The sermon series “Untamed” I’m currently teaching is about the Holy Spirit. Each week we’re taking a look at one of the metaphors Scripture uses to help us understand the work of the Spirit… breath, wind, dove, oil, water, fire, etc.
This week the metaphor was fire.
There’s something in your heart and it’s in your eyes—it’s the fire, inside you. Let it burn. —John Legend and The Roots, The Fire
Of course there is the famous Acts chapter 2 story of the day of Pentecost: believers gathered eagerly expectant, a mighty rushing wind blows through the room, and tongues of fire appear on their heads. It’s a good thing this fire burns but doesn’t destroy, because, well, you know… church hair contains lots of hairspray.
And then there is the story of Moses in the wilderness doing the humble work of tending sheep for his father-in-law. He’s gone from being a big somebody to a nobody. The destructive fire of vengeance and violence once burned in him—and Moses killed a man because of it. Moses failed, miserably. He lives in hiding, haunted by memories of what was, what could have been, what should have been.
In this place—the place of lowly obscurity—the Spirit of God appears to Moses as a flame in a bush: a desert shrub blazing with fire but not being destroyed. And what does the Spirit say to Moses? I’m paraphrasing…
I see the pain of my people. I hear their cries. I know the injustice and oppression they carry. And I have chosen you, Moses, to lead them out. I’ll be with you every step of the way.
Spirit speaks. Igniting a fire. Pure and holy. Passion, drive, vision, a burning desire.
But notice what the Spirit does not say. Spirit does not say, “You owe me Moses. You really embarrassed me back there in Egypt. I mean, shame on you. If you try hard enough, maybe I will recognize you as one of my own again. Be very careful, you don’t want to make me angry… this is your last chance.”
In other words, Spirit does not motivate through fear, control, manipulation, or shame. No, those are fires that destroy. They are not life-giving. They are not holy or pure.
The fire of the Spirit is holy and pure. Spirit ignites our hearts with flames that burn and burn but do not destroy. We are motivated by this pure and holy vision, passion, drive, and desire.
We get to. Want to. Love to.
We don’t do what we do out of fear or shame. We’re not being manipulated or controlled. We aren’t being burnt down.
We are being built up. Spirit breathes on these embers. Our hearts burn within us. We have beheld the beauty of the Lord and we are captivated.
We live in a world full of fear, manipulation, control, rage, and violence. People seem to get ahead by tearing others down. It’s a bloody race to the top. The “successful” have many skeletons buried in the sand, bodies thrown under the bus.
But there is a better and more beautiful way: the way of the Kingdom.
There is a fire that does not destroy. It burns and gives life. This fire warms our cold hearts, it softens and revives us.
As it says in 2 Corinthians 3.6, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” In other words, the law (tit for tat, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for a life) destroys, but Spirit burns inside us with life.
Being a Spirit-filled believer isn’t always easy. I’m often tempted to “motivate” using manipulation. I sometimes want to “lead” through control. I know how “well” fear sells. But I can’t. I cannot and I will not. Why?
Because—something burning inside me.
It’s a pure and holy fire. Burning burning burning, and not destroying. The Spirit who gives life.
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“I have yet to see cynical, negative, fear-filled, angry, vengeance motivated mindsets create life or love for the common good. Faith, hope, and love remain as the only forces capable of long term healing. And the greatest of these… is LOVE.” —Randy Dean