A Consuming Fire
Galatians 4:8-9 (NKJV)
Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)
Acts 4:28-31 (NKJV)
In Galatians 4:8, Paul reminds the new believers who they are at their core. “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.” He reminded them who they were before they met the creator God. Before they received Christ, they served empty little ‘g’ gods who are not real.
Then beginning in verse 9 he says, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”
Paul is clearly astonished that even while they KNOW the real creator God, they could turn to anything else. However, Paul adds a key element in verse 9 that we cannot skip over. He said to them, “or rather are known by God.”
That phrase changes everything theologically. Everything. We often think we know God. We think we search for God. We think we try to serve God well. Americans are DO-ERS by our cultural nature. We earn respect because of what we DO in our culture. For many of us our roots can be traced back to European-Greek heritage.
We tend to think what we DO for God is a key element. Once we accept God we look for our ‘place’ and we think about what God wants us to DO for Him. That theology was molded in us by the hands of the mid to late 20th Century church theology. WE have to receive Jesus.
I hate to say it, but we short-changed who God is. We thought we found God. We thought we needed to find a way to serve God by means of what we can DO for Him.
Paul was telling the churches in Galatia that they have it backwards. Paul is telling us (me included) that we have it backwards.
The main focus is not that WE found God. The FOCUS is on that one phrase that Paul included in Galatians 4:9, “are known BY God”. That phrase is the BIG DEAL.
We aren’t powerful enough to find God.
We don’t have the capability to KNOW God.
We are not omnipotent.
The words in Matthew 7:21-23 tell us why that is a big important deal. “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
I have not heard this part of scripture often preached in the church. I think that’s because it’s a frightening conundrum. It stops us dead in our tracks. We wonder what Jesus was really saying in this section of scripture in Matthew.
And we wonder what it means to us personally today.
It means there ARE people who do good works and who look like they are believers but spiritually they’ve never heard Jesus knocking at the door of their hearts. They’ve either been so busy DOing or WORKing to look good that they’ve not actually given the Spirit of God permission to come in.
God came calling (and still comes calling) but they are too busy to take time to have a Spiritual connection with GOD.
I feel like I need to say that I would find it hard to believe that anyone who gives up the ‘significant amount of time’ it takes to read about my crazy journey with God is probably not the kind of person who is obsessed with DOING things that will make them LOOK good. I’ve always been a BEING sort. BEING as in, taking time to SIT with God when the Spirit moves. My writing is not intended to be for the light-hearted.
I intend to be bold as God presses in on me to be bold. I believe God calls me to be bold. Yesterday, I sent a prayer request to my four children asking them to pray that my writing would be even MORE bold. My children are all bold. All. Not one of them is a quiet peacemaker. One of my sons sent me this scripture from Acts 4:28-31, saying he prayed “to do whatever Your hand (God’s hand) and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
God not only presses in on me to be bold, He presses me to pray boldness for ALL who read this. (Know that God...our living God answers those prayers 100% of the time.)
The Apostle Paul was the kind of man who was bold even before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was killing Christians because he thought they threatened the Jewish way of life. He was DOing what he thought God wanted him to DO, but on the road that day Jesus knocked at the door of his heart and Paul made the decision to let Jesus IN.
In an instant everything changed.
Paul changed. He instantly went from being a man who thought he was DOing right to a man who was filled with the Spirit of the Living God through Jesus. Suddenly Jesus was IN Paul.
Paul spoke a bold truth to the Galatians in chapter 4 verse 9. He challenged them with truth. He asked them, even when you KNOW that the living God is in you, your actions are weak and you pretend to serve worldly elements. Paul was slapping them with his words. He was outraged and horrified by their behavior. He was calling them out and he demanded answers.
AND as if that wasn’t enough, that was just the beginning of his reprimand. Paul was reminding them of the CHARACTER of God who lived IN them.
This God who created the heavens and the earth IS a consuming FIRE. God’s intent with them (and with us) is that we would let go of the things we have done so we can BE everything God would have us to BE for Him. God wants us to release our past to Him. He wants us to surrender it (let God burn it up) so we can move forward to live victorious IN Him. THAT’S what Paul wanted. He wanted them to know the true character of the God IN them.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Surrender all to God
If you are holding onto something, let it GO. Let God have it so He can burn it up.
In God, Deborah