If you live long enough on this planet you will experience some sort of encounter. You may experience:
a good encounter;
a pleasant encounter;
an unpleasant encounter;
a trying encounter;
an unplanned encounter;
an awkward encounter;
a nice encounter; or any other kind of encounter.
I think you get the picture. In its shortest definition, an encounter is “A short-term convergence, good or bad.”
Today, I want to share with you three different kinds of encounters we will all have as believers.
We will cross paths with, meet, or face:
Our enemy (Satan and his hordes)
As we look at these three encounters, I want us to examine them through the lens of the Word of God.
It seems as if FIRE is one of the most powerful themes in the Bible associated with these three types of encounters.
FIRST OF ALL FOR MANKIND…. our disposition, is in a sinful fallen state because of Adam and Eve. The Psalmist declares that,
“There is none who does good, no not one.” (Psalm 14:4)
According to Paul, he differentiated between covenant people (Jews), sophisticated people (Greeks), and the heathen (barbarians). (See the book of Romans for more on that.) I suggest that in today’s world, we have similar groups:
covenant people (including Christians);
sophisticated people (like educated Americans/Europeans) who are beginning to exchange the truth of God for a lie and who are worshipping creation rather than the Creator; and
barbarians (like Islamic terrorists, ISIS, etc).
It sure sounds like human nature has remained the same over the centuries, doesn’t it? But that’s the negative side.
On the positive side, we all have encounters that change and enrich our lives.
We have friends, relatives, and some people have spouses. In Paul’s day, all relationships were described using the various words for love: eros (sexual), philia (friendship), and agape (covenantal). In other words, he described all relationships as being either social, sexual, or spiritual.
Have you ever noticed that, in all of these types of relationships, fire plays a role in just about every kind of important encounter?
Think about it:
Candles are used romantically for mood, socially at birthday parties, at certain vigils, and even at weddings (when the bride and groom light one candle from two separate ones, to show unity).
There is also just something soothing about sitting around a fireplace or even a campfire and sharing that moment with loved ones.
We love to roast hot dogs, make smores, or just warm ourselves from a nice roaring fire.
Bonfires are popular among current students and alumni during homecoming festivities on college campuses. Furthermore, some spas have candlelit areas of relaxation with soothing music playing to create a pleasant atmosphere.
Even in some entertainment venues, fire dancers amuse us because we know the dangers they face as they dance, twirl, and toss firebrands.
Also, fire can cleanse or purify.
I remember my mom using fire to purify a needle before she would use it to remove a splinter from one of her kids’ fingers. The Bible speaks of gold and silver refined in the fire (see Zechariah 13:9).
Fire can be used for generating heat, cooking, smelting, forging, cleansing or, as I said before, amusing. Fire can be a good thing, or it can be deadly. Any careless brush with fire will not leave a positive effect, but it could leave a scar at best or be deadly at worst.
Fire can be great for building relationships, but the enemy uses fire to destroy.
Fire is a tool. God uses it for good, but the enemy operates on a different strategy. He uses fire not to build relationships, but to destroy them—and destroy people as well. The enemy’s ways are subtle and suggestive. His type of strange fire will always cause you to get burned.
You see the enemy’s strange fire when he used subtle phrases like:
“Has God said” (Genesis 3:10);
“If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3); or
“If you will worship me” (Matthew 4:9).
The enemy uses the strange fire of disobedience, doubt, and unbelief.
There is always a thread of doubt in the enemy’s encounters—encounters which he uses to try and persuade you to question the Lord and His Word—or, even worse, to place yourself at the center of attention. Let’s look at some examples of this:
In the Old Testament, the sons of Aaron disobeyed God by offering profane fire during their worship. When they did, holy fire from the Lord devoured them (Leviticus 10).
While in the wilderness, some of the children of Israel complained and the “fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).
Later, Korah and 250 leaders rebelled against Moses and Aaron by putting holy fire in their censors when they were not authorized to do so. The end result was that God destroyed them by sending fire from heaven.
Plus, the heathen countries offered their children by fire to the god of Molech, who was a secular god of fire, as recorded in the Old Testament.
James uses fire as a metaphor to warn how the tongue can boast of things and destroy because it is like setting a forest on fire.
Ultimately, there is a lake of fire prepared for Satan and his angels, and it will not be holy fire.
Remember this: God is not mocked. God’s word is sure and His judgment is just, especially for the enemy.
But, encounters with God are sure and strong—and they are marked by God’s holy fire.
Just ask Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, or the church on the Day of Pentecost:
In Genesis 3, while on the back side of the desert, Moses encountered a flame of fire in the burning bush—and that fire was “THE GREAT I AM.”
Likewise, in the wilderness, the glory of the Lord over the tabernacle was like a bright cloud in the daytime and like a fire at night. That fire and glory cloud gave them direction and protection. Selah!
Another example was when Elijah challenged the worshippers of Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel, saying that “The God who answers by fire – He is God!” You know the story. Elijah gave the Baal worshippers all morning to call upon their god, cut themselves, and beg for fire to come down from heaven – but it was all to no avail. Then, when Elijah prayed, God sent fire which devoured the sacrifice, the wood, the dirt, and the water.
In another way, Jeremiah said the words of the Lord were like a fire shut up in his bones.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist referred to Jesus and said, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
On the Day of Pentecost, that prediction came to pass. Cloven tongues like fire came over all who were present, and all the people were filled with the Spirit.
Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
In Revelation, John uses several descriptions of what he sees: seven lamps of fire, a mountain with fire, an altar with fire, a lake of fire, fire from a mouth, and Jesus who has eyes like fire and feet like fire.
Fire releases energy.
It is something that all cultures have in common, and they always have throughout history. God ordained it to be so—but He wants us to use holy fire, and to be filled with holy fire.
JESUS HIMSELF warns us in Revelation 3:15, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. So because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I will spew you out of my mouth.” So, my prayer for all of us is to be on fire for the Lord, bringing glory to Him and being a fiery-light to the world. Let the fire fall on you.
Pray as David prayed, “Lord, let it create a clean heart in me.” Let us be ablaze with the Spirit, using holy fire for good as God intended.
Do you need to be on fire for God today? If so, won’t you stop and ask Him to reignite His fire in your heart? He will always answer when you ask for His fire!