Okay, 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”