Archive for July 7th, 2008

Spreading flames

Monday, July 7th, 2008

 Everywhere around us we see symbols, types, and illustrations of spiritual truths. It seems that the greatest truths are reflected in myriad ways in nature itself.

My wife sometimes tells me that I think too much. But, when I see something that abstracts a complex concept or illustrates a profound spiritual truth, I just can’t help but marvel over it and point it out.

On Saturday we drove up to the church to pick up some Sunday School materials. Since it was a beautiful day, I drove the long way home, going down Middle Road from Kingfield and over the dirt roads in New Portland, looking at the beautiful old farmhouses that dot those roads.

I meant to cross the Carrabassett River at the Wire Bridge in New Portland, but when we got to the bridge it was closed for repairs, so I turned around and crossed a little further south and headed toward West New Portland. But, when we got to the village, there was a fire truck blocking the road and traffic was re-routed around the village.

We wondered what was going on (being nosy, small-town Mainers), so after church today I swung down to West New Portland to see what all of the excitement was about. It was amazing to see one house completely gutted by fire. To the left was another house that was partially burned. You could see where the fire jumped from the first house to this one. And, out back there was a barn with a scorched, charred front.

The fire had originated in one house, but because of the intensity of the heat, it spread to a neighboring home and almost spread to the barn, too.

What an apt picture of the true working of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. When we’ve got the real thing, we don’t have to force it on people. We don’t have to come up with clever programs to promote it. It will naturally spread to our neighbors, because that’s simply what it does by nature.

Now, when you’ve got the artificial stuff, when you are trying to manufacture a move by the Holy Spirit, then you’ve got to work to “spread” your “spirit” to other people. Then, you need to tickle dead ears and entertain cold hearts to get folks into the “spirit.”

When you’ve got the “real thing,” the people around you will naturally catch it. They can’t help but be influenced (scorched) by the Spirit that is working in you, and it’s the most natural thing in the world for them to catch it themselves. You don’t need to entertain them. You don’t need to ply them with guilt. You don’t need to use crowd psychology to manipulate them. The “fire” itself does all the work.

He always does all the work. If we find ourselves working too hard to manufacture the outward signs of the moving of the Spirit, then we need to take a time-out for self-examination to see if we’ve got the real thing.

He did all the work for our Salvation, right? We can try to save ourselves, to be good enough to earn a place in Heaven, but it’s not going to work.

So it is with day-to-day life. The power to live a Spirit-filled, God-honoring, obedient life does not come from our own will, our own strength, or our own self-discipline. The power always comes from God. We are incapable of living a life pleasing to Him within our own power.

Why did the 24 elders in Revelation chapter four cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet? Because they knew that they did not earn the crowns. We may be given crowns and rewards for what “we” do while here on earth, but in the end we should cast them all at Jesus feet because everything we ever do that matters in any way for eternity – every good work, every accomplishment, every gain – will be done through His power, not ours.

What a great life! He does all the work, then He turns around and rewards us for letting Him use us to do the work. God is so good!

Let’s don’t force the Spirit on others (as if we could). Let’s don’t be artificial. Let’s don’t manufacture the symptoms of the power of the Holy Spirit in the absence of His real power. Instead, let’s prepare our vessel for His use then pray and serve until He sends upon us His real, authentic power. When we have the real thing in our life, when we are being consumed by the Spirit, the people around us will catch it.

Like fire, the most natural thing for the Spirit to do is to spread.