Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Fire that Set the World Aflame

This morning, my reading was in Acts 2. When I read the verse about "tongues of fire," the image of my own tongue came to mind. I pondered how a flame might look like a tongue, decided it was a bit of a stretch, and turned to Blue Letter Bible for help. The word is glōssa and literally means "tongue." 

I finally realized that the phrase "tongues of fire" is a kind of holy double entendre that describes both appearance and function. The tongues of fire literally looked like dancing flames. I imagine they looked a little like the flame at the end of a hand-held lighter. They metaphorically set the world on fire with the power of the words spoken. 

After Jesus ascended into heaven, His closest friends gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer. This was not a hold-hands-in-a-circle-and-everyone-say-a-sentence kind of prayer. 

They went to their place of prayer and continued to pray until something happened. They probably didn't expect tongues of fire to descend from heaven, but they were ready for anything because they'd been on their knees before the Father for days on end. 

When Peter looked around and saw new, fiery tongues being given to everyone in the room, he probably realized he had a new tongue, too. What do you do with a fire-tongue? Speak fiery words. That's exactly what he did. 

He walked out of the prayer meeting and spoke to the people who had assembled outside. His words were filled with passion and power, fueled by the flame of God's Spirit, and they changed the world.

Every foreigner in Jerusalem heard the truth of Jesus proclaimed in their own language. Three thousand men believed and were baptized that very day. After the Pentecost celebration, those new believers went home to Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cretans and Arabs among them. 

That morning, the news about Jesus was limited to Jerusalem and the surrounding areas of Israel. A few days later, it had spread around the world as those present that day carried the fiery words back to their families and friends.

To emerge with such power that everyone who hears you speak is overwhelmed with the truth of your words seems impossible. It is, unless we're willing to stay on our knees until the power of God descends, unless we're willing to let the fire of God's Spirit flow through us, regardless of the consequences.

The same Spirit is available to us. The same power can be ours. The same kind of opportunities can come our way as those the first century church experienced. 

To have what they had, however, we must be the kind of disciples they were. They stayed on their knees until God moved, lived in community, loved all, and demonstrated that love with their actions. When persecution came, they clung to their faith and were willing to die for it.

What they didn't do is hurry through prayer, fill their lives with busyness, put their families and activities ahead of God, or keep one foot in the world and a toe or two in the kingdom of God. 

They were all in. 

If we want what the first century church had, we must be willing to adopt the priorities they had. Love God more than anything. Love your neighbor as yourself, and do it with deeds, not just words. 

It's time for us, the 21st century church, to take a look back at what's possible, take a look inside us at our reality, and take a look at the future to decide how we want to live. Will we be content with this modern version of fake-church that so many of us live, or will we embrace Christ with our entire being and live as He intended?  

The abundant life is a Spirit-led life. It's big and bold and fun. Sometimes it's hard, and painful, too. Most important, though, is that it worth it. 

Do we want abundant living or not? It's a decision we all must make, so choose well. A lost and perishing world depends on us.

"But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: "Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words...'" Acts 2:14 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When the Grass Seems Greener But It's Really Not

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