Hebrews 12: 28 - 29, Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. NKJV
Exodus 3: 2 - 4, And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" NKJV
There are many scriptures in the old testament that describe God as a consuming fire. In fact, God uses fire throughout scripture. Let's look at a couple of examples: Pharaoh pursued the Israelites down to the Red Sea, and God used a wall of fire to protect them from Pharaoh and his army all night; and as God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, there was a pillar of fire by night. However this protecting and guiding fire of God was also a very powerful force that man couldn't come near lest they be consumed.
Further, when God called Moses, He spoke to him from the flame that was in the midst of a burning bush. What is so amazing about the story of Moses' calling is that the bush was on fire, but it wasn't consumed. Let's take the principle of God being a consuming fire a little deeper. In the Most Holy Place behind the veil of the temple, the presence of God dwelt over the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat. Only the High Priest could enter that sacred room, and, even then, he had to have the blood of animals go before him. The priest had to be sure to follow every detail that God had laid out for them, or else His presence would consume them. If God found a priest unworthy, and His presence killed him, no one was allowed to enter and remove the body. So they devised a way to pull the dead priest out and not be consumed themselves. As a precaution, the High Priest would have a rope tied to His ankle. Maybe you're wondering why I'm telling you these stories about the consuming fire of God? Hang with me; we're going somewhere!
King David dishonored the Ark of the Covenant by placing it on a cart instead of having it carried on the shoulders of the priests. One day, as the cart was being pulled, a wheel hit an obstruction and the cart, along with the Ark, began to rock. Uzzah, one of David's men, saw that the Ark of the Covenant might fall and proceeded to steady it with his hand. God had previously warned David that if anyone should touch the Ark, they would die. Consequently, when Uzzah came in contact with the presence of God in his unclean flesh, he fell dead on the road.
Now let's fast-forward to the New Testament. Paul writes to us in Ephesians 2, and he says that we are saved by grace. However, when John spoke about Jesus coming after him, he said that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. On the Day of Pentecost, after the resurrection of Christ, and for the first time in history, Peter proclaims that the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh. It was on that very day that God began to dwell in earthen vessels.
Did you catch what I just wrote? The same presence that kept Pharaoh and his mighty army at bay and the same power that consumed any and every High Priest, who entered into the Holy place without proper preparation was now living and dwelling within man under the new covenant. You may be asking how it is possible for the fire of God to enter a fleshly being, and we not be consumed like those who came in contact with His presence in the Old Testament and died. It is because "by grace" you have been saved through faith. You have a FIREWALL, and it's called GRACE.
Under grace, we have the ability to be filled with the raw power of God's holiness and not be consumed. To show you how great God's grace really is, look at what happened to Uzzah when he, just once, touched the Ark with his hand. He died without mercy. Now how many times do you suppose a typical believer commits sin in one year? How is it that we can slip up and sin and still not be consumed by the fire that dwells within us? Some believe that when they sin and aren't consumed, it's God's grace telling them its okay, but they're deceived. Peter tells us in his epistle that God is long suffering, not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance. God is LONG SUFFERING under the new covenant because He gives people a space to come to their senses and repent before they reap the fallout of their unrepentant sins. Now we can better understand why God spoke from a bush that was on fire, but wasn't consumed, when He called Moses away from his past sins.
In Romans 6, Paul addresses the issue of believers who seemed to think it was okay to sin because they were under grace. He asked them (and us), "How can those who are in Christ and died to sin, live any longer in it?" Grace wasn't given so that we could see how far away we could get from God's presence and still be saved; rather God gave us grace that we might enter His holy place and not be consumed. Therefore, when believers sin and think nothing about what they have done, they are trampling underfoot the grace of God and the blood of Jesus.
As I conclude the word today, let me draw your attention to 1 Corinthians 3:16 - 17. Here, Paul tells us that we are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells within us. If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy them. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Consequently, when the children of Israel chose to rebel against God and decided, instead, to follow after idols and false gods, plagues broke out, and they began to die. When believers choose to live in sin while proclaiming to walk in God's grace and refuse to repent of their sin, they open the door for corruption to begin to consume their flesh. This may not be popular, and it might make some feel uncomfortable, but this is the Word of God. God will give us grace and space to repent. Nevertheless, if we refuse, we will pay a very high price. God requires us to live holy, even as He is holy. Remember, if it hadn't been for the GRACE of God, we would all have been consumed already. But God!
Thank God for His Grace,
Pastor Asa Dockery