Passion and Fire
Passion and Fire
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 9th February 2020
I’m not a huge footy fan. I’ll maybe watch Origin, but that’s it. So it will come as no surprise that I struggle to understand how the nations footy hero’s repeatedly get themselves smashed up week after week… noses cracked out of place, bones broken, hamstrings torn, eyes gashed and bloodied… not to mention simply getting knocked out … limping or being carried from the field on stretchers… they are the true gladiators of the modern world.
And the crowds scream and cheer with zeal… They seem to be the most passionate people on earth. There’s something that rises up in the hearts of supporters that is a sight to behold.
Of course the much more refined tennis supporters are equally as enthusiastic and passionate about their sport, but show a bit more dignity… which is more than I can say for some of the players.
Have I hooked you in yet?
Honestly, where does all that excitement and passion come from? Why do footy players punish themselves over and over every week, and crowds of thousands cheer them on?
Do you know one thing that it speaks to me about? We are all born with huge hearts to be passionate about something!
For those of you who might not be aware, we are endeavouring to support Simon and Allison Rattray as they reach out to various persecuted Christian communities around the world. They are building support networks and building bridges between churches in places like Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Syria and other nations – bringing connecting links to the church in Australia.
Simon was visiting Pastors and Leaders in Sri Lanka a week before terrorist suicide bombings killed around 250 people on the Easter weekend last year…. He knew of some of those who were killed – both directly and indirectly.
You might remember seeing photos in the media of a church splattered with the blood of victims… and blood spots covering the crucifix. Simon had just been there. It really impacted him and was a confirmation that this connection was a God inspired one.
Well Simon is now in the middle of what he calls The Sri Lanka Care Project, that is basically a researched and planned response to the trauma experienced by those affected by the bombings, but also those who still suffer traumatic consequences from the Civil War and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Many have never recovered from that. It’s a nation that is reeling with the effects of persecution, war and disaster.
I want to highlight what Simon and Allison are doing, but I also want to use Simon as an example of a man who not only operates mission projects, but he is a man on a mission…. And he is so passionate about what he is doing, that he is literally sowing his life into people and places where his life is under physical threat. He could end up in prison or dead… but he is zealous for those who are suffering.
He is also learning how these people live under persecution, which is another whole story.
We’ve been talking about issues of the heart since the beginning of this year. The theme has really been about honour – honouring God and honouring one another, but we’ve faced some very real heart issues that rob us of the ability to actually walk in genuine honour.
We’ve talked about familiarity and hard heartedness… and last week we looked at how even in the midst of sorrow and traumatic circumstances, we can still live from a place of deep inner joy. Paul said: 2 Corinthians 6:10 New King James Version (NKJV)
“10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
True joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. Happiness does…. But joy doesn’t, because joy comes from who we are… knowing Who’s we are!
And so, as I use Simon and Allison as very relevant and contemporary examples this morning, I want us to continue to focus on our own personal mission in this world…
I spoke about this last week also. We all have a mission to fulfil. It may or may not involve other nations…. But it definitely involves a response from our own heart to fulfil the purposes and plans that God ordained for us to do before we were even born.
This is why we need to keep our hearts open and as Paul says: Proverbs 4:23 New King James Version (NKJV) “23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
Other versions say guard your heart, because it is the wellspring of life!
We hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about finding your purpose…. Living a purpose filled life. And I agree… But we are talking about the heart this morning. And whereas purpose is more of a head thing… the heart is where the fire comes from; it’s where the passion and zeal come from.
And unless we have passion and fire burning on the inside, nothing much is going to be accomplished on the outside.
Not much happens when we are apathetic and lukewarm. And if we don’t fan the flame within, the natural tendency for the fire is to go out altogether.
Paul exalts us to be:
Romans 12:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
“11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”
Romans 12:11 The Passion Translation (TPT)
“11 Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.”
Now when I read that, I can sense some of you just wanting to curl up in a corner somewhere… and I get it. And this is exactly why I’m bringing this message this morning.
Just like those of us introverts who raise our eyebrows at the blood shedding action on the football field, we also have trouble seeing ourselves as boiling hot; radiating and glowing with excitement.
But this is not about our personalities. This is about our spirit man, our inner man, catching the fire of the Holy Spirit. It’s for everyone!
John the Baptist said:
Matthew 3:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
“11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit [a]and fire.”
You know, we are a church that is grounded in the Word of God. But we look to the Word of God to be brought to life by the Power and the Anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The letter of the law is dead…. But the Anointing gives it life.
I know I’ve brought the story of the two on the Road to Emmaus before, but when it comes to stirring our hearts and setting them on fire, there is no better example of how that happens.
And I won’t read the whole thing for the sake of time.
But we have these two guys walking on the road to Emmaus. They were followers of Jesus. They’d seen and heard about everything that had happened in Jerusalem, with Jesus being crucified – and they were confused and lost in themselves. It didn’t make sense. They’d also heard that the tomb was now empty, and some had seen angels. Others said He was alive.
They are walking along the road talking about it all, wrestling with it, when Someone catches up with them and asks them what they are talking about. Of course, it’s Jesus, but they don’t recognise Him. He’s the last person they would be expecting to see.
So Jesus begins to illuminate the scriptures:
Luke 24:27 New King James Version (NKJV)
“27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He [a]expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
What gets me here is that Jesus spent hours with these guys, explaining the whole thing to them, when He could have been spending time with the eleven disciples, or preaching to thousands… But He ministered revelation and truth and healing to these two.
Don’t ever think Jesus hasn’t got time for you. If you are truly searching for answers, and genuinely wrestling with the truth, He will make time to meet with you personally. Just you and Him.
Luke 24:30-32 New King James Version (NKJV)
“30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
This is our key to passion and fire in our hearts.
It’s spending time with Jesus – just you and Him. He is the Anointed One – and as you read the scriptures with the Anointed presence of Jesus, the words will come to life and the fire will fan into flame.
But notice that it’s as Jesus breaks the bread and blesses it that their eyes are opened. This is why we share communion and break bread together on a Sunday morning… that our eyes would be opened and He would reveal Himself to us.
We are never going to experience the passion and fire if we don’t make Jesus the central focus of everything we do.
When we worship, it has to always be about Jesus. It’s never about us. The more songs we sing about Jesus, about God our Father… the more pure our hearts and our worship will be.
The more we centre our preaching and teaching around Jesus, the more we will understand the power of the gospel and the reality of the Kingdom of God.
It always has to be – less of me and more of Him.
But that’s when passion begins to rise.
This is not my original thought – but it comes from the story of a young missionary I read about. Someone who totally gave himself to serve God, even to the ends of the earth. His name was David Brainerd. He died in 1747, aged 29.
John Wesley even wrote about him and said that his short life was ablaze for the glory of God. Imagine having that as your legacy!
But there is one thing that Brainerd said that stands out to me like a neon light. It’s part of his prayer to God.
He said: “Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to make that my prayer as well. Because in myself I am limited, I am flawed, I am inadequate. But I know that the Holy Spirit is well able to take the little I can offer, which is basically a surrendered heart, and just like He did with the disciples and the first century Christians, He can turn the world upside down.
And imagine if that same prayer was owned by all of us! “Lord, let my life be lived disproportionately to who I am.”
We mightn’t have a spark of passion in and of our natural selves. But God has all the fire we need.
Hebrews 12:29 New King James Version (NKJV)
“29 For our God is a consuming fire.”
Let our prayer also be that we would be consumed with the purity, the holiness, the passion, the burning refinement, the glory of our God, because the bible says also that you are:
Ephesians 3:19 New King James Version (NKJV)
“19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
If one scripture out of the whole bible shouts of overwhelming power and grace, it’s that one.
When we think of the fire of God burning in people’s lives, we would have to acknowledge David – the words of his Psalms explode with passion. What about Peter? He started out pretty rough around the edges, but once he was filled with the Holy Spirit, his words changed dramatically. He became a man who spoke with authority.
Paul of course burned on the inside with a heart aflame for the gospel. The bible is full of these incredible burning flames.
In or own contemporary world, we have had people like Martin Luther King. A man passionate about ending racism and freeing people from its bondage.
Mother Theresa was passionate about ending the suffering of the poor and broken in Calcutta.
Billy Graham lived his life for the gospel, and saw thousands upon thousands saved.
But I want to focus for a moment on one person from the bible that you may not have thought about. And that is Ruth.
She experienced a season of grief, suffering and loss. She lost her husband, her brother in law and her father in law – Naomi’s husband.
Ruth was a Moabite woman. Her husband and mother in law were Israelites – originating from Bethlehem. But they had found themselves in Moab because of a famine in the land.
After the death of the men in their lives, Naomi resigned herself to go back to Bethlehem, to her own family, and although Ruth could have remained with her people, and even remarry, she loved Naomi so much that she decided to leave everything of her old life, and totally submit herself to Naomi.
And you can just about hear the passion and fire in her voice as she says to Naomi:
Ruth 1:16 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 But Ruth said:
“Entreat[a] me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.”
Ruth recognised something profoundly rich about Naomi’s life, even though both women were grieving – and she was committed to staying by Naomi’s side. She refused to be separated from Naomi, from her heritage, from her people, and from her God!
Ruth loved Naomi so much, she was committed to Naomi finding a new life of restoration with her people. She dedicated her life to walking by Naomi’s side.
I know we live in a very different culture now – but is there a message here for us today? Where do we stand as a church – where do we stand as individuals – when it comes to a self denying, open hearted way of living for the blessing and prosperity and care of others? It’s part of our mission – to love others even greater than we love ourselves.
Anyway, Ruth follows her mother in law…. She follows all the rules and rituals of Naomi’s faith. She seeks to honour Naomi’s God – the God is Israel.
It’s a long story, but because of Ruth’s passion for Naomi and her surrender to Naomi’s heritage and faith, they are both blessed beyond measure through Namoi’s relative, Boaz. Not only is Naomi restored in her homeland and her heart is ignited again for life – Ruth also finds blessing and favour as Boaz’s wife.
Ruth ran towards God – even before she really understood Who He was. She saw something beautiful in Naomi, and she knew she needed to stay close to that beauty.
And maybe it’s like that for a few of you here this morning. You’re still not sure about things. You see the life and beauty in others around you. You feel this strong passionate drawing to God, but it’s all so new…. It’s not part of your previous life and culture.
Can I just say – run towards Jesus with your heart wide open. Follow that burning fire on the inside. Jesus has an incredible plan for your healing and restoration. He wants to bless you with a new life.
And for those who have followed your heart and found Jesus already, this is a scripture for you.
John 15:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)
“12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Ruth laid down her life for Naomi. In the end, she became one of the few women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.
Jesus laid down His life for us. His suffering and death is called The Passion.
But what about us? We are called to lay down our lives for one another!
Simon is laying his life down for the persecuted and suffering.
This is the bottom line of what I’m trying to say. Lay down your life passionately! With joy! Let your life be a burning flame – firstly for God – and then for others.
Fan the flame through His Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, through the ever growing revelation of Who He is.
How will you express your passion? What is your mission? Without finding your place to burn in serving God and others, there’ll always be something missing from your Christian experience.
We are all designed to be passionate about something – to give our life to something bigger than ourselves. It’s not a burden – it’s a joy!