Most Christians are like Gideon when they offer themselves as a sacrifice to the Lord—the last thing they expect is the fire of God to fall and consume them, but that is what God does with sacrifices. Of course, with Christians, it is not a literal fire that falls but is nevertheless a type of fire from God. Romans 12:1 admonishes us to make our bodies a living sacrifice for God:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1).
Many believers in Jesus have offered themselves to Him as a living sacrifice and are extremely shocked when the fires of trials and tribulations fall upon their lives and seemingly consume them. They act as if something strange has happened. People say things like, “Why did God do this to me? I was only trying to obey Him and this is what I get!” No, it is not something strange; that is what God does with sacrifices when He accepts them—He sends fire down on them (Ex. 24:17; Lev. 9:24; Num. 26:10; Duet. 4:24; 2 Sam. 22:13; 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Chron. 7:1; etc.).
In the Old Testament Job was a righteous man who was always making sacrifices to the Lord for himself and his family:
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. . . . So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.
(Job 1:1-2, 5).
As the book makes clear, Job made himself a living sacrifice to God with all his good works.
While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:16-19).
Surprisingly, Job’s first response was worship:
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord."
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong”
However, it did not take Job long to change his tune as the fire of God continued to fall on his body. The book is filled with his bitter complaining and claiming he did not deserve this kind of treatment. In the end, Job is blessed with twice as much as in the beginning. The result of the fire was that Job was more humble, more wise, more God fearing, and more holy. The fire of God had greatly purified him and made him eligible for even more of God’s blessings than before. Today the fire of God falling to consume a sacrifice consists of trials and testings coming into a person’s life to purify him or her and to empty him so God can fill him with more of Himself and His blessings.
It seems no one ever expects God to consume the sacrifice. Like Job, many Christians complain bitterly when the fire falls on their sacrifice. Five major trials (fire) can be seen from the account of Job that God uses to refine people:
1. The sword; war or at least conflict with physical or spiritual enemies (1:14, 17).
2. Financial problems and disasters (13-19).
3. Natural disasters (16).
4. Problems with children (5, 19).
5. Health problems (2:4-6).
Most of my Christian life I have had to deal with financial problems. I used to complain bitterly about this, but the Lord has since opened my eyes to see that money problems are the least of the trials in life. Many people I have observed who have hoarded all the money they can get have greater problems with health, children, enemies and even natural disasters. Often their children either never get saved or fall away from the Lord because they have accepted their parents’ god of materialism. As an extreme example, Bernie Madoff made off with a lot of other people’s money; but then his son committed suicide as a result of what he did. So many times I have seen people in churches who have no financial problems have children who are rebellious to them or God or both. I have also observed many who have plenty of money get some incurable disease. So I don’t complain as much as I used to about financial trials.
John the Baptizer said,
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11-1).
John speaks of the baptism of fire. The baptism he speaks of is something that will fall on every Christian eventually if they continue to obey God and the Bible. It is called sanctification. For unbelievers the baptism of fire will ultimately occur when they are thrown into a fiery hell. Trials and testing come upon everyone in this life, so we may as well get something out of them by going through them in the Lord rather than without the Lord. What the believer gets out of the fire of God is purification, fruits of the Spirit, and future rewards among other things. What the unbeliever gets out of the fire of God if they don’t repent is usually further hardening of heart, more bitterness, and eternal punishment.
In Acts tongues of fire landed on each of the 120 believers praying at Pentecost when they received the filling of the Spirit, portending the fiery trials into which the early believers would be thrust.
And they saw tongues, like flames of fire, coming to rest on every one of them (Acts 2:3 BBE).
If the normal reaction of a believer is anger at God when His fire falls to accept the sacrifice, how much more the unbeliever? In the end of the age, the Great Tribulation is the fire of God falling both to purify believers and give unbelievers a small taste of hell, which only serves to further harden many.
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands, they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk (Rev. 9:20 NIV).
And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds (Rev. 16:9-11).
Oh yes, friend, everyone ultimately gets the fire of God whether they want it or not. Jesus said,
"For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt (Mark 9:49).
In the Old Testament, sacrifices were to be seasoned with salt. In New Testament times, people are the sacrifices; and they are seasoned with fire, even if they are not a willing sacrifice.
“Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals; ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood. You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bull—all of them fattened animals from Bashan. At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind,’ declares the Lord” (Ezek. 39:17-20).
Let me ask you, Christian, what did you expect God to do when you offered yourself as a living sacrifice—give you financial blessings and shield you from all trials like the prophets of Babylon on T.V. tell you? Is that why Jesus came, to bless everyone with worldly security and prosperity? No, He came both to be a sacrifice and to receive sacrifices from His people—and consume them with fire.
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49).