Twenty years ago this week the Lord grabbed a hold of my life in a powerful way. It happened at a year-end retreat with a campus ministry following my freshman year in college. I grew up in a wonderful Christian home and had been taught about the gospel, but until this time I was not walking in a genuine relationship with God. While I would have called myself a Christian, I was living in deception and sin.
In this encounter, I experienced a deep work of repentance and instantaneous freedom from bondage to various sinful strongholds. As I turned to God in confession and genuine repentance, His love was tangible and I wept over His mercy toward me. The direction of my life was drastically changed from that moment on. I became hungry for the things of God, began to devour His Word, and pursue a deeper relationship with Him.
As I was reflecting on the twenty-year mark of my conversion, I looked back on some old journal entries. Just over a year into my walk with God I wrote the following: “Lord, may the fire that you put in my heart never be dimmed or diminished, but may it blaze and burn and shine through for your glory.” I went on to tell the Lord that I would rather die than become complacent or lukewarm. I hadn’t remembered writing this in my journal and was struck and sobered by the intensity of these words. But I can testify that God has answered my prayer to stay on fire for Him!
There seems to be a mindset among many believers that being on fire for God will only last for a short season after a person’s conversion. After that they will “settle down” and not be so intense in their relationship with God or their zeal to see the kingdom of God advance. But let me tell you that this is a lie. You don’t have to lose your fire and passion for God. In fact, it is imperative that we not lose our fire. We must stop normalizing lukewarmness. Being lukewarm should never be an option for believers as it is the state of the Laodicean church that Jesus said He would spew out of His mouth! (See Revelation 3:16)
We never have to lose our fire for God. But let me also say that staying on fire does not happen by accident. It will take intentional effort, time, and attention to keep the fire burning.
And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out. (Leviticus 6:12-13)
It is one thing to start a fire, but it is another thing to keep it burning. Without more wood a fire will eventually die out. And without the proper ingredients in our lives, our fire for God will burn out as well. As the priests had to continually add wood and offerings on the fire to keep it going, so we must continually tend the fire of our personal walk with God.
A few years ago I preached a sermon about staying on fire for God. Below is a summary of the keys that I listed for how to keep the fire burning.
1. Prioritize personal devotion: There is simply no substitute for personal devotion to God in the secret place. Making it a priority to daily spend quality time alone with the Lord in prayer, Bible reading, worship, and waiting on Him is essential to maintaining the fire of God in your life. Don’t neglect this for anything!
2. Keep short accounts with God and people: Be quick to confess and repent of any known sin. Be quick to forgive others when hurt, and do not allow offense to build in your heart. Be quick to seek to reconcile with others (as much as is in your ability to do so). It is critical to keep short accounts with God and people.
3. Keep out worldly influences: The Bible says that “Bad company corrupts good character” and that “The companion of fools will be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20). Be careful who you are allowing to influence your life. Also be careful about how worldly entertainment can desensitize you to sin, quench your fire, and sap your spiritual hunger. The lukewarm will mock this lifestyle of holiness, but don’t let the criticisms of the complacent lower your standard of consecration.
4. Walk with others who are on fire: We’re not meant to walk the Christian life alone. Gathering and fellowshipping with other believers who are passionately pursuing God will help stoke the flames of your own fire. Gleaning from others through books, sermons, and other resources can also help to keep our hearts burning.
5. Be continually filled with the Holy Spirit: We are exhorted to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and to fan into flame the gift of God in our lives (see Ephesians 5:18; 2 Timothy 1:6). God has promised to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire (see Matthew 3:11). As we are continually filled with the Holy Spirit, His fire will burn in us and through us.
These are not the only keys for staying on fire, but they are a sampling of ways to add wood to the flames so that you can stay ablaze for God. In the natural, a fire requires the right conditions and the right materials. The same is true in the spiritual. Staying on fire will not happen by accident but as you intentionally pursue God with all of your heart.
Have you lost your fire and passion for God? Repent and get back to your first love. Make a decision that you will not allow complacency or lukewarmness in your heart. Choose to daily add fuel to the fire so that you can keep the flames burning. Jesus is worthy of a life on fire!