You Are the Fire of the World
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5, ESV)
In the beginning of John’s Gospel, we’re told how Jesus Christ had in Himself, life, and was the light of men. It does not say he was an incandescent light bulb. It does not say he was a battery-operated flashlight. Nor does it state the form of light He is can be relegated to any form of technology modern readers can put onto the text who have lived in the era after electricity had become a part of all our lives. In the time that the Apostle John wrote this, when he spoke of light he meant fire. This would be what the contemporary readers of the time understood him and our Lord Jesus to have been referring to when speaking of being light of the world. The lamps spoken of in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) were commonly large dome-shaped torches, fueled by rags soaked in oil and used for walking outside. With extra containers of oil, the torches could last for hours, and as a result they needed regular refilling.
We could more accurately read our text in John’s Gospel to say in Christ is the fire of men. This fire shines in the darkness, and darkness cannot overcome it. Darkness, simply put, is the absence of light (fire). It doesn’t put up a fight and resist it, saying ‘no, I’m staying.’ When the light of fire shines, it simply has to go. It cannot co-exist with the light at the same time. You can only have one or the other, but darkness is subservient to light. As soon as you light the fire, there is no more darkness in the room. The more fire, the brighter the light gets in the room where it’s burning. Note these words Jesus spoke about believers:
“You are the light (fire) of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
Development of a Fire
A fire develops typically in four stages:
- First, is the incipient stage. There is no visible smoke, no flame and very little heat. A significant amount of invisible–but sometimes smellable–combustion particles may be created. This stage usually develops slowly.
- Second; the smoldering stage. There is smoke, but no flame and little heat.
- Then, the flame stage. There’s a visible flame, more heat, often less or no smoke, particularly with flammable liquids and gas fires.
- And ultimately, the heat stage. Large amounts of heat, flame, smoke and toxic gases are produced. The transition from the previous stage can be very fast.1
Simply put, fire is the state of combustion resulting from a chemical reaction that requires the presence of three elements in proper combination — a fuel source (anything that burns), oxygen (a component of air), and an ignition source such as heat or a spark — in order to begin and develop. This is often referred to as a “Fire Triangle,” as shown in the diagram below2
Extinguishing a fire (take note, reader!) usually involves removing at least one of these elements. This is why Jesus told us that a city on a hill cannot be hidden–not that it should not–but cannot, because you cannot hide a fire! To do so would be to remove one of the 3 elements that a fire requires. If you were to put a basket over top of your fire, the fire would be extinguished from lack of oxygen. It’s as simple as that. Jesus was basically warning us not to let our fire go out, or to let anything in our lives extinguish it. In the temple, the priests were instructed to continually keep the pure fire burning on the altar (Leviticus 6:12-13).
So friend, what type of fire are you? Is your fire invisible, yet giving off an odor? Are you properly adding fuel to your fire, and spending time alone in intimate fellowship with the Father? Are you fueling your life with the Word of God and the oil of His presence? Are you allowing fresh winds of the Holy Spirit to fan those flames? Or, are you dabbling with sin in your life so as to remove the oxygen His fire needs? I guarantee you friend, sin will put out your fire—you cannot serve both God and mammon, you cannot love the world and God. You may be able to continue operating outwardly in church functions and having an appearance of godliness, but everyone around you will know if there’s a real fire or not. Even if the sin is hidden (or so you think), for the fire cannot burn there without removing the dross, or burning the wood, the hay, and the stubble. One of the two things will extinguish the other; either sin will keep you from prayer and Bible reading, or prayer and Bible reading will keep you from sinning. But make no mistake: sin is a basket covering the fire, quenching the oxygen it needs to burn in your life.
Are you a smoldering wick, that even though of Jesus it’s said that He wouldn’t do anything to snuff you out (Matthew 12:20), but yet you still have need of more heat? Do you need more holy oxygen and fuel to burn a holy flame? Fan those things into flame that lay inside of you! Maybe you’re like most Christians—close enough to the presence of God to feel a heat, but not actually IN the fire of His presence. Jump in! Deal with sacrifices in your life you need to make and place them on the altar, for without sacrifice there is no fire of God’s presence in our lives and ministries.
Friend, if you throw yourself completely into the fire of His presence and let it consume you, then no earthly fire—no worldly shaking–will harm you. Learn from the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—they had been so purified in the secret place by a heavenly fire that they withstood the earthly flames they were thrown into when they would not bow to the idol the king demanded allegiance to.
The fires of this world cannot touch you when you’ve been purged by the fire of God.
Spread Your Fire!
Friend, fires consume everything in their path. Everywhere you go you should by nature be setting things ablaze, your words carrying power, for James 3:5 reminds us that “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.” If it can cause great destruction (vv. 6-9), imagine what good it can cause instead when speaking forth prophetic declarations that impact those you speak them to? When you burn with this heaven flame your very essence is either bringing life to believers and destroying the works of the flesh and the world of darkness.
I think there is a profound reason, in this context of the day of the Lord being a day of fire as mentioned in the book of Malachi, that the hearts of the fathers are to be turned to the sons and the sons to the fathers–that they may stir one another up and out of such mentoring relationships encourage one another and fan into flame the purposes of God for this generation. That we keep one another burning and putting fuel in each other’s fires. Fire begets fire, but know that it just takes a small spark to start one, a small bit of the light inside you to bring it to flame, and spread the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.
Stir up the flames in yourself and one another that we may burn fully aflame for the Lord Jesus Christ!