A Consuming Fire
Heb. 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;
Heb. 12:29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
The new kingdom which has been inaugurated with the rule of Jesus Christ is already victorious. This kingdom, the kingdom of heaven is unshakable. We are invited to not only “give thanks” but to live a life of thanksgiving, of continuous and on-going gratitude to God for what he has done. This gratitude is shown through our worship of him.
This worship is an acceptable worship to God (not to us) and includes a lifestyle of “reverence and awe” before God. Why? Because “God is a consuming fire.” This is a quote from Deut. 4:24, “For the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.” A gentle reminder that the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament. His nature has not changed. John Wesley says, “For our God is a consuming fire—in the strictness of his justice, and purity of his holiness.” God’s nature remains holy love, a holy love that cannot tolerate injustice or a lack of holiness.
God has made it possible for humanity to become citizens of the kingdom, transformed into reflections of his holiness and in this a purity which may endure with him. At the same time the consuming fire of his holiness will burn away all that is impure — for “our God is a consuming fire.”
What might it mean for the fire of God to consume us? I can think of this in a couple of ways. I believe that the way that the author intends is for us to remember the very nature of God. There is a tendency to make the God of the New Testament seem different from the God of the Old Testament. Here, the author clearly wants us to understand that our God is one and the same. While he sent his son to die for us and to usher in the new kingdom, the nature of God remains the same. We are blessed to experience God’s love in a powerful way and at the same time we must remember that “our God is a consuming fire.”
There are expectations of us who are now new kingdom citizens. These expectations include transformation into the very image of God and this brings with it a life of holiness and purity. Without this holiness and purity we will not see God for we will be consumed by his holy fire. Jesus came to this earth, lived and died, so that we might be God’s holy kingdom people. This is his intent for us all. This means that holiness is not an option, it is God’s plan and while we may not like the picture of a God who is a consuming fire, because this sounds like a powerful, destructive and wrathful God, we must recognize the fire comes from power of God’s holy love. This holy love is so powerful that impurity cannot exist in his presence.
All of this comes with good news because “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” The kingdom is in and of itself a consuming fire. It is the wildfire that can never be put out. This is the love of God that consumes you and me until it fills us up with nothing but desire and love for him. Yes, our God is a consuming fire of holy love that overtakes everything about me and cleans me up and purifies me so that I can live eternally in the presence of my Lord. This is what the kingdom has opened up for us.
There are two options. We can be consumed and burned up by the fire of God because there is nothing but impurity in us, or we can be consumed by his love and passion because he has burned away all the impurities and all that is left is a heart turned toward him. God doesn’t change. God wants to transform us, if only we respond to his call and step into the “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” In this place we worship with “reverence and awe,” having a thankful spirit as we live day by day, not afraid, but grateful for the consuming fire of God that is transforming our lives.
Lord, may your fire consume me. Amen.