Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
This is not common sermon material these days! However, this was the sort of passage that fueled the revival known as The Great Awakening, that prepared the North American colonists for the Revolutionary War. Very few people seem to have any real fear of the Lord, and the very idea of hell is laughed off as mythology. An awful lot of people are in for a truly devastating shock! Reading all of this, it would not be unreasonable to despair and give up, but verse 28 is actually encouraging. The NIV says, “let us worship…” but the Japanese says, “we are able to serve….” We can’t really serve God acceptably on our own, in human wisdom and strength, because they aren’t up to the task. However, God never tells us to do anything that He doesn’t enable us to do. That little nugget of truth really makes the difference between night and day, when we grasp it fully. Without it, there’s nothing attractive about the fear of the Lord. With it, there is hope and joy coming from the assurance that, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) As we see the world falling apart around us, we need to remember that, as it says here, “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Human systems are all temporary, and their dissolution can bring lots of distress, but those who are in Christ have nothing to worry about. That said, we aren’t to abandon life in the here and now, because the fact that we are here means that God has work for us to do. Serving Him is indeed the source of genuine accomplishment, because anything that isn’t serving Him is a mirage and a lie.
I could go on and on about this, obviously, because I have tasted it in my own life. I have nearly been destroyed by pride, thinking I could do things on my own, and I have been washed over by waves of God’s amazing grace. God is indeed “a consuming fire,” but in my experience He is a remarkably selective, and even gentle, fire. He burns up only what is not of Him, and so purifies and perfects even as He burns. Raging against the fire is exactly the wrong response. As John the Baptist said, Jesus came to “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11) Jesus’ baptisms are blessings, whatever they feel like in the process. I have been through a lot in the past 73 years, and I don’t know what I have yet to go through, but I have full confidence that my Lord will enable me to get through it all, and that He has indescribable joy and glory waiting for me on the other side.
Father, I didn’t expect this this morning! Thank You. Recently I have been very aware of Your grace and blessings, and I am grateful not only for them but for the awareness of them. Help me indeed walk in gratitude and obedience, depending on You and nothing else – particularly not on myself – so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!