James Merritt - Fire Out
It may be the largest fire in American history, perhaps the largest fire ever to burn. As a matter of fact, just to read about it almost singes the hair on your head because for two terrifying days and night on August the 20th and 21st, 1910 this fire raged across millions of acres of Timberland in Northern Ohio, Idaho and Western Montana. It all started when some scattered fires burning in a very dry area was hit by some hurricane force winds and within six hours fires became firestorms, trees by the millions became exploding candles. Millions of trees were sucked up from the ground, roots and all becoming flying blow torches, wind powered fireballs were reported rolling from ridge top to ridge top at 70 miles per hour, leaping canyons a half mile wide in one fluid motion.
They said entire mountain sides were ignited in an instant, no one had ever seen a fire like this. Trees, bushes, anything flammable was exploding like Roman candles. At noon on the next day, it was dark as far as Canada as far South as Denver Colorado and as far East as New York, to the West the sky was so filled with smoke and ashes that ships 500 miles out to sea could not get navigate by the stars. When it was over, this fire had burned 3 million acres, had destroyed enough timber to fill a freight train 2,400 miles long and it killed 86 people. By the time they finally put out this massive forest fire it had burned 4,700 square miles put that in perspective the entire state of Connecticut went up in smoke.
Now that may be the largest fire in American history and it maybe one of the largest in all of history but I don't believe it is the largest fire that has ever ever been put out. I believe that fire is put out every day by followers of Jesus. I believe that fire's put out many, many Sundays in many, many churches. And I'm talking about the fire of the Holy Spirit. We have been in a series that we've been calling Holy who on the Holy Spirit, because I've said in this whole series we've been doing I really believe this. In fact, I found this out from the comments and the feedback we've gotten from so many of you who've said, I didn't know about the Holy Spirit. I didn't know this about the Holy Spirit. I did not know that about the Holy Spirit.
And we said last week, that there's a problem sometimes with ignorance of the Holy Spirit we don't know so much about him. And on the other hand, there's a problem with indifference even though we may know something about him living a true spirit filled, spirit drilled, spirit thrilled life is not just on the radar screen of most believers on a daily basis. And so we've come to learn several things about the Holy Spirit in this series. So by way of review just to remind you, we've learned that the Holy Spirit is a real person. He's not in it. He's not a force. He's not a power. He is a person. And so we've been talking in this series about how we ought to be related, rightly related to the Holy Spirit.
So let me just give you a super quick review. A couple of ago we said, that we must receive the filling of the spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says be filled with the spirit. God wants us to live a life that is lived in the spirit, not in the flesh and that's led by the spirit not led by the flesh. So we must receive the filling of the spirit. Then last week we said we must respect the feelings of the spirit. Ephesians 4:30 says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God". And that word grieve means to break someone's heart. It means to cut to the quick. And we said last week that there's certain things that if we do not do them, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We will hurt the feelings and break the heart of the Holy Spirit.
So when we don't allow the Holy Spirit to control the way we think and the way we talk and the way we act, we grieve him, we hurt his feelings. Today I wanna go one step further. And I wanna show you that we must not only receive the filling of the spirit. And we must not only respect the feelings of the spirit. We must release the freedom of the Holy Spirit. I wanna show you what I'm talking about. If you're on a copy of God's word or you have a smart tablet or an iPhone or whatever is you might use, I want you to turn to a book in the Bible it's actually a letter that was written is called 1st Thessalonians.
Now, if you don't know where that is the easiest way to find it is find a Bible go all the way back to the maps and what have you have in the back of your Bible, turn right about 30 or 40 pages and you're gonna run into a little book called 1st Thessalonians. We're gonna be in 1st Thessalonians chapter five, let me give you the background of what's going on. There was a man by the name of Paul who went to a city called Thessaloniki, I've been there before and it's over in Greece. And he had actually founded a church there. He had actually founded a group of believers there. Well, they're brand new, they don't know what really means, they don't know much about Christianity. They've just recently come to know Christ and so they're kind of learning the basics of what it means to be a Christian. Beyond that, they're under tremendous persecution.
The Jews in that city are not happy about the Christian movement and they're getting a lot of pressure and a lot of persecution. So Paul has written this letter to encourage them, to bless them, to strengthen them, to tell them, to hang in the battle, to tell them to stay strong in the Lord. And so toward the end of this letter, he writes something very interesting and I bet many of you don't even know this verses in the Bible. He says, "Do not quench the spirit". First he says, "Be filled with the spirit," and then he says, "Do not grieve the spirit," now he says, "Do not quench the spirit". Now that word quench is a very strong word. It literally means to put out a fire by drowning with water. One translation puts it this way, "Do not put out the spirit's fire". That word can also mean don't turn out a light.
Now whether you know this or not in the Bible the Holy Spirit is often symbolized as a fire. Well, a fire as you know does two things. It gives off heat, but it also gives off light. And so within every believer what we've learned is there is a fire burning in your heart who is called the Holy Spirit. And as we live the spirit filled life we are to be shining the light of Jesus to other people. And yet Paul now is gonna tell us that there are things that we can do individually. And there are things that we can do together as a church that will literally put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. It will turn off the light of the Holy Spirit.
Now you may be asking a good question, I hope some of you are, you may be saying, hey, wait a minute. So what is the difference between grieving the Holy Spirit and quenching the Holy Spirit? That's a great question. So let me put it to you this way. This is the simplest way to remember it. We grieve the Holy Spirit by what we do to him. We quenched the Holy Spirit by what we refuse to let him do through us. So if you remember last week, I said when you don't control your thoughts or you don't control your tongue, or you don't control your temper, you grieve the Holy Spirit, is what we do to him. But we're gonna learn today that we quench the Holy Spirit by what we refuse to let him do through us. So to put it another way. We quench the Holy Spirit by doing what he tells us not to do. We quench the Holy Spirit by not doing what he tells us to do.
So when you know the Holy Spirit telling you, control that temper, control that tongue, control those thoughts but you don't do it. You grieving. When the Holy Spirit tells you do this or do that, and you don't do it, you quench the Holy Spirit. Now you probably ask another question. So what do you do? What are those kinds of things that we do that quench the Holy Spirit? Well, because this verse comes right in the middle of a section beginning in verse 16 that are filled with imperative verbs. We know what we have to do that we do not quench the Holy Spirit of God. So I'm not gonna be negative, I wanna be positive. Let me tell you those things that throw kerosene on the fire. Let me tell you those things that we ought to be doing both individually and as a church and when we do them it makes the fire of the Holy Spirit burn hotter, it makes the light of the Holy Spirit shine brighter.
So let's look at some things that I know the spirit wants me to do and you to do individually and some things that God that the Holy Spirit wants the church to do corporately and together that to fail to do quenches the Holy Spirit, there are right here in our text. So here's how we're going to make sure we don't put the fire out, we make the fire burn even brighter. First of all we should celebrate God's worship. One of the things, the spirit of God loves is he loves spirit filled worship. Now, when a fire is burning and burning brightly you don't have to tell anybody, you know that, right. And if there's a big fire burning, number one you could feel the heat. And number two, you can see the fire. Well, this is what the fire will look like and feel like in our worship, when we're throwing kerosene on the fire.
Go back to chapter to verse 16. He says, rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Now let me just stop. If you were reading your Bible and you came across that verse you might think Paul is talking to you individually. And he is always, I mean the whole Bible is addressed to us individually. However, what you would not know is unless you knew the Greek language is every one of those verbs are plural. So what he said was rejoice you all, pray you all, give you all. He's not just talking to individual believers. He is talking to the church. And what Paul is saying to the church is these are the things that ought to be present every time you come together to worship.
These are the things that outsiders walking into a church should see and feel and experience when they walk into a true worship service. Because I believe that when believers and unbelievers walk into any church where God's people are truly celebrating God's worship this is what they're going to feel, this is what they're going to see and this is what they're going to experience. Let's just take these one at a time. Paul says first of all, if you wanna throw Kerosene on the fire of the Holy Spirit in your worship and in our church your worship services should be filled with joy and praise. So he says in verse 16, "Rejoice always".
Now remember the Holy Spirit is a fire. And if you know anything about a fire there's only one of two things you can do to a fire. You can either throw water on it and you can quench it or you can throw fuel on it and you can intensify it. And one of the things that fuels the fire of the Holy Spirit is when we come into into a church like ours, and we come into a worship service like this one, and we're not lackadaisical. We don't act bored. We don't act disinterested. We come in full board, we're ready to worship with joy. We're ready to worship with praise. We're excited about what God is going to do. And by the way, keep in mind that all of these verbs that we looked at a moment ago we're gonna look at it again. They're not just plural number. They are all imperatives. They are commands.
So Paul says, "Rejoice always". Now you might sit there and say, well, nobody can rejoice always. No you're misunderstanding what Paul's saying. You're thinking about happiness and you are exactly right and always choose to be happy but we're not talking about happiness. You see happiness depends upon what happens. If what happens is good, you're happy. If what happens is not bad, you're not happy. So your circumstances can actually determine whether or not you're happy. Okay, put that aside. He didn't say be happy always. I mean, nobody's happy always. I'm not happy always. You're not happy always. Here's what he said, "Rejoice always". You know why? Because if you're a believer, happiness is not a choice. It depends on what happens to you.
Joy is a choice. You can always choose to be joyful whether you are happy or not. Here's why. Happiness comes when good things are happening on the side side. But good things, don't always happen on the outside, joy comes because we have God on the inside. You see, that's why we can be full of joy, if the interest rates are going up, if the economy's tanking, if the price of gasoline is off the charts, if things are not going well at home, it doesn't matter. You could be full of joy because you're full of the Holy Spirit. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy. And if the Holy Spirit is filling you like we've talked about, you will be of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Now I realize there's some big objections going on or some big questions in your mind. So wait a minute. How can you rejoice when you're out of a job, you can't pay your bills. How can you rejoice when you're battling cancer? How can you rejoice when you're going through a dark valley in your marriage? How can you rejoice when you've got a prodigal child? How can you rejoice when life just isn't going your way. It looks an awful. We've all been there. Well, think about this. Let's just take some of you right now. And you're going through one hellacious time in your life over whatever it may be. Marriage, health, kids, finances, it doesn't matter. No matter what you're going through right now I can tell you three things that are absolutely true, if you're a believer in Jesus there are three things are absolutely true about your life right now.
First thing that's true is this, God is in control of your life. He knows what's going on, there's not one renegade molecule in your life. He's got everything under control. Here's the second thing we know, God is always with you. We know that because of the series we've been doing, when you give to Jesus, Jesus gives you the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit goes with you everywhere you go. And here's the third thing we know. God is working everything out for your good. No, it doesn't mean everything happening to you right now is good because some things are happening right now to you is just not good. But what God has promised is this because I'm in you and because I'm for you and because I'm with you, I guarantee you, I'm gonna take everything you're going through right now, and I'm gonna work it out for your good.
Now I wanna ask you a question. If those three things are true, how can you not be full of joy? How can there not just be a fountain of joy bubbling up in your heart? So when people walk into a true worship service they ought to see a people a church full of people, full of joy. We should express it in the way we worship. Let me give you an illustration of this. Don't raise your hand, but I just wanna ask you a question 'cause I would raise my hand if we were, have you ever been to a boring worship service? Maybe I've just been to a worship service, just bored you out of your mind, can I be honest with you. It's a trick question because you I may have answered well, yes I have. Well, no, you really haven't because that's an impossibility.
You say, what do you mean? Well, boring worship is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a boring worship service. You say sure there is, no there's not. If it's boring, it's not worship. I don't know what you wanna call it but if it's boring, it's not worship. Because when you come to worship you're not coming to a funeral. You're coming to a celebration of a God who loves you. A celebration of a savior who has risen from the dead and is alive forever and a celebration of the Holy Spirit who lives in you, guides you and empowers you. So when you don't participate and you don't celebrate worship by participating with joy you are quenching the Holy Spirit, but then he goes further. He says this, pray continually.
Another way that you can throw fire or throw fuel on the fire of the Holy Spirit is just being a spirit of prayer. Every worship service ought to be soaked in prayer and saturated in prayer. I've told you this before. You've probably forgotten it. Every seat that is being occupied right now has been prayed over. As a matter of fact, every seat in this building has been prayed over, our staff gets here early on Sundays. And usually this is my section, by the way. So you better feel special, but I take the middle section and we literally lay hands. We walk through every aisle and every row and we literally lay hands and we pray over every person that's gonna sit in every seat in this building, right now, while I'm up here preaching, you don't know this.
We've got people in another location who are praying during our worship service. They're praying for the worship service. You know why we do that? Because we believe we ought to be praying continually. Now the word for continually doesn't mean continuously occurring. It means constantly recurring. So in other words, what I'm saying is look if all we ever did was pray, if we really took that to a little extreme if all we ever did was pray, we wouldn't do anything else. So what's the first thing we must do if we're not going to quench the spirit we must celebrate God's worship. Here's the second thing Paul says, and it really makes sense. He said "You demonstrate God's will," when you demonstrate God's will you are fueling the fire of the Holy Spirit.
'Cause here's another thing you can do to quench the Holy Spirit. When you want for whatever the reason doesn't matter what your chooses, when you say I'm not gonna do the will of God in this situation in my life, I'm not gonna obey God in this area of my life. I'm not gonna do what I know God wants me to do in this are in my life, you know what you just did? You just quenched the Holy Spirit. That's why we read, the conclusion of all these commands we read this. For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Now you go back and read that in context. What was Paul saying? He was saying, look, I know what the will of God is for you both individually and as a church, it is God's will for us to come together in worship. And when we do it is God's will for us to come to that worship service and be full of joy, to be prayed up and praying and to be thankful, regardless of what is going on in our life. So it is the will of God that we come together to worship and is the will of God that we truly worship when we come together.
So when we come to worship, when we can come to worship but we don't, okay, you can come, but you don't even bother coming. You know what you do. You throw water on the fire of the Holy Spirit. But every time we walk into this building, I know it is the will of God that we all walk in here with buckets of kerosene to throw on the fire of the Holy Spirit, to make it burn brighter and hotter, not to be water that puts it out. Somebody said this a long time ago, they said this, they said if a church is set on fire by the Holy Spirit people will come just to watch it burn. I believe that is so true. It is the will of God that our worship of God be on fire through joy, through prayer and thanksgiving so that people in a cold dark world can feel the fire and see the light of the Holy Spirit.
So if you're struggling right now trying to decide what God's for your life is, let me just give you one piece of advice, whatever you find that to be; going to the ministry, going to the mission field, take another job, serve somewhere in our church, whatever you know in your heart is God's will you better do it or else quench the spirit in your life. So what do we do to throw fuel on the fire? We celebrate God's worship. What do we do? We demonstrate God's will. And here's the last thing Paul said, we elevate God's word. We elevate God's word. There's not better quality kerosene you throw on the fire of the Holy Spirit than when you elevate the word of God.
Now let me show you what this means. So when we come together and I think some of us don't realize this sometimes, I have a responsibility with what I do during this time of the worship service, but you have responsibilities to what you're going to do during this time in our worship service, we have a dual responsibility. Now I have a responsibility individually to all of you but then all of you corporately have a responsibility, not just to me, but to the Lord. And here's what he says in verse 20.
Now, listen to this. He says, do not treat prophecy with contempt. There is a gift of prophecy where preachers and teachers of God's word today under the illumination and the guides of the Holy Spirit take God's word and they have this gift of preaching biblical truth in such a way that it connects, that it's relevant, that it's applicable to modern day life. And we all know this down through the centuries God has obviously given certain people a remarkable degree of insight into scripture into its meaning and its application to everyday life. That's what I call today and what we would call the gift of prophecy. This is the modern day meaning of what this means do not treat prophecies that is do not treat men and women who teach the Bible, men who preach the Bible, men who preach truth do not treat what they do with contempt.
Now, again, what does that mean? Well, let me tell you what it means for me. When a preacher fails to preach, God's Word. Or when we won't touch certain subjects because they're too controversial out of a fear that somebody might be offended. Paul says that quenches the spirit. On the other hand when we walk into church and we refuse to obey what we hear, when we choose to follow what the culture says rather than what God says is true or when we only accept those parts of the Bible that we like and make us feel comfortable. But we reject the rest of it, Paul says we quench the Holy Spirit. So you say, okay, man, listen. So how are we supposed to respond to the word? If God's word is being preached and being taught, how am I supposed to respond to it in such a way that I make sure that I do not quench the spirit?
All right, he goes on to tell us exactly how to do this in the next verses. He says, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all". And then he says this, "Once you've tested them all, hold on to what is good". Now let me tell you what he means. I know what the Holy Spirit wants preachers and teachers to do. He wants us to proclaim his word. He wants us just to preach his truth. However I also know what the Holy Spirit wants for all of us to do. He wants all of us to listen to what is preached. Not just hear it, but really listen to it. And then we are to test everything we hear. So let me tell you something I wanna ask you to do for me every time you hear me preach. Yeah, and I hope you do this for everyone but I'm asking you to do it for me. I do not want you to accept anything that I say, just because I said it.
You say yeah but you got a PhD. I don't care. But I like you. You're a funny guy. Irrelevant, but you're a dog. I mean, we all love the dogs, nothing to do with this. I do not want you to take anything I say at face value just because I say it. I want you to test everything you hear and say, well how do you do that? I'm gonna share with you three ways. In fact, this will help you from now on every time you hear any preacher preach or any teacher teach on anything concerning the Bible. There are always three ways to evaluate everything you hear and you'll know then is this good or is it evil? Is it right or is it wrong? All right, you might wanna jot these down. First of all, test everything by God's word. That's always test number one, test everything by God's word.
In other words, when you hear any preacher say anything you ought to ask yourself, hey, does this measure up to what all of the word of God teaches? Does this measure up with what I know the general thrust of the Bible teaches about the subject. And by the way, you hadn't figured this out. Then you all know it. That means it's important that you study your Bible. It's important that you read your Bible. It's important that you know, what is in the Bible and know what God teaches. So number one, test everything you hear about all of God's word, number two, test everything by God's son. And what I mean by that is this. If anything's ever said, I don't care who says it, I don't care how sweet it sounds. If it contradicts, if it absolutely contradicts who Jesus claimed to be or it contradicts what Jesus claimed to do, reject it.
And then here's the third way you test it, by God's gospel. In other words, if you ever hear anyone say anything, even if they claim it comes from the Bible. If they say something that would ever lead you to believe that you can earn a relationship with God that's the only thing that's important is you just be good enough for God. And if it denies salvation by God's grace through our faith you need to reject it. He says, hold on to what is good. You know what that word good means, that's a word that was related to a genuine coin versus a counterfeit coin. In other words, here's what Paul was saying. You know why you ought to test everything you hear no matter who says it, because just like there's genuine truth, there's counterfeit truth. Not preaching and all teaching is the real thing.
There's counterfeit preaching going on today. And we've got to be wise enough to discern what is good and what is not, 'cause this is why this is so important. One of these days, I'm gonna stand before God and I'm gonna be judged by every word I preach to you. I'm gonna be judged by everything I said on this platform. I'm gonna be judged by that. However, one of these days, you will stand before God and you're gonna be judged by how you responded to it or whether you responded to it. And how you respond to it or whether you respond to it will determine whether or not you're throwing kerosene on the fire of the spirit, or water. I wanna tell you something, church family. God is so good, he has given us the Holy Spirit, he's given the Holy Spirit in every one of us and if we want him and accept him, he's given the Holy Spirit to be over this building every time we walk into it.
And I wanna tell you, you've got one job as a believer and we've got one job as a church and that is to make sure that we are fueling the fire of the Holy Spirit so that when people walk into this church, they feel the warmth and they see the light and they're drawn to Jesus Christ. Listen, we want to see lives transformed in this church. This is what we live for, we live to see people leave darkness and come to light. We live to see people get out of the coldness of sin and into the heat of the love of God. That can only happen through the fire of the Holy Spirit. So may we never as a church say the fire is out, may we always say in our church fire is up.