The Fire of Jesus | James Stevenson
The return to Antioch in Syria
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.
26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
The Fire of Jesus
John the Baptist had spoken of Jesus baptising ‘with the Holy Spirit and fire’. At Pentecost we saw what that meant, and through the book of Acts we see the fire spreading.
Paul and Barnabas had been attacked and expelled from several towns for preaching the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but they didn’t give up. In fact they went back to those places to strengthen the new churches there. The fire in their hearts transformed them, changed their priorities and made them want to live like Jesus did. That fire does the same today.
-The fire sparks into a flame in people’s lives when they receive the message of God’s Father-love and say yes to the wonderful relationship with God that Jesus brought about. Baptism follows, as it will for some at B&A Church on 29th April.
-God fuels that fire. When we carve out time in our lives for prayer, God fans the flame into a passion for his kingdom and for those who don’t yet know Jesus. We become more alive as we move into a rhythm of daily prayer, worship and reading the Bible. We start to pray for specific friends and relatives.
-The Holy Spirit spreads that fire, bringing people together into communities of those who love Jesus. At B&A Church, the ‘Little Churches’ aim to be places where that fire catches and spreads. We are not meant to walk this path alone. Loving as Christ loves is going to involve self-sacrifice, and we need each other for encouragement and mutual support.
When Paul and Barnabas got back to Antioch, they had so many stories to tell of people coming to faith. We too can encourage each other with stories of what God’s doing in our lives, and comfort each other when things get tough.
-The fire goes wild. Such stories fuel our passion to see more of God’s work. Today we hear stories of the Church failing and predictions of it dying out completely. This is nonsense! God’s way Is one of resurrection – from death into life. But people need to hear the Easter message, which means that others have to tell them. How else will they discover the reality of God’s love for them thanks to Jesus, and step into the transformed life that he brings, unless we live out that life ourselves and can explain why we do so?
Do you feel a longing to say yes to God, and yet you are hesitating about making such a commitment? What you are feeling is God’s love for you. He is calling you now. If you want help to think this through, get in touch.
Or perhaps you did say ‘yes’ some time ago, but the fire seems to have died down inside you. The stuff of life can dampen the flame, but each new day can also offer a new start. Is it time to turn back to God and ask for fresh fuel for the fire?
Or maybe you are trying to go it alone and things aren’t working out. Come to a Little Church, hear the stories and be encouraged!