Note: This is the second in a series of three articles. For part 1, click here.
John Wesley is one of my heroes of the faith. His 18th-century life affected the course of church history.
Along with his brother Charles, George Whitfield and others, he ignited a revival movement in London, England that later became the Methodist Church. His passion for Christ exploded during a meeting May 24, 1738, in Aldersgate, a district in London.
John had become desperate to know God intimately. He had observed the faith and zeal of Moravian Christians who were experiencing a powerful revival. That evening, he reluctantly attended the meeting at Aldersgate.
While listening to someone read Luther's Preface to Romans, John states, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Fresh fire and passion ignited in John's heart.
From that time forward, John was different—his preaching, his passion, and zeal for Christ were red hot. Many came to Christ through his life, and powerful manifestations of the Spirit were common in his meetings—including healing.
John had learned how to become a fire and he taught others how to maintain the fire of God in their lives. He taught his followers to be "disciplined" about spiritual matters and to seek God fervently. John knew as truth that there is a prescribed order to maintaining the fire of God in our lives as believers.
Is Jesus Your Passion?
In my last article, I said that each of us must pursue finding and knowing God. That is the starting place for maintaining the fire of God in your life.
Learning practical steps to living in ongoing encounter with God keeps your love for Jesus alive, fresh and fiery. Love is passionate and pursues God zealously.
Is Jesus your passion and desire? Do you love Him with every ounce of your heart? How desperate are you "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge?" (Eph. 3:19a). The fire of the Holy Spirit's presence ignites in hearts that are surrendered and undivided to God. Anything less allows the embers of one's heart to become cold and lukewarm.
Practical Principles to Maintaining the Fire of God in Your Life
- Complete surrender. As I mentioned in my last article, the first and most important principle is total surrender to God. God will provide the fire; you must be positioned, surrendered and expectant as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). Allow the Holy Spirit to lead, fill and empower you daily (Rom. 8:14). Stay humble. Stay surrendered. Live in his holiness. Holiness is Christ in you; but you must let holiness have its way! The fire of His holiness burns passionately in those whose hearts and lives stay surrendered to God.
- Pray without Ceasing. The second principle to maintain God's fire in your life is to pray without ceasing. Paul writes to the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17a). Prayer is communion with God and abiding in His presence. Prayer is more than just petitions. Prayer is also two-way dialogue with God. God has things He wants to communicate and reveal to you—beginning with how much He loves you. Prayer positions you to receive the Father's love and embrace—your heart is then "strangely warmed."
In fact, God promises to make prayer a delight and joy. The prophet Isaiah wrote,
"I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer ... my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isa. 56:7 NLT).
While this was a promise to the children of Israel under a different covenant, the principle remains: God delights in drawing us near to Him and filling us full of joy as we pray and abide in His presence. The result: You continue in devoted relationship to God, others are impacted and people are drawn to Him. Prayer positions you in God's presence to receive more from the Holy Spirit.
Regarding petitionary prayer, Jesus said in Luke 18:1 (NLT) that, "Men should always pray and never give up" or "lose heart" (NKJV). He concludes the parable of the persistent widow who found justice, by asking a rhetorical question, "So don't you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? (Luke 18:7, NLT)
Jesus states clearly that not only will God answer, but also, He will answer quickly. Prayer keeps you focused on Almighty God—circumstances fade, and faith for answered prayer keeps you secure in His love. Prayer fuels the fire of passion, love and devotion to God in your life.
Learn to pray and worship "in the Spirit." Paul makes it clear in his writings that the person who prays in an unknown tongue edifies himself or herself (1 Cor. 14:4). There is a spiritual self-edification and strengthening for the believer who chooses to pray privately in their prayer language. Tongues and the gifts of the Spirit have not ceased with the completion of the Bible and should be desired by believers (1 Cor. 12:7-11).
I frequently pray in the Spirit to "fan into flame" the Holy Spirit's presence and gifts of God. Jude 20-21 (MEV) says, "But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life."
Praying in tongues, or in the Spirit, edifies and builds you personally and helps you remain aware of God's love and presence.
- Worship with passion. The third principle to maintain God's fire in your life is to worship with passion.
"Come before His presence with singing ... enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise, be thankful to Him, and bless His name" (Ps. 100:2b, 4).
The book of Psalms was a songbook of praise and worship to God. Praise and worship should declare, as the book of Psalms illustrates, the splendor, majesty, goodness and power of God. Worship lifts you into revelation and encounter with God—suddenly life's distractions fade, and the brilliance of God's greatness shines through.
David's tabernacle consisted of Levites to worship the Lord day and night,
...four thousand praised the Lord with musical instruments ... to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at evening" (1 Chr. 23:5b, 30, NKJV).
The early church records how significant worship is, "so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name" (Acts 15:17). When worship is a central component in your life and in the life of the church, God's Spirit moves, miracles flow and multitudes come into God's kingdom. God looks for true worshippers in this hour who seek Him above everything else (John 4:23).
Worship is essential to maintain the fire of God in your life. Worship changes the atmosphere. Worship releases God's glory and power to work wonders in your midst. Worship is not something you do before the teaching on a Sunday morning; rather, worship is the essence of your relationship with God. Your life is worship to God, and each day, worship should flow through you back to the Lord.
Paul tells the Ephesian church,
"be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts" (Eph. 5:18b-19, NLT)
To be filled with more of the Spirit is to maintain a heart of thanksgiving and worship to God. Worship with songs that declare the truth of Scripture and of God's kingdom; your worship then becomes like prayer. Worship with prayerful intent; this helps stir the fire in your heart by the Spirit for God and His purposes.
In the book of Revelation, we see a picture of worship,
"four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp (worship) and golden bowls (prayer) full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5:8, MEV).
Prayer and worship intertwine as incense toward heaven. Incense requires fire to burn. The fire comes from the Holy Spirit to live surrendered to God in worship and prayer.
I have discovered personally that when I begin my day with worship and prayer to God, the fire of His presence rekindles fresh. The coals of my heart begin to burn bright as the Spirit fans into flame my love for God as I choose to worship. Sometimes I must offer a sacrifice of praise. My flesh may not feel like worshipping God, but my spirit longs to draw near to Him once again. I choose then to push past my carnal nature and draw near to God. Sometimes, those are the days that His presence is the strongest and sweetest.
I will conclude "Maintaining the Fire of God" later this week. Until then, I pray you encounter God afresh this week and that the fire of His presence takes you into new understanding of the depths of His love for you.
Remember, the fire of the Holy Spirit's presence ignites in hearts that are surrendered and undivided to God. Anything less allows the embers of one's heart to become cold and lukewarm. Draw near to him today.
Bob Sawvelle is the founding and senior leader of Passion Church in Tucson, Arizona. Passion Church is a vibrant, kingdom-minded church in the heart of Tucson that values God's love and presence. He is a Doctor of Ministry mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars cohort at United Theological Seminary (UTS), an adjunct professor teaching master's level classes in evangelism, discipleship and church planting with the Global Awakening Theological Seminary (GATS) and an online course facilitator for Global Awakening's Christian Healing Certification Program (CHCP) and Christian Prophetic Certification Program (CPCP).
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