Filled with Fire
Remember during Holy Week watching Peter, who insisted he would die with Jesus, not even stay awake with Jesus during his bitter hour of prayer? Remember listening to Peter, who insisted he’d never disown Jesus, call down curses and swear that he didn’t know the man? Bold, brave Peter became bankrupt Peter, filled only with sinful self-reliance that ended up deceiving him better than the devil could have himself.
Remember that time you read half-heartedly the article about Christian witnessing because you’ve heard it a thousand times before? God gave you an opportunity to share your faith that week and you only mumbled something like, “Mmhhmm, yeah, right.” Remember making yourself the promise that you’d never forsake Jesus again by fleeing into that same old temptation, that there would not be a next time, but there have been many times since? We who are so bold in ourselves have become bankrupt, too.
On Pentecost Day we see Peter again, this time stepping forward to speak. He will be ridiculed, and perhaps marked for death, but Peter doesn’t care. Peter is going to tell everyone about Jesus and nothing will stop him now. Not embarrassment. Not ridicule. Not death itself. Who is this man? How has the one who became so empty because he was full of himself become now so bold in Christ that, even though he isn’t sure of himself anymore, he is certain of God’s promises and power? Where did this burning passion come from, this fiery courage to proclaim Christ?
The answer, of course, has less to do with Peter and more to do with God. Had not Jesus promised a few days earlier, “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:5,8)? On Pentecost God the Holy Spirit was filling Peter and the other believers with fire.
It’s a purifying fire that burns away the garbage of sin in our souls. It’s a fire fueled by the blood of our sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ. It’s a gentle, glowing fire burning quietly in the heart-hearth of a 90-year-old dying woman who still prays dearly and daily for mission work, her church and synod. It’s a roaring fire burning with passion in the life of a new Christian convert discovering the wonders of God for the first time and ready to explain them to anyone who will listen. It’s a warming fire helping a married couple express their Christian love for each other when their relationship is growing cold. It’s a crackling fire that sounds crisp and zesty even when troubles are too overwhelming, and a believer in the midst of a storm proclaims how peaceful it is to be loved by Christ. It’s a fire that fills every believer, young and old, to boldly step forward and speak, to say what needs to be said, to burn with passion for the rescuing of lost souls everywhere and actually do something about it.
It’s a fire kindled by the Holy Spirit in the repentant hearts of believers emptied of self-ride and looking for power beyond ourselves, looking for peace the world cannot give, looking for forgiveness that cannot be earned.
Pastor Martin Spaude
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