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Devotionals

Are You Sure You Want to Call Down Holy Fire Upon Yourself?

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John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. - Luke 3: 16 (ESV)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. - Acts 2: 1-4 (ESV)

The traditions within the Pentecostal church, built up over the past 100 years, are so often confusing or simply inaccurate when lined up with Scripture. We take the temporary gifts of the Spirit and pretend people hold offices in them. Somewhere in the course of the 20th century we confused and intermingled our private prayer language into our public display of tongues. Prophecy, which Scripture clearly indicates is instructing and comforting with the Word of God has been mutated into worldly clairvoyance and parlor tricks to amuse the masses. Anyone with a business card and a faux-cross background can call themselves an Apostle now. New age mysticism and cultic practices from Kundalini yoga have infiltrated the sanctuary as much as contemplative prayer and transcendental meditation have corrupted our prayer practices. We are more zealous to chase men for a "spoken word over our lives" instead of pursuing God through His Word. 

Along with these changes, our language has changed. Our vernacular. The way we discuss our faith and beliefs. It shows up in the drastic alteration of worship. Once upon a time our worship was How Great Thou Art but today it is How Great You Think We Are. In yesteryear we sang about Calvary, the cross, and all God had done for us but today it is all about our blessings, our birthright, and what God owes us. Mixed into these songs of petulance is the shift in the past few decades to a mysticism style that is more akin to the chanting mantras found in Hinduism than to anything that remotely resembles the God of Christianity. Don't belive me? Watch any Jesus Culture concert. Nearly every song lasts 15 minutes yet only has two stanzas. The hook is repeated as a mantra, over and over again as the music becomes a monotonous driving beat in your ears. It is indoctrination more than worship. Even built into the lyrics are clear indications that the people writing and singing do not understand Scripture. One popular Jesus Culture song asks God to flood our hearts with holy fire. Sometimes the Spirit of God will literally stop me in the middle of a song because it is simply not glorifying God. Flood our hearts with holy fire? Do we truly understand what we say to God sometimes? 

I know that "holy fire" is a popular phenomena within Charismatic circles. I have heard preachers pray for it. I have watched choirs sing for it. I have seen misguided dance ministries dance for it. Remember, it doesn't matter if "everyone is doing it." The only thing that matters is if it is Biblical and if it is not, what we are actually asking for. I remember my pastor once asking us if we knew what we were asking for when we prayed for God to test us. The truth is we did not. I read a quote once from John MacArthur who explained that he bans certain types of songs from his church. One is the "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs, which is very wise. The second however were songs that he didn't think people were serious about the lyrics. The example he gave was the song that had the lyric "brokenness is what I long for." McArthur correctly surmised that while some might be ready to be broken before the Lord - most would be asking for something they were not ready for and were not serious about. When I look at the seemingly overwhelming desire for "holy fire" - I feel the same way. People simply do not understand what they are asking of God. 

Do you know how many times the term holy fire appears in the Bible? Zero. That's right. We sing and dance and chant and pray for something God never mentions. That means that we interpreted somewhere this concept of holy fire as something we should pursue. Most Pentecostals will agree that they say holy fire as being some kind of passion for the things of God. A renewed zealotry for God. Mostly this is conflating a human understanding of a linguistic colloquialism - "being on fire" - with Scripture. The problem is that Scripture must rule over our human languages - not the other way around. Words have meanings; even for God. 

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. - 1Corinthians 3: 13 (NIV)

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