“Just because God cannot tell us what He is, He very often tells us what He is like, and by these ‘like’ figures He leads our faltering minds as close as they can come to that ‘Light which no man can approach unto’…God has used a number of these similitudes to hint at His incomprehensible being, and judging from the Scriptures one would gather that His favorite similitude is fire.”
~A.W. Tozer, Evenings with Tozer, February 6 Reading
I know I quote him often, but Tozer’s right. All throughout the Bible, God loves to connect with us by comparing Himself to or manifesting Himself as fire. God led the children of Israel with His pillar of fire in Exodus; His fire burnt Elijah’s sacrifice in First Kings; and Christ’s eyes are compared to flames in Revelation. Furthermore, the fire similitude can also apply to believers–remember the Pentecost “tongues of fire”? Clearly the evidence is there for fire’s momentous role in the Christian life; all we need to do is keep our eye on the flames of God’s presence.
Fire brings light and warmth to the darkness.
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” ~Matthew 4:16, NKJV
Firelight attracts us to the fire from which it comes. In the same manner, the light of God’s glory within the believer’s soul draws the unsaved toward the Fire of the I AM. Our duty as Christians is to bear an unhidden light over all the hiding spots the devil cowers in.
Nevertheless, a genuine flame does not only give light; it also gives warmth. Have you ever heard of a chilly fire? It’s self-contradictory and doesn’t make any sense. Indeed, a cold flame would almost certainly cause people to back off from it, not relax near it with a childlike wonder and fascination.
Suppose if this tidbit could be applied to our spiritual lives as well. Suppose that the chilliness represents our conduct and the fake flame our pretended identity in Christ. What would that look like to the unbeliever? Would “praying” with vulgar language make any positive impression on the unsure, desperate soul? Would “evangelizing” by provoking people over and over again with the question “Are you saved?” make any difference to those you are trying to communicate with? No. We must be genuine. Remember Paul’s words: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels , but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, NKJV)
In short, the believer must give light and warmth to others because God gave light and warmth to us–two things everyone should have and no one should take for granted.
Fire burns away impurities.
“He (God) will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they many offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old, as in former years.” ~Malachi 3:3-4, NKJV
“Refiner’s fire” is a key term in the Christian life because it never stops. God is always bringing us through trials so we may be perfected and blameless. The Refiner’s fire alters our broken image so it transforms into the likeness of His whole image. He wants us to enjoy His perfect presence in paradise. As for a believer trying to help the unsaved, burning away impurities means to not only shed light on the devil’s hiding spots but to call upon God’s name and shove Satan out.
In God’s point of view, refining has four stages. Before salvation, He guides the heart into recognizing its sin and thus into wanting relief from it. That is followed by salvation itself, which trades the sinner’s rotten flesh with that of the heavenly robes of Jesus. The relief, peace, and joy the new believer as a result of salvation spurs him on to the next stage of reading the Bible, praying, asking God to be glorified through his actions, etc. After all, God does not take us to heaven immediately following our salvation. He lets us remain here to serve Him until He calls us home and thus finishes the individual’s refining. Our Father does this by permanently cutting off all fleshly hindrances, with the result being a wholly spiritual, perfect being, created and restored back to the image of Himself. That’s what we mean by God’s refining fire.
Yet God often works through the believer as well in the refining process. Here on Earth, everything we do that plants or waters the seed of the Gospel is actually God working, whether it be toward the unsaved or the brethren. We (in Hamlet’s words) “hold..a mirror up to nature”–by gently and firmly revealing the impurities in each other never ceasing to pray for and give encouragement to all those around us. In the Bible this concept is illustrated as “iron sharpen[ing] iron.” (Proverbs 27:17, NKJV)
In the end, then, God is the refining Fire–but here on Earth, He gives you the opportunity to take part in ministering to others’ souls in this manner. Celebrate the fact that He has entrusted you with so great, so beautiful, and so rewarding a task.
Fire is difficult to quench.
“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” ~Jeremiah 20:9, NKJV
Stopping God’s fire is not only difficult to quench; it’s impossible to quench. Thus, the fire of His presence dwelling in the hearts of the saved can never go out. It is like a roaring wildfire on endless dry grasslands–the fire spreads, stays strong, and never goes out.
It doesn’t always feel strong, though. Sometimes our joy and passion for God is deflated by various sorts of persecution, temptation, or complacency–and at the most trying moments, we can wonder whether we are truly saved. In those situations, we must remember that we can never be truly perfect on Earth. God knows the flesh will inevitably hinder us from attaining that goal. God knows that the struggle is hard. God knows we are human.
But the beauty of being His child lies in this: His fire is not dependent on a believer’s emotion or the latest circumstance. Because He is perfect, we can lean on Him for guidance. Because He is unchanging, we can always lean on Him for guidance. Because He is loving, He will never let us go. His fire will never fail us.
October 5, 2017
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