Luke 12:35 Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.
• Be alert … stay awake … be ready … be “fired up” with your lamp burning brightly for the Lord.
• We live in evil, dangerous times predicted in the Scriptures. Peter wrote, “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1). The King James version says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.”
• You can’t afford to fall asleep spiritually. Jesus warns us to be ever ready, to keep our lamps burning, our lives illuminated by the light He provides.
• Some years ago a Christian brother called me to come quickly, because a lady friend of his seemed to be demon-possessed. On short notice, my wife and I rushed over to join that brother in ministering to the lady. It was immediately apparent that she (not a believer) was under demonic control. Well, it took about four hours(!) of rebuking the devil before we saw her deliverance come. We then shared the Gospel with her and she was quickly born again. Then almost immediately she was also baptized in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and crying with joy, "This is what I've always wanted!" What is my point? I think if we had been doing some regular prayer with fasting right before then, her deliverance might have taken just minutes instead of hours (as Jesus taught in Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29, KJV). That episode of spiritual warfare reminds me of how urgent it is that we Christians "keep our lamps burning."
Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
• An expert in Greek grammar, Professor D.A. Carson, offers an important insight into this verse. He says that the Greek grammatical construction “normally suggests a unified concept, Spirit-fire or the like” [emphasis mine] (Expositor's Bible Commentary, Matthew, p. 105).
• Acts 2:3-4 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. A visual appearance of fire was present at the New Testament church’s initial experience of the baptism with the Spirit. And nothing has changed. It is still a baptism of Spirit-fire.
• Only weeks earlier many of those disciples had fled in fear when Jesus was captured. Now they went forth and boldly preached the Gospel, having been empowered by a “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
• I recall my own “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire” in 1971. My normal reserve and timidity were changed dramatically. Suddenly I had a boldness to step out and be a witness for Jesus Christ. I felt an evangelistic fire inside.
• A suggested prayer: “Lord, renew my fire for souls, for holiness, for kingdom work.”
Romans 10:1-2, 9, 11 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge…  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
• We need a WORD-based zeal for the Lord. Many of Paul’s fellow Israelites were “zealous for God” (vs. 2). But they were still not saved (vs. 1). Their zeal was commendable, but it was misplaced, because it was “not based on knowledge” of the Scriptures! (vss. 2,9).
• I’ve seen Christians, oftentimes new converts, with zeal for God oozing out of their pores. Then I’ll see them make unfruitful, even harmful decisions, because those decisions were “not based on knowledge” (vs. 2). They may have been based on emotions, good intentions, or simply a desire to do something for the Lord. But they were not based on the knowledge of the Scriptures that should guide our lives in every area.
• I’m a case in point. As a young believer newly baptized in the Spirit in 1971 I came up with an exciting plan to buy a truck and camper shell and travel around the USA on my own as an itinerant evangelist. I foresaw myself leading many to salvation in Christ, baptizing them in whatever water was nearby, and so on. Then a very wise older Christian lady told me not to go anywhere, but to stay in the church I was in, where I could grow in the Lord and the knowledge of His word. And I listened to her advice, thankfully. Because as I became submitted to mature spiritual leaders and got to know God’s word better, I realized that I was called by God to the ministry of church-based Bible teaching — quite a different calling from itinerant evangelism! The word of God and wise counsel helped me to redirect that inner “fire” into the track God has had for me these past 44 years, that is, teaching His word. The point? Our inner “fire” must be fire that is grounded in the wisdom of God and His word. I had zealously but erroneously concluded that “evangelist” was my calling. But the wisdom of God and the bible teacher call prevailed as I became familiar with Ephesians 4:11 and the bible’s teaching on the various ministry callings.
John 2:13-17 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
• Jesus had a relentless zeal for His Father’s “house,” the Temple. Let us have a burning zeal for the New Testament “house of God…the CHURCH” (1 Timothy 3:15, KJV).
• I love the church! I cannot imagine being churchless. Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life for her — “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).
• I attend Wednesday evening service as well as Sunday morning, because I want maximum participation in that great love that Jesus has for His church. Because I love the church I give tithes to my local church. I led church-planting teams to New York and to Oregon and pastored those churches, because I love the effectiveness of churches in leading souls to Jesus Christ and helping them mature. Professor Peter Wagner once said that the single greatest evangelistic method under heaven is planting new churches.
• Ponder these things; pray about them. And let a fire burn within you for the growth of God’s kingdom on earth through the growth of hundreds of thousands of local churches. I find it hard to have faith for the whole world. But I can have faith for our local church’s portion of the world and our assignment from God to reach that portion.
Luke 24:32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
• The PRESENCE of the Lord caused their hearts to burn within them. I recall a time at youth camp many years ago when the presence of the Lord in our boys’ cabin was so thick you could almost feel it physically. It led to dramatic testimonies, including about 20 of those boys being baptized in the Holy Spirit in that cabin that evening.
• Seek the Lord, pray, read His word, worship Him, gather with other believers. Why? Because in these things you cultivate the presence of the Lord.
• I love to gather with other believers because Jesus said, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). We can experience the presence of the Lord in times of worship. We feel His presence in the preaching and teaching of His living word. And His presence can be powerfully manifested in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. And like those two men on the road with Jesus, we’ll find our “hearts burning within us” as we experience His presence.
Jeremiah 20:9 …if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
Jeremiah 23:28-29 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
• God’s word to us and in us will be “in [our] heart like a fire.” It will push you from within to declare it.
• If you have His word (in the instance above, a word of prophecy from the Lord), “speak it faithfully.” The word of the Lord, written or prophetic, is “like fire … and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces” (29). The word of God “is living and active and full of power” (Hebrews 4:12, Amplified).
• So to keep our lamps burning brightly and accurately for the Lord, we need word-based lives, yes, as we saw in Romans 10:2,11 above. But we also should have word-PROCLAIMING lives. Don’t be like the prophet who was weary of holding the word in. Speak His word faithfully. It will be like fire and like a hammer that breaks down all opposition to the plans and purposes of God.
In sum, hear and obey Jesus’ command to keep your lamps burning:
• Stay fired up for the Lord, alert and ready to serve Him.
• Open your heart to receive a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.
• As His holy fire burns in you and your zeal grows for the Lord’s work, be sure to keep that zeal grounded in the clear guidance of His word, the bible.
• Never let your zeal be diminished for God’s house, the Church. Remember, that zeal consumed Jesus!
• Cultivate Christ’s presence in prayer, worship, bible reading, and church attendance. By doing so, you will find your “hearts burning within” you as you sense His presence.
• Be not only word-based, but also word-declaring. Let His word in you be like a fire that cannot be held in. Speak His word to others, and watch it break in pieces even the hardest opposition to the things of God.