Put Out The Fire

Mike Focht 12/8/2023

It is time to put out the fire. We must stop telling people to be “on fire” for Jesus. I know that many well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ are simply using that language to stir up a good and godly passion for Jesus, but there are problems with the method and the emphasis. 

   The appeal to be “on fire” is particularly prevalent in youth ministry circles. Usually, a red-faced and energetic preacher is enthusiastically stomping, shouting, spitting, and exhorting love and dedication through the sheer willpower of their own hype and emotional stories. With touching illustrations and forceful presentation, they nearly will the crowd out of complacency into more incredible emotion toward God. Depending on the natural skill of the person or the patient grace and mercy of God that works in spite of us, the message and emotion of the messenger can have various levels of effect on the crowd. 

   Unfortunately, the method and emphasis are not Biblical and often lead people to a place where their love for God is cold. First, the method fails because the listeners watching the “on fire” presenter are often left thinking that this type of hype must be the standard level they need to live on. Then, in the following days, when they fall short of the presenter’s hype in the drudgery of daily life, they become discouraged and guilty that they are complacent. The method fails because no individual has the grace to live up to the “on fire” presentation and is left thinking their lack of emotion is a problem with them. 

   Second, the Bible never commands us to “be on fire.” There is not a single Scripture that commands us to stir up emotion to feel the Christian life. The Word commands faith and obedience that remain despite the ups and downs of fallen, sinful emotions. Love is commanded, but emotion is not. God does so because if He has our obedience, our emotions will eventually follow. Yes, we love Jesus because He first loved us, but we know that includes much more than an emotional feeling. God doesn’t command us to be hype because He knows we cannot force our emotions to do anything! 

   The individual who thinks God is calling them to be “on fire” soon becomes discouraged in their inability to stir up an emotional level that will keep them from sin and temptation. They dive into Christian practices such as Bible reading, church attendance, worship, prayer, missions, etc., all the while seeking the secret to a passion that will solve all their issues with sin. They may find that emotion here and there, but eventually, their Christian actions will fail to keep them “on fire,” and having done all they were “supposed to,” they become convinced God Himself has let them down. Many even come to resent Christianity because it did not deliver what the hype preacher promised! Many will walk away and say, I tried that Christian thing, and it didn’t work.

   Sadly, they didn’t try the Christian thing. They only tried the emotional thing, which didn’t work. God doesn’t call us to be fired up passionites. Jesus calls His followers to be faithful servants. Like a married couple, we are called into a covenant with God where our emotions will run hot and cold, but our loyalty in love will not. God knows that we will find the correct emotions within our faithful obedience to Jesus’ commands, not vice versa. That is why God calls us to obedience, faithfulness, and surrender instead of passion, emotion, and fire.

   Thirdly, most of what Jesus calls His followers to stirs up the type of emotions that would be the exact opposite of what most people would think being “on fire” feels like. Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves, and the man or woman who feels their wretchedness and selfishness likely feels like beating their chest and saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! That is not the type of emotion we usually equate with an “on fire” Christian. 

   Jesus also calls His followers to take up their cross and follow Him. The man or woman taking up their cross is not feeling emotional passion as much as their heart is crying out, Father, if there is any other way please let this pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done! There will never be anyone more “on fire” than Jesus Christ Himself, and more than once, His obedience and faithfulness to the Father brought Him to the point of such weakness that He needed angelic intervention to continue on. That is the Biblical picture of someone pleasing God. 

   Our modern-day, well-meaning but ignorant preachers would never urge this type of Christianity as being “on fire,” but this is the very type of faithful love and passion that Jesus is looking for. Trying the Christian thing doesn’t mean trying to stir up an emotional level that makes Christianity possible. Living the Christian life is not living “on fire.” I doubt any apostle would have said they followed Jesus because they were “fired up.” 

   We need to get closer to the Word of God in our presentation and exhortation of the Christian life. We need to call others to Christlikeness, faithful abiding in Christ, and love that proves itself through keeping the commands of Christ—good feelings or not. There is no such thing as “trying” the Christian life, just as there is no such thing as “trying” to die on a cross. We either deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow our Savior to the life beyond, or we don’t. Abide in Jesus Christ and His Word, and you will be His disciple indeed!