The Consuming Fire Of Love

Read:

Matthew 10:5-33

Reflect:

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:30-31, ESV

Jesus turned the world upside down and was crucified by the religious leaders when he confronted their hypocrisy and idolatry. When we follow Christ and advance the kingdom of heaven here on earth, we will also face opposition and persecution. Jesus did not sugar coat the trials and tribulations of discipleship. He cautioned his disciples to count the cost of following him:

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!”1 

To be a disciple of Christ is to embark on the journey to love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind.2 It is easy to write, teach and preach about discipleship. But to be mastered for discipleship is to fall into the hands of God. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.3 It is to face the reality of being in a spiritual war. It is to let the power of love consume me.  It is to live with one foot in the hell of self-righteousness and one foot in the heaven of total surrender to the Holy Spirit.

To fear not, we need to fear only God as we all have to face the judgment of God. The judgment of God is a refiner’s fire to purify our hearts like gold and silver.4 We need to see the fear of God through the lens of God’s love. God’s fire of love reveals what is deep within our hearts. Trials in life are God’s consuming fire of love to test our faith and prove that it is much more precious to us than gold.5

Shadrach, Meshrach and Abednego were thrown into the fire when they refused to worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. They  were not afraid of King Nebuchadnezzar who can kill the body but not the soul. They were prepared to die in the furnace rather than to worship the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. They chose to be living sacrifices to prove their faith in God’s omnipotent power. And their faith in God shone brightly in the fire of the furnace when King Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth person, who looked like a god, walking with them around in the fire.6 

Shadrach, Meshrach and Abednego chose to worship God who they believed has so much more power than King Nebuchadnezzar. They fear only God, the King of kings who can destroy both soul and body in hell.7 God wants us to worship Him out of love and not out of fear.  Jesus came to show us the power of love – to open our eyes to see God as our Heavenly Father, our Shepherd of Love and our Divine Lover, who cares for us and who will provide and protect us:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” 8

These words came alive to me a year ago when two baby birds fell from their nest in our porch as they were unable to fly.  We found them among our plants in the driveway from their chirping and put them back in the nest. For three days we had to pick them up from our garden and even in the drain outside our house when they kept falling out of the nest. As I was thinking of getting a bird cage to keep them safe I felt led to message my small group to pray for them. To my surprise, one of them was then able to fly soon after and the other, a couple of hours later. 

Jesus encouraged his disciples with the example of God’s care for the sparrows after warning them that the world will hate them and that they may even be betrayed by their family members. The disciples were sent out to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.9 We are called to show the world that the Kingdom of Heaven has come by offering ourselves as living sacrifices in our mundane lives each day.10 

This is the challenge of discipleship –  to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice by following Jesus’ example of kenosis – the “self-emptying” of our own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will.11 As Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us  – “when Christ calls a man,  he bids him come and die.”12  Jesus died and rose from the dead to teach us that it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Henri Nouwen wrote that “dying is the greatest act of love, the act that leads me into the eternal embrace of my God whose love is everlasting.”13  

So to follow Jesus, I need to practice kenosis – letting go of my will so that I can be a channel of God’s will – to be transformed from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Kenosis is to go through the stage of the chrysalis.  When I am not afraid to face death, like Shadrach, Meshrach and Abednego, I will not be afraid to face the consuming fire of God’s love.  When the desire of my heart is to do God’s will and to advance His kingdom, my trials and tribulations becomes the Refiner’s fire to “strangely warm” my heart.

“Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for you Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You my Master
Ready to do Your will”14

Respond:

Lord, may Your fire of Your Love consume all that keep me from Your perfect will.

Reframe:

  1. What does discipleship mean to me?
  2.  What do the tribulations in my life reveal about what is in my heart that needs to be purified by God’s consuming fire of love? 
  3. What does it mean to live as a living sacrifice each day?

Song of Praise

Refiner’s Fire

SDG

Notes:

  1. Luke 14:28, NLT
  2. Matthew 22:37, NLT
  3. Hebrews 10:31, ESV
  4. Malachi 3:2-3, NLT
  5. 1 Peter 1:7, NLT
  6. Daniel 3:1-30, NLT
  7. Matthew 10:28, ESV
  8. Matthew 10:29-31, ESV
  9. Matthew 10:5-18, ESV
  10. Romans 12:1, ESV
  11. Kenosis, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. See also Philippians 2:5-8, NLT
  12.  Deitrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
  13. Henri Nouwen, Nouwen Meditation: Dying Leads to Love, 6 Sept 2022
  14. Refiner’s Fire, Brian Doerksen

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