Why we should sing and pray about God’s Fire

hands raisedOkay, first a confession. For many years, whilst being fully immersed in the culture, theology and practice of the Pentecostal/and charismatic movement – I would secretly enjoy reading stuff from Pyromaniacs, MacArthur, Grace to You Ministries, Phil Johnson and later Todd Friel and the Wretched stuff. Wretched is often satirical, discerning and scathing. Most of the time, I agree with stuff that Todd says. However, sometimes I listen to Todd and my response is “dude, that is very, very wrong.”

Todd’s recent blog article, “Somebody needs to set Jesus Culture’s worship music on fire” is one of those articles (it’s actually a chapter from his latest book Judge Not).

Todd begins by saying, “Listen to many of today’s hit worship songs and you will notice a lot of fiery references. Why? Because Charismatics love the word “fire.”

It’s true. Charismatics do sing a lot about fire. And, to be fair, when anything is overdone, and divorced from biblical context it can be meaningless. However, Todd overreacts to this. He goes on to say,

“The Bible typically defines fire as actual fire or a symbol of judgment. Either way, you do NOT want God’s fire to fall on you.”

Hang on. Todd, who is normally careful to emphasise what the whole bible says on a particular subject, is being a bit disingenuous here. Whilst fire can be a metaphor (or literal reality!) for judgement – it is not restricted to judgement. It has other meanings too. And these meanings are common uses.

Here are 5 reasons why Todd is wrong. They are also 5 reasons why the language of fire should be on our lips in times of prayer and praise. More importantly, they show why the fire needs to be in our heart.

  1. To pray for Fire is to pray for God himself.

“Our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29).

The bible makes a number of statements about God. It says “God is love – therefore it is natural for believers to pray – “fill me with Your Love Lord”. The Bible says, God is Holy, so we cry out, “let me partake in your holiness.” Well the Bible says Our God is a consuming fire therefore it is perfectly biblical and consistent to pray, lord send your fire.

But fire’s scary, right? Yes it is. And so is God. Reminding ourselves that he is a consuming fire will deliver us from a number of things, not least dry, dead orthodoxy. The fire of his presence will leave us trembling. It is a purifying fire.

  1. God’s Word is likened to fire.

His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. (Jer. 20:9)

For too long the church has been preaching a dead word. Many who claim to be standing in the tradition of the reformers should be ashamed to take up the name. Why? The reformers were man of the Word and the Spirit and they knew that the two were never to be separated.

 

Too many preach the word from their empty hearts and inflated heads. There is a hollow ring that accompanies their preaching. Why? The Word is not a burning fire within them. When we know the inner burning of the Word – the Word will become like a fire within us. When it comes forth from our lips, it will carry a sense of his presence and it will ignite a fire in the hearts of those who hear.

  1. Jesus said His followers would be baptised by fire.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt 3:11)

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

Divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)

There’s no escaping it. Fire is the language associated with the baptism and empowering of God’s Holy Spirit. In the same that God himself is described as “an all consuming fire” it is no coincidence that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also described in terms of being baptised by fire. The baptism of the Spirit is nothing other than the incoming of God. It is the soul being infused with God’s divine presence.

Whilst we receive the baptism in the Spirit, in a salvic sense, when we are born again – it is right and good that we pray to be conscious of his presence and power.

Is it wrong to pray, “fire fall?” Not at all. In Acts, the language is used of the holy Spirit falling on people.

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. (Acts 11:15)

The language of prayer where we ask God to fill is with fire, or we ask his fire to fall on us is perfectly consistent with biblical imagery. In the Old Testament the sacrifices were often consumed with fire that fell from heaven. In the new Testament believers are told to present themselves to God as living sacrfices. It is perfectly biblical to ask that te Lord will send the fire to ‘consume’ the sacrifice. Remember, we are living sacrifices. A dead sacrifice is no good to God – and it is only his presence – fire – that will bring life to our feeble sacrifice.

  1. Fire in the heart is a picture of communion with Christ

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)

When the disciples talk, albeit unknowingly, with the risen Christ – they later reflect on this and testify that their hearts burned like fire. In literature, and in fact reality, fire is the language of the heart. Our passions are enflamed. It is no different in spiritual things – in fact, if our Christianity does not enflame the heart, we of all people are to be pitied.

  1. Fire is the imagery associated with spiritual gifts and service.

“Fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Tim 1:6)

Like it or not, fire is the language that the Spirit of God has used to describe the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. And he makes it clear – we can put the fire out. Beware of those who would represent a fire-less Christianity. A fire-less Christianity is a Christianity that the devil is happy with. It is not and has never been what God is happy with.

Let us not be those who would seek to put out the fire, but let us be those who are filled with fire. And with God’s people through the ages we say, “Lord send the Fire.”

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Why we should sing and pray about God’s Fire

  1. A few problems.

    The reference of Matt 3:11 if it was to be taken into the context of the passage, the fire is speaking of judgment…

    Matthew 3:11-12

    “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
    His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

    Notice, verse 11 is not to be interpreted in a vacuum. The fire that is spoken of and its purpose is clarified in v12, which is that of judgment. Not as a sign of being baptized by the Holy Spirit.

    When the disciples are baptized, it doesn’t say that “tongues of fire” but “tongues as of fire”. It was merely something that had the look of fire, but not actual tongues of fire. Much like the misunderstand of when Jesus was baptized. The dove has become a Christian symbol, but it never said that the Holy Spirit looked like a dove, it says;

    Matthew 3:16

    “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;”

    It was “like a dove” it was not in the “likeness of a dove”

    Along with the other passages which you are simply reading the idea of fire into that meaning of said passages.

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  2. I notice you only go into depth with one of the verses I posted. How you can claim that the idea of fire is being read into the verses is beyond me.

    There is none so blind as those who will not see.

    Simetimes we can protest too much.

    On the day of pentecost, what was the visual sign of the Spirit descending? Tongues of fire.

    Was that the fire if judgement? Not for those who received it.

    The later reference to fire in Matt is a reference to judgement. John is not saying the promise of the Spirit us for the wicked.

    In other words, two fires, or, if you like, one fire two outcomes. The presence of God is a baptism if bliss for the believer, but its a baltism of torment to the wicked.

    In other words, John is first speaking of the baptism of the Spirit, but later he expands to speak of thw fire of hell.

    P.S. Feel free to preach a fireless gospel but good luck with that.

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  3. Ditto what John said. Matthew 3:11-12 is a common literary device in the Bible used for contrast. There are two groups in view, the saved and the unsaved, the wheat and the chaff. The saved are the wheat who get the baptized with the Holy Spirit. The unsaved are the chaff who get baptized with fire. You don’t want fire. You want Spirit.

    Second, on Pentecost the believers were bestowed with languages “as of fire” but not actual fire just like the sound was “like” a wind but not an actual wind.

    Observation of the text matters.

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    • Hi BD, thanks for dropping by.

      1) even if the reference to fire in Matt 3:11 was talking about Judgement, the point still stands, not all references to fire in the bible are about “judgement”.

      2)You say, that 3:11-12 is “a common literary device in the Bible used for contrast.”

      11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

      The contrast is certainly there with wheat and chaff, gathering and burning up. However, it is not clear that the “baptise YOU with teh Holy Spirit and Fire” are contrasting experiences. If anything, I would argue they refer to the same experience, and spirit and Fire serve the same function in Matthew as “Spirit and Water” in John 3. john says we must be born again. Then he says we need to be born of water and the Spirit. These were two interelated aspects of the one experience — new birth. Likewise, the baptism of spirit and fire can easilly be seen to come together in teh one experience. It is no coincidence, that the initial outpoouring of the Spirit in acts two was symbolised by “fire” and “Wind” — two common images associated with God’s presence.

      The first refernce to fire in matt 3:11-12 is in reference to the baptism in the Spirit. This would be fulfilled at pentecost. And it was an outpouring of empowerment. They received power when the Spirit fell. It was the incoming of God’s presence. The fulfilment of John’s words in MAtt 3. That is why the symbolism of fire is mentioned. This isnot the fire of verse 12. That fire is the fire of final judgement. The fire of damnation.

      The point in John is this 1) His baptism is just the start. It’s repentance. 2) One greter than he is coming. 3) When he comes he will baptise in the spirit and Fire. Those who receive him will be saved. Those who reject him will suffer in hell forever.

      Throughout the bible, whether it be at the altar of sacrifice, or God leading his people in the pillar of fire by night, or the fire from teh altar that touched Isaiah’s lips to sanctify him and equip him to preach, or the fire of pentecost — the theme is teh same — fire is a symbol/sign of the presence of God. And, God’s presence can have a number of outcomes, judgement, purifucation/refinement/ sanctification, guidance or emporment.

      Fire is primary a simple of God’s presence — not primarilly his judgement. Judgement, like the other aspects, (guidance/purification/empowerment) is one possible outcome.

      However, inorder to deny that fire is not representative of God’s presence, you need to perform a fair bit of linguistic gymnastics.

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  4. Gotta say – I’m with you on this one. Although I’m not the biggest fan of some of the charismatic worship stuff, I would agree that Todd has swung too far this time.

    (And you missed the opportunity for an ironical link with the Pyromaniacs 😉 )

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    • Ha ha! Well spotted — such an obvious link too! I agree, bethel is way over the edge on a lot of stuff. But Todd, and thosw ho follow his thinking, are creating another extreme.

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  5. Hello. I just read this and I wanted to say that I agree with you. And for people out there, I’ll explain a little better. God compares to the minerals of the Earth somewhere around the end of the Old Testament. He mostly compares us to the GOLD. So before gold can be very beautiful and precious, it has to be passed through fire (in this case judgement like everyone says so) then in the end it will look very valuable and beautiful. In the same way God does this. He will pass us through his fire (judgement) that way we can be just as beaut and precious like the gold. Hope this helps everyone. And God bless you all.

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  6. why do you claim that and the rest of you have fire what is your basis? were you present at the Pentecost? are you handpicked by our Risen Lord?

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