Sunday service 6 June 2021 – The work of God’s fire

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Michael Ngubane

We greet all the brethren who are here and many more whom we cannot see but we know are listening.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable. Satan seems to have a plan with this, especially amongst the Christians. It is dangerous if our hearts and minds become clouded and we do not recognise the times that we live in. There should not be a time in our lives where we have felt closer to our Lord Jesus Christ than now. This situation is a war between darkness and light. What are we doing as Christians who have the light? Do we remain silent? Are we onlookers? Christian, this is a time to wake up and get up. Are you on your knees seeking the face of the Lord? We should not be lukewarm. There should be nobody who is at odds with a fellow Christian. If this is so, make things right so that we can be united before the Lord and in God’s work. If it is criticism or anything else that separates you from the next person, make it right before continuing. You should be one with your brother in this battle. If we do not have unity, we will not be united with the Lord either.

What happens in your heart when you see someone regressing spiritually? What do you do about it? You once went to church together but now that person no longer comes. Go and visit that person and see how they are. If you cannot visit, phone that person and ask them how they are and why you have not seen them in church. The devil is fighting to separate people through criticism and murmuring. If he gets it right to separate people, he will have destroyed God’s church. It is vital to be united with God’s children. If you notice that a person may not attend a service for a whole week – go and awaken him. If you cannot go to the person, kneel, and ask the Lord to wake him up. We must stand on the rock. Even if we are just a few, we must stand on this rock which is Christ. The Lord promised that where two or three are gathered in His name, He will also be there. The Lord has no limits. Whether there are 100 or 250, if He promises He will be there with us.

If you are lukewarm, find the cause and make it right. If you pray and read the Bible and the Lord does not reveal Himself to you, there must be a frog in the pipe. Get rid of it! It can be a frog of obstinacy (you do not want to be helped). We will never get anywhere with such a thing. We need to rid ourselves of everything so that God will be free to work in our lives.

Albu van Eeden

We do not know whether the epidemic will worsen, but even if social gatherings are totally forbidden, it is no license for Christians to sit back and wait for things to pass. Even in such circumstances Christians have a responsibility. Even two families can meet, pray and share God’s word. Bake a loaf of bread or a cake to give to someone who lives close by. No matter what the state of the COVID epidemic, you and I have a responsibility to let the light of Christ shine within the circle of people with whom we are in contact. I do not think we will reach a stage where one person will be prohibited from visiting another person. If you are allowed to visit one other person, you can do something for the Gospel. Keep that person alive. Keep the fire of God burning in that person’s heart. If we do not do this, we are guilty before God.

You may have enough data on your phone to listen to an evening message. Write a summary of the message and share it with your neighbours or people around you. The worst thing you can do is to sit back and wait. Christians who were imprisoned in communist countries for their faith were placed in solitary confinement so they could not influence the other prisoners and share the Gospel with them. Despite this, they sent messages in Morse code to share the Gospel that was burning in their hearts. They did not keep quiet.

We may point fingers at the government, but we are guilty because we do not make use of every opportunity to win souls for Christ and strengthen and encourage one another. You may say that so-and-so has fallen back but God will claim the blood of that person from your hands because you could have done something more for that person.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:1-5

Elijah was ready to give up and die but an angel woke him and told him to eat. Why did God feed him if He was supposed to take him to heaven?

And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. Remember, he was still under the impression that his time was over, and he was waiting for God to take him to heaven.

 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6

Do you know the implication of these words? God was still going to use Elijah. God was preparing him for a long journey, just when he thought that his journey on earth was over.

The events that we have read about took place after the ultimate test of the power of God against the power of Baal, its prophets and queen, Jezebel. The whole nation had been deceived by Jezebel who led them into ancestral and idol worship. The ultimate test took place when God demonstrated in front of the whole nation that He was more powerful than Baal. Two sacrifices were prepared on two altars. On the one altar, the prophets of Baal asked Baal to demonstrate his power. On the other altar, Elijah would be an instrument through which God demonstrated that He was omnipotent.

The priests of Baal danced, cut themselves and cried to Baal but nothing happened. Elijah then asked that water be poured on the sacrifice and the altar. He knelt in simple prayer and a fire descended from heaven and consumed everything on the altar. This is the context of this passage.

This morning I would like to look at what happened after this amazing demonstration of God’s power. Why did things happen in Elijah’s life as they did? There was an altar with a sacrifice on the altar. Elijah had placed it there and yet God sent a fire. Through that fire it may have appeared as if God did not accept the sacrifice.

There are few people who say, “I want to place my life on the altar for God so that He can use it as He wants.” There are very few such people. Most churches would be absolutely delighted to have members who put their lives on the altar and who say, “I want to sacrifice my life for God. My whole life is on the altar. My job is on the altar. My family is on the altar. My wife, my husband is on the altar. My children and my parents are on the altar.” This is a phenomenal standard, and there are few people in the church today who are willing to say that they place their whole life on the altar.

God was not satisfied with that sacrifice, He tested it by fire. Friends, it is precious when God sends His fire among the people who have put their lives on the altar. God was merciful when He sent His fire on the altar, he came down and met His children at Maphumulo. It is our desire, that our lives should not only be on the altar but that we would experience the fire of God too. Let that fire test. Why? Is it not enough that I have put my life on the altar? Why this fire as well? Do you know why? Our lives can be on the altar and gradually we begin to serve God in a carnal way. Yes, my life is on the altar, I am working for the kingdom of God, but gradually self comes into the whole thing and I begin to serve God in my way, in the way that I want to serve Him. Serving God in your way can make a lot of sense and be very logical. You have good reasons why you do things the way in which you do them. It would be easy to give God the reasons why you are serving Him the way you are doing it. Gradually, self creeps in. A carnal way creeps in. I want to serve God in a carnal way. Which is why I cannot get along with another brother who is also serving God, whose life is also on the altar, because we are both doing it in a carnal way. This is the curse of carnality that infests the church and the people who say their lives are on the altar. Therefore, God descends with His fire to burn the chaff and destroy the self - everything you were proud of - He destroys when He comes with His fire.

There were people there, in Elijah’s time, when the fire came down. People can also be here where God’s fire has come down, but they have not allowed the fire to purge them as it should. The fire devours everything whether it is a small thing or a big log in my life such murder, cheating or adultery. The fire devours big and small sins. Have you allowed the fire to burn in your life? Otherwise, you will come to the mission, experience the fire, say that you have been here, say that it was wonderful, leave and do your own thing in your own way.

13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 1 Corinthians 3:13

What is God’s goal when He sends down the fire? He wants to deal with a lukewarm life. He may want to deal with ambition – your ambitions. When you have been converted and turn to the Lord, it is like a playing field. God allows each person to develop his personality and his character while playing on this field that God has prepared for us Christians. You can use the opportunity to develop your talents and learn certain skills. It is a big playing field – you are a Christian and God needs you. He allows you to decide how you will play on this field. This is the danger. Gradually I begin building my own vision of how I would like my life to be and what I would like to do as a Christian and how I would like to serve God. Unless we allow that fire to burn everything of the self - my ideals, my dreams, my talents, I will become lukewarm even while playing on God’s field. Friend, are you not busy doing that? Yes, you are playing on God’s field. Yes, you are converted, but are you allowing the fire of God in your life daily? If the fire burns in your life it will give you a different mindset, a different attitude, a different way of looking at life. Different things will make you happy which would not have naturally made you happy. Different things will break your heart which would not have normally broken your heart, because you are one with the heart of God. You are being saved from the mindset of the world.

You will be surprised at the extent to which the internet determines the mindset with which some Christians serve God, however, when God’s fire burns, He saves you from the mindset of the internet, its atmosphere, and trends. He gives you a hatred for social media - which is full of immorality and lies upon lies. Do you still want to spend your time reading all the lies and anti-God things there?

But what is the goal of the fire? To find revival in your soul. If you submit to God’s fire in your life you will experience the fulness of the Spirit - that overflowing, abundant life which God’s spirit gives us.

When the priests of Baal tried to get Baal to act, they cut themselves with swords until they bled. You will never meet God with this attitude of trying to pay for your sins. If you find yourself in a deep hole because of your sins or if your sins are like a mountain, do not fall for the devil’s lie that says: ‘Sacrifice your own life. Take your own life, pay for this mess you are in and get out of this life.’ There are people, who, once they are faced with their sins when God’s fire comes down, or who grew up in a place where God’s fire is burning, for whom the temptation exists to consider that the only way out is to sacrifice themselves. That is the method of the priests of Baal. If God’s fire has the right effect on you, your sins will drive you to the cross in desperation.

The fire burns the stubble. In the Old Testament there was a man who was a mighty hunter, a man with talents, a man who was the first-born, ready to receive the blessing from his father, but he lived for himself. His name was Esau. He got together a mighty army which Jacob feared when he had to face him. Esau followed his own heart. He married heathen women and enjoyed life. When the fire came down, Esau’s whole life was found to be stubble and God said, 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:13

Whether you have a long life and reach an old age, whether you are a famous music star who is adored by all, whether you do humanitarian work and save many from suffering, your life is just stubble. It is a useless life for God. A useless life for God is sufficient to justify God condemning you to hell for eternity. You can be a popular hero but if your life is useless for God, it is stubble and God is justified in throwing you into hell one day.

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ shall last. Only one life, friends, it will soon be passed. In the blink of an eye, your life will be behind you and only what is done for Christ shall last in eternity.

These words came from a man of God, CT Studd. He wrote a poem which I would like to read to you.

ONLY ONE LIFE

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;

(It did not want to leave his mind. When the fire of God burns into your heart, you cannot lose what God shows you.)

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;

(Do you know who causes most problems in God’s work? People who have not left their selfish ways.)

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

(Even if your life is on the altar and you are committed to God, you will meet up with burdens, hopes and fears every year.)

Each with its days I must fulfill,
(Each year, each day is a new lump of clay from which you can shape what God wants you to shape.)

living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life; (Every day, just ordinary days I have clay from God which I must shape into a vessel for His honour.)

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh, let my love with fervour burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Only one life, ’twill will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And when I’m dying how happy I’ll be
If the lamp of my life has been burnt out for Thee.
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say ’twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

C.T. Studd

What happens if God’s fire burns in my life? He speaks to me about my brash mouth with which I so easily make comments - without thinking and which hurt others. He speaks to me about my anxiety and fears that can drive me to greater sins like drugs and alcohol. It saves me from being impulsive, when I just do things without thinking and do the wrong things. (Such people, after they have done something impulsively and it was a mistake, will point at others.) Has the fire of God dealt with curiosity in your life? That curiosity which makes you so eager to listen to gossip and hear what is said about so-and-so. The fire of God will expose whether I am living for myself or for others.

Can I carry the weaknesses of the weak brother? Do not tell me how weak the brother is, do not tell me how bad he is - but can God use you to help him carry his weaknesses? Do you just point out his weaknesses? Wife, you point out the weaknesses of your husband. Husband, you point out the weaknesses of your wife, but God wants you to cover those weaknesses and help that person carry them. If he has the weakness of anger, can you remain calm when the brother loses his temper? If the brother has a problem with pride, can you remain humble when he uplifts himself over you, and you do not stand up and show off your awards while he is showing off his? If he looks at circumstances, panics and goes into sin, can you keep looking at God and pointing to God and thereby help him to take his eyes off his circumstances? If he looks down on you and despises you, do you then react by looking down on him too and think more of yourself than what you think of him? When he stumbles and sins can you still stay close to God? Do you stay victorious over sin while under those circumstances? These are just a few things that God brings to the surface if we allow His fire to burn in our souls. Do you realise that you are actually on earth for your brother’s sake, for the one whom you despise? Of course, you are here in the first place for God’s sake, but do you realise that God has called you for the sake of that big, weak brother? That is the reason why God has kept you on earth, for the one who keeps spoiling your sport, the stick in the mud (a stick in the mud is hidden and when you step on it, it hurts), the brother who keeps troubling you more and more at a time when you can least afford to carry other burdens. Do you realise that it is for him or her that you have been created? God wants you to carry that person’s weaknesses and bring him or her closer to God.

Paul teaches us that we have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters. Were you continually doing that during the COVID-19 epidemic? Those who fear the Lord, who allow the fire to purify them become like the burning bush that Moses saw. The fire does not consume us but just burns higher.

Elijah is known as the prophet of fire. He was a man of God who experienced miracles but listen to what this man of God says in the text.

But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4

Can you believe that this is the same man who stood on the mountain and called down fire from heaven? The man who told Ahab that there was a small cloud in the sky, but that the rain was coming and that he should rush home quickly. The Bible did say that Elijah ran for his life because he feared Jezebel would kill him. Never be surprised if evil seems to increase when God shows Himself to be omnipotent in the fire that He sends from heaven.

After the events on the mountain, I would have expected at least 50 sons of the prophets or other people who wanted to be like Elijah, to join him, flee with him, stay with him, to learn from him how God works.

Can you believe it? After that omnipotent sign of God’s power, this man was all alone, there was not a single person with him. What had happened to everybody? They listened to Elijah when he commanded them to kill the priests of Baal. They obeyed him. They witnessed the fire coming down. One would have thought there would be a throng of people with Elijah after that showdown between the power of God and the lies of Baal. Not even one came with him. He was all alone. He had not backslidden or fallen into the world. He had not fallen into sin. It’s not that he was no longer faithful to God. He was still exactly the same man. He was still as faithful and loyal to God. But nobody wanted to follow him.

Friends, the people may have feared Jezebel more than God. Be careful. If God’s fire comes down, people fear the threats of Satan and the enemies of God and abandon God’s people. This is shocking. You may have experienced the fire of God coming down, yet only days later, you are so intimidated by Satan and Satan’s people, that you shy away from standing for God and the truth to such an extent that God’s revelation is out of your heart and mind, and you may turn around and flee.

It was so bad that Elijah said, ‘I am the only one left. Take my life. I cannot carry on.’ But God had another story. He said, ‘Elijah, wake up and eat. This is not the end.’ He slept again. ‘Elijah, wake up and eat because I still have a long way for you to go. It is not the end as you think.’

How is it possible that people turned their backs on Elijah like that? I want to give you the answer with two texts from the Bible.

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12 – 13

10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false… 2 Thessalonians 2:10 – 11

Be very careful when you hear the truth and are experiencing the fire of God, because if you refuse to love the truth and to be saved, God will hand you over to a strong delusion - a powerful force - a delusion that deceives you.

Elijah thought it was the end, but God gave him something to eat and told him that there was still a long way to go. Elijah ended in a cave, still in his hopelessness and there, God asked him, ‘What are you doing here?’ Elijah has the same story:

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.  1 Kings 19:9–16

God sent a storm and an earthquake, but He was not in either of them. Then there was a silence and Elijah covered his face because he knew that this was God. God told him that he was not going to work in a powerful descent of fire but in a quiet way that others would not understand. He was going to use certain political processes. He told Elijah to anoint Hazael as king of the Syrians and he would exercise God’s punishment on Israel. He told Elijah to anoint Elisha in his place and Jehu as king over Israel.

17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 1 Kings 19:17 This was a totally different way, a quiet way in which God used this man for possibly the most important part of his ministry.

Do not be offended by God’s fire. Allow God’s fire to do the work for which He sent it. Do not say it is too much, it is too pure, I would rather take my life. Let it convict you so that you feel guilty about the evil He shows you and you feel like a man with a death sentence on your life. Do not cut yourself like the prophets of Baal, but run to the cross of Christ with your evil and bring it to the light. Expose the evil you have been doing, thinking and dreaming. Once you have exposed and confessed your evil, you will hear that still voice that finally spoke to Elijah offering you forgiveness in the name of Christ and His sacrifice. Do you know what will happen then? The fire of God will burn in your life and heart and wherever you go you will experience the fire of God.