By Pastor Glenn Pease
An embarrassing situation marked the passing of a well known fire chief.
None of the family has spoken to any member of his engine company since the funeral.
With the best of intentions these fire men sent what they felt was a high tribute.
It was a floral arrangement with gold letters saying GONE TO HIS LAST FIRE.
Fire is a touchy word, and we need to be careful how we handle it verbally, as well as how we handle fire literally.
We need to be aware that fire is both an instrument of hell and a tool of heaven.
It is both a power for good and a power for evil.
It is associated with both judgment and salvation.
It can be destructive or constructive.
God used fire for the building of most of the universe, for our Sun and all of the stars are great balls of flaming fire.
Fire is also a tool by which God will destroy the world.
Fire is a symbol of God in the Old Testament.
He revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush.
He led Israel by a pillar of fire.
1:7 His servants are called flames of fire, and the Holy Spirit is symbolized by fire.
On the other hand, fire is used in a negative way also.
A sword of fire kept Adam and Eve from reentering Eden.
Fire is a sign of judgment.
God is called a consuming fire.
The lake of fire is the fearful and of all who do not yield to the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Fire plays a dual role all through Scripture.
It can be a symbol of either heaven or hell.
It can stand for fierce anger and hate, or it can stand for warm and gentle love.
As the song of Solomon says in 8:7, "Water can't quench the fire of love."
This dual nature of fire leads to the paradox that the Christian is to both seek fire and shun it.
A Christian is to be fire proof, and also to be filled with fire and ablaze with the Holy Spirit.
The church cannot survive without fire, and yet it must fight fire continuously.
Fire is both friend and foe, and the battle of life is fire against fire.
Thousands of churches have been destroyed by fire.
This kind of loss by fire has plagued the people of God all through history.
When the Babylonians captured Jerusalem we read in I Chron.
36:19, "And they burned the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its palaces with fire."
Solomon's magnificent temple was turned into a smoldering pile of ugly black ashes.
King Herod rebuilt the temple, but it too became a victim of fire.
When the Romans took Jerusalem in 70 A. D. a soldier threw a firebrand into the temple.
Titus, the general, tried to distinguish the fire, but it was no use, and the temple was again lost to the flames.
The people of God in New Testament times have also been subject to great loss by fire.
Nero blamed the Christians for the terrible fire of Rome.
Christians taught that the world would be judged by fire, and so it was easy to cast suspicion on them as being fire bugs.
They were punished by being burned as human torches.
Fire became a common means by which heretics were eliminated.
Whenever we speak of making a bonfire we do not realize that the word comes from the gruesome practice of burning people, which was known as a bone fire.
This kind of experience with fire makes exciting movies, but it is not the kind of experience that appeals to us.
Most Christians do not have a martyr complex.
The poet gives us a realistic picture.
Movies about a Christian hero
Getting burned by a Roman Nero,
Seem to attack wide spread attention,
Especially so in the third dimension,
But the appeal of the film does not inspire
Modern Christians to brave the fire.
There is no good reason why any Christian should desire to burn, as many martyrs of the past have done.
Too many temples of God have already gone down in the fires of persecution.
Every Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the fire of God.
With the fire within the Christian is to burn and fight the fire without.
It is divine fire against demonic fire.
Every man is facing one fire or another.
Either he is being a channel of the fire of hell, or he is being cleansed and motivated by the fire of heaven.
T. S. Elliot has recognized this two fold fire and writes,
The only hope or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
The destiny of every person is determined by which fire they allow to burn in their hearts.
No one knew this better than Paul.
He was a Pharisee who was being consumed with blazing bigotry, and the flame of rebellion against the church of Christ, when suddenly he met with a flame more fierce than the sun and he cleansed by the fire of Christ's love.
From that time forth Paul was a flame-thrower for Christ.
He was filled with the fire of Holy Spirit, and he became a crucial weapon against the fiery darts of Satan.
Paul was used of God to keep Christian conscious of their needs to let the fire burn within.
He wrote, "Quench not the Spirit."
This is a warning Christians need to hear in every age, for Christian can throw a wet blanket on the fire of the Spirit, and the result will be that the fires of Satan will burn with greater intensity.
If the fires of hell run wild, it is because Christians are quenching the superior fires of heaven.
Leighton Ford wrote, "The greatest need of the church of Jesus Christ today is to catch fire."
We need a Pentecost at any cost, for only the fire of the Spirit can empower us to be victorious over the raging flames of hell that threaten the world and the church.
The Holy Spirit is symbolized by fire because fire is the source of the 3 things that are essential for abundant and victorious life.
The Holy Spirit supplies these three essentials that we want to look at.
If you quench the Spirit you will know it by weakness and defects in these three areas.
First of all, fire is essential for-
Take away the fire of the sun and earth becomes a giant iceberg.
Life cannot survive without fire and the warmth it produces.
This is true in the spiritual life also.
Take away the fire of the Spirit and God's people will become God's frozen people.
Instead of being a volcanic mountain the church becomes a snowcapped mountain.
It may be appealing to the eye, but with no power to melt the cold hearts of men.
It takes the hot lava of love to soften people's hearts and melt them so they can be impressed with the Gospel.
Jesus was filled with the Spirit and had a heart of such warmth that people loved to gather around Him. Billy Graham put it beautifully when he said, "The multitude, starved for compassion, love, and companionship, were attracted to Him as chilled men are drawn to glowing embers."
His very words produced the heat of emotion.
The two on the road to Emmaus said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us by the way....?"
Only as we have fire within will we have the warmth and emotion to kindle others and cause them to be ablaze with the love of Christ.
This is the key to evangelism.
Centuries ago Augustine said, "One loving spirit sets another on fire."
Fire is contagious and it spreads.
Drop a match in a forest and thousands of acres can go up in flames.
Drop an ice cube and only one square inch gets chilled.
That is the difference between a fire filled Christian and one who has quenched the Spirit.
A Christian who is not enthused about Christ and the Gospel will never warm anyone else and draw them to Christ.