Let's Be Ablaze!   
By Paul Robison

The other night, the Scruggs hosted a hayride out at their place.  Someone had built a nice fire for us all.  There was a pretty stiff breeze blowing, and it kept the flames of fire dancing wildly!  That fire was not only good for cooking our food, but it kept us nice and warm as well.  That was the positive and helpful side of fire, but there's also a negative and destructive side.  Someone here may have experienced a burnout that destroyed a house or some property.  When “Little Boy”, the first atomic bomb, was detonated about 2000 feet above Hiroshima, it created a fireball which emitted radiation and heat rays.  A conventional one ton bomb, would destroy everything within a radius of 130 feet.  Little Boy destroyed everything within a radius of 1.2 miles!  Of the 350,000 inhabitants, about 120,000 were immediately incinerated!  Fire is one of the most powerful and awesome creations of God!   Jesus said in Luke 12:49: “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”  We see some of that holy fire when Jesus cleaned house in the temple at Jerusalem!  Are our hearts burning within us?  To help us evaluate, let's look at our text in Acts 4 and 5 where we can see four characteristics of lives that have been set on fire by Jesus Himself!  Let's be ablaze!
 
Let's be BOLD like fire!  We see in 4:31 that the apostles and others were praying that God would help them to continue to preach boldly.  They had been told by the Jewish officials not to teach any more about Jesus, but they prayed that they would continue to be bold.  In fact, they had already been bold in their preaching, and we read why they were bold in 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13)!  They had learned to be bold by seeing the boldness which Jesus displayed before the Jewish religious leaders.  Jesus never backed down from their confrontations!  Jesus wanted His Gospel proclaimed, and we see how He gave these apostles the strength to get the job done!  We see these apostles standing confidently and without shame before an audience that would have been very difficult to address.  You see, the question is not who are you, but whose are you.  “It is exciting that Jesus can take any willing person and make him bold for His name.  Education, nobility, good looks, natural ability—none of these is as important as a close relationship with Jesus.  So the question is not WHO you are but WHOSE you are” (Saunders)!  If you weak, hesitant, reluctant, or fearful, remember Peter and John, and remember that Jesus can make you bold!  Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 20:9 that the Word of God was like a fire in his bones.  He wanted to hold the message inside and not speak it, but he said that he could not contain it, and he had to share it!  “Nothing so arouses a sick church like the vision of the risen Christ [whose eyes burn and whose face shines like the sun—Rev. 1:14-16]!  He is the great physician, the refining fire.  He strength makes us well, His presence gives us identity and life, and His [challenges move us]!  It is sad that we often turn to Him last.  We seek initial remedies in other places—rearranged the furniture, straighten the pictures, get a new program, stir up more activities.  But what we really need is to see the glorious living Jesus again!  To know He is alive, real, and active!  To see and know Him so vividly and powerfully that we sense His fire in our bones!  A fire that causes us to share the Gospel; we just have to share it!  Our fire has no other source.  Anything created any other way has no more spark than a flame painted on a canvas.”  There was an ancient document discovered in Egypt which claims that the following is a statement of Jesus: “He who comes close to Me comes close to the fire” (Gospel of Thomas).  Be bold like fire!  Let's be ablaze!  Let's be ablaze! 
 
Next, let's be ACTIVE like fire!  Because these apostles were boldly preaching, they were put into prison. But now notice what happens.: “But at night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 'Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life'”  (Acts 5:20).  The Jewish rulers are meeting, and they call for the apostles to be brought before them.  The officials went to get prisoners but discovered and then reported that they were not there!  The rulers then wondered what was going to happen.  Someone then told them that the apostles were in the temple preaching!  You see, the point is that where Jesus is, there is activity!  The angel told them to preach the words of this life.  Those are the “wonderful words of life” that we sing about.  Those words of the Gospel that give life, transform, and change others!  We see how the Jewish rulers “prisoners” were really Jesus' freed men doing His work!  You see, it was the Lord who was helping them.  He had sent His angel to free them, and He had given them directions to follow!  Once a fire is active, it's hard to stop it.  Jesus was unstoppable!  “Wherever Jesus was, something was happening.  When Jesus dwells among Christians, something will happen!  There is action and awareness.  The crying need heard throughout the church and the world today is to see something happen that is [from Jesus].  Isn't that what we want in congregations and in our lives?  We want a relationship with Jesus that makes a difference!  We want a congregation that [active in our community] and [making] a difference!  The story is told of a stout young man who built a blacksmith shop.  Hundreds came by to wish him well at the open house, but there was no business afterwards.  He called upon one a wise man to get his advice.  “Son, you are well built for the task, and you have fine equipment and tools.  But you lack one thing: you lack the spark.  Without the spark, you can never do the work of a blacksmith” (Saunders).  “No matter what's wrong with our lives, Jesus can give us the spark and restore us!  The same is true with a congregation.  Nothing remains still where Jesus moves.  He creates disturbance and activity.  There is no “ho-hum” life if Jesus is really your Lord and your Fire! ... Where Jesus is alive and real, things can't help but happen” (Saunders)!  Be active like fire!  Let's be ablaze!  Let's be ablaze!
 
Next, let's be FEARLESS like fire!  Notice in 5:28-32 how the Jewish rulers told the apostles that they had essentially said to shut up and preacher Jesus no more.  Peter countered with the bold statement: “We ought to obey God rather than men!”  Then notice what he said: “The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”  We see here how Peter is not only defending the Gospel, but he is fearlessly trying to convert these men!  Isn't this amazing?  He is offering salvation to the very people who had crucified Jesus!  Now if that isn't a demonstration of Jesus' love, what is?  Jesus is giving His persecutors a chance to repent!  “Of what is the church afraid: political parties, religious corruption, the academic elite, the scientific community?  The church aflame will never waver before these; it only knows its identity and mission, and it pushes hungrily forward to do it. ... Fire rages on fearlessly. No palace is too grand, no forest is too vast, no city is too strong against its flames.  Have we forgotten that God has spoken His truth to us?  That this truth will be the final arbiter of meaning in this world?  Are we so [swayed by our almost pagan culture] that we have failed to grasp [the wisdom] of God's revelation to humanity?  Have we stopped believing that the humblest person on earth who knows God is greater than the wisest in the world's wisdom?  Will we praise the conferral of degrees while caring nothing for the sonship God has conferred on those who [obey] Him?  Do we believe [that a man stands the tallest] when he stands as a son of God?  Are we confused?  Have we forgotten” (Saunders)?  Let's be as fearless as our Master who affirmed that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6)!  Let's be fearless like fire!  Let's be ablaze!
 
Lastly, let's be UNCOMPROMISING like fire!  We see in 5:42 that the apostles kept right on preaching and teaching that Jesus was the Messiah, both in the temple and in others' homes!  They did not compromise, but continued teaching the Gospel!  In fact, notice what 5:42 says: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”  Pain from beating and threats from death, did not stop them from continuing to preach the that Jesus was the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Savior of all, the Lord of Life!  They used every occasion they had to exalt the Lord Jesus.  And did you notice where they did it.  In the temple.  Now who is over the temple?  The Sanhedrin, the very men who had told them not to speak any more about Jesus and beat them for doing so.  Here they were right back in their “territory” preaching their uncompromising message that Jesus is the Messiah.  Fire never compromises.  Take a dollar bill and put a match to it, and you'll see that fire doesn't compromise!  Do we?  We live in very tolerant age.  We're not suppose to say anybody is a sinner anymore.  We're not supposed to judge anybody.  We can't call a spade a spade.  But this was not the way of our Master.  Jesus did not negotiate when it came to sin.  Look at Revelation 2:14-16 where He spoke these words to the congregation at Pergamos: “... you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam [a false teacher]... to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality [notice how Jesus is naming particular sins here; He calls a sin a sin].  Thus you also have those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans [this group is also promoting falsehood], which thing I hate.  Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Rev. 2:14-16)!  Do those last words sound very tolerant to you?  After Abraham Lincoln announced The Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves during the Civil War, he was condemned by The London Times as “as sort of a moral American pope” destined to be “Lincoln the Last”.  After Lincoln's assassination, the paper realized his greatness by saying: “Abraham Lincoln was as little a tyrant as any man who ever lived.  He could have been a tyrant if he pleased, but never uttered so much as an ill-natured speech.”  Christians must take unpopular stands and uncompromisingly stick to truth.  If we stand in God's will, we'll be vindicated in the next life, and sometime maybe even in this one (Bailey and Kennedy in Larson/Elshof).  Closeness to Christ will help us to be uncompromising.  “Staying close to Christ secures the proper balance of the message.  It keeps prominent what should be prominent.  Its focus is sharp and clear.  It insures purity of the message. ... Separate Jesus and the message, and the result is disaster.  He is truly the living and abiding Word” (Saunders)!  Be uncompromising like fire!  Let's be ablaze!  Let's be ablaze!
 
Be bold, active, fearless, and uncompromising like fire!  “O Fire of Love, O Flame Divine, our faith and hope renew!  Burn in our hearts, burn evermore, till we burn out for You!”
 
Lord, as we look at these disciples, we see how often we fall so short of being ablaze.  Please help fill our hearts with the fire of Jesus.  Help us to speak a good work for Him when we have opportunity.  In Jesus name, Amen!
 
God is love, but Hebrews 12:29 also reminds us: “For our God is a consuming fire!”  If you are not a Christian, and Christ returns, you will face God's wrath!  Don't let that happen!  Make Jesus your Lord by repenting, confessing, and being immersed for the forgiveness of your sins, and confess that sin, and we'll  pray that God will help you to be ablaze in the future!