On fire for Jesus!

The thought of flaming enthusiasm in religion arouses distrust in the
modern mind as in the ancient. Enthusiasm is permitted in any other
pursuit; in religion it is regarded as bad form. Enthusiasts in piety are
either despised as unintelligent zealots, or tolerated as well-meaning
fanatics. Reserve is the rule in religion; and there are established
conventions settling what is proper and “what isn’t done.” And yet, New
Testament Christianity is holy fire, having little in common with the
decorum and ritualism which often beggars the name today.

The essential faith of the Pentecostal Church was a heart on fire with
devotion to God and enthusiasm for His purposes in the world. It was this
flame of sacred love, which distinguished the early Christian and was the
secret of his success. The spread of the Faith in its earliest days, as
Carlyle has shown us, had little or nothing to do with external
organization.-“How did Christianity arise and spread among men? Was it by
institutions, and establishments, and mechanical systems? No! It arose in
the mystic deeps of a man’s soul, and was spread by simple, altogether
natural, and individual efforts. It flew like hallowed fire from heart to
heart till all were purified and illumined by it.”

“Men ablaze are invincible. Hell trembles when men kindle.”

The company gathered in the Upper Room represented the most rigid religion
in the world, and some of them belonged to its straightest sect. They were
strict formalists; and never was formalism so frigid, never so icy as in
the Judaism of their day. Jesus had loosened some of their fetters, but
the prejudices and habits of years are not easily cast off. Then a sound
from heaven like the rush of a gale – the sudden appearance of light, like
tongues of flame and in a moment that company was transfigured by the
sacred fire.

We know the result. Enthused by it, those men and women ultimately turned
their world upside down. My old chief, Samuel Chadwick often said, “Men
ablaze are invincible. Hell trembles when men kindle. The stronghold of
Satan is invincible against everything but fire. The Church is powerless
without the flame of the Holy Ghost. Destitute of fire, nothing else
counts; possessed of fire, nothing else really matters. The one vital need
is fire. Without the flame and fervor of the Holy Ghost, the Church will
never accomplish its mission.”

“I have no further desire except to love Jesus even unto folly.”

In the power of this new enthusiasm, the disciples of Jesus went forth as
burning and shining lights. The spirit of cold obedience was kindled into
a passion for righteousness, and the slavish sense of duty burst into an
eager flame of devotion. An all-pervasive zeal possessed them, a burning
desire for God, and a yearning pity for mankind. Pentecost put passion,
fervor, and abandon into their lives, not rant nor noise, but the white
heat of holy enthusiasm. It made them heroic and absolutely dead to the
opinions of men. It made them willing, even eager, to be counted fools or
fanatics for Christ. It is the transition from formalism to fervor that
marks the miracle of Pentecost in this aspect. ” I have no further
desire,” said the Little Flower of Carmel, ” except to love Jesus even
unto folly.” The Lord of love rejoiced to hear her say it. So few say it.

So many of His servants are cold and faint in their love for Him. Let it
be remembered that truth without enthusiasm, morality without emotion,
ritual without soul, were the things which Christ unsparingly
condemned.-(Rev. 2:1-5). Moral and spiritual passion, are the essence of
the religion of Jesus. “Our Lord delights to see us love-obsessed, carried
away by this master-passion from the conventional to the unconventional,
from ease-loving ways into the regions of peril, into extravagances that
make people question our sanity, as His was questioned, and from tinkering
at mending men to the revolutionary and divine business of saving them.”
Christ prefers us passionate to proper. He wants devotion rather than
decorum. He prefers fanaticism to formalism. He longs to see us ablaze
with a love that must sometimes overpass the lines of conventional

“Our Lord delights to see us love-obsessed.”

The fervor of the apostles did not pass away in mere wasteful tumult; it
was disciplined and used for Love’s purpose in the world. It was ordered,
but not by the conventions of churchmanship. There was a regular
expression along certain lines, but it was never calculated. They might at
any moment infringe the canons or break the conventions, and be carried
away into some unprecedented enterprise or sacrifice for the Beloved. The
only predictable thing about them was that they would keep blazing. This
is the explanation of the intensity of apostolic enterprise. If we are
asked why this fire is lacking from religion today, there is one answer:
We have not the Spirit. Pentecostal
enthusiasm is not of human kindling. It is not a zeal of the flesh. It is
not an inspiration born of human desire. No man on earth has the love,
which Jesus commands -unless it has been imparted to him. It is the gift
of the Spirit. “God is my witness,” said Paul (Phil.1:8), “How I long for
you all with a love that is not mine, but Christ loving in me.” The Holy
Spirit of Love is the fire; He sheds abroad God’s own love in the
surrendered heart. We cannot bring this flaming devotion into our nature
by effort of will or meditation; it is the effectual expression of the
indwelling Spirit; and on the human side, it is conditioned by willingness
to become a love-slave in the cause of redemption.

“Let my name rot if only Christ be honored.”

The human condition frightens us. We are not willing to face the charge of
fanaticism. The love of reputation holds us. What a struggle Wesley had to
shed the cultural superiority and clinging formalism of his churchmanship!
Revivalism would imperil his reputation. There was a painful conflict
before he “consented to become more vile.” It is this process of becoming
vile in the eyes of the world which keeps many from the Baptism of Fire.
It is only as we are willing to lose our reputation at the impulse of
consuming love, that the Spirit is granted, and as that great warrior of
the Spirit, C. T. Studd said, ” A lost reputation is the best degree for
Christ’s service. To raise living churches of souls among the destitute,
to capture men from the devil’s clutches, to snatch them from the jaws of
hell, to enlist and train them for Jesus, to make them into an almighty
army for God-this can only be accomplished by red-hot, unconventional,
unfettered Holy Ghost religion, by reckless sacrifice and heroism in the
foremost trenches. It is the hot, free heart, and not the balanced head,
that knocks the devil out.” A man has not begun to be worthy of the Spirit
until he is able to say with Whitfield, ” Let my name rot if only Christ
be honored.” The abandonment of love in the cause of redemption is the
authentic mark of the Spirit-filled life, but it is costly.

Fenelon’s inquiry is a word we should heed: “What would a king say to the
subject, or a master to the servant, who was afraid of seeming
over-zealous in his service, and was ashamed of being publicly known as
faithful? How much rather will the King of Kings judge us who do the like?
There is but one way of loving God, which knows no bargaining with Him,
but accepts His every inspiration with a free and generous heart . . . He
cannot suffer the cowardly souls which say to themselves ‘Thus far will I
go, but no further’ . . . Woe to the timid, cowardly souls who are divided
between God and the world! They will and they will not; they are torn
asunder both by passion and remorse; they fear both the judgment of God
and that of man; they are frightened of what is evil and ashamed of what
is good.”

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