The Fire of Fleshly Effort or the Fire of Jesus

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Isaiah 50:10-11, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.”

“Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

These verses are to believers, those who fear the Lord and obey the voice of God’s servant but who are currently walking in a dark place with no light. Trusting the nature of God and leaning, staying ourselves upon our God, is the way through.

But we sometimes cut and run in those dark places. We warm ourselves by the fires of our own effort, thinking we’re going to find our way through by the works of our own hands. We think it through; we plan. We fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing the right thing.

Abraham and Sarah used Hagar to produce Ishmael. Saul, thinking he knew better, disobeyed God’s command. Peter’s fleshly presumption, “I will never deny you,” resulted in his running away when the heat turned up; he warmed his hands at a unbelieving fire kindled by fleshly effort, and ultimately denied the Lord. “Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled.” In other words, “If you’re not going to rely on Me, trust My nature, to be still and know that I am God, then go ahead and do it your way.” And again, Peter cutting and running when the legalists, “the men from James,” showed up. He tried to do things his way, and Paul was the man who stood on God’s Word.

The result of this self-effort? Abraham’s sorrow in having to send Ishmael away. Saul losing the kingdom. David and Bathsheba losing their baby. Peter sobbing bitter tears at his own betrayal of Jesus, and, later, the public put-down of his hypocrisy by Paul in Galatians. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow. How many times have I laid down in sorrow because of trying to manipulate my circumstances, or things, or people, to produce the desired “blessed” life?

The answer to all this sorrow and shame?

In contrast, we have the fire kindled by Jesus in John 21:9. The wet, cold, betrayer Peter warming himself by Jesus’ fire, contrasting with his former denials by the fire of man’s approval. Jesus’ fire, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Revelation. Love. Desire. Passion. “Heart of my own heart, whatever befall.” That’s the Fire we’re to rely on. An inner Fire kindled by God’s own hand.

So instead of trusting our own ways, our own thoughts, our own puny sparks and fire, we trust God. We stay ourselves upon the Lord, relying on His Word, no matter what our thoughts, our emotions, our circumstances, our friends, our enemies, the devil, or the world tells us what to do.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

In every situation we make a choice: Is God truthful and faithful and trustworthy? Or is He a liar, unfaithful, and not to be trusted? The fire of fleshly effort leads to sorrow. God’s fire leads to a fruitful life and “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“He that is not with me is against me.” It’s an either-or choice. There’s no in-between.

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he’s not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin’ on audiences around the world, he’s taking care of his donkey named “Trash” and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


2 Comments

  1. J

    Just what I needed to hear today..Another piece to “my” puzzle.
    I’m learning to give it over to God, not rely on my feelings, but sometimes I slip and see myself trying to, in my own efforts, make something better, when all I had to first do, is give it over to God.
    Thanks Ron!

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