HOW TO LIGHT A FIRE
I Kings 16:29ff
INTRODUCTION: Let me being by telling you a story about a man who was going skydiving for the first time. He had taken all his lessons and it was time for his first solo jump. So he jumped out of the plane, but he panicked and couldn’t remember how to open his parachute. As he was falling rapidly to the earth he suddenly met another guy who is going up. So he seizes the opportunity and shouts, "Hey, buddy do you know how to open a parachute?" The guy shouts back, "No! Do you know how to light a propane stove?" It is not wise to play with fire. Maybe that is why God has chosen fire to be the symbol of His presence. Maybe you haven’t noticed but it is the all through the Bible. When Moses met the presence of God in the desert it was in the form of a burning bush. When the people of Israel confronted the presence of God at Sinai it says the Mountain was on fire. And when Solomon dedicated the Temple it says the glory of the Lord fell and fire fell from heaven. When Daniel had a vision of the Ancient of Days it says that the throne was on fire and a river of fire came out from it. When Ezekiel has his vision in Ezekiel 1 he saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it full of fire. In the Law of Moses God said to the Priests, "Don’t ever let the fire on the altar go out. It must burn continually." John the Baptist said, "I baptize with water, but there is on coming after me who is mightier than I. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with Fire." In fact Jesus Himself said in Luke 12:45, "I have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled." Maybe that is why throughout history Revival has always been associated with fire and to ask God for Revival is to pray for fire from heaven to break out. And no one knew how to start a fire like Elijah. This morning we are going to study the only revival that took place in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had 19 kings and the Bible says that every one of them was wicked. But ironically this single revival took place during the reign of the most wicked king of them all. READ I Kings 16:29-33. 21:25 This was as dark a time as we ever read in the history of the Northern Kingdom, but in the midst of this darkness, like a fire from heaven, a bold prophet of God appears. It is what Elijah says and does over the next two chapters that provides us with today’s lesson about Revival – How to Light a Revival Fire.
I. REVIVAL FIRE CALLS FOR HARD PRAYERS
A. I Kings 17:1 – After saying this Elijah had to go into hiding. Ahab was furious and he sent his soldiers everywhere looking for him, even into foreign countries. Ahab had every intention of killing Elijah just like he had killed all the other prophets of God, but he never found him. During this time Elijah wasn’t just hiding, the Bible tells us that he was praying.
1. For 3 1/2 years Elijah prayed that it would not rain in Israel. Can you imagine praying such a prayer, asking God for such a calamity to befall His people? It had to pain Elijah to pray that prayer. Just think of what he was asking for.
2. He was asking for drought and famine and devastation to come to the people he loved more than anybody on the earth. He was praying for hardship and destruction to visit God’s people. But he was willing to ask, willing to ask for physical famine if it would put an end to the spiritual famine in Israel.
3. Elijah’s prayer was both terrible and necessary if the plague of sin was to be wiped out and he knew that his people, his kinsmen would never ever survive if they were not forced to get rid of their sin.
B. Revival fire breaks out when someone is so burdened and grieved in their spirit at the rebellion against God that they begin to pray hard, terrible prayers asking that people be driven back to the Lord. And there comes a time when Godly people need to ask God to bring calamity upon the ungodly in order to bring them out of their ungodliness and back to God.
1. There are some people who need to become so miserable in their sins, so crushed by its weight that the only option they have is to come back to God. That is the only way they will ever make a move toward God, when they cannot stand the torture sin has brought upon their lives anymore.
2. That is exactly what Elijah prayed for and that is what he got because God answered his prayer. And if God answered Elijah’s prayer, He will answer ours so long as it is offered in the same spirit.
3. James 5:17 – elaborate on this
C. The issue is not if we can pray like Elijah, the issue is if we are burdened enough and spiritually brave enough to pray it. Revival Fires Calls For Hard Prayers.
II. REVIVAL FIRE CALLS FOR HARD PREACHING
A. After three years, when the famine was great, Elijah came back to Israel and sent Obadiah to fetch King Ahab. They met in I Kings 18:18. READ 18-21 Now you don’t know why the people said nothing, but I do because I am a preacher and I’m gonna tell you why they said nothing.
1. They said nothing because that’s what people do when the preacher says something that is right but they don’t like it and don’t want to hear it. They say nothing. You see Elijah had called all the people together and demanded they make a decision when he said "How long will you waver…"
2. That word waver is an interesting word. It is the very same Hebrew word used down in verse 26 about the prophets of Baal dancing before their altar. So what Elijah was saying is, "How long are you going to dance this dance? One day you wake up and dance with God. The next day you dance with Baal. All you are doing is dancing with whomever you think you can gain the most from at the moment." And they didn’t like it.
3. You know what I am talking about. Just start preaching about how God is inseparable from a Christian’s business practices or politics or social ethics. Preach about things like abortion, homosexuality, modest dress, lotteries and liquor and see what happens. You know its right but you don’t want to hear those types of sermons.
B. There was an old pioneer preacher named Peter Cartwright who was famous for telling it like it was. He was preaching one time near Washington D.C. and the people of the church heard that Andrew Jackson was coming to visit. So they pulled Mr. Cartwright aside and said, "Listen Peter, the President is going to be here on Sunday and we know that sometimes you can get kind of offensive, but would you tone it down. We don’t want to upset the President."
1. So Peter got up in the pulpit the next Sunday and his first three sentences were these. "I understand that the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson is with us this morning. I have been asked to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to H ell is he doesn’t repent."
2. Well the church was just appalled, but when worship was over Andrew Jackson grabbed Mr. Cartwright’s hand, shook it and said, "Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you I could whip the world." There are times, if we want revival, that there must be some hard preaching.
3. II Timothy 4:1-2. Notice the three kinds of preaching here – correct, rebuke, encourage. Which one do you think is more popular? Verse 3.
C. Popular preachers tell people that everything is all right, revival preachers tell people they are lost if they do not get right with God. The issue is not if men can still preach like Elijah, the issue is if anyone is going to let them because too many Christians prefer to dance. Revival Fire Calls For Hard Preaching.
III. REVIVAL FIRE CALLS FOR HARD PRESCRIPTIONS
A. I Kings 18:22-40. Was Elijah out of line here? Was he too cruel? Did he have to go that far? Did he have to be that radical – slaughtering all the prophets of Baal? Listen church, obeying the Word of God is always radical and the Word of God said in Exodus 22:20, "Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be utterly destroyed." That is exactly what Elijah did – he obeyed the Word of God.
B. It is radical to obey God’s Word, especially in our society where humanism reigns, that is the idea that every person can decide what is right for himself and no one can challenge it, but revival fire depends on radical obedience to God’s Word. It depends on getting rid of that which displeases God and sometimes that is a bitter pill to swallow.
1. Let me ask you, would you thank a surgeon for not being cruel who only wanted to remove some of your cancer? Do you think it is too radical to lockup all the drug dealers and manufacturers, all the rapists, pedophiles, and murders or should we just leave them on the streets?
2. Folks, just as we would want all of the cancer gone and all of the murders, rapist and drug dealers removed from our streets, we ought to want every sinful thing in our lives put to death so we can appear before God in holiness.
3. When Caesar brought his Roman troops across the channel to England, he led them up the cliffs of Dover. When they reached to top, they looked back down and every boat they had crossed over in Caesar had set on fire. They could not go back. They had to go forward and conquer, and they did.
4. We must take the same sort of radical action in our lives if we intend to have the Revival fire of God burning deep inside us. In Acts 19 we read of Paul’s missionary work in Ephesus and in verse 18 the Bible says that many believed and openly confessed their evil deeds. READ 19-20 Revival broke out because they were willing to burn that which was dishonoring to God.
C. The issue is not if Revival Fire can still fall from heaven and into the lives of men, the issue is are we willing to burn those things that hinder it’s coming. Revival Fire Calls For Hard Prescriptions.
CONCLUSION: Roy Koop, a well known minister, talks about when he was a young teenager back in the 50’s and the Korean conflict broke out. He felt the call of God to enter the ministry so he enrolled at Minnesota Bible College. Well he knew some of his classmates would think he was just doing that to avoid going to war, so he drove down to the gas station where that hung out to explain his decision. But they had already heard about it before he got there. When he got out of his car one of the biggest guys there started yelling, "There’s Chicken Roy. Chicken Roy, too afraid to fight for his country." Now Roy was not a small guy himself standing some 6’2" and he got out of the car, walked up to that guy, put his finger in his face and said, "Listen, I just signed up for an Army you don’t have the guts to join." Invitation