How to Welcome the Presence of God
God’s Apocalyptic Moments #6
Apocalypse #6 -How to Welcome the Fire of God
Why is fire fascinating?
Why do we sit around a campfire or fireplace for hours simply watching wood burn?
Why are we drawn to people described as being “on fire” for something?
Why did Moses walk up to the burning bush that day? Fire was part of his everyday life. It wasn’t a unique entertainment like it is for us. In desert areas, plant life will also sometimes spontaneously burst into flames. As a shepherd, Moses knew about desert fires and their danger for sheep. Why didn’t he steer clear of this one? What made him risk the safety of his sheep to get a closer look?
Exodus 3:1-3 tells us why.
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
The bush amazed Moses. He needed to see it up close. I wonder, if the fire of God burned in me like that, would lost people come closer like Moses? That little bush hosted God’s presence temporarily yet Moses couldn’t take his eyes off it. As a child of God, and a temple of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t there be a fire in me that attracts people? Do people see God in me?
This apocalyptic moment for Moses shook him out of an ordinary shepherd’s life into the role of extraordinary leader. The presence of God landed on this one bush so that Moses could see a glimpse of who was calling him to lead the Israelites. It wasn’t enough for Moses to hear God’s voice. God wanted his servant to encounter a physical symbol of his Creator’s power and presence.
This heaven come to earth moment was the forerunner of God’s fiery presence that also appeared to the Israelites on their freedom journey. God manifested as a pillar of fire in the wilderness. The fire fell again on Mount Sanai when God gave his commandments to Moses.
After the Israelites constructed their mobile worship center, the Tabernacle, God commanded the priests, in Leviticus 6, to keep a flame burning on an altar always, always, always. The flame represented God’s presence with his people. When Solomon finally built a permanent temple in Jerusalem, the flame of God’s presence burned there.
Centuries later, God’s presence manifested in “what seemed to be tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) that landed on all of Jesus’ disciples waiting in the Upper Room at Pentecost. They all began to speak in the various languages of all the Jews from around the world who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holy day. This caused thousands of those Jews to gather around the disciples right there outside the room. 3,000 people became followers of Christ that day.
The fire of God, from Moses’ bush through Pentecost, burns like no other fire on earth. It transforms people. Moses transitioned from an exiled shepherd to the leader of a nation. The Israelites changed from lowly slaves to people that destroyed the economy of the Egyptian empire and slaughtered giants to establish themselves in their own land.
The fire took confused, brokenhearted disciples of Christ and made them into fearless witnesses that spread the good news about Jesus around the known world of that time.
Moses needed to encounter the fire of God to fulfill his destiny.
So did the Israelites.
Even though the disciples spent three years watching how Jesus shared the good news of God’s kingdom, they needed the fresh fire of God and his Holy Spirit inside them to do it themselves.
As new covenant believers, the presence of God by his Holy Spirit lives inside of us. (1 Corinthians 6:19) In the past, God’s fire, the symbol of his presence, came and went as God moved upon people and places. Now, as his mobile temples, we are the firekeepers for his presence 24/7. If this is true, then why isn’t every Christian ablaze with the fire of God?
I think the answer is simple. To what are we feeding the most fuel? God’s presence in us, or the things of this world and our old sinful nature? What can we do to stoke the fires of His presence so that we burn like Moses’ bush and Jesus’ disciples? Here’s a few ideas from my own experiences and understanding of scripture.
- Position yourself as close to God as you can through his Word and prayer. I know that’s basic, but that’s what Moses did. He came right up to God’s burning presence in that bush. You want to be transformed so you can be a tool to transform those around you? Cherish your quiet times with God more than your Netflix binge, hobbies, friends, family, work and even your church. When nothing is more important than your relationship with him, things start to happen.
- Make repentance a lifestyle. Some of us might be living under judgement because we are making room for pet sins in our lives. “How is counting people, a bad thing,” King David thought. 1 Chronicles 21 tells us that was a Satanic idea. It meant that David was relying on the strength of his army instead of the strength of his God. The fire didn’t burn brightly for David again until he built an altar and confessed his sins. In fact, 70,000 Israelite men died of some disease that God allowed to come onto Israel until David repented.
- Daily lay your flesh and your agenda at the feet of Jesus cross. (Romans 12:1) God loves authentic sacrifice and will send fresh fire to you in response to your attitude just as he did for others. (Leviticus 9:24, I Kings 18:38)
- Expect that when God’s presence ignites in you in a fresh way, some things are going to burn up. Anything of this world that doesn’t align with God’s presence won’t survive. I don’t say this lightly. It’s a hard and painful thing. You might lose friends who think you’ve gotten weird. You may find yourself giving up hobbies that aren’t bad in and of themselves but were taking time away from better things God has for you. I don’t know what God will burn when you stoke his fire in you, but I know some things will.
Jesus is coming soon. Let the fire fall and ignite us before then.