Hello everyone! Wow, it really does feel so much better to be standing in front of a group of a real live people than trying to capture a message into a recording on a cellphone – thank you for the warm singing and the warm fellowship - - we’re going to feel the warmth of Hebrews 12 this morning if you don’t mind moseying over there.
While you do – the young guys on a Friday night offered me my first post covid talking opportunity – they invited me to come speak and so I pitched up a few weeks back – and there was this beautiful setup in the middle of the hall – the chairs were spaced in a circle, lights were dimmed , for the sake of cosyness and vibe and there was a pile of firewood in the middle of the hall – you know, gather round the bonfire vibes – of course – and to calm the deacons here I must paint the full picture – it wasn’t actually going to be used for a real fire – here in the middle of our hall - the guys had taken those fairy sparkly ;lights and wrapped them around the logs and, this took the cake – someone – Luc I think was playing a recording of a crackling fire – from a phone beneath the pile – the full effect!
Why of course – because a real fire is dangerous thing. That is not news – I once had the real pleasure of having to explain myself to a firemarshal who was called to my mothers house – why were they called? Because I had just accidently managed to set fire to my the carport - and there’s nothing quite as humbling as a South African Male as having to explain to a man in uniform that you couldn’t control your braai.
Fire is dangerous! Fire can cause damage! If I were to say I was going to preach a fire and brimstone message this morning – you would think, ooh, here comes the pain – here comes the scary stories of the fiery flames that awaits the sinner, the lake of fire, here comes the hellfire
Old Lawrence here would love it – he would be the guy egging me on – go on, give it to them – but he’s a lot more thick skinned than I am – they must really have struggle to put that pacemaker in.
But let’s see what Hebrews 12 has for us this morning shall we – and reading from vs 25
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[a] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[b]
Our God is a consuming fire – Our God has many aspects to His nature – many sides, many outworkings and displays of his character , his attributes and his person – God is Love – we like that one don’t we– God is kind, and Just, and gracious and forgiving and God is Good – all the time
And in the verse this morning - Our God is a FIRE - Our God is a CONSUMING fire. Now that might be too abstract for you - but– the verse is in the context of acceptable worship – of his people coming before God with the right attitude of reverence and awe - .
To follow the thread further – that verse is a throwback to Deuteronomy 4
23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
A jealous God – this idea of Jealousy is pared with the consuming fire
But, as your kids might say to each other, jealousy makes you nasty! You can’t call God jealous – well – I didn’t - that book in your hands did!
Maybe its just the way we use the word these days?
Dictionary here we come
Jealousy – angry that someone you love seems interested in another person
Wow, that kind of fits doesn’t it– especially when God is after us, but – the person we are most interested in…is ourselves
Ok, scroll down, read on – another example
Jealousy - Angry because someone has something you want.
OK well, that definitely fits – someone – us has something – our time, our focus, our passion, our energy, our devotion – you want - God wants it – he doesn’t need it – he could continue being God without it – but he wants it – he demands it.
And if you really think that God doesn’t have the character that fully demands his proper worship, and is jealous for it – is serious about it – you probably haven’t been spending enough time in your old testament.
Our God is a consuming fire, a Jealous God who demands proper worship.
SO, the first point then if you’re a note taker and we are thinking about the Consuming Fire, the attribute here is that of a Jealous God .
Now lets go on – if we were to pick up on something that comes out in verse 25 – the verse states - referring to the OT Israelites – they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on Earth.
And of course there are plenty of examples of a Wrathful God dealing with His people.
There’s a story in Numbers 16, if you were to look back through the Old testament for manifestations of this consuming fire – You would stumble across a rebellion against Moses and Aaron in numbers 16.
And it’s a long story – but suffice to say the people are rebelling against God’s leaders and treating the Lord with contempt
31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”
35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
Oooh, that stuff makes us uncomfortable – what a monster – death by consuming fire for those that oppose God.
Did you miss that part in the bible? Did you think the Gospel was about self actualisation and sentimentality and being a better you? Or that God was the peaceful mild character and the fire and flames belonged to the bad guy? – Fire came out from the Lord
Brothers and sisters we stood under judgement – dead in our sins – we would have been one of those 250 people, I guarantee it – if it were not for the amazing love – that we sung about – where it not for the perfect sacrifice of Jesus – given for me.
Does the wrath of God – no longer exist? Have we ignored that part of His nature and left it down to old testament stories – of bad people (not like us goodies) getting their just desserts?
Be careful here – RC Sproul rightly says - “A god who is all love, all grace, all mercy, no sovereignty, no justice, no holiness, and no wrath is an idol.”
There’s a popular sort of new age universalism on the rise out there – why is it popular, well, it’s not offensive you see – it tells us that it doesn’t matter – we all make it – in the end, Love wins. Well, friends, Love has won – but it is ONLY in the person of Jesus Christ – on God’s terms, not your terms and your romantic version of what love is. It comes through Jesus – for God so loves, that he puts his own son to death! And it matters very much what you do with him.
So, Jealousy and Judgement, and then if you’re a snazzy preacher guy you start thinking – hey – alliteration is one of the cornerstones of supposedly good teaching - and so my next and final point is JJJJsanctification
I thought we were headed for justification – which would have been fitting with the j vibe – but forcing that into this theme would have resulting in me teaching a very skew view of Justification .
The word is SANCTIFICATION – the consuming fire – listen to this - for those he does not consume – he purifies –that refiners fire we sing about. That gentle song – refiners fire, my hearts one desire is to be holy – NO it isn’t! If that was truly your hearts one desire – we wouldn’t have this problem would we.! But our hearts are a mess…
And so we rightly turn to God and ask him to purify our hearts – and the image used in that song and through scripture is that of a refiners fires – burning away all the impurities – so that the true gold – the true value inside is left. And on the day of judgement when it is again, tested by fire in a sense – it will shine and be areflection of the makers face.
1 Cor 3:13
13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
Sanctification means that God wants to make you Holy – yes, come, just as you are to worship – but you know he also calls you to be Holy – to purify, to cleanse, to change – and that’s not easy.
That’s why it’s a picture of fire! Because it burns – because it stings!
We go camping and my kids are always on about roasting marshmallows – but when comes time and we have a nice hot set of coals ready – they always stand wayyy to far away from the fire – and I say to them – nothings gonna happen to your marshmallow standing over there! Get closer – and they say oh but it’s too hot and we’ll get burnt- softies, the lot of them.
It’s not going to be pleasant to meet our God the consuming fire in his judgement and in his wrath – but guess what, it isn’t that pleasant to go through the purification of a refiner’s fire either.
Listen to this in Isaiah 48, talking about the stubborn nation of Israel – God speaks
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
The furnace of affliction
How many people feel afflicted today – 2020 is just one series of bad events – and you get through one thing and there’s another just waiting to take you down – you get through a really stressful time – and then you pickup shingles and then you get told, wait, no - oh, you got Covid as well. Ya, woe is me, I got to watch Netflix while you all brough us meal – you’re right.
On Friday morning at cemetery in Plumstead I got to see what the furnace of affliction really looks like.
What do you think that Refiners Fire is going to look like in your life today – God has refined his people, in the fire of affliction –
So then you think well, maybe, even in this absolute stuffup of a year that is 2020 – God is at work in you. And he’s lit the fire, and it’s burning – and you’re feeling the heat! And that fire is going into some uncomfortable places hey – and some of those dark things are coming out into the light.
And we’ll make it through this season – we usually do – this too shall pass – we’ll look back at these days like we look back at the water crisis and day Zero – and we’ll see God’s hand in it all – and we’ll be stronger for it – and God will have worked in it. Drawing his people towards himself, because he is jealous for our worship.
It will hurt along the way. We will get burnt – some of our idols will need to be demolished – so that God can be GOD and we can look to him alone.
In fact, let’s circle back here – this end of that Hebrews passage was in the context of correct worship, and the false worship of idols.
Here’s a prediction for you – gift of prophecy, I don’t know – but here’s something that, take the time to think about – you know to be true –
You are going to lose that idol. You are going to have that thing taken from you – burnt away by the consuming fire God who is jealous for your devotion.
That job – sorry, you are gonna lose it. That house – it’s gone.
That healthy body, your lovely active youth – its gonna fall away.
Your friends, your family – in a sense, you will lose these – because we of course will take nothing from this world. Absolutely nothing.
So I don’t know when that thing that you cling to as your security and your greatest possession, and that you’ve nurtured and built up over so many years will be stripped from you? Maybe another Covid sneaks up around the corner and we have it taken next year – maybe we live a full hashtag blessed life to the age of 110 and die in our sleep in our mansion surrounded by a family of 50 who love us and aren’t interested at all in inheriting that mansion – ok great, wouldn’t that be nice
But either way people – that idol is gonna go. And as you enter eternity (remember we are eternal beings, we need to live like eternal beings) – what has survived that fire – that consuming flame where everything that is not of eternal value is burnt away – will be all you are left with.
SO the bad news - the earth is shaking – make no mistake the earth is shaking –– but the Good News (the Good News of the GOSPEL) is that God is setting up his unshakeable Kingdom, and He is an unshakeable King.