Our God is a Consuming Fire

by | May 25, 2021

This post originally appeared in the Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, and is condensed from Ralph Martin’s talk at the 2021 Lift Jesus Higher Rally. You can view it here.

Fire is a common theme Scripture uses for Jesus and for God. It has many positive features—it brings light and heat and can be a sign of hope and promise that home and safety are near. There also are the tongues of fire at Pentecost—an outward sign of what was happening to their hearts, which were being set on fire.

The Lord also uses fire to purify—to consume what’s blocking our response to Him, to give us pure hearts and to center them around loving God and our neighbor. When Isaiah got the call from the Lord, he felt unworthy. He felt like he was a man of unclean lips, and he was. The Lord sent an angel with a burning, fiery coal to purify him. Jeremiah was given the commission to speak God’s word even though people would pay no attention to him. We have to do that too. We have to speak when the Lord inspires us to, even if we don’t see fruit from it.

In Malachi, the refiner’s fire gets the impurities out of silver and gold. The fire of God’s love in our hearts, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is refining our hearts and our minds, making them pure, and bringing to the surface all that is impure. When St. John of the Cross describes the process of purification, he talks about putting a green log on the fire. It turns black, sputters, and lets off juices and smells, but then at a certain point, the log becomes fire itself, radiating heat and light. John describes that as our process of purification, the removal of what’s keep us from God.

Fire also can judge. Resisting God’s fire puts us in the danger of being separated from Him. One of the most powerful commands in Scripture is, “You must be holy, because I the Lord your God are holy” (1 Pt 1:16). We’ve been created for union with God—and the only way we can achieve this is to undergo the cleansing fire that turns us into love as it burns within our soul.

Resisting the purifying fire defeats the whole purpose of our creation. It rejects the whole reason why we’re alive today—to continue the process of growth, transformation, healing, and deliverance.

We can’t get into the kingdom by proudly marching in. Unless we’re willing to humble ourselves, admit our sin, and repent, we will not enter the God’s kingdom. Jesus says, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Mt 5:30). Get your priorities straight. Do whatever you have to do to get free from serious sin.

Listen to Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . . Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. . . . If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. (Jn 15:1-6)

Even in these last moments with his disciples, Jesus is talking about two kinds of fire. One is love, abiding in the heart of Jesus. Another regards those who at risk of withering—those who don’t abide, don’t draw their strength, don’t pray, and don’t meditate on his Word.

Our theme, Our God is a Consuming Fire, is the last verse of Hebrews 12. I’m going to go through a few things Hebrews 12 tells us:

  1. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1). We should desire to live a life of transparency before the Lord, so that nothing we say or do privately is different than anything we say or do publicly.
  2. We must persevere in running the race (Heb 12:1). Run the race to win. You’ve got to put an effort into it; you don’t drift into the kingdom of God. You’ve got to make some choices. You’ve got to leave some things behind and take up some new things. It’s not enough to get excited about the Lord once a year at a rally. We need that reminder, encouragement, and support, but we also need to be persevering—to not look to repeat certain experiences, but to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, and follow Jesus, love the people in our life, and humble ourselves. How did Jesus do it? For the joy that was set before him He was able to endure the cross (Heb 12:2). In order to endure our crosses, we need to know the joy that’s in our future—the overwhelming love, glory, healing, and communion of love amongst those who are in the kingdom.
  3. We need to pray for others and fast for those who are suffering in so many ways. Like Mary said at Fatima, we must offer sacrifices in reparation for sin and the conversion of sinners. (See Hebrews 12:3.)
  4. When you’re embarrassed, when you fail, or when your sin becomes evident, it’s because God loves you. Your Father’s trying to help you grow up, and that’s why He’s revealing your sin and letting you experience your weakness (Heb 12:5-8).
  5. Be a peacemaker (Heb 12:14). Try to honor people and build unity. It’s not always possible. Some people are opposed to the very foundations of the faith, opposed to Jesus. When Jesus says “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), He is talking in the context of the Father letting his rain fall on the just and the unjust. That’s challenging, but Jesus says, if you love those who love you, the pagans do the same, but pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:46).
  6. Love your enemies (Heb 12:14). Strive for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. One way or the other, we have to become holy. We can’t possibly become holy by ourselves, because only God is holy. But He wants to heal us and bring peace to our disordered desires; He wants to bring us into union with Him, if we will allow it.
  7. Those who pray with people for healing and deliverance say that almost always the biggest obstacles to experiencing the freedom and love of Jesus is bitterness and unforgiveness. Don’t let the bitterness grow up and defile you and others (Heb 12:15). It doesn’t mean that we have to think that what happened wasn’t terrible or that justice shouldn’t be done. But let go of bitterness and unforgiveness, and release them to the judgment and mercy of God. We’ve been held captive if we’ve been nourishing unforgiveness in our heart.
  8. We’re going through a shaking so that what cannot be shaken may remain (Heb 12:27-28). We may become a remnant again, and it looks like that’s the direction we’re going in. But the remnant has always been in God’s plan, heart, and hands. It’s out of the faithful remnant that a renewal and new wave of the Holy Spirit comes.

People ask me, aren’t you discouraged? Not at all. I’m excited. God’s shaking things that need to be shaken so that what’s unshakeable will stand out, will be clear, and people can flock to it who have open hearts and open minds.

About the Author

<a href="https://www.renewalministries.net/author/martinnick/" target="_self">Ralph Martin</a>

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are A Church in Crisis: Pathways ForwardThe Fulfillment of All DesireThe Urgency of the New Evangelization, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and sixteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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