Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Dear Pilgrim, has He baptised you with fire?

Dear Pilgrim, has He baptised you with fire? He came not only to baptise with the Holy Spirit, but to baptise with fire. Have you experienced the fire of His baptism?

For the Lord our God is a consuming fire. His voice spoke out of the fire with which He set Mount Sinai ablaze, and terrified the people of Israel. Ezekiel saw a vision of the likeness of the glory of God. He saw high above on the throne a figure like that of a man, who from His waist up looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and from there down He looked like fire (Ezekiel 1:27). Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days. His throne was flaming with fire, its wheels were all ablaze, whilst a river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him (Daniel 7:9-10). O Pilgrim, our God is a consuming fire!

He is a God who answers by fire. He answered by fire when Elijah called out to Him from Mount Carmel that the people might know He was the God of Israel. The fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, which were all drenched in water (1 Kings 18:36-38), for He makes flames of fire His servants.

He is a God whose fire burns amongst His people. O Pilgrim, come with me to Taberah – the place of burning. See the Israelites, redeemed out of the hands of their enemies, brought to the wilderness. They have just left the base of Mount Sinai from where God has been speaking to them out of the fire, and now just 3 days into their journey to the promised land, they are complaining of their hardships. See, Pilgrim, He has heard their complaining and it has aroused His anger. Look, Pilgrim – how fire from the Lord has come and has burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of their camp. But listen, Pilgrim – they are crying out to Moses, and now he is crying out to the Lord – and the fire has died down (Numbers 11:1-3).

O Pilgrim, what a picture, what a picture for us of Christ. Yet first, He had a baptism of His own to undergo. For the wrath of God burns like fire against all sin, and so the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, was roasted over a fire of wrath as He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross. But just as the bush did not burn up even though it was on fire, just as the four men in the blazing furnace were untouched by the flames, so our Lamb of God was not consumed by the fiery furnace of wrath, but emerged triumphant and victorious from the grave! And now we can cry out to Jesus to deliver us from the fires of the wrath of God!

Saved from the fires of the wrath of God – yet everyone will be salted with fire (Mark 9:49). Now that we have been saved from the fires of His wrath, what is this fire with which we will be salted? Pilgrim, is it not the fires of His jealousy? For He says, “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her” (Zechariah 8:2). The Bride calls out to her beloved, “Place me like a seal over Your heart, like a seal on Your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Songs 8:6). For we have been promised to one husband, Christ, and we are to be presented as a pure virgin to Him. So the Lord will wash away the filth from Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. 

O Pilgrim, would you return to the Garden of Eden, the Garden on the mountain from which man fell? Would you return to the Garden that He planted, that you may walk with Him, in unity with Him? Then you must walk through the flaming sword that flashes back and forth guarding the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). The flaming sword fell on Him as He died our death, paying the penalty for our sin. We must also walk through the flaming sword, the sword of fire, as we die with Him that we may also live with Him.

Come, Pilgrim, come to the refiner’s fire! For after He provided the sacrifice for our sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and now He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, as He refines us like gold and silver (Malachi 3:2-3). He sits, paying careful, unhurried attention to His task, as all the impurities are burned away through the grief we may have had to suffer in all kinds of trials, that we might better reflect His glory. He counsels us to come and buy from Him gold refined in the fire, that we might become rich. Take heart from His words of comfort to us, that when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned; the flames will not set us ablaze, for He will be with us (Isaiah 43:2). O Pilgrim, rejoice that He would take such care and attention over His Bride, that we might be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him when He returns in blazing fire!

For it is only as incense is burned that its fragrance rises as a pleasing aroma. It is only as the oil in the lamp burns that the light shines in the darkness. It is He who keeps our lamps burning, it is He who keeps the incense burning. And as His Word burns like fire, we will find that our hearts burn within us as our Refiner talks with us and opens the Scriptures to us.