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03(Lev 06,08-13) Keep the Fire Burning Sermon

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Last year in New York City, a young lady left her downtown office and walked down the street and entered the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum was hosting an exhibition of paintings by the French artist, Monet. One painting was of a sailboat on water with its mirror image reflecting on the water. She studied the painting for a while and was convinced something was wrong. She went to a security guard and then to the museum curator and expressed her concern. They both told her nothing was wrong with the painting, it was authentic, and she could not expect to be an art critic in a day.

Frustrated, she left the museum and went to a bookstore, where she purchased a book of Monet prints, which included this painting. With book in hand, she walked back into the museum and compared the print to the painting. Then she called the New York Times art critic. Together they revealed that for a period of over 100 days, in front of thousands of visitors and scores of art critics, the sailboat painting had hung upside down. It took one woman with a passion to make a difference.

We live in a culture where something seems wrong. When we compare what we see in God's word to what we see in the world, things appear upside down. Sin is elevated; righteousness is ridiculed. What is needed? We need men and women with a passion for Christ.

I.    The FIRE on the ALTAR (Leviticus 6:8-13)

One thing is clear: 3 times God says, “Keep the fire burning. It must never go out.”

1.     The PRESENCE of God.

Often in God’s word, fire represents God’s presence. Moses – burning bush; pillar of fire by night; Elijah on Mt. Carmel; tongues of fire on Pentecost.

Read Hebrews 12:28-29.

2.     The PASSION of the HEART.

What do we call an old girlfriend or boyfriend? (Ugly!) an old flame. Paul said it was better to marry than burn with passion.

Fire represents a passionate heart. A passion consumes the thoughts, emotions.

It is this fire on the altar of your heart that represents a passion for Christ, and God says to keep the fire burning. It must never go out.

Matthew 24:12 … because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

It is very possible that I am speaking to many this morning whose hearts once burned aflame with a passion for Christ, but your heart has grown cold. (Used to be a hunger for God’s word, a zeal for holiness, a persistence in prayer).

God says, “Keep the fire burning. It must never go out.”

II.  When FANNED TO FLAME (2 Timothy 1:6)

Forget not God's grace.

Ephesians 2:1. bad news. Doesn’t get any worse than that. Ephesians 2:5. good news.

The good news is good in your life only to the level that you understand how bad the bad news is.

Jesus- “he who is forgiven little, loves little, but he who is forgiven much, loves much.”

Live by God's resources.

Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing.”

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…

Mandi’s letter to Wal-Mart. Go to the source to get results.

Accept no substitutes.

Read Revelation 2:4-5.

They replaced intimacy with activity. Ritual above relationship. Form for fellowship.

If you and I are to keep the passion burning for Christ, we can accept no substitute for intimacy with Christ.

Toni – joy of my life. I could read books about Toni. I could listen to a Get-To-Know-Toni tape series. I could go to a celebrate Toni conference. All would pale in comparision to intimacy with Toni.

David said, “as the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you.” – “One day in your courts is better than a thousand outside.” He would accept no substitute.

Mary and Martha. Martha wants her to get in the kitchen and rattle some pans. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things. There is only one thing necessary for life, and Mary has chosen that thing which cannot be taken from her.”

Maintain your testimony. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

What does the letter of your life say about Christ?

Football practice, running the gauntlet.

The most precious thing you possess in your life, next to your salvation, is your testimony. Guard it.

Ecclesiastes says, "It is the little foxes that spoil the vineyard."

You are a letter of Christ read by all men. Chuck Swindoll says, and I quote, "Christianity is a character lifestyle. To put it bluntly, you can sleep around and still be a good brain surgeon. You can cheat on your mate and have little trouble practicing law. Apparently, it is no problem to stay in politics and lie. You can be a successful salesperson and be an alcoholic, but you cannot do these things as a Christian and continue to enjoy God's blessings. You must do right in order to have integrity." I need to be reminded of that, don't you?

The enemy would delight in stealing my testimony and quenching my fire.

Exercise spiritual discipline.

Read Luke 24:32.

What keeps the fire burning in your hearts, friends? It is time spent in the presence of the Master.

Jim Elliot- “I am resolved to do something about my prayer/devotional life. In studying Spanish I have left off daily bible reading, and I have yet to restore it. Tomorrow, it is up early, dressed by 6 am, and studying the Epistles before breakfast, so help me God.”

Jim had a fire burning in his heart that caused him to say- “no man is a fool to give up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Fan to flame, stir the embers on the altar of your heart.

III. Produces a FAITH that FINISHES. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

1.     A faith that finishes LONGS for His APPEARING.

Many begin well, less finish well. Many start strong; few finish strong.

There is nothing that will sustain the fire on the altar of your heart, nothing that will maintain the passion, like the expectancy that Jesus will return at any moment.

It will change your priorities, conduct, and behavior.

Long for his appearing. Live with eternity in mind.

2.     A faith that finishes NEVER stops GROWING.

Read 2 Timothy 4:13.

An amazing statement. Not petition for my release, or gather the disciples and storm the prison, not call the ACLU and demand my rights.

“Bring my books, because there are still some things of God that I want to learn.”

Michael Jordan after 5th MVP – “I’m just now learning the game.”

It doesn’t matter if you are 8, 18, 80. God never stops revealing Himself.

Never stop growing, and the fire on the altar of your heart, when fanned to flames, will produce a faith that finishes.

What will it take to change the hearts of America? Many of you are familiar with the quote by Alex Detoppel in the 1800's. He was a French historian who toured this nation in the 1800's, and he says this about America. “I sought for the greatness of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, but it was not there. I sought her greatness in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, but it was not there. It was not until I went in the churches of America and I heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness that I understood the secret of America's greatness. America is great because America is good, and when America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Friends, it will take more than pulpits aflame with righteousness. It will take pews aflame with righteousness. It will take moms and dads, husbands and wives, singles, students, forerunners aflame with righteousness. When the church of God catches fire from heaven, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Keep the fire burning. It must never go out.

Let's pray.

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