By: Samuel Kwan (sharing an article from Mars Hill Church)
How do you keep yourself hot? Motivated? Passionate toward Jesus? I would submit to you that a regular practice of the spiritual disciplines is the way. Some of you would ask, “As my passionate commitment to Jesus may be waning in certain seasons,” and we all experience this, “What is the secret to sort of reignite that flame of passion toward God?” Well, the truth is there’s no secret. There’s just habitual obedience in a number of areas. And it starts in community.
Now I don’t know about you, I was a city boy, raised in the city. Didn’t camp. I didn’t know how to make a fire. And then Gracie and I were married between our junior and senior year of college. We rented a basement apartment for $250 a month. And we couldn’t afford the electric heating bill because we were college broke. There was a fireplace so we decided, “We’ll make fires and that will heat our home.” The problem was I didn’t know how to make a fire. One of the first fires I tried to make, I put a log in, surrounded it with paper, I set it on fire. The paper burned, the log laughed. And there was no fire. So I got lighter fluid. Incentive. Motivation. Like the Holy Spirit, just put that on the flame. But eventually I was out of lighter fluid and the log still wasn’t on fire and continued laughing at me. Then I realized, “Oh, I’ll need a little kindling.”
Let’s call these kinds of spiritual disciplines kindling. This helps to stoke a fire and keep it going. And what I learned very quickly was, you need to stack the logs together. And once you stack the logs together with the right kindling, once you light the kindling then the kindling heats up into a set of coals and then the kindling as coals starts to heat up the logs. And then the logs, if they’re appropriately stacked, burn off of one another. You get a fantastic flame that burns for a long time and generates a lot of sustaining heat. (And your wife will snuggle with you.) That’s what I learned about making a fire.
“Without community, eventually you will be extinguished.”
The Christian life is like that. The spiritual disciplines here, it’s like kindling. It gets the fire started. Turns into good, hot coals to keep it burning. And community is stacking the logs together. It’s Christians in relationship, in friendship, in what we call community groups, stacking together. Saying, “You know, all by ourselves, eventually, perhaps not long at all, a single log ceases to flame.” How many of you have noticed this? You could take a flaming log that’s red hot underneath, fully heated up, remove it from the stack, isolate it. Before long it’s down to embers, it’s smoldering, it’s dark. And the flame is extinguished.
You, friend, are like that. You will continue to burn if you have enough kindling and community. Without kindling there won’t be coals to keep you hot. Without community eventually you will be extinguished. Your passionate zeal and devotion to Jesus will wane until it ends. And how many of you this has been your story? The hottest seasons of your life with God have been those in community and the coldest seasons in your life spiritually have been alone? It’s true for us all. It’s why God said, “It’s not good to be alone.”
And so the kindling, Scripture, it’s reading the Bible. It’s how God talks to us. It’s also reading good Christian books that help us understand the Bible.
It’s prayer, which is talking to God. Maybe even about the fact that you’re alone. Or there’s a lot of water on your wood right now.
It includes worship, which is a lifestyle, but it’s also coming together on Sunday as the church and it includes singing. And the way we’ve even organized our service, I’ll admit, it can be awkward and you have to grow into it. Because I will rebuke you for an hour and then expect you to sing joyfully. It’s because, for us, a rebuke, a correction, an instruction, is not a condemnation, it’s an invitation. It’s God saying, “This is a problem. I’m here. Let’s work on it.” And singing and responding is running to God, saying, “Thank you for being willing to help me. I am willing to have your help right now.” And so there’s a sense of passionate urgency.
It includes giving because as Jesus has already said in Luke 12, where your heart is your treasure is. If you want your heart to be toward God and the things of God, then give your money toward God and the things of God and your passion will follow.
It includes serving. Finding people and places in which you could be of assistance and make a contribution and help. “Who can I help? What can I do? Where can I serve?” And that helps us to grow in our appreciation that our God is a humble God and Jesus is a God who serves us.
This includes obedience. This is doing what God said even when you don’t feel like it. I had this situation with Gideon last night. He’s four. I said, “Gideon, you need to sit there and eat your dinner.” He said, “I don’t feel like it.” I said, “Well, I didn’t say that I want you to feel like eating your dinner. What did I say?” He said, “You said to eat my dinner.” Okay for some of us that’s as simple as it is with us and God. God says, “Obey me.” And we say, “I don’t feel like it.” And God says, “You can still obey me.” And obedience keeps us from harm. Obedience keeps us from danger. And sometimes in the act of obedience our heart comes around and we feel differently.
And lastly it’s evangelism, which is talking to non-Christians, building relationships with non-Christians, loving and serving non-Christians. If you’re not a Christian, we love you. We are so honored, sincerely, and glad you’re here. Everything on the Web site’s free. Download anything that looks good. Get a free copy of the Bible. We’re glad to have you. We love you.
And for those of us who are Christians, being around non-Christians helps to remind us that to be separated from God and his people and to grow cold and to live as if we didn’t even belong to or know God, well, that’s not something that our deepest desires really long for. Do you remember what it was like to be a non-Christian? Can you imagine what it would be like to live life apart from God and his people?