Pay Attention to the Flame

Upon return from a business trip early Monday morning, an entrepreneur found his 22-year-old daughter lifeless in the gas-filled kitchen. Sadly, resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The young woman apparently had not noticed that the boiling water had extinguished the gas flame. The resultant escaping gas put her to sleep. It appeared she had still tried to open the kitchen door but collapsed on the way.”

This terse newspaper account relates a not-so-common accident that tragically claimed a blossoming human life. It was indeed a tragic end for this young woman. Our hearts ache for the poor father and empathize with the horror that overcame him when he found his daughter so abruptly taken from this life. Yes, how quickly and unexpectedly death often comes!

Dear reader, in this case, it was only a little water that extinguished the flame and cost a human life. An immortal soul went from time into eternity. Water is hostile to fire. It is the same with sin. It was only one sin that extinguished man’s relationship with God, the intimate walk with the loving Father, the Creator of heaven and earth. Oh, how terribly sad!

Sin, no matter what form, is a foreign, even hostile, element to life with God and spiritual conviction. It results in spiritual death. And if a person is not saved from sin, it results in eternal death (Romans 8:5-7).

Humans were created to love. The most important commandments God gave to mankind are about love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). 

The priest in the Old Testament was allowed to offer his incense only with the fire that came from the altar of God. In the same manner, God can be loved only with the love poured into the heart (Romans 5:5) as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Spirit of God is a fire. Fire warms and enlightens. The flame of love also warms and enlightens all who come in contact with it. It ignites in such a way as to cause hearts to burn. But the element called sin, this impurity, is nothing other than selfishness, which manifests itself in many ways in people’s lives. When it enters the heart, it extinguishes the wonderful flame of God.

In his explanation of the first commandment, Luther writes that we should fear God “above all things,” love Him “above all things,” and trust “Him alone.” The person who is not born again cannot fulfill this commandment. Even if he knows that it should be so, and even if he makes the attempt, he will soon find that he cannot succeed. He must exclaim: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) Without God’s fire in the heart, no one will succeed. Test yourself, my friend, whether this fire from the altar of God burns within you!

The Lord is not unjust. He has no expectation that you cannot meet. He tells us in His Word, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Please notice that the Lord wants to do this! “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT). He gives His Spirit, the fire from the altar of God, and makes you a new person.

What kind of people have the Spirit of God in their hearts, walk in His commandments, keep His statutes, and act according to them? They are those who, “by his divine power, God has given… everything [they] need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). Dear reader, have you had this experience? If so, then you must watch the flame, lest some of that foreign element extinguishes it. Be on your guard and continue tending the fire! The Lord Jesus speaks of the signs happening before His return: “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another…And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12). Injustice cannot have fellowship with love. It is a foreign element and extinguishes the flame.

The apostle Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:5, speaks of certain individuals who have the appearance of godliness but deny its power. The fact that religious appearances are maintained clearly indicates these are people who have not intentionally turned their backs on religion. Perhaps they had a spiritual experience at some point. However, because they were not sufficiently watchful, part of that foreign element entered their heart and smothered the flame before they realized it. Although they still have the name that they are alive, they are spiritually dead (Revelation 3:1).

Just as in the case where the young woman died, only a little water was required to extinguish the flame. In the same manner, only a little greed, a little “self-importance,” a little inordinate ambition, a little gossip, hatred, envy, pride, unkindness, or the like, is sufficient to drive the Spirit of God out of the heart and extinguish the flame. This often happens quite unnoticed. Pay attention to the flame lest it be extinguished!

W. Berle

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