In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4, Moses recounts the acts of God in bringing the Jewish people forth out of the nation of Egypt, where they were in bondage, and creating them as a nation unto himself. In verse 19, in the context of warning them not to forget what he had done, and some day look at the sun, moon and stars and begin to worship them, he makes the statement about those heavenly orbs as being what God has “divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.”
In other words, everyone who is born gets to share equally in the benefits of the sun, moon and stars. In the next verse, though, he talks about the special nature of God’s people, saying, “But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.” He had brought them out of the fire to be his own. Not only did he bring them out of the fire, but he led them by day with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire. The sunshine was for all men, but the fire was for the relative few he chose from all nations of the earth to be his own (4:7). That way of relating to the people he chooses to be his own continues today.
Sunshine’s general – fire’s specific
In other words, God’s goodness appears to all, but all are not his people. Just because he has smiled on their world and given good things to them to enjoy, does not automatically qualify them as his special possession in the earth. He still calls a people out of the world unto himself, to be his particular inheritance. He loves mankind, and came in flesh to die for all mankind. But that is not enough for all men to be saved. It made a path for them to do so, but didn’t walk the path for them. The calling out doesn’t depend on physical inheritance (the first birth), as in being a direct descendant of Abraham, but on repentance and obedience to the word of God that brings salvation (being born again). Anyone, blood descendant of Abraham or not, can walk the path, but they have to do it the way that was laid out in scripture.
Why so exclusive?
Does God intend for only a few to be saved? His word says, “The Lord is… not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. Again he said, “…I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Ezekiel 33:11. In neither of these scriptures was there an indication that God, who wants all to be saved, was willing to lower his standards to allow anyone into his kingdom without obeying his word. He clearly stated that repentance and turning from wickedness were required.
Does he know that only a few will be saved? When the disciples asked him that direct question in Luke chapter 13, he advised them to “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” (v. 24). Why not? Because they’re not willing to do what it takes to enter.
Ever heard this slogan: “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”? Doesn’t that sound exclusive? Couldn’t an argument be made that they’d be more effective if they had more people signing up? And wouldn’t they get more people if they cut back on some of their requirements? All that rugged training and discipline and being so selective of who they allow in? Of course they’d get more people, but they would cease to be The Marine Corps, because the exceptional nature of the Corps defines them as The Marines. If it was easy to do, it would cease to be worth doing in the minds of those who seek the challenge. I’ve observed men who have completed their commitment to the Corps and no longer wear the uniform. They continue to have the bearing of someone who was willing to pay the price to be one of the few.
Sunshine is part-time, fire is forever
Sunshine probably feels best on winter days (if you can call what we have in Mississippi “winter” – the daffodils start blooming here right after Christmas!). When it’s a little cool, I love to find a spot where the sun’s shining and the wind is blocked, and just soak up the sun’s warmth.
The same air temperature, as measured by the thermometer, feels a lot different on a cloudy day than on a sunny day. Sunshine makes the difference. But have you noticed what happens late in the evening? That wonderful sunshine, no matter how warm it’s been, cannot hold on against the advancing night. It has to fade, and the air grows cooler, and the pretty, but colder, moon and stars come out. This lasts for hours and hours until the sun begins to rise again. There’s no remedy for it.
But what about the fire? With the right fuel, it can be kindled any time. Since time immemorial, men have kindled fires for warmth, for cooking, for light and for protection. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “I baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire;” Matthew 3:11. The role of fire in the word of God is pervasive. It goes all the way back to Genesis, with sacrifices made to God by fire, and into Exodus, with the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, and on into the New Testament. God’s plan of salvation was designed to give us fire that did not have to leave: Fire we could experience when the sun was warming the other half of the world, when things in our lives were not all sunny and wonderful. This fire will burn in the darkest night and warm the coldest heart.
How can you tell?
Jesus said to Nicodemus when he came to him by night: “Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5. Something is required to obtain this fire that Jesus came to baptize with. But what does it mean to be born again of water and of the Spirit? The men who were convicted that they were hopeless sinners when the first message after Jesus ascended was being preached on the the Day of Pentecost by the Apostle Peter, the men asked Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter answered and said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:37-38). They obeyed what was preached to them, and three thousand were baptized and added to the church that day. Repentance (turning from sins) is the first step in coming toward the light of God. Can you see how the other two elements of water baptism in Jesus’ name, and the in-filling (baptism) of the Holy Ghost fulfill the requirements for the birth of water and Spirit that Jesus himself said were essential for entering into the Kingdom of God?
That’s where the fire is: in the Holy Ghost,the fire Jesus came to baptize with.The fire that warms when the world is cold and getting colder.
Do you have it? It’s worth the price to step out of the norm and obey the original gospel to have it. In the Book of Acts, everyone who received the Holy Ghost had a sound that accompanied that experience (as Jesus had also told Nicodemus would happen in John 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth): they spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance (Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6). This included the original Jewish disciples, along with Mary the mother of Jesus and 107 other people (120 altogether in the Upper Room), Gentiles in Acts 10, and disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19. It still comes that way today.
What do you think? Have you received the Holy Ghost and fire since you believed? Do you carry that fire burning day and night? Or are you content to just enjoy the sunshine…? I’d love to hear what you think…