Fire in my bones

Whenever Jeremiah tried to withhold God’s messages, he would still feel the reality of the divine warnings as a severe heartache that he describes as fire in his bones!

‘If I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name”, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot’ (Jeremiah 20:9).

He usually experienced God’s words as smouldering fire rather than as outbursts of conflagration. ‘God is a consuming fire, a jealous God’ (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29); jealous/zealous means ‘boiling/glowing hot’ in the Greek texts.

‘Zeal for God’ can be misguided

Saul of Tarsus and his fellow-Jews were zealous for God, yet they opposed his church (see Romans 10:2; Philippians 3:6). So, how about a rigorous check-up about essential issues? How do I score (one to ten) on slow-burning passion for the following?

[1] Am I intensely repentant from lukewarm attitudes and actions?

Jesus found the lukewarm Christians in Laodicea distasteful and told them to ‘be zealous and repent’ (Revelation 3:19). Now, although ‘repent’ means ‘change of mind’ in both English and Greek, it must be a fiery heart intention to change one’s ways (in 2 Corinthians 7:7, 11-12  zeal is synonymous with longing, mourning, earnestness and eagerness).

[2] Am I eager for manifestations of the Spirit? (See 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 and 1 Corinthians 14:1-40.)

We should ‘earnestly desire spiritual gifts’, such as insights and healings, but especially to prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 12, 39). And Luke tells us that as Apollos exercised his eloquent teaching ministry, he was ‘fervent in spirit’ (Acts 18:25).

[3] Am I earnest in prayer?

Elijah ‘prayed fervently’ and effectively that it might not rain (James 5:17, zeo with heat); Epaphras was ‘always struggling’ in prayer for his converts’ progress (Colossians 4:12); the church made ‘earnest prayer’ (Acts 12:5, stretched-out) for Peter facing execution; Jesus in agony in Gethsemane ‘prayed more earnestly’ to do God’s will (Luke 22:44).

[4] Am I fervent in my love for God and my neighbour – including non-Christians?

(See Romans 12:9-11; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8 – eg ‘Outdo one another in showing honour’.)

[5] Am I diligent about character development?

(See 2 Peter 1:10; 3:14 – eg. virtue without blemish, self-control, steadfastness etc.)

[6] Am I strenuous in good deeds? (See Titus 2:14.)

[7] Am I longing for the resurrection?

(See Romans 8:23; Galatians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:2; Hebrews 9:28.) Do I truly ache for Jesus’ return, or am I too much at home in this ‘present evil age’ (Galatians 1:4)? 

Do I yearn for God himself in all these matters?

See Isaiah 26:9; especially for his ‘dwelling place’ (Psalm 84:2-4) – which, since Pentecost, is of course his active gathered church. He, in fact, yearns for our company (see Jeremiah 31:20) and ‘satisfies the longing soul’ (Psalm 107:9).

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