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Set On Fire

Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The First Witness

In a small cottage by the roadside in the village of Barvas lived two elderly women, Peggy and Christine Smith. They were eighty-four and eighty-two years old. Peggy was blind and her sister almost bent double with arthritis. Unable to attend public worship, their humble cottage became a sanctuary where they met with God. To them came the promise: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground (Isaiah 44:3)," they pleaded this day and night in prayer. One night Peggy had a revelation, revival was coming and the church of her fathers would be crowded again with young people! She sent for the minister, the Rev. James Murray MacKay, and told him what God had shown her, asking him to call his elders and deacons together for special times of waiting upon God.
Revival came for three years…multitudes of people were saved…the whole island was changed
According to the Torah, the foundation book of the Jews who were the opponents of Jesus, in cases where there was a need for a verifiable testimony, it was necessary that there be two or three witnesses to provide corroboration of a matter.
But before leaving Peggy and her sister, another story must be told which further illustrates the holy intimacy of this woman with her Lord. When the movement was at its height Peggy sent for Duncan, asking him to go to a small, isolated village to hold a meeting. The people of this village did not favor the revival and had already made clear their policy of noninvolvement. Duncan explained the situation to Peggy and told her that he questioned the wisdom of her request. "Besides," he added, "I have no leadings to go to that place."
She turned in the direction of his voice, her sightless eyes seemed to penetrate his soul. "Mr. Campbell, if you were living as near to God as you ought to be, He would reveal His secrets to you also." Duncan felt like a subordinate being reprimanded for defying his general. He humbly accepted the rebuke as from the Lord, and asked if he and Mr. MacKay could spend the morning in prayer with them. She agreed, and later as they knelt together in the cottage, Peggy prayed: "Lord, You remember what You told me this morning, that in this village You are going to save seven men who will become pillars in the church of my fathers. Lord, I have given Your message to Mr. Campbell and it seems he is not prepared to receive it. Oh Lord, give him wisdom, because he badly needs it!" "All right, Peggy, I'll go to the village," said Duncan when they had finished praying. She replied, "You'd better!" "And God will give you a congregation."
Arriving in the village at seven o'clock they found a large bungalow crowded to capacity with many assembled outside. Duncan gave out his text: "The times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." When he had finished preaching, a minister beckoned him to the end of the house to speak again to a number of people who were mourning over their sins - among them, Peggy's seven men!
Before we leave this sermon for lunch today you will see how you can seek God like that…how you can have intimacy with Him like that…how you can hear from Him.
According to the Torah, the foundation book of the Jews who were the opponents of Jesus, in cases where there was a need for a verifiable testimony, it was necessary that there be two or three witnesses to provide corroboration of a matter.
Deuteronomy 19:15 NASB95
“A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
So Jesus is beginning a formal defense of Himself in this passage by admitting the need for more witnesses to His identity. His own word is not enough according to their Law…even though what He is saying is true (Greek states that fact and is poorly translated into the English here) the law says it must be corroborated before it is to be believed.
So Jesus points the people to four witnesses to the fact He is the Messiah…But before He does this He makes clear that there has always been a joint testimony. The Father has always been actively testifying to the identity of the Son
John the Baptist — The opponents of Jesus had sought out John the Baptist and he testified to the truth of Jesus. John was not only an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus…He was a participant in it!
The Greek here says that, “John was ignited and gave light.” His witness was from God.” There is a significant difference between being a witness to an event and being a participant in it. There is a big difference between watching a fire burn and being on fire.
There is a significant difference between someone who is a witness of an event and a participant in it. There is a difference between watching a fire burn and being in the midst of the fire itself. John was not only a eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus…not only an eyewitness of the Holy Spirit’s testimony when He saw the Spirit descend on Jesus at His baptism…John was lit up and set on fire by God’s Holy Spirit and a participant in the ministry of Jesus.
John was lit up and set on fire by God’s Holy Spirit and a participant in the ministry of Jesus.
Would you like to be an eyewitness or a participant in the life, power and ministry of Christ? Do you want to watch God’s ministry or be a part of God’s ministry to save the world?
Do you just want to hear stories of things God has done in the past or do you want to be a part of what God is doing in the present. The choice is yours but to choose the latter it will cost you something.
John was on fire because He had spent time seeking God…
We avoid the desert…we avoid deprivation, fasting and the humility of the prayer closet where all vestiges of self effort and self sufficiency fall away. Not John. John went to the desert, fasted, prayed and sough the Lord.
When you turn off the television, stop surfing the internet, start fasting and praying, God will take notice. He will reward such a person with the greatest of all gifts…a greater vision and experience of Himself.
Hebrews 11:6 NASB95
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
When you turn off the television, stop surfing the internet, start fasting and praying, God will take notice. He will reward such a person with the greatest of all gifts…a greater vision and experience of Himself…and the opportunity to be a part of the Fire…a part of the show…a part of the glory of God
Are you satisfied? Are you content to simply be a spectator of the fire that is God. Are you satisfied to watch the fire burn? Or will you seek to be consumed by the fire and become the spectacle yourself?
Churches have to answer this question as well. Are we satisfied to reminisce about the fires we were once a part of…the blaze that our forefathers and mothers were a part of…will we just look back or will we look forward…will we have faith for a future…will we be willing to pay the price they did for intimacy with God a part in what He is doing in our world TODAY!
Jesus doesn’t need the testimony of human beings but He has chosen to use us nonetheless. He didn’t need John’s testimony but He mentions it in hopes that they will remember what He said and recognize that Jesus is the Messiah to whom John was directing them.
The Jewish leaders chose to enjoy this light for a time...
John the Baptist generated considerable messianic excitement. His announcement that ‘the Coming One’ (1:27, Gk.) was near, his insistence that the people of God prepare for his coming, his implicit announcement of the dawning of the promised kingdom, the divine salvation and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, however mingled with threats of judgment, provoked enthusiastic joy (the Greek word for ‘enjoy’, mentioned above, is very strong, and is used elsewhere in John only at 8:56). If the Jews would remember that healthy response to John’s preaching and recognize in Jesus the one whom the Baptist announced, then John’s witness would prove extraordinarily fruitful.
D A Carson, “John the Baptist generated considerable messianic excitement. His announcement that ‘the Coming One’ (1:27, Gk.) was near, his insistence that the people of God prepare for his coming, his implicit announcement of the dawning of the promised kingdom, the divine salvation and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, however mingled with threats of judgment, provoked enthusiastic joy (the Greek word for ‘enjoy’, mentioned above, is very strong, and is used elsewhere in John only at 8:56).”
Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 261). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
The Jewish leaders chose to enjoy this light for a time but they did not receive it…did not have faith…did not believe…they rejected this first witness presented by Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t need the testimony of human beings but He mentions it in hopes that they will remember and recognize that Jesus is the Messiah John was talking about…that He is the Messiah.
People may reject our testimony and life too. Even though we burn brightly for Christ…aflame with the power and anointing of God’s Spirit…they reject us and the experience we have had with Jesus.
Thankfully there are other voices! Other witnesses...

Three Other Witnesses...

The Works — include all of Jesus’ ministry, the signs which find their high point in the Cross and exaltation of Jesus in His resurrection. They are everything that the Father has given Him to do.
John 14:11 NASB95
“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
Jesus expected His followers to come to faith in Him through His words and works. Everything Jesus did was evidence of His identity as Messiah and God.
The Father — Has worked all around and through the life of Jesus. He has shown Himself in the miracles, in the changed lives, the faith of the hearers who listened to Jesus’ teachings. The Father was working in and through the life of the Son…Jesus!
John 3:2 NASB95
this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Even Nicodemus, who at the time was yet to become a believer, recognized this fact…The Father was working in and through Jesus to confirm the message He was preaching…He is the Messiah!
The Scriptures — These attest to the coming of Jesus and indicate what kind of person and ministry the Messiah would have. They pointed to Him. The prophecies fulfilled alone should have opened their eyes.
But the people rejected the ministry of John, the works of Jesus, testimony of the Father and the Scriptures...They were looking for a Messiah who would affirm who they were and meet their expectations.
They were looking for a Warrior Lamb who would come to overthrow Rome and establish a Kingdom. They were not looking for a Messiah who would overthrow sin and reclaim their heart for Himself.
The irony of all ironies is — They studied the scriptures thinking they would be saved by their piety and knowledge of the truth all the while missing THE Truth standing in front of them…the truth who fulfilled all that the Scriptures concerning the Messiah.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field. "Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that." Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.  "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had." 
"Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that."
We can be so focused on where we think we want to go…where we think we are supposed to go…that we miss all the signs around us pointing in the direction God would actually have us go!
Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.  "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had." 
People can be so self absorbed and full of unbelief that they miss God.
Here is the great tragedy…People can be religious, see truth, desire God and miss Him simply for the fact they aren’t really seeking Him but their own caricature of Him
Why did the people miss their Messiah???
Because this Jesus did not meet their expectations…they were looking for another…and no matter how strong or many the witnesses for Christ they would have none of Him
Pride — They didn’t want to change who they were. They liked their life and religion. They did not want to repent, change or do anything different. They wanted a Messiah who would pat them on the back, defeat Rome and usher in a time of unprecedented prosperity for their people.
Unbelief — They wouldn’t dare, even for a moment, believe there was anything more than what they already had and what they expected to come.

Do You Want to Be On Fire For Christ?

Why did the people miss their Messiah???
Self-Effort — It is intoxicating. That we would be master of our own domain and in control is alluring. They thought they could simply study scripture and find salvation in their piety…their religious exercise and effort. They tried to live their faith on their own terms
Pride — They didn’t want to change who they were. They liked their life and religion. They did not want to repent, change or do anything different. They wanted a Messiah who would pat them on the back, defeat Rome and usher in a time of unprecedented prosperity for their people.
Unbelief — They wouldn’t dare, even for a moment, believe there was anything more than what they already had and what they expected to come.
Whew…Thank goodness none of this passage is for us! We are saved right? We know Christ right? We have faith, eyes to see and are open to anything…We must be careful and pray that this is truly the case! As one commentator put it...
The New American Commentary: John 1–11 (5) Jesus’ Defense Statement and the Four Witnesses (5:31–47)

Readers are thus powerfully warned that institutional religious perspectives can in fact stand in the way of hearing the call of God and can lead to a fundamental rejection of recognizing God’s presence and activity in the sphere of humanity

“Readers (of this passage) are thus powerfully warned that institutional religious perspectives can in fact stand in the way of hearing the call of God and can lead to a fundamental rejection of recognizing God’s presence and activity in the sphere of humanity”
Our own short sightedness and pride can move us to the same place the people in our story found themselves…missing Christ and what He is doing in the world around us…missing what He wants us to be a part of with Him.
Readers are thus powerfully warned that institutional religious perspectives can in fact stand in the way of hearing the call of God and can lead to a fundamental rejection of recognizing God’s presence and activity in the sphere of humanity
We come to believe that all there is, is all we have…that to feel the warmth of the fire of the Spirit is the same as being on fire. We can grow complacent, apathetic and dead.
Borchert, G. L. (1996). (Vol. 25A, pp. 248–249). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Growth sometimes hurts…change is hard…the unexpected is often unwanted...threats to our security uncomfortable
God is looking for men and women who want a deep relationship with Him…who reject the status quo for a life of adventure...excitement, sacrifice…deprivation…hardships...fasting...loneliness and even death. A life laid on the altar and lit on fire for Him.
The Greek here says that, “John was ignited and gave light.” His witness was from God.” There is a significant difference between being a witness to an event and being a participant in it. There is a big difference between watching a fire burn and being on fire.
John was lit up and set on fire by God’s Holy Spirit and a participant in the ministry of Jesus.
Would you like to be an eyewitness or a participant in the life, power and ministry of Christ? Do you want to watch God’s ministry or be a part of God’s ministry to save the world?
Peggy and Christine Smith were on fire…They weren’t just a spectator of God’s works…they were a work of God and in the middle of what He was doing around them!
Do you just want to hear stories of things God has done in the past or do you want to be a part of what God is doing in the present. The choice is yours but to choose the latter it will cost you something.
God is looking for men and women who want a deep relationship with Him…who reject the status quo for a life of adventure...excitement, sacrifice…deprivation…hardships...fasting...loneliness and even death. A life laid on the altar and lit on fire for Him.
John was on fire…as were Peggy and Christine Smith...because they had spent time seeking God…
We avoid the desert…we avoid deprivation, fasting and the humility of the prayer closet where all vestiges of self effort and self sufficiency fall away. Not John. John went to the desert, fasted, prayed and sough the Lord.
Hebrews 11:6 NASB95
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
God rewards a person who seeks Him with the greatest of all gifts…a greater experience of Himself…and the opportunity to be a part of the Fire…a part of the show…a part of the glory of God
Are you satisfied? Are you content to simply be a spectator of the fire that is God. Are you satisfied to watch the fire burn? Or will you seek to be consumed by the fire and become part of the flames?
Churches have to answer this question as well. Are we satisfied to reminisce about the fires we were once a part of…the blaze that our forefathers and mothers were a part of…will we just look back or will we look forward…will we have faith for a future…will we be willing to pay the price they did for intimacy with God a part in what He is doing in our world TODAY!
Do you want to be on fire? There is nothing more exciting than to be on fire for Jesus…to live in the intimacy and anointing of God…to know you are living in His power, experiencing God sized events…being a part of what He is doing…nothing better.
But to be on fire means a cost…it means diligently seeking Him
We avoid the desert…we avoid deprivation, fasting and the humility of the prayer closet where all vestiges of self effort and self sufficiency fall away. Not John. John went to the desert, fasted, prayed and sough the Lord.
Seek Jesus…
Turn off the tv
Stop surfing the internet
Get off social media
Give up anything else consuming your life
How different would it be if you gave God the time you gave to these things and instead chose to seek Him through time in His Word and prayer…what would happen if you gave up one lunch or one dinner and chose instead to pray and seek Him?
There is a rich reward for those who will seek Him…Intimacy with Him!
Duncan never left the island without visiting the praying men, who had meant so much to him in the revival, and with whom he had such affinity of spirit. He marveled at their discernment and worldwide vision in this far northwestern island. Calling to see one of them he arrived at the house to hear him in the barn praying for Greece. He could not understand what interest a butcher in Lewis could have in Greece. "How did you come to be praying for Greece today?", he asked him later. "Do you know where Greece is?" "No, Mr. Campbell, but God knows, and He told me this morning to pray for Greece!" Two years later Duncan was introduced to a man in Dublin who told him the following story. He had gone to Greece on a business trip and was asked to speak to an assembly of Christians. The Spirit of God worked so powerfully that he continued preaching for a few weeks and phoned his brother in Ireland with instructions to look after the business until he returned. Duncan compared dates and discovered that the movement in Greece began on the same day that the butcher was praying in Bravas!
Duncan Campbell (Pastor of the Hebrides Revival) never left the island without visiting the praying men, who had meant so much to him in the revival, and with whom he had such affinity of spirit. He marveled at their discernment and worldwide vision in this far northwestern island. Calling to see one of them he arrived at the house to hear him in the barn praying for Greece. He could not understand what interest a butcher in Lewis could have in Greece. "How did you come to be praying for Greece today?", he asked him later. "Do you know where Greece is?" "No, Mr. Campbell, but God knows, and He told me this morning to pray for Greece!" Two years later Duncan was introduced to a man in Dublin who told him the following story. He had gone to Greece on a business trip and was asked to speak to an assembly of Christians. The Spirit of God worked so powerfully that he continued preaching for a few weeks and phoned his brother in Ireland with instructions to look after the business until he returned. Duncan compared dates and discovered that the movement in Greece began on the same day that the butcher was praying in Bravas!
Receive the testimony of Jesus this morning…He is the Christ…He is God…He deserves your attention, priority and time…there is no greater reward than Him and no greater life than one set ablaze with Him
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