Deuteronomy 4:23-24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Ann Spangler opens chapter 10 of “Praying the Names of God” with this statement: “The Lord is a Consuming Fire who will ultimately destroy what ever is opposed to his holiness.”
God’s wrath is not well accepted in our culture of tolerance. It seems that “tolerance” in our society means accepting anything that is comfortable.
How could a loving God send anyone to Hell? Why would a loving God allow such pain in our world? How can a Christ follower be loving and not accept ways of living that are against the Bible?
The book of Daniel in the Bible tells of three men who were thrown into a blazing furnace because of their devotion to God’s standards. An amazing thing happens. In his anger, the king ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. The furnace was so hot, the flames killed the men who threw them in. As the king looked into the furnace, he saw a fourth person with the three men. The three men walked out of the consuming fire unharmed.
It is important to understand that “acceptance” and “tolerance” are not equivalent. The definition for tolerance is “the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.” Acceptance indicates approval. As a Christ follower I can be tolerant because God allows everyone to make their own choices. But for my faith to be sincere, I cannot accept or approve anything that is against the Bible because that is the standard of my faith. Those who argue my stance on that are not being tolerant (recognizing and respecting) my beliefs. The three men in Daniel were not intolerant of the King’s laws but because of their beliefs, they could not accept those laws. They were so sure of their God, they were willing to die rather than live against their beliefs.
If your beliefs are different than mine and you feel as strong about your beliefs as I do, then we both should attempt to help each other understand our beliefs. This is not intolerance. This is a desire to share what we believe gives meaning and purpose to life. If I attempt to share the reasons for my faith in Christ, it is not because I want to prove you wrong. It is because I have discovered something that makes sense of life and makes living more than just an existence. I have become a part of our Jealous God. I want you to be a part of Him with me.
Spangler quotes English poet Joseph Addison as saying “Jealousy is that pain which a man feels from the apprehension that he is not equally beloved by the person whom he entirely loves.”
Our society is so tolerant and accepting of imperfection that we totally ignore the concept of a Holy God. If you are applying for a prestigious position, your resume will be destroyed if it doesn’t conform to the standards required. This is not a hateful act. If we really want to be a part of that company, we will conform to their values and mission.
God instructs us to be holy because He is holy. Until recently, I thought that meant that we should strive to be perfect. Similar to conforming to the standards to get the position desired. I’ve never felt that my acceptance by God was anything I could strive for. God’s acceptance of me comes only through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So why I thought holiness was something I could strive for, I do not know.
Leviticus 20:8 plainly says “I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Therefore, I am either holy or I am not holy. God’s wrath is not determined by my striving to be good.
When I accepted Jesus Christ, I accepted Him as my means of holiness. Literally accepted Him into my life. I’m not the one making me holy. Ephesians 4:30 (The Message) says, “Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.” I am holy not because of what I believe or what I do, but because the Spirit of God which was in Jesus Christ is now in me.
God is jealous for you. He wants you to love him as much as he loves you. Will you accept him into the blazing furnace of this life with you or will you be consumed by the fire?
Whatever you believe, I respect you. Because of what I believe, my heart and God’s heart breaks for you to give up your individual comfort and allow God’s Holy Spirit to make you fit to live in His presence. Let's walk out of this blazing furnace together, unharmed.