The Odyssey (Part 17)


THE FIRE
by Rayola Kelley

     A big part of my spiritual odyssey was learning about one of the most misunderstood persons in Scripture, the Holy Spirit. For me learning about the Holy Spirit became a necessity. I wanted to be used in greater ways by God, come higher in my understanding of the Lord, and become more effective in my walk. However, I learned I could not be used in greater ways unless there was an anointing present, I could not come higher in my understanding without revelation being imparted from above, and I could not be more effective in my walk unless I was empowered by heaven itself. As I was to learn, each of these works belongs to the Holy Spirit.

      For many Christians it is easy to become boxed in by pet doctrines, cemented in heavy shoes of religious rhetoric by theology, and indoctrinated into a religious fervor by zealous schools of religious thought. This is clearly evident when it comes to the subject of the Holy Spirit. I was boxed in by the doctrines of the Baptists that claimed all gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, yet they could not explain away the Scripture that clearly states not to despise prophesying but to covet it, and not to forbid the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:20).

      I was confined by religious rhetoric that logics away the work of the Spirit by emphasizing the abuses done in His name rather than being taught and trained in how to properly discern the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). As a result, I ignorantly became party to quenching the Spirit instead of testing the spirits and properly discerning Him as Scripture clearly instructs (1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 John 4:1).

      And, finally there are those schools of thought that often embrace the extremes like a pendulum swinging back and forth. Today these schools of thought are often influenced by popular fads and beliefs rather than being firmly planted on the eternal foundation of heaven. They are unpredictable because much of the methodology of the world has come into many of their attitudes and ways of promoting themselves. In some schools of thought, the Holy Spirit is improperly over emphasized as individuals seek religious insights and experiences in His name, while in others He is completely ignored out of fear, limited because of ignorance, and boxed in by lifeless claims.

      The greatest challenge for me in this particular phase of my odyssey, was finding a Scriptural balance concerning the subject of the Holy Spirit. Many who knew me heard of my struggle to come to terms with the matter of the third person of the Godhead. In my need to understand the Holy Spirit, I discovered that man’s doctrine is often self-serving. It is based on that which makes a person comfortable intellectually, and the supernatural work of the Spirit often runs contrary to such comfort zones. As for theology, it is based on one’s understanding of God, but theology often lacks enduring quality because it has yet to be tested in the arena of trials and tribulations. When the fires of testing are put to theology, it will often fail to hold up in such experiences because knowledge alone has no real substance. The problem with theology is it can only judge based on what it knows, rather than discern according to the spirit behind something.

      As for the schools of thought, I discovered many operate on the borderline of heresy. Most center on an emphasis on certain subjects such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit and not Jesus Christ who is the essence of all truth. If a matter does not begin with who Jesus is, continue on with His example of righteousness, and end with His work of redemption, then the school of thought is a waste of time, useless, and unproductive in light of heavenly matters.

      The question is how do you keep the subject of the Holy Spirit in the right context? First of all you have to realize He is a person. This means He has a will, a personality, and a purpose (1 Corinthians 12:11; Acts 5:3-4; John 16:7-8). When it came to my initial teaching of the Holy Spirit, He was mentioned in abstract terms. It is clear that in my early Christian life those who dared to even try to touch the subject of the Holy Spirit, did not really know Him as a person. Since He was in Scripture, these individuals felt obliged to at least mention Him in some positive light.

      The late evangelist, Betty Swinford, was the one who made me realize the Holy Spirit is a person. She was intimately acquainted with His person, His mannerisms, and His presence. She knew when He was present, recognized His voice, moved when He moved, and when He lifted, she sat down. She spoke of Him as a friend, would not be content until He made His intent known to her, and would not settle for any counterfeit spirit.

      Betty’s example set me to seeking out the person of the Holy Spirit in God’s Word. Since He seemed to be a mute issue in the religious camp I was part of, I was surprised to find out how much one could discover about the person of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. If a Scriptural truth is abstract or almost mute, a person is unprepared to see it in God’s Word. It was at that time I began to understand why one must seek God out, even in His Word. To seek something requires that a person discipline his or her focus to see what God’s Word really says on the subject.

      The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit will never be the aggressor. He is gentle like a dove; therefore, He will be a gentleman when He approaches a person. He is sensitive; therefore, He can be easily grieved when His overtures are rejected. He is pure holiness, undefiled; therefore, the presence of sin or the profane will cause Him to depart. He is sincere; therefore, rebellion and hypocrisy will vex Him. He is honorable; therefore, wrong practices will quench Him. He ensures order; therefore, chaos and confusion are foreign to Him (John 1:32-34; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Samuel 18:12; Isaiah 63:10).

      The next thing I had to realize is that He is God, divine in nature (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16 refer to 6:19). Because He is divine, He never changes. The way He operates among people is the same today as it was yesterday, except in the Old Testament He came down on His servants and then they operated in His gifts, but today He lives within each believer and will manifest His will in the gifts He gives the saints (1 Samuel 10:9-12; Hebrews 2:4). In our present status, we know in part and are in need of heavenly insight until we see the Perfect One, Jesus Christ, face to face. Therefore, the Spirit’s gifts have not ceased, but are for the purpose of edification. The Bible tells us that He will lead us into all truth and warn us of things to come (John 16:13). It only makes sense that to lead us into truth involves imparting knowledge and wisdom to our spirit, and to warn us of things to come would entail prophecy (Ephesians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 14:6).

      Jesus clearly stated that if we have ears, we need to hear what the Spirit is saying. His voice must be discerned among the many other voices in the world. He is not a shouter, but speaks in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12). Sometimes His voice can reverberate in our spirit, but it will bring an edge (sharpness) to our spirit instead of causing our spiritual ears to become dull. He inspires us to grow in the knowledge of Jesus in order to line up to righteousness. He seals us to identify us to our inheritance, and sanctifies us so that we can become a vessel fit for the Master’s use (Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:19-21).

      The other aspect of the Spirit is that He brings life to the Word of God through revelation of its true intent, and inspires and leads one into true worship and communion with God. Without His instruction, the Word of God becomes dead letter and without His inspiration true worship will elude us, thereby becoming dead or fleshly (John 6:63; 4:23-24; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 6; 13:14).

      If a person does not know the person of the Holy Spirit, he or she will not be able to discern, and if people are unable to recognize His works, they will become confused, fearful, and judgmental towards them. And, if the Holy Spirit is missing, life, anointing, and power will be absent in any religious activities, Jesus will not be properly lifted up, and God will not be glorified (1 John 2:20, 27; Isaiah 10:27). It is for this reason that the Bible instructs us to walk after the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1, 14; Galatians 5:16).

      To walk after the Spirit requires one to walk in faith that can be counted as righteousness, and obedience that will end in godliness. The Spirit will lead us into all truth about our place in Christ as children of God, and to walk in the Spirit means to be an overcomer of the flesh.

      Although this is a short summary of the Holy Spirit, and most of you probably already know this information, there is one aspect of the Holy Spirit I want to look at—and that has to do with fire.

      The Holy Spirit is represented by water, oil, and fire (Titus 3:5; Luke 4:18 refer Exodus 27:20; 30:22-26; Acts 2:1-8). As water He cleanses us, as oil He anoints and designates us, and as fire He purges and empowers us. Without the oil, there can be no real fire. For the lampstand in the Holy Place, it was the oil that kept it aflame. The priests would obtain the fire from the Altar of Burnt Offering in the outer court, to use in the Holy Place for both the lampstand and the Altar of Incense. However, the lampstand was to burn continually. This meant once the fire was put to the lampstand, the priests had to keep it filled with oil to ensure the light would never go out.

      When I consider the challenges facing the Church in America, I question where is the fire that purges and empowers? Where is the light that burns brightly in the night? I ask these questions because without the fire, we as believers might not be able to withstand the present darkness that is clearly consuming the hearts and minds of people. When you consider the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, five were wise for they had oil to burn in the night, but there were five who were unwise and failed to obtain oil before the bridegroom came in the night for his bride.

      The first thing I realize about some of our present-day churches is that the fire is missing. The Altar of Burnt Offering in the outer court represented Jesus’ work of redemption. For the fire to be present, the life of Jesus must be present in us. We may be the wick, but without the life of Christ there will be no fire, and there will be no life. The fire that ignites us as wicks is love. Without the love of God, there will be no fire. For some believers they may have fervor for religious works that make them feel good, but they lack the passion of love for Christ. This was also true for the Church of Ephesus and Jesus warned that its particular candlestick could be removed. We know that the Holy Spirit sheds love in our hearts (Romans 5:5; Revelation 2:1-7).

      The last couple of years, I have come to understand better how fire works once something is ignited. I burn the debris left by the many trees in our yard after windstorms. Jeannette figured we have well over three dozen trees on the property we rent. What I have learned is that fire initially consumes the debris, but once the fire dies down, it is the heat that will continue to break down the remaining debris, rendering it into a small pile of ashes. However, for the heat to be present there must be flammable material that burns hot.

      The one material that fits the above description is pine needles. Twigs and branches will quickly be consumed by the actual fire, but pine needles are a different story. If they are dry, they catch fire easily enough, but they are not immediately consumed by the fire. At first these needles burn quickly, but once the fire initially renders them down to a lesser state, they smolder a bit as if to resist being totally consumed. Even though they smolder, the heat they produce will eventually succeed in breaking them down into nothing but ashes. This reminds me of the “old man” in us. It refuses to be consumed by the reality of God. Therefore, it needs heavenly heat to render it into a small pile of ashes. The heat for me has been created when I have properly applied my cross to the ways of the flesh in order to allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to consume it on the altar.

      As I considered this scenario, I had to wonder if the presence of the Holy Spirit is missing from much of the church in America because it is full of carnality and worldliness. The presence of fleshly ways and worldly attitudes will drown out the heat of passionate devotion as truth is turned into the ash of unbelief. The truth is the Holy Spirit is always there to set the wicks of God’s people aflame with heavenly fire, but without passionate devotion it will simply singe the terrain, but it will not change it. It will quickly burn out leaving a mark, but there is no deep purging and separation from the flesh and the present age.

      Sadly, like the church in Laodicea, Christians of today give me the impression that they believe they have enough of everything, including religion, but without the Spirit they will prove to be poor in spirit. They appear to have become comfortable in the boiling pot of the world; therefore, they see no need for the consuming fires from the altars of consecration to be applied to their lives. They think themselves to be rich because of the world, when in reality they will be deemed as being poverty stricken in faith (Revelation 3:14-19).

      We pick on the complacent Laodicean church a lot. However if you examine the other churches, you will see that they either lacked an important aspect of the oil of the Holy Spirit or they needed His ongoing work to ensure that they would endure to the end (Revelation 2-3). We have already considered those at Ephesus who lacked love, but for those at Smyrna, they needed to remember that the Holy Spirit is the one who will meet them in their plight and will comfort them in times of testing and loss. To the church in Pergamos, they needed to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who leads believers into all truth and enables them to properly discern doctrine, but only if a love for truth is present. For Thyatira, the believers needed to realize that the Holy Spirit only points Christians to Christ and His example, but for the flame of the Spirit to burn in their midst, they needed to take on the holy attitude of God towards the pagan fornication taking place in their midst to bring necessary righteous judgment and needed separation. To Sardis, these Christians needed to remember that the Holy Spirit is the One who quickens believers when they hit a lifeless state, but they can only be quickened by the Spirit upon genuine repentance. For the church of brotherly love, Philadelphia, the Spirit is the One who enables followers of Christ to endure to the end.

      We are indeed living in dark times. It is clear that the bridegroom will be coming for His Church soon, but like the tabernacle candlestick of old, we need to be filled daily with the refining oil of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to stand upright in such wicked days, empower us to withstand in truth in the midst of great delusion, and distinguish us in extreme darkness as we continue to stand in faith, patiently waiting for the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises.

      To ensure the oil, we must ask for more of the Holy Spirit. Luke 11:13 exhorts us to ask for the Holy Spirit, but I have learned that to receive more of the Spirit involves having a desire for more of God, a greater revelation of Christ. The more we ask and seek after God, the more the door of opportunity will open up to us to discover the person and work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:9-13).

      Today where these seven churches used to thrive, the light has almost been completely extinguished by Islam. As believers, we cannot let the light of Christ’s life and the flame of the Holy Spirit be dimmed by lack of love, dulled down by the absence of genuine devotion, and taken out by unbelief. If our oil is low, we must ask God for more regardless of the price. If our fire is smoldering underneath carnality and worldliness, we must ask for the fire from the altar to be put afresh to our spirits so that we can once again burn with the passionate flame of love. If our flame has been reduced to a small flicker, we need to stir ourselves up and once again offer ourselves as a consecrated sacrifice for the purpose and glory of God.

      The culmination of the present crisis is coming at us like a locomotive. The question is do each of us have enough oil to endure the collision of the world’s powers and kingdoms, as well the complete collapse of life as we know it?