The Northside Church of Christ in Newport News, Virginia, lost their church building to a fire caused by a lightning strike on July 1999. Their response to the fire was seen on their church sign a few days later: “We’re still on fire.” May that be true of us!
Hebrews 12:29 is one of the shortest verses in the Bible. It is a powerful sentence “Our God is a consuming fire.” It is like other brief sentences that describe God: God is light, God is love, God is life. To many this is a verse to be avoided because it reminds them of their future. To others this verse is a source of comfort and encouragement.
The background of this verse comes from a section about how the New Kingdom is better than the Old Kingdom. Mention two ways it is better:
1. The emotions and experiences are better in the New Kingdom
Vs. 18- 21 talks about the beginning of the Old Kingdom. Emotions and experiences are terrifying.
Vs. 22-24 talks about the the New Kingdom. Emotions and experiences are joyful.
Because of Jesus, we have a fuller picture of God, and we don't have to relate to him the way the Israelites did. God, reigning as king in this city atop the heavenly mountain, is approachable. We are not down at the foot of the mountain, trembling in fear. We're at the top of the mountain, in the presence of the king, intimate with him, dwelling in the a city bustling with the life of people with joy in their spirits for being cleansed by the better blood, joined by worshiping angels. Why would we want to go back to the Old Kingdom?
2. Our kingdom cannot be shaken.
The kingdom of Israel was constantly shaken and destroyed.
Daniel 2:44: the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.
Thesis: Let’s talk about why “Our God is a consuming fire” causes some calamity and others comfort.
There is terror in this picture. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10: He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified.
Hebrews 10:26-27: If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Mark 9:48: where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
Have we ever suffered a burn to our flesh? How painful was it? Burn pain can be one of the most intense and prolonged types of pain. It will be even worse in hell. Rich man in Luke 16:24 says, “I am in agony in this fire.”
Given the context of Hebrews 12:29 we are reminded of the event that Moses experienced in Exodus 3:1-3: Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
This can be a picture of hell but in another angle it is not. Talking about the bush that is hell. However, that same fire that burned but did not consume the bush can be living in us. When we respond to the gospel with the plan of salvation (give plan), God comes and lives in us.
The Holy Spirit is associated with fire because the Godhead is one. When the Holy Spirit arrived in Acts 2, it says in vs. 3: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
1 Thessalonians 5:19: Do not put out the Spirit’s fire
How is “Our God is a consuming fire” a comfort? When we open our hearts to Jesus Christ, he enters into us, and becomes within us a consuming fire. 3 things here:
1. Fire is light.
John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. “Why,” he exclaimed, “when I went a-courtin’ I never carried one of them things, I always went in the dark.” “Yes,” the hired man said wryly,” and look at what you got!”
Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.
2. Fire is purity.
Malachi 3:2-3: For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.
1 Peter 1:6-7: suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The fire of God here is a source to purify and make better or holier; like we are diamonds in the rough and God needs to chip off or remove the dirt and grime, the rough edges, so that we may shine brilliantly as intended. God is not just in the destruction business-- destroying evil people, there is something else to His consuming fire and that something else is the power to refine us and make us new creations in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Will this hurt? At times, but God will not put on us more than we can bear. God wants to free us from our selfish and sinful natures.
Third Day- our God, He is a consuming fire And the flames burn down deep in my soul Yes our God He is a consuming fire He reaches inside and He melts down this cold heart of stone
3. Fire is warmth (Think of a fall night where people are gathered around the fire to keep warm)
A. Another word is enthusiasm. Sometimes our enthusiasm begins to die. Steven Curtis Chapman- Don't let the fire die The flame has been dimmed by the tears that you've cried
But I can still see the spark of His love in your eyes So don't let the fire, No don't let the fire die
What do we do when our enthusiasm for God and the church begin to die?
a. Commit to be here each Sunday. Check out Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
b. Make preparations during the week through private worship and then on Saturday night. Don’t say, “Sunday’s my only day to sleep in” or “We just need some family time together.”
c. Fully engage (tune in) and express our praise, whether we like something or not. Discipline ourselves so we stop trying to get what we like and instead give God what He loves. George Barna has discovered that most Americans expect worship to satisfy or please them, not to honor and please God. It's good to enjoy the warmth of worship and fellowship among God's people, but let's not forget that the warmth comes from God. Let’s remember Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…”
The writer of Hebrews is quoting from Deuteronomy 4:24: For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
There is a fire in God that is never satisfied. He wants us to worship him. Hebrews 12:28.
There should be a fire within us, place there by God, that is never satisfied. We want to worship Him. The fire in us is constantly reaching out for more of God; and the fire in God responds by desiring more of us in return. As we spend time with Him, we grow in deep intimacy with Him and experience more and more of His glorious love. His love ruins us for anything the world has to offer. It’s like no other love. It’s all embracing. It’s so pure. It’s so vital. We can’t live without it. It’s so bright. It’s so soul stirring. We can’t get enough. We’re addicted. We must go deeper. Nothing else matters.
Heaven will be the unending adventure of every giving more of our hearts in love to God, and God unfolds more of his glorious beauty to us.
d. Adoration should lead to action. Worship should lead to concern for our fellow man. God is concerned about them and so should we. Great Commandment says to Love the Lord our God with all whole being and then Love our neighbor. Enter to worship, leave to serve.
Service should be for the result of winning lost souls. George Whitefield- Believe me, I am willing to go to prison and to death for you. But I am not willing to go to heaven without you!
True love is a flame. A flame that does not spread eventually goes out. It only takes a spark, to get a fire going. And soon all those around, can warm up to it's glowing. That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it, it's fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.
The Lord’s fire with either consume us from the inside out or condemn us from the outside in.
Hillsong United- In my heart and my soul Lord I give You control Consume me from the inside out