Turn to Leviticus 6. We will look at three verses in this chapter – 9, 12, & 13.
The title for today’s sermon is “Keep the Fire Burning.” Many times you hear someone say, “That church is really on fire.” Or, maybe they say, “That person is really on fire for the Lord.”
We want to consider words from the Bible that should encourage us to keep the fires burning in our life for always. We can keep that fire burning with God’s help. And not just in our individual lives but in the life of this church, also.
Let’s look at our primary text now.
9 Give Aaron and his sons this command: 'These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.
12 The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.
13. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.
It should be our prayer that this church, other churches in our area, and all churches around this world that stand for Jesus Christ be on fire for God. May it be that we are on fire more than we have ever been before. May it be that when a lost person comes by, they might say, “I don’t know why I’m here. I just felt that something was persuading me to come in here and see what’s going on.” May it be that this church is so on fire that people in this community say, “There are wonderful things happening at that church. Things that can’t be explained. Things that only God can do.”
A pastor received a phone call late one night and he was informed that there was a fire at his church. He quickly got dressed and drove to the church. When he arrived he discovered that the church was engulfed in flames and was a total lost. He stood with other members of the church as the cried, hugged, and prayed.
He glanced around and noticed a certain gentleman standing on the corner observing all that was taking place. This was a man that the pastor had visited many times and had invited to church. However, the man had never stepped one foot in the church building. The pastor was a bit taken aback. He walked over to the gentleman and said, “Well, I never saw you in the church.” The gentleman replied, “Well, the church had never been on fire before.”
Now, this is not the kind of fire we would ever wish for our church. But we should be praying for the fire of the Holy Spirit to consume this place. And that it happen in such a way people will be drawn to this place.
Now, there are some questions we need to ask and try to answer as we consider this fire that is spoken of in Leviticus. First of all, what is this fire?
Secondly, whose responsibility that this fire should not go out?
And, thirdly, how can we see that the fire does not go out?
And lastly, why should we keep the fire burning?
First of all, what is this fire? The Scripture tells us what this fire is. Over and over in the Old Testament we’re reminded of the symbol of fire. The fire first appears as Moses sees a bush burning in the desert but its not being consumed. Moses had often seen bushes burning in the desert but he had never seen one that wasn’t being consumed. So, Moses went over to see that bush and he heard a voice. That voice said, “Take off your shoes, Moses, for the ground on which you’re standing is holy ground.” Moses removed his shoes and began a meeting with the Lord God.
Then, we see Moses leading the people of Israel. The Bible tells us they were lead by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Then we see on top of Mount Sinai the mountain was burning with fire because of the presence of God. And God’s voice came and called for Moses. And Moses went up and received the Ten Commandments that were written by the finger of God.
Later in the Old Testament we see Elijah. He is calling on God to send down his fire. Remember the confrontation of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. In the book of 1 Kings, the 18th chapter, Elijah challenges the prophets of Ba’al to a duel. Both will set up an altar with a bull. Then they will both call on their god to consume the offering with fire.
Elijah says, You go first.” So, the prophets of Ba’al begin to call on their god to come and burn up the offering. But nothing happens.
The Bible says they cried from morning till noon. But nothing happened.
They began to dance. But nothing happened.
They began to cut themselves until their own blood flowed. But nothing happened.
Midday passed and they were approaching evening.
And the Bible says in verse 29,
“But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”
Now, you might think that Elijah was being a good sport about all of this. He was probably standing on the sidelines offering encouragement and wishing them a good game. Well, not exactly.
He began to taunt the prophets of Ba’al. He would say things like,
“Shout a little louder!
Surely he is a god!
Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.
Maybe he is sleeping and needs to be awakened.”
Elijah knew that Ba’al would not answer because he was no god. Elijah served the only true God.
So, the prophets of Ba’al gave up and it was Elijah’s turn.
Now, to make things a little more impressive, he made it appear a little more difficult for God to burn the offering. He had the servants fill four large jugs of water and pour them over the offering. Then he told them to do it again. Then he told them to do it a third time..
Then, Elijah prayed. He prayed,
“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel
and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.
“Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God,
and that you are turning their hearts back again."
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
And then on the Emmaus Road, the two disciples who were walking and had an encounter with the risen Christ said, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
Do you see what the fire represents? The fire represented the presence of Almighty God.
It wasn’t the burning bush that made the meeting with Moses holy. It was the presence of Almighty God. God Himself led the children of Israel. Elijah didn’t defeat the prophets of Ba’al. It was God Who defeated them. It wasn’t the emotional moment of the day which created the fire for the disciples. It was the very presence of Jesus Christ.
And there were others who experienced this fire.
Jeremiah said there is a fire in my bones and I have to speak the Word of God.
John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
At Pentecost, in the Book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit coming down with tongues as of fire.
In the Book of Revelation, John had a vision of the risen Lord Jesus. He spoke of His eyes being as that were fiery. Those fiery eyes that can see into our soul and discern everything that is within. The fire represents the judging presence of Almighty God.
The fire represents God’s presence among us. When you give your life to Christ, He places a fire within you to grow and become more and more like Him. Sadly, though, that fire begins to die out. It becomes a flickering flame where once it was an inferno for Him. What’s happened?
Well, let’s consider our next question, whose responsibility is it to keep the fire burning in our hearts and in this church?
Here in Leviticus its clear that it’s the priest’s responsibility (v 12). So, it’s the pastor’s responsibility. It’s the responsibility of the church staff. You might say it’s also the deacons’ responsibility. You might even say it’s the responsibility of the Sunday School teachers.
But, as New Testament Christians, we must remember what Paul said in 1 Peter 2:9,
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light..”
Every Christian is God’s priests. It was the responsibility of the priests to carry men to God and to carry God back to men. Take men to God through prayer and take God to men through His Word. And it is our responsibility then to be God’s priests. We are to pray for our neighbors and our coworkers and our family. And we are to take God to our neighbors and coworkers and family by sharing His Word.
Whose responsibility is it to carry the fire? Its mine, its yours and it’s the responsibility of us all to carry this fire and to keep it burning. Because we are all priests.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh, our church is just so cold. I just don’t feel anything there anymore.” Listen folks, if you feel your church is cold, then you go in on fire and heat up that place. It doesn’t have to be cold if you’ll set it on fire. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. You warm up somebody else and let them warm up somebody else and soon your whole church will be on fire for Jesus.
Whose responsibility is it? It’s all our responsibility.
And people can tell as soon as they walk in a church if its on fire or not.
A man was on a business trip one weekend and he would be unable to attend his church on that Sunday. So, on Sunday morning he asked the man at the front desk if there was a church nearby that he could visit. He was told there was a church about 2 mile away that he could attend. So, the man drove a couple of miles down the road and found the church.
He walked in the front door and saw some folks in the foyer. But, no one spoke to him. He entered the sanctuary and saw people scattered around the sanctuary. He took a seat a few pews from the back. The organist began playing a Prelude. The choir came out and sang a Call to Worship. There were prayers and hymns and special music. Then the pastor brought an encouraging sermon. The Invitation was given. No one went forward and the congregation was dismissed. All this time no one spoke to the man.
He had forgotten a few items for his trip and decided to make a trip to Wal-Mart. He walks in the front door and someone greets him with a big smile and says, “Hello! Welcome to Wal-Mart. If you need any help at all, just let us know.” The man smiled and said, “Thank you! I will.” He had found a few of his items when an associate approached him.
“Sir, are you having trouble finding something?”
The man said, “Yes. I need to buy some eye drops.”
The associate tells him that he can help him and takes the man to the eye drops section of the pharmacy. He offers to help him with anything else but the man says he is done shopping now.
The man walks towards the front of the store and an associate greets him and directs him to a check-out counter. As the man is leaving, the same person who had greeted him said, “Have a good day sir. And come back and see us.” The man said, “I will!”
As he is walking to his car he thinks to himself, the church gave an invitation but no one joined. If Wal-Mart had given an invitation, I would have joined.”
Now, Wal-Mart has a motive for being so friendly. They want your business. They are trying to make money.
But don't we as the church have something so much more valuable than anything you can find at Wal-Mart? We show love and hospitality for the purpose of pointing people to Christ.
My parents came to visit me at one of my former churches. They got there a little early. Our greeters weren’t yet in place. But, Petie was making them feel welcomed. What my family didn’t know is Petie’s husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She struggles every day of the week to help her husband. There are days he forgets just about everything. He can be sitting in his own living room and say its about time to go home. He’ll go back to his bedroom and decide to call Petie whose sitting in the kitchen. And sometimes he forgets that he and Petie are married. These are not good days for Petie.
But there she was. Talking with my family. Making them feel welcomed. She was carrying the fire to help prepare them for worship.
At one of my previous churches we had a man named Donald and he was known as the bubble gum man. Every Sunday he brought a bag of bubble gum to give out to the kids. Now, I don’t know if you’re still supposed to do that or not. But I do know that those children knew that God loved them because here was a man in God’s house who loved them. He was carrying the fire for those children.
We need people of all ages to carry the fire. A church without young people might dry up. But a church without old people might blow up.
Senior Adults we need you to help carry the fire because you look at life as no other age can – from the other end of spectrum. We need you to be involved because of your wisdom and experience.
Young people we need you to be involved because of your energy and enthusiasm. And don’t ever use youth as an excuse not to join God in some great work. Jeremiah tried that and God said to him,
"Do not say, 'I am only a youth.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
To those of you in between, we need you because you are out there in the real world. You know the needs and how best to meet those needs. We rely on you to lead this church in taking the light of His fire into a sin-darkened world.
What’s the fire represent? It represents God’s presence. Who’s to keep the fire burning? We are all called to help keep the fire burning.
Now, how do we keep the fire burning? Deirdre and I were married in June of 1993. I know to some of you we are still newlyweds. But I think that in that short amount of time I’ve learned the secret to a happy marriage: communication.
Deirdre likes to talk with me and I have found I enjoy talking with her. Sometimes we sit down and ask,
“How was your day?
What have you done today?
What are your plans for later this week?
Can I do something to help you?”
Every once in a while I’ll just call Deirdre from work. I don’t have anything in particular to say. I just want to hear her voice and see how she’s doing. These kinds of conversations keep us in touch with how one another is feeling and what our needs are and what our expectations are.
But, what would happen if we didn’t communicate with one another? What if we just saw each other briefly in the morning and said a quick ‘hello’ and ‘have a good day’? What if when I come home in the evening I just plop down in front of the television and wait for Deirdre to finish cooking my supper? You know what would happen? I would get hungry.
We would begin to lose touch with one another. I wouldn’t know what her needs are. We wouldn’t know each other’s expectations. How would that make us feel toward one another? I believe Deirdre would very disappointed in me if I didn’t spend time talking with her and showing her how much I care about her by listening to her.
How do you think our Lord feels when we don’t spend quality time talking with Him? How do you think He feels when we say a quick prayer in the morning and forget to converse with Him at any other time during the day?
How do we keep the fire burning? We pray. We talk with God throughout the day.
“Lord, I feel a difficult day coming on. Help me out.”
“Lord, show me where You’re working. Empower me to join You in the work You have already started.”
“Lord, we need to feel your power in our home, in our community, in our church. Help us out, Lord”
“Lord, here’s a lonely person. Show me how to be your servant and help him out.”
As we talk with Him through the day we grow closer to Him. That’s one way to keep the fire burning – prayer.
A second way to keep the fire burning is by hearing the Word. Prayer is primarily us talking to God. I know He talks with us in prayer but its mostly us talking to God. So, we turn to His Word to hear from Him. That’s God talking to us. That’s part of the communication process.
Listen folks, the Word of God will keep you from sin.
But, sin will keep you from the Word of God.
You’re burning with His fire will keep you in His Word.
But your growing cold will keep you from it.
It should be that we spend daily time in studying God’s Word and when we come away from it our hearts are burning from having spent time with Him.
To not have time for God is not a time problem, it’s a love problem.
A third way to keep the fire burning is Christian service.
Dr. Truett was once pastor at FBC-Dallas. He told the story about a young man who began to visit their church. He was very faithful and was there every time the doors were opened. As time went by, the young man began to miss a service every once in a while. After some more time he was only attending about once a month. Soon he was hardly ever at the church.
This young man went to visit Dr. Truett one afternoon. He said, “Dr. Truett, I don't know what's happened but I've lost that fire I once had. Can you help me?”
Dr. Truett told the young man he would like to help him. But, at this moment he had a meeting he needed to attend. He asked the young man to do him a favor though. He said, “One of our members lives right down the street. We haven't seen him for a few days. Would you mind to walk down to his home and check on him? When you get back I should be able to spend some time with you.”
The young man found the house, knocked on the door, and heard a voice say, “Come in.” He entered the house and saw an elderly gentleman sitting by the window. He noticed right away that this gentleman was blind.
The young man said, “Dr. Truett asked me to come by and check on you. Are you doing ok?” The gentleman said yes and he appreciated the young man stopping by. The young man asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
The gentleman said he would like for the young man to read the Bible to him. He said, “I believe its sitting right over here. You can turn to where the bookmark is. That's where the last person stopped reading.”
The young man opened the Bible and the bookmark was at Romans 8. He began to read to the gentleman.
(Read various verses from Romans 8)
When the young man finished reading tears were flowing down his eyes. He looked at the gentleman and tears were in his eyes as well. The two hugged one another and the gentleman thanked the young man for his visit and invited him back anytime. The young man said he would like that.
He returned to Dr. Truett's office and said, “Sir, I'm ok now. I got the fire back.”
How do we keep the fire burning? Through prayer, through Bible Study, and through Christian service. Ask God what you can do. There’s something all of us can do. And all of us don’t have to do the same thing. What God has for you to do might be something no one else is doing in this church.
There are needs all around us. Ask God to open your eyes and empower you to do the work that He has already begun.
So, we have seen that fire represents God’s presence. We are all responsible for keeping the fire burning. We keep the fire burning through prayer, studying His Word, and by Christian service.
Finally, why do we keep the fire burning?
Let me give you three reasons. First, because God says so and He knows best. You know, when I was still living at home after graduating from college, I knew that as long as I put my feet under my daddy’s dinner table I had better do what he told me to do. Now, he never bossed me around or put unfair expectations on me. But, as long as I was in his house I lived by his rules.
As long as we put our feet under the banquet table of the King of kings and Lord of lords, we had better do what He asks of us. And the King says don’t let the fire go out.
It’s difficult sometimes to keep the fire burning. Can’t you imagine the priests as they were walking through the desert carrying that flame. Surely there were times when they thought this is too difficult. Let’s put the fire out and just keep a coal or two. We can get it started back up. But God said, “Don’t let it go out!” So, they kept the fire going.
And Jewish scholars tell us that the children of Israel kept the fire burning for well over a thousand years until the kingdom was taken over by the Babylonians. Up until that time it was kept burning because they obeyed God.
The second reason we need to keep the fire burning is because there are still people living in the darkness looking for a light. And we need to take them the fire of His presence and His love and His mercy.
There used to be a day when Christians shared their faith without any reservation. In those days it only took 8 people to lead one person to Christ. Now it takes about 50 people to lead one person to Christ.
What’s happened? Has the fire gone out? No, but its getting dangerously low.
The number one reason we should keep the fire burning is because God said to. The number two reason we should keep the fire burning is because people are still lost and going to hell.
And there is a final reason to keep the fire burning.
How many of you here have children? How many of you have grandchildren? How many of you have great-grandchildren? Anyone here have great great-grandchildren?
You know why we should keep the fire burning.
We need to keep the fire burning for those who will become behind us.
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone,
And our children sift thru all we've left behind,
May the clues that they discover,
And the mem'ries they uncover,
Become the light that leads them, To the road we each must find.
Oh, may all who come behind us Find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion Light their way.
May the footprints that we leave, Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live Inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us Find us faithful.
We need to drop to our knees and say, “Lord, flame up the fire in me! Make me the man or woman of God that I need to be!”