Hebrews 12:28-29, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
God has enrolled us in Adversity University not just for our own development, but so that we can serve Him. Serving God is serious business; and according to the Bible, we must serve Him acceptably – acceptably according to His definition, not ours. God commands and demands that we serve Him with our lives. He is a God of love and grace and mercy. However, He is more than just that, and we cannot forget His holiness and justice. If we take what we have learned as students in Adversity University and do not serve God acceptably, than everything He has brought about in our lives is wasted. Remember, it is about more than just our development. There is a world around us that desperately needs His help. So, let’s look at the aspects of God’s nature that are described by calling Him a consuming fire, and the implications for our service.
First, God will consume the unconverted. Make no mistake about it; death is not simply the end of existence for the unsaved. There is a place, a very real place, for every man and woman who dies without Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior. Hell is a place. It is not a state of mind or a figment of imagination. Outside the city of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day was a dump called Gehenna. They burned trash there, with the fire never going out. That is the visual Jesus used to describe the eternal place of judgment for the unconverted.
Secondly, God will consume anything that keeps us from serving Him. The first time fire is mentioned in the Bible is in the story of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those cities did not have to be destroyed. It is true that they were very wicked, but the thing that ultimately caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not sodomy; it was the sin of Lot, the one saved man in the city. Second, Peter chapter two tells us that Lot was a righteous man, and that he hated the sin of Sodom. Lot was like many of us. He did not like what was going on in his society. The tragedy is that he did not do anything about it. God told Abraham that if He found ten righteous people in Sodom, He would spare the city. Because Lot was not willing to serve God, the cities were destroyed.
Our Responsibility. Your decision to serve God has a direct impact on where you live. The biggest problem in the United States of America today is not the Democrats or the Republicans or the Independents. Our problem is not in San Francisco or Las Vegas or New York City or Washington or New Orleans. The greatest problem in America is found in our fundamental, Bible-believing, Baptist churches. It is good to go to church, but that is not enough. God’s purpose for our lives is for us to serve Him. That is why we are here.
Complete Sacrifice. Abraham understood this principle: Anything or anyone that takes precedence over God in our lives will be consumed with fire. God will remove it from its position for His glory and for our good. When you are tempted to say “No” to God and hold on to something that comes between you and Him, remember that He is a consuming fire. He is committed to burning the dross our of our lives, so that we might come forth as gold, pure and refined for His glory. The statement that God is a consuming fire is actually a quote from Deuteronomy 4:24, which says, “For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” God does not want anything or anyone to take His place in our lives. This is a stern warning to not allow anything to keep us from serving Him.
Stay in School and Graduate with Honors. God never makes a mistake. He knew exactly what He was doing when He planned your studies at Adversity University. Your heavenly Father has custom-designed your curriculum. He knows what you need; He knows what you can take. There will be days when you will struggle and wonder if you can make it; and yes, by His grace you can make it. You can receive a good report. There will be days when you will wonder if it is worth it; and yes, graduation day is coming. Stay in school; do not drop out. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Run with patience and finish the race. And when you do, you will become a person of great faith. Your picture will join the many others in the hall of graduates, and your life will inspire others to see that you have graduated with honors. They will follow you and learn from your endurance in Adversity University.