Send the Fire
I have not been someone who is risk-averse in life; in some ways, rather the opposite. I have certainly been one to assiduously follow the 10-second rule (if you drop a bit of food on the floor it’s OK if you pick it up within ten seconds) and I stayed in some pretty unsalubrious places when I was backpacking in my 20’s, so while there are many things that Jesus does have words with me about, I don’t think I would have been one of those pharisees whom Jesus castigated about being obsessively clean on the outside while being like “whited tombs” inside.
Until coronavirus. I am suddenly uber-cautious about touching anything that anyone else (apart from Anne) has touched. I have attained new heights in hand-washing. My wheelie bin is still outside from yesterday, and will stay there until tomorrow. I will only shop at a supermarket that has self-checkout, and will put up with the queue to get in (I hate queues!) to do so. We’re fortunate enough to live close enough to Cannock Chase to walk there, but I have had to go through a gate to take the footpath, and who else has touched that gate? And I don’t think I’m alone in this, because someone broke that gate down yesterday in the first ever act of community-minded vandalism I have ever seen: now we can all go through the gate, and no-one has to touch it! Halleluia!
If only we were so scrupulous about holiness and sin. The power that raised Jesus from the dead and who now dwells within us by His spirit is the power and the majesty of holiness. The Commander of the Lord’s army, who ordered Joshua to take off his sandals because he stood on holy ground, is the God who fights our battles today. The fire who went before the Israelites, purging the ground in front of them as they advanced, is the fire that will go before us today. God sent His chosen people into the promised land to cleanse it of idolatry and sin so that He could dwell there Himself, in the midst of His own holy nation; and the same charge is upon us, the church, today. Peter writes (1 Pe 2:9) “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
We pray for revival; we pray to “take the land.” There are some weighty prophesies that tell of a great final outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a final harvest greater than anything the church has yet experienced, that will precede the return of the Lord and the end of this age. We long for this, and we say “Yes, Lord! I’m in,” but I think some of us may need to prioritise holiness more than possibly we do. Indeed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) But we mustn’t forget that big “if.” We are required to be aware of sin in our lives and come to God for forgiveness, not just ignore it and expect it to be overlooked. This is the only way to be “cleansed of all unrighteousness” and to walk in the holiness that we are called to. And this, I believe, is the path to revival.
So as we are all thinking in a new way about keeping our skin free from the contagion of coronavirus, let us also think in a new way of keeping our souls free from the contagion of sin. The veil is torn and the gate is pulled down, so we all have free access through the cross to the Father’s forgiveness. Let us keep running there, and let God prepare us, His Holy Nation, to conquer new land for His Holiness to inhabit.
“God of Elijah hear our cry
Send the fire
And make us fit to live or die
Send the fire today
To burn up every trace of sin
To bring the light and glory in
The revolution now begin
Send the fire today
Send the fire today”