FIRE! FIRE! If you have ever stood in a building and heard that called out you know the panic it can cause. You know the fear that grips you. You know the emotions that take over and cause you to flee. You know how the brain shuts down with only one thought in process: Survive. Fire is a frightening thing but it is exactly that which Jesus speaks of in a very revealing moment, when his heart is opened and we can clearly see in.
Today it is hard for us to imagine Jesus as anything but loving and kind, and he is, but his love is more than that to which we limit it. The modern day preacher has tamed his imagine, making him cute and cuddly; a play thing for children. How sad that we have misinterpreted the Instrument of all creation in such a manner. How shocking to our conditioned ears to hear his voice speak so plainly:
I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)
Perhaps you aren't familiar with this passage; most people aren't. We would rather picture Jesus walking around with a lamb across his shoulders and children skipping about his feet. But this is the One who commanded the storms to be silent. This is the One who commanded the demons to flee. This is the one who commanded life back into the dead. This is the one who drove out of the Temple the thieves, and he didn't use words but a whip. C.S. Lewis described him as safe but not tame.
Jesus came to start a revolution. He came to set the world on fire. He came to introduce us to the Kingdom of Heaven and that turned the world upside down. Yes love, and yes spiritual peace between his Father and us individually but far more than that, he brought fire. He brought everything of which he set the example. Everything he seeded. Everything he seeded and that the Spirit came to grow. We need to at least try to grasp what he meant by this:
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (John 11:12)
If refers to the eager crowds that came flocking to John the Baptist and then to Jesus. They wanted what was being offered and acted like a people besieging a city. The "take it by force" refers to the zeal, the passion, the desire of the people to lay hold upon what Jesus offered, to make it their own. It alludes to a passionate fire, burning within the people, desiring change. This is what Jesus came to do, to set the world on fire with a desire for the holiness, righteousness of Yahweh. But there is always a price.
Setting the world on fire came at a cost and that cost is the lose of peace. The world is afraid of a passionate heart. A fire is hard to control and the world is all about control. Jesus warned he came to bring fire, not peace:
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)
And then he went on to describe the division the fire would cause in society and families. If that is what happens as the result of fire then so be it. It is better to have division with fire than peace without it. The Good News of Jesus Christ cannot result in yawns and mediocrity. It is meant to provoke passion for or against. You can't shrug your shoulders at the name of Jesus, not after the fires have been ignited. There is nothing worse than facing the fire and walking away lukewarm:
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[a] I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)
My friends, where are the flames? Where is the passion? Where is the preaching on the streets? Where is the shouting from the rooftops? Jesus does not provoke discussion over cups of tea. He sends the demons into the pigs. His love provokes men to tear apart roofs. His presence inspires men to jump out of boats in a raging storm. We can't be around him without his presence provoking wild and passionate faith in us, provoking extravagant gestures of love.
Read our history. The Church is not for the faint of heart. Serving the King is not without risk of life and limb. To trust, holding on to faith, will not allow us to stand still as the flames come calling. Passion for the Name. Compelled by his love. Provoked by the Spirit. We cannot remain the same; our spirit yearns for the fire. He has kindled the flames. Will you be consumed?