to pour His Spirit out on His Church and impact communities globally.
One example of both hope for America and the power of prayer occurred in early January of this year. Pro football player, Damar Hamlin, suffered a cardiac arrest while making a tackle. If it wasn’t for the quick work of medical staff at the game, he might have passed into eternity that night. At the same time, people watching on TV and at the game began to pray. In fact, millions prayed that night and the days following. He survived, and he is miraculously recovering.
The New York Times reported a couple of days later,
“…The invocations on behalf of the 24-year-old have gone beyond the pro forma “thoughts and prayers” often offered by public figures after a tragedy. The outpouring reveals the way that Christian faith has long been intertwined with American football culture… Video circulated online of Bengals fans reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the stands. On ESPN on Tuesday, the analyst Dan Orlovsky, a former N.F.L. quarterback, told his colleagues on the live broadcast that “it’s just on my heart that I want to pray.” Bowing his head and closing his eyes, he did so. “God, we come to you in these moments we don’t understand,” he said. “I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer, and we lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name.” His co-anchors murmured, “Amen.” … “It’s an example of seeing in public a Christian subculture that’s been embedded in the N.F.L. for four decades,” said Paul Putz, assistant director of the Faith & Sports Institute at Baylor University.” 
Church in America, there is hope for the USA! There is a remnant of God’s people who truly love Him and believe in the power of prayer!
God is the God of revival. Until Jesus returns, “times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Revival is God visiting in love. He desires mercy, not judgment. Judgment is God’s last resort to bring us back to Him.
God’s Love is an Unquenchable Fire
For the Christian, Jesus is our first love and passion. We love Him because He first loved us. His love and grace received melt the hardest heart. His love is an unquenchable fire!
Hebrews 12:29 declares that “our God is a consuming fire”. He wants to burn within us with His presence and fire of the Holy Spirit! He wants to consume us, to remove by the fire of His presence any impurities, and to empower us to reach a desperate world!
Consider these examples of God appearing as fire in the Bible:
- Moses: burning bush (Ex. 3:2). An ordinary desert bush burning without being consumed. “God’s fire in those He fully controls—who are totally and absolutely surrendered to Him—can burn on and on. It will transform, but it will not consume.” 
- Sinai: thunder, lightning, trumpet blast, then God descended in fire on the mountain (Ex. 19:18).
- Wilderness: a cloud by day and a fire by night (Ex. 40:36-38).
- God’s fiery glory filled the tabernacle so at times Moses couldn’t even enter it (Ex. 40:34-35).
- Temple: Solomon was dedicating the temple, and fire and the glory of God came down (2 Chr. 7:1-3).
- Ezekiel: a vision of God and His throne, He was shone holy fire, radiance, and brilliant light (Ezek. 1:26-28).
- Daniel: a vision of God, God’s throne was flaming with fire, its wheels were ablaze, and a river of fire was flowing, coming out before Him (Dan. 7:9-10).
- Pentecost: God’s Spirit poured out in divided tongues of fire! (Acts 2)
God’s holy fire is the glory of the Church! The fiery glory cloud was a forty-year miracle visible to all of Israel. That same fire and glory, through radiant holy living, can be seen through God’s people wholeheartedly following Him.
When following Jesus and obeying Him is our first priority, we burn with His passion and fire. We have a heart for the lost and backslidden. If you have drifted, when you return to “first love,” God quickly honors your fresh commitment.
You are responsible to pursue and walk with God—no one else can do this for you. You must be intentional about your pursuit and relationship with God to keep your love for Jesus alive, fresh, and fiery. Love is passionate and pursues God zealously.
Is Jesus your primary passion and desire? Do you love him with all your heart? How desperate are you “to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:19 NKJV)? The fire of the Holy Spirit’s presence ignites in hearts that are surrendered and undivided to God. Anything less allows the embers of one’s heart to become cold.
Fan into Flames
True love is passionate—it is an unquenchable fire. God’s love for you will never extinguish. However, you can quench the fiery presence of God and His love in your life.
Your ability to maintain the fire of God’s love and presence in your life is vital. Your passion and intimacy with God are not automatic; you have a part to play in the process. His grace enables you to maintain the fire of His love and presence in your life. Paul exhorted his protégé, Timothy, a son in the faith, to remain in the faith and to fan into flames God’s presence and gifts in his life:
“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus. I am writing to Timothy, my dear son. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:1-7 NLT)
Stir up the gift given to you! Notice what happens when we are “red hot” for the Lord? Fear and timidity are removed, and we begin to live in God’s power, love, and self-discipline!
John is one of my heroes of the faith. His eighteenth-century life affected the course of Church history.
Along with his brother Charles, George Whitfield, and others, they ignited a revival movement in London, England that later became the Methodist Church. His passion for Christ exploded during a meeting on May 24th, 1738, in Aldersgate, a district in London. John had become desperate to know God intimately. John, like many in the Anglican Church, believed he was right with God and “saved” through infant baptism and affiliation with the Church.
However, previously, he had observed the steadfast faith and zeal of Moravian Christians while crossing the Atlantic in a storm-tossed ship. While the English onboard feared for their lives, the Moravian believers were confidently worshiping God in the storm. They didn’t fear death because they had passed from death to life in Christ!
That evening, he reluctantly attended the meeting at Aldersgate. While listening to someone read Luther’s Preface to Romans, John states, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” Fresh fire and passion ignited in John’s heart.
Then, on January 1, 1739, at Fetter’s Lane in London, John, his brother Charles, George Whitfield and about sixty others were in prayer and worship when suddenly God’s Spirit poured over them in power.
“About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground (overcome by the power of God). As soon as we recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.’” This event has been called the Methodist Pentecost. 
From that time forward, John was different—his preaching, his passion, and his zeal for Christ were red hot. Many came to Christ through his life, and powerful manifestations of the Spirit were common in his meetings—including healing.John learned how to become a fire and he taught others how to maintain the fire of God in their lives. He taught his followers to be “disciplined” about spiritual matters and to seek God fervently. John knew as truth that there is a prescribed order to maintaining the fire of God in our lives as believers.
The intentional pursuit of God and living a disciplined Christian lifestyle positions you to fan into flames God’s passion and spiritual gifts.
Wesley said of 2 Timothy 1:16, “I remind thee of stirring up—literally, blowing up the coals into a flame—the gift of God—all the spiritual gifts, which the grace of God has given thee.”
The Apostle Paul and John Wesley knew that it was not enough to have gifts imparted. The recipient had a responsibility to steward the presence of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Levites and the Burnt Offerings
In Leviticus, the Israelites were instructed to maintain the fire on the altar:
“…the fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must never go out. Each morning, the priest will add fresh wood to the fire and arrange the burnt offering on it… Remember, the fire must be kept burning on the altar at all times. It must never go out.” (Lev. 6:12-13 NLT)
God prescribed an order of worship to Moses and the Israelites that required their participation (Lev. 1:1-9). They had to bring and offer a sacrifice, a first-born male of the heard or flock. The blood and animal parts were offered upon the altar as a sacrifice to God. Even the fire on the altar had to be placed in order and maintained. To have a hot fire, you need hot coals—you must be intentional.
The Levitical worship was a type and shadow of the sacrifice to come with Jesus, the lamb slain before the foundation of time for humanity. Jesus, the perfect and spotless one, offered willingly for you and me. The Holy Spirit, given through His sacrifice, provides us fellowship with God and enables us to carry the fire of His love. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11 NKJV).
With the New Covenant, sealed in the very blood of Christ, we have union with God and unhindered access to His presence by Holy Spirit. However, like the Israelites of old and their free will sacrifice, you must offer your life willingly upon the altar of God’s love and fiery presence. This invitation is open to everyone, beginning with salvation and walking in His Kingdom power. You must be intentional about keeping your love for God burning hot!
The essence of revival is renewed love for Jesus. The Holy Spirit reawakens love and passion for Christ—the things of the world grow dim, and single-minded focus on God takes precedence. Paul wrote to the believers in Rome:
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11 NIV)
The best way to maintain love for God in your life is to keep your spiritual fervor and never lose zeal for the Lord. I’ll continue next week with practical principles to maintain God’s fire in your life!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Maintaining the Fire”: