Baptized with Fire!
Charles Naylor, 1920
John the Baptist said, when speaking of the work of the coming Messiah, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The symbolic tongues of fire which sat on the believers on the day of Pentecost represented a very real something which from henceforth would be manifested in their lives.
It is not my purpose here to enter into an explanation of the Baptist's words. I wish to speak only of the fervency which fire represents as it should characterize our lives. The life that has in it no fervency, has little or nothing of God. The soul that is vigorous in God, is a soul full of power. We need to be "on fire" for God, and there are three ways in which this fervency should manifest itself.
A Burning Love.
We need a fervent love. It is the foundation, as it were, of all Christian fervency. If our love lacks fervency, it lacks the vital element that makes it effective. If our love for God is kindled into a burning passion, it will put him before all else. His will and desire will be the delight of our hearts. His service will be no task, to sacrifice for him will be easy, and to obey him will be our pleasure. It will make our consciences tender toward him. What he loves — we shall love; and whom he loves — we shall love.
If our love is fervent, we shall love Scriptural truth, and we shall love it as it is worthy to be loved — above our own opinions or ideas and more than the teachings of men. We will not sacrifice it or deny it for ease or comfort or to please others. We shall strive to make our lives conform to it. We shall labor with all our strength to spread it over the world. If we love the truth, we shall be missionaries whether we are at home or abroad. Love begets labor.
A fervent love of the brethren glows in the heart that is full of God. It will burn up criticism and backbiting. It will burn up division and strife. It will destroy jealousy and envy. It will make peace in the home, in the church, and in the individual heart. A thousand troubles come when love grows cold — the eyes see no more as they once saw, the ears hear no more as before, the tongue talks differently, and the heart feels differently — the glow dies out of the eyes, the tenderness leaves the touch, sympathy wanes in the heart, and there is ashes for beauty, and heaviness instead of praise. When the first love is left, when the divine fire is quenched — out of the life has gone its richness, its transfiguring beauty; and what is left?
O brother, sister — keep the red glow of fervency in your love. If you have lost it, rest not until it is rekindled. Love makes us strong to do and to bear. John Knox said to God, "Give me Scotland or I die!" That was love that shook a kingdom. Paul counted not his life dear to him. That was love that overthrew the idols of the heathen. God "so loved the world," and a new era dawned, bringing light and salvation. If we have such love, it will work out in effectual action. A church fervent in love, is a church reaching out and winning others. It is a church with an all-absorbing passion for the lost. Let us ask ourselves today, "Have I a fervent love? Or am I cold, and has my love lost its strength?"
A Burning Zeal.
A man or a church without zeal, is of necessity ineffective. What is the temperature of your zeal? Does it let you go for months without speaking to a man about his soul's salvation? Does it permit you to rest easy while others are toiling, praying, and sacrificing? About how much time on an average do you spend each day praying for souls, or for the progress of the kingdom of God in the earth? About how often do you pray definitely for some of your neighbors, your friends, or business associates? About how long has it been since you shared the gospel of Christ? When did you pray with someone for his spiritual needs? When did you speak encouraging words? When did you give someone a gospel tract? When did you write a letter filled with spiritual advice or help? How much sacrifice are you making for the cause? How much time, labor, or money have you expended for the kingdom in the past year? Is your zeal dead — or is it in fervent activity? How much does the salvation of others mean to you?
Behold the zeal of the advocates of some of the false movements of these days! See how they pour out their money like water. See how they never can be satisfied unless they are laboring for their movement. Are we as zealous as they? If not, why not? If we have the truth and know that we have it — then should not that be enough to fire our zeal until it would not let us rest while there are others in spiritual darkness? Almost in sight of you, or perhaps within a stone's throw — are people who do not know the truth. If you do no more than you have done the past year — may they not live and die there and never know it?
Zeal does not ask for excuses. Zeal is never satisfied until it has gone full length in labor. When one man was asked what was the secret of the marvelous success of the early church in its fight against heathenism, he replied with just one word, "Zeal!" The same sort of zeal will produce results today. Zeal must, of course, be enlightened. It can succeed only when guided by wisdom. Blind zeal is like a blind horse — it is likely to run in any direction regardless of results. So be wise when you are zealous. If you are truly wise with that wisdom "which comes down from above," you will also be zealous.
A Fervent Hatred.
A good Christian is a good hater. "You who love the Lord — hate evil." This is an age of toleration. Almost any false doctrine may be preached — while many of the religious teachers of so-called orthodoxy, plod on their way indifferently. Error thrives, a multitude of souls are deceived, but many seem but little concerned. Evil raises its head everywhere and sneers at the Christian people. Dens of vice, gambling-houses, lewd picture-shows, and a hundred other forms of evil are tolerated and even looked upon as "necessary evils" by religious professors. But he who really loves God — just as truly hates all evil. He so hates it in himself, that he will give it no place in his heart or life. He hates it in others. He sees no pleasant thing in it. To him it is foul, vile, and revolting! Sin is his enemy — and he is its bitter foe. The measure of his love for good, is the measure of his hatred for evil. We cannot love the good, more than we hate the evil. The two exactly balance in our lives.
A burning love, a burning zeal, and a burning hatred — will make your life as a beacon-light to the world. If you would be a true example of what God means men to be — you must have this fervency in your life. It alone can keep you from coldness. It alone can make you a prosperous, victorious Christian!