Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dying Embers of an Undisciplined Life


Numbers 4:13

 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:

Numbers 19:10

And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.

Unclean Ashes on the Altar

Ashes are an unfortunate side effect of a fire.  Wherever there is a fire there will be ashes.  The fire burns the fuel and turns it into embers.  The embers are then reduced to ashes.  The ashes have no value!  They are useless as a fuel.  They do not warm anybody.  They are messy and hard to clean up.  They are unsightly.

When we lose our fire for God then we have no value to the Kingdom of God.  No one benefits from a Christian who “once” had the fire in their life.  Our benefit to others is provided by the fire!

Ashes are the “Memory of Fire” – they are the memories of a fire that once was.  In so many churches today the fire of revival, the fire of Pentecost, the fire of evangelism went our long ago and all that remains are ashes.  Today’s ashes were yesterday’s fire!

Made Unclean by the Ashes

God ordained that His offerings were to be burnt with fire.  Because of this ashes would soon collect on the altar.  God also ordained certain individuals to clean up this mess.  God said, “Take away the ashes from the altar.”  The person responsible for removing the ashes would then have to go through a purifying process.  He had to wash himself and his clothes and remain separated from others till the sun would go down.

In our churches we have to deal with these unclean ashes.  These ashes are people that contribute nothing to the fire of the Church.  They are present but they add nothing.  They are on the altar but they put out no heat.

It is impossible to deal with the unclean ashes without getting some of it upon you.  I have had to deal with the flesh!  If you are not careful it can stain your garments!  But deal with the flesh we must!  To fail to do so will bring nothing but cold deadness to our churches!

Growing up as a child we had a wood stove.  This is how we heated our home.  The process of keeping that fire going involved these steps:

1.                 Chopping & gathering firewood.

2.                 Splitting the large sections of wood into smaller sections.

3.                 Stacking for later use.

4.                 Stoking the fire with more fuel.

5.                 Emptying the ashes from the stove.

My brother and I never liked carrying out those ashes.  No matter how hard you tried the ashes always seemed to mark you, they left their stain.  It was an unpleasant task but a necessary task.  Once the ashes were removed from the wood stove then the fire would burn brighter, hotter, and give out more light.  If the ashes remained they would eventually smother the fire.

If you neglect to remove the ashes in our churches then eventually they smother the fire!  The fire in many churches has been smothered by fleshly, carnal, prideful, self-willed people.  Our refusal to deal with the carnality in the modern church has produced cold churches with little or no fire. 

Are You Embers, Ashes, or a Flame for God?

It takes discipline to keep a fire burning.  If we are going to keep a fire burning in our life then we must discipline ourselves.

I read a story about a man that had previously been attending services faithfully that stopped going to Church.  After a few weeks, the Pastor decided to visit the absent member.  It was cold evening, and the minister found the man home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.  Guessing the reason for his Pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him and led him to a big chair by the fireplace, and waited.  The minister made himself comfortable but said nothing.  In grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.  After a few minutes, he took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth.  Then sat back in his chair, still silent.  The host watched all this in quiet fascination.  As the lone ember’s flamed diminished, there was a momentary glow, but then its fire was no more and it was cold and dead.  Not a word was spoken since the initial greetings.  But as the minister rose to leave, the host said, “Thank you so much for your visit – and especially for your fiery sermon.  I shall be in Church next Sunday.”  The man knew that he was that cold ember and repented.

Has your fire gone out?  Have you lost your burning desire for God’s Word?  Do you still burn to spend time with God in prayer?  Does the flame of love for your brothers and sisters still burn brightly?  Do you still burn to reach the lost in this world today?  Do you feel like David, “I was glad, very glad, when they said to me let us go to the house of the Lord today”?

The Dying Embers of an Undisciplined Life

Revival comes to ignite us again!  In order to get the fire to burn brightly God is going to have to remove the ashes of the flesh life that smothers the fire!  Paul wrote to Timothy and told him these words:

2 Timothy 1:6

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

The Greek word for “stir up” is “anazopureo” which means “to rekindle”.  We must rekindle the fire in our lives!

Paul told Timothy that it could be accomplished “by the putting on of my hands.  Laying on of hands is an integral part of the Bible.  Throughout the Bible we see examples of hands being laid upon others and prayer being made.  God has not changed!  This is still God’s preferred method of impartation! 

Three are involved in this process: God, the intermediary vessel, and the receiving vessel.  The intermediary stands between God and the receiving vessel as God pours through to fill with his presence.

The reason the fire has went out in so many churches and in the lives of so many individual believers is a lack of discipline.  Discipline will get you up early in the morning to seek the face of God in prayer.  Discipline will drive you to study the Word of God.  Discipline will task us to assemble together with God’s people for “reproof, rebuke, and exhortation”. 

Undisciplined churches will eventually fill up with ashes!  Undisciplined lives will see the fire choked out of their relationship with God!  If we plan to keep the “Home fires burning” then we must take on the “Discipline of the Fire”!

Pastor-Revivalist Mark E. Herridge, Sr.

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